...what was the best week of my life... SO FAR.
Saturday May 24--My plane from NYC to Dallas was on time, maybe even a little ahead of schedule. And from Dallas to OKC, just a short 29 minute hop. I got to the airport, walked off the plane to my sister and nephew waiting for me with a cold vanilla Diet Coke from Sonic - nectar of the gods (or at least the bridezillas). We waited about 10 minutes and my bag came up, and off we went to the hotel for my bachelorette party. Owen played a bit at the hotel, which had a waterfall and fish ponds and a glass tube elevator, before Aunt Lee Ann came to take him for a night at her house. He was so excited to see Moe, the dog, and play in the back yard he didn't care we were having a party. Several girls came to the hotel, and we had dinner, went dancing for a couple hours and then came back exhausted. It was a good time - and we'll leave it at that. Didn't think I'd give all my secrets about the night, did you?
Sunday May 25- Wednesday May 28--Days filled with preparation. First to Lee Ann's to get Owen. We had lunch and were able to relax a bit there before the drive back to Indiahoma. On Monday, I tried on the dress and convinced myself "it fits good enough." We went to Sam's and Wal-Mart for supplies (plates and glasses that were never used, plus drinks - water, sodas, sparkling cider). On Tuesday evening, we decorated the church with the bells and fake flowers. These happy days were spent also running around, playing with Owen -- he has a little pool in his back yard and can splash for a long time...He has such fun, and spending time with him is a FAVORITE activity of mine, especially when in Indiahoma. Shawn and his family arrived on Tuesday after just two days of driving from Virginia, and they were able to help put the finishing touches on the church.
We ate dinner on Tuesday night at the Whistle Stop Cafe - the eating establishment in our little hamlet. They also have a pool table and some video games, which Owen was happy to take 50 cents from his Auntie M to indulge in. Our parents got to know each other, and we came back to my mom's house to show Shawn's parents and aunt most of our wedding gifts.
On Wednesday morning, my delivery from FiftyFlowers.com arrived. After struggling with them, and realizing I received pink roses instead of purple (they refunded my money, however, a small consolation), we took them to the church and put them in vases/pickle jars (how quaint). Owen played with the long, narrow boxes that they came in - they were subway cars, and he was a passenger going to Wal-Mart and Target to get various Thomas Toys that he is still missing from his collection. He has QUITE the imagination and was full of games like this throughout the week.
After we got the flowers situated, Shawn and I piled into Gran's car and drove to Lawton to get our marriage license. We were the only ones there, at about 12 pm. The young lady (Danielle) filled out our form, took our $50 and was finishing up when another couple came in, complete with baby in a baby carriage and two sets of parents - plus various hangers on. THEY were first asked if both parties are over 18. (We were not asked, which is OK, since we are definitely far above 18!) Then Shawn and I ate lunch with his family, and I stopped at Wal-Mart again for other essentials, including the fixings for spaghetti, which we made for supper at Gran's. I also stopped at Country Mart to try to buy some white roses to fill in for the pink ones, but all I could find were white and purple daisies, so I got those.
Throughout this day and the next, I was creating the programs on Beth's computer and printing them (two sided -- I ruined almost as many as I created). In the end I probably only needed half as many, which would have given me much more time to spend with Owen, but hindsight. We watched "The Bee Movie" on Wednesday evening. Owen spent the night with me most nights, except one when he stayed downstairs with Pa. Beth stayed with me from Tuesday on, as Shawn's family slept in her apartment for the first couple days, and then it was just easier for her to stay than to go! The one night it was just me and Owen he was all for it "Yeah! I'm staying with Mari!" and then when the lights went out "I want my mommy!" But we played a game - the animal alphabet game, and tried to think of an animal that started with each letter of the alphabet. I think we fell asleep around V.
