Jul 4, 2006

Planning a Wedding in Two Months

Do you know when you want your wedding to be?
Yes, August 26
But what time?
Late afternoon?
But what time is that? When does the sun set on August 26?
Uh, hold on let me check my occipital lobe to see if I have that information stored. No. Sorry.

SO the questions began.

Last night, Larry and I had a planning meeting with our amazing friends who have stepped up to help us get this wedding on the calendar: Doug who’s hosting the reception; Martin who’s going to marry us, his wife Debbie who’s coordinating; and Catheryn, my friend, bridesmaid, and Capo in the Susan Mafia.

But before the meeting, Larry and I had to figure out where we were going to have the ceremony. So we trolled Doug’s neighborhood in the hot Sunday sun. We checked out the parks in the area. A dog park. With no shade. You do the math. We did find another park that had one spot of shade right next to the gymboree playground. I could just see it now …

“I Larry, take thee Sus—hey crybaby on the SLIDE, Shut the #$*# UP! – to love, honor and cherish..”

Frankly I always wanted to get married in a church. I wanted to feel the presence of God, and I feel the presence of God in church. Well the old kind. The kind with stained glass, an organ echoing against the stone walls, the pews worn with prayers and worship.

There’s a bunch of churches near Doug’s house. But the area was developed after 1960. So the churches were built in that same era. Actually, I think one guy built all of them. It’s the A-Frame style Swiss Chalet rooftop. No box underneath, just a tall roof. Maybe some architect donated his blueprint to every denomination left of Catholic.

Still, there was one of those RIGHT around the corner from Doug.
“We should at least check it out,” I told Larry
“Yeah, it would be so convenient,” he said, so hopeful as we drove into the deserted parking lot.

I grew up in one of those A-Frame churches. Cinder Blocks. Sliding glass door. A thin window column every ten feet, floor to ceiling textured glass. Some rows had those slatted vent windows. You know, those windows you see on 1950's apartments and think, wow, that idea did not age well. Anyway, at my church they got rid of those slatted windows. Not at this church around the corner from Doug’s. They hadn’t added on. A quick look around the backside of the church confirmed they hadn’t cleaned up for thirty years either. There was a trove of rusted objects, and upturned kiddy pool, and the slatted windows were chock-full of cobwebs and insect carcasses. I envisioned the bridesmaids using the back entrance and getting sall bug skeletons in their hems.

I pushed one of the bubble windowpanes to look in. It wasn’t horrible. But it wasn't the inspiring, beauty-filled church I had imagined.

Larry and I continued down the street, checking out the other churches. Same thing. We did find one whose exterior was 1940s Colonial Revival. But we got a peek inside. Any 1940s Colonial had been erased by 1980s Pentecostal. Down to the mauve carpet and the TV screen.

After driving around a couple hours, the question became: “Which church was the least depressing?” But if the point of having it in a church was to feel God’s presence in the beauty, this wasn’t it.

So we drove over to Doug’s, went into his back yard, and took a good look. It was entirely in shade. It had a few glitches of “dead space” but other than that, it was doable.

Susan: Well, do we do it all here in one location?
Larry: I don't want you to feel disappointed later. I'm fine with it. I'm a guy, I live in a box and use plastic utensils. But you're the girl. Girls spend their lives planning this moment.

The only thing I'd planned was to marry a man who loved God. and that I didn't want a home-mortgage priced weddings. My parents got married at a little Lutheran church and had cake, peanuts and punch in the fellowship hall. I liked the idea of simple and inexpensive. Like the Shaker hymn: Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free, Tis a gift to come down to where we ought to be.

So was this the place? Well, if we put enough twinkle lights in the trees and flowers in the flower beds, it could contain as much beauty as stained glass, and the holiness and beauty God decided to bring on the day.

So Doug’s back yard is going to be the wedding ceremony and the reception site.

We only had two months before the wedding, but we already our location, an officiant, the wedding party, and a wedding coordinator. I even had my dress. We were doing well.

Until the planning meeting.

Debbie and Martin just got married and she’s coordinated weddings, so she knows what she is doing. Thank God for her. But boy did she open my eyes.

