how to ruin a wedding in ten minutes

wedding 7
Photo by the amazing Alba Hueso!

The first thing I heard was that the groomsmen missed their bus from middle-of-nowhere Oklahoma to San Diego. This was Sunday morning, five days before the wedding.

“So, are they coming?” I asked Tyler, the fiance, groom-to-be, future brother-in-law and one of our most indubitable friends from childhood.

He laughed.

“They’re trying to decide who’s junky car to take across the country, but they’ll be here.”

As a blood-member of Team Bride, I held onto my unspoken misgivings about the surety of our groom that his guys would indeed make it.

Nine months to plan a wedding, and here we all were scrambling around at the last minute — all of us except Sarah, who remained as calm and cool a bride as has ever existed. Mom was running point with the church coordinator, assembling center pieces for the tables at the reception, and ironing all the bridesmaids dresses (ah, the dresses. We’ll talk about them more later). Dad did the airport pick-ups. Deborah had just come down from Berkeley, bringing my two gorgeous nephews with her, and took it upon herself to finish the party favors — a flower creation of ribbon, lace, Jordan Almonds and wire nets chiffon nets. Bouquets and bobbie pins and last minute champagne runs for the Bride were my territory. As Maid of Honor, I was responsible for all the loose ends.

Sophia, one of the bridesmaids, and another childhood friend, had taken the lead on planning the bachelorette party, accepting my contributions here and there (like the Harry Potter theme, complete with Hogwarts House bachelorette sashes, a sorting ceremony and home-cooked Great Feast). The guys went out to the desert to shoot guns or something for the bachelor party that same night, we heard, but they didn’t have butterbeer, so I think we still came out on top.

And yes, of course it was a competition. With the exception of the two missing groomsmen from Oklahoma, the entire bridal party basically grew up together, friends since middle school, basically. Austin, Tyler’s brother and the Best Man, had married Sara (one of the bridesmaids). They were high school sweethearts and we watched the romance unfold first hand back in the day. Sara became one of Sarah’s good friends (and their in-laws are going to spend the next sixty years confusing Sara and Sarah, and I find that hilariously gratifying). The rest of the groomsmen and bridesmaids were siblings or friends. We were literally all in the same debate club, took the same biology classes, crashed the same Denny’s at midnight after long tournaments on the road. And here we all were, most of us grown up.

So, naturally, there was a little groomsmen vs. #bridesquad rivalry going on.

The groomsmen didn’t earn any points for having two of their party still missing in action the Sunday before the wedding.

But I had other things on my mind at the time. For nine months, we’d been planning a wedding revolving around a mint green theme. Let me be the first to admit that I was not the ideal Maid of Honor when it came to rolling with the color. Have you ever tried looking for a bridesmaid’s dress in mint green? Options are minimal.

I spent hours digging up dresses online, creating pricing spreadsheets and then emailing options out to the other bridesmaids. The votes came in with little agreement. Finally, Sara (the other one) emailed back with an additional option, a mint green dress with adjustable top.

I hated it immediately.

Not just because she had cast aside all my hard work with the flick of an opinion, but because I’d seen the adjustable top dresses at a previous wedding and they were horrible.

My Sarah had taken other Sara’s suggestion to heart and ordered a dress in my size so I could be our bridesmaid-dress guinea pig. In keeping with my worst nightmares, the top of the dress was as sketchy and difficult as I had warned it would be. The skirt, which actually had some redeeming qualities in its fullness and shimmer, went about waist-high and then turned into two long trains of material meant to be wrapped around the wearer’s upper torso. We twisted and tied it and the varying end results either made me look like a nun or a harlot. Having jumped into a swimming pool after Deborah’s wedding in an attempt to get my revenge on that horrible bridesmaid dress, I just wanted one wedding where I could get through a night of dancing without having to worry about my dressing malfunctioning.

“Please, Sarah,” I had begged the bride, “Any dress but this. It’s going to look so tacky and I’ll spend the whole evening trying to make sure it doesn’t unravel.”

Five months later, there we were, ironing out those dresses.

I had made my peace with the sure-to-be disaster long ago, but in the back of my mind I hoped that if anybody’s dress did have an unfortunately timed accident, let it be the Other Sara’s.

This week, though, the mint green had arisen again to cause everyone problems. Somehow, the wedding favors, the napkins, the dresses and groomsmen’s ties had all turned out to be different shades of mint green.