On Thursday, Beth and I got up, left Owen with Aunt Lee Ann, and went for a "bridesmaids luncheon" -- bad Chinese buffet. A tradition that I LOVE. (Shawn doesn't care for Chinese buffets, so I have to indulge with those who share my taste for sweet and sour chicken.) Then she and I had our pedicures and "full sets" at OP Nails. Ugh. We didn't get to sit together, which was kind of a pain. The water was SCALDING hot. I had to ask the guy to put some cold water in, and every time Beth lifted a foot out of her bath her leg was red from the heat. We got deluxe pedicures, which were nice, but in doing my toes, the man made me bleed -- I guess he just cut a cuticle too close or something. The toes looked OK, but I was expecting a much thinner white line (we both got "French" pedicures). Then it was onto the "full sets" - which is something I don't really see advertised in the salons here, although I DO see many women running around (particularly cashiers) with full on fake acrylics, so probably somewhere this can be done. Being a novice (the last time I've had fake nails put on was for senior prom, NINE years ago), I just nodded my head when he put the more expensive "solar" nails out for me. (Apparently, for $8 more you get nails that don't yellow in the sun or if you tan... I am as white as a daisy and work inside all day - I don't even have to venture outside if I don't want to, but I digress...) The nails were SO long, and he used a sparkly white on the tips (I did tell him my wedding was the next day.) Instead of a clear base he used a pink - so my fingers looked so alien to me. Beth's were a little more subdued (she is a little more practiced at this, being more often around my mom whose nail designs are the envy of us both) - regular acrylics with solid white tips and clear base. At least they dried properly and quickly - and we were able to move on down the line. The atmosphere was very uncomfortable, in that they were speaking about us in a foreign language (there's a Seinfeld about that - an episode for everything) AND there was a newborn infant there. He wasn't crying or anything, but I just felt so bad that he was being exposed to the toxic, noxious fumes that almost knock you over when you walk in. Some people are so thoughtless. I pray I'll be a good mother someday.
I think I had a Sonic vanilla Diet Coke most every day of the week. Cannot get such a thing here, so better to indulge while you can!
After the nails, we had to go to Hobby Lobby for some unscented candles (for some reason I had only been able to find "cotton" scented ones in Wal-Mart ... and after a day in the un-airconditioned sanctuary, we knew we had to get something else for the memorial and unity candles) and floral tape/corsage making supplies. At about 3:30, Beth still needed to go with our mom to get ingredients for our Saturday lunch (they bought everything at Sam's, a discount warehouse, and Beth is the cardholder, so our mom couldn't do that errand without her). SO I dropped Beth at "Charlie's," where my mom was having her nails done, and again in hindsight where we should have had ours done (although I don't know about the pedicures there or that it would have been any better really). And I drove on back home.
Despite my desire for a shower (wow, the Oklahoma sun is brutal and the humidity obnoxious) and to see Owen, I went directly to the church, where I made the corsages (replacing the fake flowers from corsages I bought at Hobby Lobby on clearance) and boutonnières - no small feat with the 1" talons springing from my previously cropped fingers! (My advice - get your flowers from a florist. The expense is worth it and it will all look better too!) I worked as well as I could, and by 4:30 I was heading back to my house for a shower and straightening my hair. I forget how good a blowdry can make you feel (even if you do it yourself - there's something about long, swinging straight hair that I adore).
Throughout Thursday, many of our out-of-town guests started to arrive, and our rehearsal dinner started at 6. MOST of those at the dinner I knew were coming. There were a few I was expecting who didn't show up, which made my gift-giving awkward, and I don't know how to repair that embarrassment, although I hope it's only perceived on my part. (There were also some invited whom I knew wouldn't make it because of flight times). Shawn's parents' bought the dinner (KFC - one of Shawn's and my favorites, and a meal that reminds me of Grandpa Max, since we would stop there after a trip to town for groceries or to Gibson's, bring it home and eat it together at Gran's -- quite a treat!). I was much more nervous at the rehearsal than the actual wedding.
Ted Mercer, a friend of my father's from high school and the son of one of my grandma's dear friends, performed our ceremony and graciously came to our rehearsal dinner too. We ran through everything once. Karman, our flower girl and Shawn's second cousin, did a beautiful job rehearsing. Owen threw the ring bearer pillow and said he would not participate. I didn't know that the bride usually uses a stand in for the rehearsal, and so Shawn and I said our vows. My grandma and father both said they thought we were already married, as of 5/29. But whatever the case, we're hitched now. I was carrying my bouquet of bows -- from the gifts given to us at our shower in March. I had a new dress from Dressbarn (shocker?!) in black and white that probably looked better than my actual wedding gown...but more on that later. Our photographer was there and got some good shots. The wedding cake was delivered, and the photographer cornered me in the Sunday school room where it was being kept and told me too much about his own wedding, while keeping me from my guests. Dinner was fun, warm and just right.
At about 9 pm, Shawn and his friends left to go back to Lawton (for what they did, we'll have to wait until Shawn starts his own blog, so don't hold your breath!). Shawn's parents, my parents, Beth, Aunt Lee Ann, Owen and I went to the town pavilion (reception site) with our white twinkle lights and zip ties (thank you, Katherine for that wonderful suggestion. Without you we would have been using tape or something equally crazy). It took us about an hour or more to get the pavilion posts strung with lights. But it looked so beautiful when it was done. So we were home by about 10 pm. Gave Owen a bath, had a glass of wine and a TV show, took a shower myself and then hit the hay. I didn't really have trouble sleeping. My room is so dark and my bed so comfy, the AC so cool and whirring. And it was nice to be snuggled with my favorite sister and favorite nephew. So happy and full of anticipation, thinking I would know exactly how it would go. The thing I was most worried about was the set up -- the things I could not do on my own.
