* Moe, Administrative Assistant for a Grant-Making Organization & Ken, Children’s Librarian *
(Check out Moe & Ken’s Las Vegas Elopement here)
We had the wedding that was not possible.
From the beginning it felt like the odds were stacked against us, not because our relationship was shaky, but because life was just not happening the way it should. Last August we went to Las Vegas to celebrate my fortieth birthday, but it was far from a lavish celebration. I was newly employed and Ken was working part time after finishing his Master’s degree. For us, living together without being married wasn’t an option, and we wanted so badly to be together. Yet despite our current situation we began to talk about the future. “There’s never going to be a perfect time to get married, we just want to be together, so why not do it now?” is what Ken said to me while walking under the lights of Fremont Street. There was a lot of discussion while sipping on an icy blue daiquiri from a large plastic football-shaped cup. Less than twenty-four hours later we were married in a Las Vegas chapel. If he had not won money playing poker, we might not be married today. We returned from that trip to announce to family and friends that we got married. We were met with surprise and celebration. For some reason getting married the way we did set everything into motion for us. I don’t know if it changed our motivation to make things happen, but it most definitely motivated our families and friends to help us. A month later we had our first apartment together.
I began to plan what I called The Little Wedding That Could. We were already married, but I wanted a celebration to share with everyone that supported and helped us. I wanted a wedding so that our families could witness us taking vows. Between our parents there were a total of five Las Vegas elopements. (Three belonged to my mom and dad who married each other each time.) All of our parents had eloped in Las Vegas so maybe it was in our genes to elope. Early in the planning I talked to my friend’s mom and asked if we could get married in her backyard. I already had a clear picture of what I wanted things to look like. I was inspired by the colors of a desert sunset. I did some reading looking for scriptures that referenced the desert and found this in Isaiah; I felt like it spoke to where Ken and I were in this new chapter of our lives:
For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the desert.
In order for us to have a wedding, I felt like a miracle would have to take place. Something as unreal as a river in a desert would be needed. When I shared this scripture with my venue host (she’s an ordained minister) she told me, “Because you and Ken have made this commitment to each other, you’re going to see that people will want to honor that commitment and help you. The things that you need for this wedding are going to be provided like a river that flows into a desert. The river that you’re hoping for isn’t made of Things, it will be made of People making the things you need possible.” She could not have been more right.
I was determined that the wedding would be all our own and we would remain true to ourselves. If the tradition didn’t ring true to us or felt forced we ditched it. Basically if we liked it, we found a way to work it into the wedding plan. There were succulent plants everywhere because I liked to grow them at home. We loved good comfort food, so we hired a taco man to grill on the spot. We loved singing karaoke, so we hired a karaoke DJ for the reception. I crafted the boutonnières myself from scrap comic book pages because Ken was a collector.
This same idea translated to our vendors. We essentially hired people we liked. I found my day-of coordinator on APW, and she got my point of view. From our first email exchanges I knew she was APW-friendly. Our pro photographer was a personal friend of Ken’s. Our officiant was our pastor, and when we met with him to discuss the ceremony I told him, “I like you, so does Ken. We like you because you’re quirky and odd. I’m giving you full permission to be your quirky odd self at our wedding.” Looking back I realize now that I was aiming for an authentic experience that wasn’t hindered by expectation or tradition. I just wanted a day to celebrate us and our commitment. I wanted to make sure everyone who was important to us felt invited into this special moment.
I spent almost every weekend going to estate sales to source all the décor for the wedding. It wasn’t because I was trying to create a rustic vintage look, it was out of necessity. Our budget started small and then was forced to become tiny. There were weekends I hit budget-wedding gold, like a hundred mason jars for $10. I collected tons of picture frames that I spray painted gold. I collected wedding pictures of my guests for the frames and they became part of the centerpieces. I found dinner napkins, lace, and tablecloths almost every time we went estate sale shopping, and I didn’t have to rent any linens. My favorite find was a 1960s vintage cake topper for $5. I found it at a church rummage sale and the previous owner was still married! She gave us her well wishes for a happy future with a big hug.
When the wedding weekend arrived I was ready but our wedding budget had been completely depleted. I think I had $7 to my name the morning of the wedding. It didn’t matter. The day before the wedding a crew of about fifteen people assembled to hang paper lanterns, arrange flowers, make sangria, and encourage me. I had neatly packed boxes of wedding decorations that were labeled so that anyone could easily unpack each box and know where items should go. I felt like a taskmaster assigning jobs to eager helping friends, but things got done! I stood in the middle of a pile of boxes overwhelmed with all the things that had to get done when one of the very observant church-ladies pulled me aside. “Monica, tomorrow will be beautiful. Not because of flowers or decorations but because you are loved and that happiness is going to shine from within you.” Then she and two other ladies said a little silent prayer over me and when they were finished they told me to assign them some more jobs.