Debbie: Paper Invitations?
Susan: No we’re doing evite.
Debbie: Programs?
Susan: Yes.
Martin: Kelly Paper has good stationery.
CJ: Or you can go to Target, they’ve got stuff on sale.
Susan: That goes on my list of things to do. Next?

Then there was the discussion about table centerpieces.
Susan: Nothing. We’re wheeling the tables in after the reception. People will just sit down.
Debbie: Nothing, you sure?
Of course what am I thinking? I was going to end up with a wedding that resembled an IRS audit.

Martin: Do you want Communion?
Susan: Yes.
Martin: Okay you need the cup and plate.
Deb: Do you want a kneeling bench?
Susan: Uh…
Deb: How about a canopy? You can get married under a canopy.
Doug: But my back yard is filled with shade trees
Deb: You can get one of those trellises.
So Doug, Debbie and Martin discussed the merits of buying or renting a trellis. And if it were more expensive at Michael's or Moskatels, etc etc until I interrupted.
Susan: Hey. I don’t know if I want a trellis.

But the fact is, we did need something to demarcate the altar area. Didn't we? This is where I get confused. It IS a gift to be SIMPLE, but FREE might start looking, well, CHEAP.

Martin: What kind of ceremony do you want?
Susan: Traditional.
M: No readings?
Susan: Well, yes, readings.
M: What do you want read?
Larry and I looked at each other. We hadn't thought of that.
Susan: I’ll put that on my list of things to do.
Martin: Do you want to write your own vows?
I imagined the Jonathan Livingston Seagull vows I’ve heard. “I Mackenzie, take you Taylor, to be my life partner and shaman, from this day forward, until we transcend into air ferns in our next lifetime." ACK.

Susan: I want traditional vows.
Martin: HOW traditional?
Susan: Well I don’t want them in Olde English. But what's in the Book of Common Prayer.
CJ: Wait! You can’t just go in, do quick vows and be done.
Susan: I didn't say that.
CJ: I know, but you guys are writers! You gotta make it your own. And Larry, you’re all about this new postmodern emergent Christianity. What do you want?
Everyone looked at Larry. He hadn't said much through the meeting. He'd just held my hand. Now Catheryn was asking.
Larry: I want it to be a community experience with our friends.
CJ: Well, what does that mean in terms of the ceremony?
Larry: I don't want people to just sit back and not participate.
Debbie: But people ARE participating by watching you.
Larry: Okay but I want more interactive.
So then it became a discussion about the ceremony and people getting a time to say something like in the reception toast and then there was the music to think of and .. and ... my list of things to figure out grew and grew. I was staying sane. Until we got to the food.

Larry wanted a barbecue. But the wedding is a Saturday afternoon in August. We don’t want our friends in front of a barbecue grill. Do we hire someone to cook on the day? Do we cook ahead of time? Doug suggested cold salmon. And Thai noodles.
CJ: And a really beautiful vegetable! Like asparagus!”
Larry: Ick, asparagus!
CJ: Then what vegetable, Larry?
Larry: … uh…
Susan: Larry loves any vegetable that’s MEAT.

Our plan had been for us to provide half the food and do the rest pot luck. Debbie's soft and kind eyes turned up as she advised us against it. Not a full blown pot luck. she instead suggested we ask a select group of friends to help.
Debbie: Like, 12 friends who can bring salad for 20 people. Or bread for 20 people.
CJ: or Asparagus for 20 people!
Debbie: So you each ask six friends to help.
Larry: that might be kind of hard for me.
So there I went with my envisioining. Like I’m going to ask one of my friends to bring enough asparagus for 20 people? In the midst of the talk about side dishes, I overheard Larry joke to Doug how he "was a guy," he just wanted to get to the wedding night.
Hey now, I interjected.
Larry:L You weren't supposed to hear that.
Susan: But I did. And believe me, I want to get to the wedding night too. But we've got a room of planners deciding our side dish for us, so ...