We hit the floor around 7:30 am the next day. Got dressed and headed to the pavilion to start our reception site decorations. My dad and Aunt Lee Ann had hauled the chairs and tables (from the school and church, respectively) to the site. My mom, Beth and I started wrapping the table tops in silver swirled wrapping paper. It looked good, but we were fighting the wind. Owen was up, playing at the playground that's adjacent to the pavilion. Beth and I worked until 9:30, then we had to head into Lawton for our hair appointment. My mom, dad and aunt stayed and finished up the decorations, including setting the tables in place, using the chairs as anchors on the tables to keep the paper from blowing off and hanging the Chinese paper lanterns from the ceiling.
Our 10 am appointment was on the other side of town. Beth got us there lickety split in her silver car. Charismon did an amazing job on both of us. Our photographer met us there, and stayed the entire hour it took her to do both our hair. I said it before, but she did such an amazing job and was so ... inexpensive! So I gave her a tip almost as big as what she charged - and I was still under budget for what we would spend on hair. Perfectly coifed, we sent the photog onto the hotel where Shawn and his best man could pretend to get ready. The photos are funny - they had some trouble with Shawn's tie. Free from our photographer, Beth and I stopped at Wayne's for lunch (chicken planks!) and filled up her tank before heading back to Indiahoma.
We checked the reception site - everything looked PERFECT. We printed the last of the programs and grabbed some things at Beth's apartment. My dad and his friend Benny were chilling the drinks, so everything was under control. Beth and I went to the church to put the ribbon on the cake and to finalize our bouquets with their ribbon and the floral tape. We also set up her camcorder to film the ceremony.
We ended up at Gran's house, where my dress and shoes were. Owen was napping (as I wished I could have!), and the photographer met us there. He took pictures of the dress, shoes and garter. He took some shots of the flowers and the locket from my namesake Marilyn Jean Russell that I had wrapped around the stems. Beth did her make up in the dining room (Gran has a big mirror in front of her buffet), and I did mine in the hot little back half-bath. It's grandpa's bathroom, so it was nice because of that too.
Shawn showed up at about 2:30 (I still wasn't dressed) because the church wasn't unlocked, and we were taking pictures at 3. I sent him and the photographer to find my mom and get set up. Aunt Lee Ann and Beth helped me into my dress. Owen had been dressed in his suit, and looked SO cute. Lee Ann tried to pin my corset to the dress so the top would stay up/aligned. She did her best, but it really wasn't working. I didn't realize just how bad it was until I saw the photos later. But nothing can be done about it now.
Gran, Aunt Lee Ann, Owen and I piled into Lee Ann's SUV and drove to the church. Beth came in her car. We went in the back, and I waited. The photog was set up, but I thought for sure I would get an entrance for my family. About 20 people were there - my family from out of town mostly. The flower girl was getting into her dress and having her hair put up into a bun. She loved the pink flowers, so I let her put one of those in her hair. I waited in the back/fellowship hall as long as I could. I asked for Shawn. He came back - but it wasn't ... I don't know. What I was expecting? (We didn't do the traditional "groom can't see the bride before the wedding" thing in favor of getting the staged photographs out of the way.) Then he left and I decided I might as well go up front and get some pics taken. We went through all that - staged photo after staged photo. And in EVERY SINGLE ONE my gown is too big at the top and my corset is visible. I know the dress couldn't have been permanently fixed, but for photos we could have pinned it in the back or something - and I am devastated that I didn't get any pictures without my underwear showing (unless the photo was of my back).
Once we got all the photos (nearly 2 hours later), I went to the Sunday school room with the cake, wrote a little in my journal and fought to keep Owen out of the room (he REALLY wanted a piece of cake). Then I went into the fellowship hall, where people were mingling -- there was no solace. Owen wanted some lemonade, so my cousin Micah and I made him some. Guests started arriving around 5:30. I gave bad directions to Megan on the phone because I forget exit numbers and get things confused. (Luckily she made it to the ceremony in time!)