“Maybe we can just switch out the napkins,” Deborah suggested as we dug into the basket of ribbons and almonds to painstakingly assemble the wedding favor flowers. “Or maybe we could leave the favors in a basket by the entrance so no one notices they’re a different shade.”

“Let’s just focus on getting them finished first,” said Sarah, nonchalantly. “We’ll figure out something when we’re done.”

The piles of ribbons and candied almonds looked up at us mockingly and several tubby fingers appeared over the rim of the table, making a move towards the mint green chiffon. Deborah scooped up the baby (nephew #2) and Sarah and I continued wrestling petals into lace cocoons.

“Hey,” I said, looking up. “Whatever happened to the groomsmen?”

“They’re taking Cal’s car,” Sarah answered, not looking up from the almond petals in her fingers. “They should be here by tomorrow, if the car doesn’t break down.”

If.

Monday, Day Three in the wedding countdown, arose in a layer of grey. June Gloom had descended upon us in earnest making our summer wedding in San Diego feel like a December wedding in Northern Michigan.

Things were running smoothly, all things considered. Plans for the bachelorette party were coming along swimmingly, half the wedding favors were done, and the missing groomsmen, Cal and Tony, made it into town just in time for the family bonfire at Coronado Monday night. So, except for the incident with the bird flying into the house — which Sarah took care of for me — there was a surprising lack of upsets.

Tuesday went similarly well. Aubrey and I piled into my car as soon as I came home from work, dragging along a crockpot, several chilled balls of pie dough, and butterbeer ingredients, and we sped off to Sophia’s. When we arrived, the place was decked out in Harry Potter memorabilia, including a stream of Hogwarts acceptance letters strung between the fireplace and the ceiling and a sign that said From Muggle to Mrs.

Not only did our shepherd’s pie and pumpkin pasties turn out splendidly, but it was fun to prepare with Sophia, Hosanna and their sisters. I mean, they’re basically my sisters. We’ve all grown up together, staying close despite years and distance. And here we were, setting up candelabra’s and trying to figure out how much bourbon to add to our butterbeer.

Our gaggle of girls, including the Other Sara and Tyler’s little sister, who is not so little anymore, made quite a night of things, though it was distressing to see just how little everyone actually knows about Harry Potter.

Other Sara even demonstrated different ways to wear the atrocity of a bridesmaids dress she had forced upon us and they all looked good on her lanky, gorgeous frame. I was skeptical that they would have the same effect on me.

Day two of the wedding countdown ended with six women and two teenage girls who are growing up too quickly falling asleep on a bed, a coach and one and a half air mattresses at two in the morning with wet nails and the occasional unrepressed giggle — like the next day wouldn’t precede a wedding, like we didn’t all hate that mint green dress, like we hadn’t spent years cultivating our own bubbles of personal space, like our lives hadn’t changed a day since we all met ten, twelve, fifteen years ago. It was kind of nice.

One day to go and we began it with whipped cream-topped coffee and what was left of the bourbon.

The chilly day melted into a cool evening and eventually we all found ourselves at the chapel for the wedding rehearsal.

Attached to the package of the church and preparation rooms was the stiffest, most entitled wedding coordinator of all time. It took all of six minutes for her to turn our calm, cool, collected bride into a seething, livid mess. Suddenly, everything that had not been a problem exploded. There’s not enough tool to divide the pews in the church, the wedding favors still aren’t finished, we don’t have any mirrors for the changing room, the ring bearer (nephew #1) probably won’t make it all the way down the aisle, none of the mint greens seem to be matching, “and that woman is awful.”

Tyler, in what was the most reassuring demonstration of his capabilities as Sarah’s future husband yet, sat next to her while she vented, nodding in agreement when necessary. He didn’t offer to fix anything, or find the silver linings. He just agreed that it was all upsetting and Sarah had every right to be mad.

Ladies, if only we could all find ourselves men like that.

Anyway, I had a job to do, as Maid of Honor. I had to save the wedding, of course! Mom and I went straight from the rehearsal to WalMart and the yardage store to find full-length mirrors and tool — and for the first time in nine months, we found both in the same shade of mint green. After the rehearsal dinner, I stayed up till past midnight finishing the wedding favors while Mom created bows for the church pews. In the morning, the parents went to go oversee the reception hall set-up and I re-watched a billion youtube videos on wedding hairstyles.

The first time we tried doing Sarah’s hair on March, it was a complete failure. This was our second attempt and we were both understandably nervous.