After the backyard was set up the day-of coordinator arrived for rehearsal time. I sat down with Allie and talked about all the details that were important for the next day. Then something amazing happened. I gave her “The Binder,” the three-ring binder that contained every last important detail for the day, and I left it in her capable hands. With that simple gesture the elusive, mythical wedding Zen that I had heard so much about had arrived. I didn’t care about my wedding-cake-baking relative that cancelled the day before. I forgot about the shipping mishap that delayed the arrival of my wedding dress for three weeks and gave me hives. I didn’t care that I barely had enough gas in my car to get me to my ceremony. I simply did not care. I was going to celebrate my marriage and nothing was going to stop me.
My wedding day arrived and passed quickly, just like I was told it would. I spent the morning in my hotel room with my makeup-artist niece, my hair stylist, my bridesmaids, and my Chihuahua. They made me laugh, they told me to sit down and stop cleaning things when I got fidgety. I forgot to bring an extra pair of shoes with me for the weekend. I sent a text out to my bridesmaids and within twenty minutes a new pair of flip-flops were delivered to me. I still had hives on my chest the morning of the wedding, so my other bridesmaid called her husband to make a delivery to the hotel. Within the hour I had a rum and coke in my hands. My niece applied some healing aloe that calmed my skin. Then there was more Zen.
Miraculously, all the things that we needed that day fell into place. When my relative couldn’t bake my wedding cake she offered to pay for pie as a replacement. A groomsmen went to pick them up the morning of the wedding. Then when my friend heard about the cake she volunteered the services of her high-school-senior daughter who baked the most delicious two-tier cake as a free gift. Even though I had planned and then delegated all the decorating to the volunteer crew, there were some minor tweaks and adjustments made, and everything came together wonderfully. I still don’t know who those wedding fairies were.
The ceremony was all that I hoped it would be. The officiant created a ceremony that was unique and personalized to us. He included details of how we met and dated. I requested that there be a Congregational Affirmation. Our guests were asked if they would provide us with support and encouragement for our marriage to which they stood and said, “Yes, we will!” or, as others said, “Si se puede!” Our living parents got to witness our vows, and even though he’s no longer with us, my father was present to walk me down the aisle with his wedding photo in a locket attached to my bouquet.
The backyard reception was cloudy and cold which made guests bundle up in coats and sweaters. Even in my voluminous gown I needed a sweater. Once the dancing began I didn’t feel the cold. Instead of a parent dance, we substituted a family dance while Bill Wither’s “Lovely Day” played. Everyone, including my mother in her wheelchair, made their way to the dance floor. We took turns singing karaoke. I started things off with Madonna’s “Borderline” and Ken surprised the crowd with his very best Elvis voice singing “In the Ghetto.” Our guests blew us away with their performances of Black Sabbath, Snopp Dogg, and Journey. So yes, you could say it was a diverse crowd.
The Little Wedding That Could came and went. It was over before I knew it. We had enough cash gifts to take a short honeymoon that I didn’t realize I needed so badly. All of my extra energy had been consumed with the wedding, and when it was over it left behind a huge void and the sudden realization that I was incredibly tired. I’m surprised that the WIC has not yet tapped into to the post-wedding market and offered brides cozy personalized cashmere throw blankets to nap on.
There are very few things that I regret or would do differently on my wedding day. There was nothing I could do about the sudden cloudy cold weather that made my guests bundle up. The best memories of that day don’t include the carefully sourced bargain décor or the wedding dress that arrived late and was eight inches too long. The moments that will live forever in my mind are the first look of my husband in his suit that made me cry. I will cherish the words spoken by my best friend of thirty years who is terrified of public speaking but somehow managed to set that aside for a gracefully composed toast. I may not ever know all the effort and behind-the-scenes action that took place to bring everything together. The Little Wedding That Could was made possible by all the loving people in our lives. It doesn’t get any sweeter than that.
The Info—Photography: Collected from wedding guests / Day of Coordinator: Allie of Pop the Champagne (APW Sponsor) / Venue: A friend’s backyard / Moe’s Dress: Custom made from a design by Aria Bridal / Moe’s Birdcage Veil: Vintage Box 1947 via Etsy / Moe’s Shoes: Vince Camuto / Moe’s Cardigan: Forever 21 Plus / Moe’s Bronze Goddess Necklace: Posh Little K / Moe’s Purse: Vintage, from her mother’s closet / Bouquets and Corsages: Margaret Rose Floral Design / Catering: I Taco Man / Pie: Polly’s Pies