At 5:50, Micah seats my Gran. TEN MINUTES early. (I found out later that some of my family wasn't seated in the front either... So lesson to brides - be uber specific about seating... I can't believe I wasn't!) Anyway, I was so agitated and upset about the early start. Not a great way to be right before you're about to go in front of everyone you love and be the center of attention. Shawn's mom and dad are then seated, and they light their side of the unity candle. So Shawn was waiting at the altar BEFORE 6 pm (the scheduled start time for the ceremony) and I'm fuming, not knowing what to do. But we troop out the door, meet several ON TIME guests who are now "late" because of our early start, and I set up to walk down the aisle.
Beth goes down without a hitch, and Karman follows, sprinkling white petals along the aisle. Owen is supposed to walk with her and drop petals too. But he takes one step into the church, looks at all the people, turns right around and steps out, lays flat on the door mat and says "I cannot do it." Beth comes back down the aisle and walks him up. He sits with Micah and Abby. It was a cute moment. I wish our photog had been there to capture it - but he was at the front of the church. Oh well.
My mom and dad walked me down the aisle (to Here Comes the Bride). It went pretty fast and I did my best to lock eyes with Shawn and move directly toward him. My parents dropped me at the aisle and lit our side of the unity candle. The ceremony was pretty short and sweet:
Declaration of Intention to Marry
Response of Families (We do) and the People (We will)
Scripture Reading (Romans 12:1-2 and 9-18; Proverbs 31:10-12)
Blessing and Exchange of Rings
Unity Candle (string quartet played "Sweet Sweet Spirit")
Declaration of Marriage
Dismissal and Benediction
My favorite part was really the recessional. I loved walking down the aisle on Shawn's arm, with all of our friends and family clapping and smiling... and the music swelled - Star Trek: The Next Generation theme song. SO perfect. Unplanned, we stopped at the bottom of the steps to the church and had a reception line. It was nice to see everyone and get a hug - especially from those who didn't make it out to the pavilion. After about 20 minutes we went back into the church library and signed our marriage license. Then we gathered the bells, which had decorated the pews. Shawn's best man, Christopher, and his fiance Jennie helped put them in their respective bags (I had labeled a gift bag and placed one in each pew for giving purposes). With Beth's help they got the ones that needed to be given on Friday (i.e. the ones that wouldn't be around on Saturday) and transported them to the reception.
Aside: Beth had promised Owen she would open a Black & Decker tool bench that he had received if he would do his job as a ring bearer. So all week we talked about that tool bench and how he could play with it when the wedding was over. As SOON as he was out the door, he told his mom "I'm going home, let's go play with the tool bench." She took him for a bit, realized that the bench requires at least an hour of set up and talked him back to the wedding by mentioning the boogety man. EEEK!
I had asked my cousin Micah to be our ride to the reception. He has a new nice pick up. First, he drove down in his girlfriend's car (which I didn't know, and which wouldn't fit my balloon of a dress) and second, he forgot and left! My other cousin Matt was there, and Gran was also without a ride (I am a bad planner I guess!). So Matt had his dad drive him to Gran's and get her car for us, which we were going to take to our "honeymoon" anyway. We then drove to Gran's house, where she changed her top (which I helped her out of - it was some jacket/shell together thing that took us a good 5 minutes to wiggle her out of - quite a site with me in my white gown and only one shoe on!) and Shawn changed his shirt/removed his coat. I thought I would make it through the night in my heels (my dress' hem really needed them) but my Chuck Taylors beckoned and on they went. We headed to the reception, dropped Gran off and made our "grand" entrance to "At Last" by Etta James.
The food line had dwindled, so Shawn and the rest of the wedding party were able to eat. I was too nervous to eat, and I was worried about getting BBQ sauce on my dress. I had Beth pack me a box for later that night, which I ate lustily along with cupcakes. I was able to mingle and talk to most, if not all, of our guests. Owen and Karman were able to play in the park after they ate. Karman had changed from her dress -- in hindsight for pictures I would have rather she kept playing in it.
Shawn and I had our first dance, to "Ain't No Cure for Love" by Leonard Cohen. It was pretty sweet, although a long song. Next came the bride-father dance, then the groom-mother dance. Then they played "She's in Love with the Boy" which was a song Beth and I danced and danced to as kids - so we danced together for that. Then I danced with my father-in-law to ANOTHER long song, and I was so glad that I was wearing my Converse, even if the dress was dragging the ground. I also kept undoing the bustle - it was a flimsy little thread hooked over a button in the back, and I know I lost at least two buttons if not more because I would step on the back of my own dress. But there was always someone willing to hop up and reconnect it for me, but I definitely wasn't able to do the "cha cha slide" with all the bouncing and hopping. My dress couldn't take it.