But her hair turned out marvellously. We packed her suitcase into the back of my car, I sent out a million reminder texts for the bridesmaids to bring the “just married” decorations for the car at the reception, and then we hauled off to the church. (Actually, we made a stop at VONS for champagne and pastries that we planned to smuggle into the church because the wedding coordinator said we weren’t allowed to bring food or drink into the rooms and Sarah was feeling especially vindictive).

wedding 2
Photo by Ernesto Rivera.

As the bridesmaids began showing up, I got a text from Best Man Austin that Cal and Tony had run out of gas 200 yards from the church in their sad excuse for a car. (“It’s because the gas gauge doesn’t work,” Cal explained.)

“Well, we won’t tell Sarah any of this,” I said, happy that my bridesmaids were clearly helping us win the groomsmen vs. #bridesquad competition. “Now, take the ring and please don’t lose it.”

Austin gave me a soul-quenching look in return. Lose the ring? As if.

I had put my ring in the lining of my dress because there were no pockets (because when has any article of female clothing had usable pockets? Just another feature to hate about this tacky, underwhelming bridesmaid dress). It was safe and sound.

Inside the prep room, the girls were getting dolled up (the nightmare dresses were looking pretty good after we all agreed to sell our souls to safety pins and fabric tape). We were eating the contraband pastries and drinking mimosas from special wine glasses customized with our names and #bridesquad printed onto the sides, having a marvellous time.

If I must say, I was doing a bang-up job of being Maid of Honor. I straightened Sarah’s train for every picture, adjusted her veil and hair, fixed her bouquet, and ignored her increasingly snarky attitude (which got exponentially worse the longer she had to stand upright in a fifty pound dress). And I was all over the place, running boxes and bags to the car, passing out fireworks and party poppers to the groomsmen for the reception, and intercepting well-wishing friends and relatives outside the changing room. All the while, the ring was safely in the lining of my dress, the skirt of which was heavy and billowy in a glamorous 1930s kind of way that I was trying not to get excited about.

Ten minutes before we were supposed to leave for the church, I slipped into the bathroom and dug into the dress lining for the ring and closed it over my pinkie finger. Curling my finger tightly around the ring and then taking the bouquet in the same hand, I figured it would be safe. But outside the restroom, I was met with more boxes to move to the car and a paper bag that had split in half, dumping contents all over the floor. No sooner had I gotten those cleaned up, someone’s heel got caught on the train of Sarah’s dress and we had to untangle them.

When I finally stood up and looked for my bouquet, it was time to hurry into the chapel. There was just one problem, a problem I didn’t notice until we were actually inside the building.

The ring was gone.

My stomach lurched. The procession had lined up. Our grandmothers were already being walked down the aisle. The bell boy was there tugging on the ropes of the church bells, sending sonorous notes peeling across the churchyard.

Grabbing the tails of my silky dress, I dashed outside, dragging one or two of the bride’s brothers with me.

“I lost it, I lost the ring! You have to help me find it!”

There was a mad scramble which provided no ring. Now heads were peeping curiously out the back door to see where the Maid of Honor had gone — Maid of Dishonor is what it felt like in that horrific moment.

I went back into the church where Sarah and Dad were sitting on the edge of a table behind the door. They both looked unreasonably calm. Very thoroughly English of them.

“I lost the ring,” I said, trying not to cry but wanting to express how serious I understood the situation to be.

Dad just chuckled and Sarah sighed and rolled her shoulders.

“We’ll fake it,” she said.

Losing the ring was all the gossip as I returned to the line of whispering bridesmaids outside the sanctuary door who thought the situation was hilarious.

And so we faked it. All the way down the aisle and through most of the wedding ceremony, only the bride, the #bridesquad, and a selection of family members knew there was only one ring on that stage.

wedding 1
#bridesquad trying to “fake it.” Photo by Ernesto Rivera.

Sarah was an example for us all. Statuesque and elegant as ever, she only let out one exasperated giggle when the preacher said, “And do you, Sarah, have a ring for Tyler?”

I went red and we faked a handoff behind the bouquets I was holding. Tyler, who now had first row seats to the plight of the missing ring, also went red. His eyes went from Sarah’s hands, which were holding ring-shaped air, to Sarah’s face, which I imagine was a edifice of strained composure, and then straight to me. Sweat beading slightly by his hairline, smile plastered coolly behind his blonde beard, Tyler gave me a look that said, “Mary, please tell me you have the ring somewhere. Please tell me you didn’t lose my wedding ring.”