Deb: Cake? What are you going to do for cake?
Susan: Costco.
CJ: No, you don’t want that!
Doug: There’s a place around the corner it makes really amazing cakes.
Susan: Larry and I don’t eat cake. I got nice Costco cake for my mom’s 80th birthday.
D: But look, or just a little bit more you can get a nice one.
Susan: How much nicer for how much more?
Doug: a hundred bucks
A hundred here, a hundred there, makes hundreds and hundreds spent on STUFF.
Susan: The cake isn’t that important to us. Sure we’ll have it, but just something for the toast.
CJ: But this is your wedding cake!
Martin: I know a place in Southgate that will do a cake for 300 bucks.
Doug: I tell you this place round the corner, Chaka Khan gets her cake there.

Susan: OKAY, EVERYONE. I don’t have the money to pay for a Chaka Khan cake! If I say I don’t want an expensive cake, and I say it more than once, then stop it. OK?

I don’t remember much after that, except that Larry rubbed my back a little. I still wrote down what everyone said, and replied that I’d put in on my list.

Then I got home and thought, where the heck was Larry tonight? He didn’t say anything! Except how he wanted the wedding to be a community experience. And that he didn’t like asparagus. Or salmon. Was I doing all of this by myself??

So I wrote a long email. I vented about being pressured to get an expensive Chaka Khan cake. And do a barbecue for a hundred people. And asking 12 friends to bring salad. Which 12 friends, MINE? And I couldn’t pay for it. I pleaded for him to offer to do some of the tasks. “And if you want to joke how you’re just a guy and you just want to get to the honeymoon suite, then why are we doing a barbecue? Let’s skip this EFFING barbecue, and just have cake and fruit and peanuts like my parents did, and be done with it!

I was smart. I didn’t send it. I went to sleep. But the next morning I wasn't so smart. I woke up and, without I coffee or a quiet time, I pressed the SEND key. Before proofing for stinging barbs like "Let's skip this effing barbecues" or my own contradictions: I don’t care about cake!” /Let’s just have cake and be done with it!” Or grousing about which of MY 12 friends we'd be asking for help ... without taking into account I made up for most of the guest list. Heck, Larry's family is four people. I have 21 first cousins.

THEN I went and had coffee and a quiet time. It was an Old Testament verse about God leading his people besides streams of water, on level paths, "because I am Israel's father." And about how Israel would again rejoice over God's bounty. "They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more."

You'd thihk those verses would be comforting. But I'm going through a shift in my thinking about the Bible. I used to open it up, read a scripture and immediately apply it to my own life. But I realize I can't necessarily do that. I mean, if I claim those verses as mine, am I not making God into my personal genie? Yet, if I look at his character in the above verses, he’s speaking like a tender father. So wouldn’t it be true that he would have at least the capacity to think of me in that same way? So how involved is God, anyway?

Larry replied to my email. The "effing barbecue" line wasn't exactly a feel-good moment for him. And he wasn't being quiet all night to avoid responsibility. Again, I was the girl. He wanted it to be MY special day. He wanted me to pick what I wanted.
Larry: Susan, if you need something, just ask me."

Interesting how, in trying to communicate, the first thing to go was Just asking?
I apologized, but I still felt crappy. The guy who’s on my side, wanting to make this special for me, is the guy I vented at. He’s planning the honeymoon. It’s his friends who are hosting us, marrying us, coordinating us. I'm the one bringing the crowds of relatives.

I watched people stress out over weddings. I told myself I wouldn’t do it. But I realize that a certain amount of stress is going to happen. I’m so grateful for our planning posse, and for Larry.

And after all, the posse had some good tips. I'm going to downtown LA to check out wholesale grosgrain ribbon and votive candles. Hey, when you hear a good idea, you gotta go with it.

1 comment:

soulpadre said...

WOW! You really dig deep into the real stuff of this event...I got married 14 years ago, and so many of our friends did so much that my head was spinning...but all that disappeared when my bride came down the aisle, and I sang to her...most of the STUFF got placed in perspective when we got eyeball to eyeball and heart-to-heart! And now, about Bible application...that's an interesting notion you have: if we jump right to application then God becomes our own personal genie... Using that view, that would be just like skipping all other forms of prayer and moving right into personal petition..interesting. Well ,if it's ok with you, I'm going to jump into some intercession for you and this simple wedding...and remember the most important thing: at the end of the day, you will be with your life's love.

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