Right before sunset, we were trying to get a photo of my mom, her sisters, Beth and my cousin -- all of the girls on that side of the family. As we were getting ready, here comes Owen, with a face and chest full of dirt. He learned first-hand about the rules of gravity and centrifugal force. His mouth was full of dirt and he was STUNNED, not crying, but the filthiest I've ever seen him (and I've seen him get pretty dirty in the old sand box). Beth washed him off as best she could and got him to rinse out his mouth. He had scraped a bit of his face, but he didn't mind. As soon as she let him go, he was racing back to the merry-go-round to play with the big boys (Shawn and his friends had gone to take pictures on it)... That kid shows no fear! (We got our girls picture - dancing to "Build me up Buttercup" - another request of mine for no reason other than I like it.)
Then right after sunset, when I could see that Owen was going to be asleep in just a few minutes, I asked the DJ to play our song, "Godspeed" and I grabbed Owen. Even though he said he didn't want to dance, he didn't fight when I picked him up and held him, swaying to the soft music and sweet voice of Natalie Maines. He'll never remember it, but it was something I wanted to do and something I will remember -- dancing with Owen on my wedding. Of course because of his layer of dirt, it's something my dress will probably never forget either. I couldn't help but pick him up and cuddle him -- he's just so sweet and cute -- so my dress was a soft brown at the top. I'm hoping the cleaners can get it out. We'll see.
As it got closer to 9:30, it was time for the bouquet toss and garter toss. I tossed my bouquet to "This One's For the Girls" and Beth caught it, and he tossed my garter to "Foxy Lady" and John, my friend Holly's BF, caught it. A few more songs, including "Celebration!" and some Michael Jackson (Megan's boyfriend Michael was making the party a LOT of fun with his dance moves, and he got so many people to join in...), then it was time for the last dance, which was to "New York, New York." Something that I hadn't expected but that worked out beautifully -- the DJ asked everyone to light their sparklers, and they all were around us in a circle, swinging their sparklers to the beat as we spun round and round laughing and smiling at it all. It was such a warm, happy memory, that doesn't seem to have been adequately captured on film, but probably because all my best photogs were in the moment with me, which made it even better!
Finally, a few more hugs and off to Gran's car, which Beth and Christopher had decorated with shoe polish. In trying to turn on the cruise control once on the highway, Shawn wiped some of it, and the black polish hadn't dried SOOO we were rolling with big streaks across the front. We pressed on. We drove to Medicine Park and stayed in a little cabin there, the "Bonnie and Clyde." It was cool and just right. It would have been fun to have stayed there longer and to have spent time in Medicine Park itself. But as it was, when we got up the next morning we had to head for the hills, the Wichita Mountains that is.
Our friends Kathy and Jack drove 12-person vans through the "back country" and our out-of-town guests and family got to see the refuge - including buffalo, lizards, long horn AND a flat tire. The two hour tour turned into almost 4, so by the time we got back to the church we were starving. Aunt Lee Ann cooked us up Indian Tacos, a really great treat for locals and out-of-towners alike. And once we'd gobbled all that up, we were finished with all the planned and scripted portions of the wedding weekend.
I went to watch Sex and the City with my family while Shawn went to dinner with his friends. Later we met up at a pool hall before going back to the cabin -- really late, so again didn't really enjoy it, since the next morning we got up and went to church in Indiahoma. Church was wonderful, and Shawn's mom, dad and Aunt Dawn left after church. (His sister-in-law, Aunt Diannia and Karman had left for the OKC airport VERY early Sunday morning) Our friends Kelly and Annie, from Danville, were also at church, as was my family. We had left over fried chicken and pork chops with roasted apples for lunch, then had some time outside with the water toy that Beemer and John brought Owen. Lee Ann and Roy left, Shawn and I took looooong naps, we went for a tour of the Winery of the Wichitas with Beemer and John (while my dad put together Owen's tool bench, with Owen's assistance), then it was do some laundry, eat some dinner and hit the hay. The next morning, up and at 'em, packed up and took off. We went to the Lawton court house and filed our marriage license (it's legal!) and then onto the airport, for an ontime departure and safe return to NYC, where a short cab ride (no taxi line to speak of) got us to our cozy little apartment that's now officially OUR home.
I don't know if EVERYONE had a good time, but I suspect at least some of it was fun for everyone. And it was INCREDIBLE for Shawn and me. We are so blessed by family and friends, near and far, who love us so and allow us to love them. And now we have each other. And for that I am so grateful.
~Mari Walker. :)