But I had. And by the time the preacher gotten to the part of the vows that said, “With this ring, I thee wed,” Sarah had about lost her reserve of emotional fortitude.

First, her shoulders started to shake. I immediately recognized this as the pre-giggle fit trembles typical of York females.

Tyler was turning redder by the minute and he too was having trouble retaining his grin. Silence filled the church in curious hush, followed by a wave of whispers.

Next thing we all knew, Sarah had doubled over at the altar, laughing uncontrollably. Tyler was doing his best to keep things together, but Sarah was a lost cause. In her gorgeous wedding dress and perfect hair, nine months of planning climaxed in a missing ring and it was just too much.

Confused chuckles popped up around the pews and the preacher asked, “Did you drop it?”

“No, we lost it,” Sarah finally exclaimed. “We lost the ring!”

My sister’s have covered for me a lot growing up, but I will always remember that Sarah could have thrown me under the bus in front of all of our friends and family and chose not to. Like a real team captain, she said “we lost the ring.” We.

#bridesquad.

Everyone laughed and the moment turned into something sweet and memorable.

As soon as we got out of the church, Austin and I were scouring the courtyard, the changing rooms and the hallway for that ring. He and the groomsmen were now definitely winning the bridal party competition.

I’d been all over the place in those last ten minutes before the ceremony started. Where could a ring escape to? My mind pictured it dropping, bouncing and rolling in slow motion, Disney-animation style, across the courtyard, down the stairs and then into a lone bush or rain drain.

I was rifling through bushes when I looked up to see Tyler pulling up the grate of a storm drain, looking into the hole for his missing ring. My heart sank.

“Tyler,” I said, walking over with tears brimming up, “I am so sorry. I’ll find it. Or I’ll buy you a new one. I promise!”

Tyler just wrapped me up in a big hug, shushing my frantic apology with a promise of his own, that everything was going to be okay. And that’s when I realized what had happened today — we had made Tyler a part of our family. He wasn’t just some kid we grew up with. He was one of us now.

The bride and groom took off to finish pictures and the groomsmen continued to help me search the premises for that stupid, doggone ring.

I was losing it. Crying, shouting, snapping the skirt of my dress like an angry cowboy with a lasso.

Man, that silly bridesmaid dress was really beginning to grow on me.

“I cannot believe I lost it,” I was yelling to whichever groomsman was nearest, whoever that was digging in the dirt near the bushes by the parking lot. “It’s not fair that we don’t get pockets. How was I supposed to hold onto the ring all that time? Ten minutes! I couldn’t even keep it for ten minutes!”

Pulling open the back seat of the car, a yelp escaped my mouth. There, on the black leather seat, in plain and perfect view for anyone to see, was the ring.

Within seconds, four of the groomsmen were at my side hushing me as I burst into tears.

“Don’t let anyone know you found it,” Josh said.

“No, I’m telling Tyler right now,” I responded, trying to push past them.

“You can’t,” Ryan insisted. “We have to give it back at the reception when they’re not expecting it! We’ll make a show of it!”

“Yeah, we’ll stick it in Tyler’s drink,” Josh suggested.

“That’s great, then I can lose his ring and be the cause of his choking to death on his wedding day,” I said, crossing my arms and sniffing away the last of my tears.

“We could sing a song or something.”

“Maybe slip it onto his plate?”

“What if Austin brought it up in his Best Man’s speech?”

They were grasping at straws.

“I want to return it now. Besides, Austin is going to think this is a horrible idea.”

We asked Austin. He loved it.

By the time we all made it to the reception hall, the plan was set and the ring was safely stowed in Austin’s pocket.

We bridesmaids finished off what was left of the champagne in the parking lot of the country club where the reception was being held — a grand, old building with beautifully carpeted red velvet stairs in the entryway and large windows framed in richly-toned wood all along the inside. Someone also found a bottle of vodka and I took a swig of that straight from the bottle. Nerves.

wedding 9
Signing the marriage liscense. Amazing that they trusted me to do this after losing the ring. Photo by Ernesto Rivera.

Except that Sarah was a little distant with me during dinner, no one seemed especially upset that the ring was still “missing.” One of our uncles pretended to find the ring and that caused a number of hearts to race, though for those of us in on the real find it was harrowing and confusing in a different way. Any guests who had missed what had happened during the ceremony knew most of the story by the time Deborah and I stood up for our toast.

My accordion was waiting for me in the hallway and I retrieved it from its duct taped trunk as Deborah grabbed the microphone.

“I’m Deborah, sister of the bride,” she said.

“And I’m Mary, the other sister…and yes, I lost the ring. Let’s just get that out of the way now, I’m sorry, okay?”

People laughed, but I hadn’t meant it as a joke. I already knew this was something I would never live down.

As we tag-teamed our speech, using the accordion for dramatic effect when necessary, I remembered just how effortlessly easy it is to be sisters with these two women, both the beautiful mother-of-two standing next to me with the microphone and the picture of grace and accomplishment sitting next to her new husband.

wedding toast accordion1
Photo by Ernesto Rivera.

We turned over the microphone to Sophia and when she finished, Cal stood up and took it from her before anyone could stop him.

Like a deer in the headlights, Sarah froze, clutching Tyler’s hand and looking about as livid as she had when the wedding coordinator told her someone had painted the white wedding steps for the chapel black by accident.

“Sarah doesn’t want me to give a speech tonight,” Cal began as the whole room tensed up. “But what she doesn’t know is that I’m basically the … ringleader of the group. When Tyler needed a Best Man speech, they should have given me a ring and I’d have done a ringer of a job.”

Cal went on with what seemed like an endless list of ring puns and I snuck up behind Austin who placed the real ring in my hand. No one noticed. They were all watching Cal in absolute horror.

“Anyway,” Cal said, seemingly wrapping up the speech after two very intense minutes of ring puns, “Even though you broke up our Fellowship of the Ring, I still have a wedding gift for you. Actually, it’s from all of us, especially Mary.”

All eyes turned from Cal to me and my outstretched hand with the golden band lying safely in my palm.

Applause exploded from the tables and, as Sarah and Tyler stood up to put the ring on properly, a chorus of awww’s fell in behind. Amazing, that one huge mistake turned into such a lovely moment, and it couldn’t have happened without the help of people who love the bride and groom as much as I do. But I suppose that’s life all over for you. We don’t do this alone.

wedding 5
Photo by Ernesto Rivera.

The night disappeared. I don’t know where it went. Between coordinating dances and bouquet tossing with the DJ, helping Sarah with the transition from wedding dress to party dress, passing out our party-poppers to guests and ensuring that the bridal party found and bedazzled the getaway car in good time, the evening simply flew.

At one point, as I hurried from the crew in parking lot drawing “just married” in lipstick on the getaway car to find the Father of the Bride in the reception hall, I realized how rom-comy this all felt — the wedding favors we spent all week making lying half-eaten on tables, groomsmen blowing up balloons in the dark to stuff inside the car, extended relatives shooting whiskey from the bottle in the parking lot, the Other Sara and our glowing bridesmaids looking like a million dollars in moonlight-flushed mint green. 

Man, I thought, swishing my skirt in glorious billows as I pranced in my heels up the red-velvet steps of the grand clubhouse entrance, I love this dress.

Bride and groom made it to the car in a flurry of bubbles, confetti and gunpowder (that’s what happens when you marry a Texan). Guests filed out in a steady stream until it was just us, the bridal party and siblings of the happy couple. Except for the two Oklahoma groomsmen, we’re the same group of friends who have been hanging out since high school. So we did what we did back in the day. We went to Denny’s.

The whole lot of us trooped in, order coffee’s and sample platters and nachos and pancakes. We ate and talked and laughed.

My ride had to leave the after party early so the Oklahoma boys promised to drop me off at my house in their car. The final goodbye’s should have been hard to say, but they weren’t, because they’re not really final. Half of us are related now, thanks to Sarah and Tyler. Time may keep us apart, but we’re all family and that’s not going to change.

“You can sit in the front,” Cal said as I reached for the door handle of the infamous car that nearly didn’t make it here. The doorframe nearly came off the car when I pulled it open.

Sitting in the front seat was like sitting inside a carpeted tin can. No AC, no radio, no rearview mirror.

“How did you guys make it here alive?” I asked in shock as the engine choked and sputtered and Cal said a prayer under his breath that the car would start.

“What can we say?” said Tony from the back. “We just love Tyler.”

I smiled and the car jolted gracelessly forward.

Sarah and Tyler. What confidence and dedication they inspire in their friends. It’s a loyalty well-earned by two selfless, loving individuals who have just become one. The groomsmen vs. #bridesquad war is over, if it was ever really on. We’re all on the same team now —

And in for quite a ride.

 

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