Imagine a beautiful summer evening in the Pacific Northwest, the sun setting behind the Olympic Mountains. Guests are seated, waiting for a wedding to begin. Finally the music begins and the bride appears, a vision in white. Eyes tear and hearts beat fast with anticipation and excitement. Before long, the couple is married and post-wedding festivities begin.
Inevitably something always goes wrong. The groom can’t put the bride’s wedding ring on her finger. The flower shop confuses the order and bouquets meant to arrive in shades of red and gold are instead lavender and white. Most big events rarely go down without a hitch. As for our wedding? The hitch was we almost didn’t get hitched. But we sure got a good story.
The truth is, some of life’s best stories rise from the ashes of near disasters. Take a look at the photo above. See what’s missing from our wedding boat–where we spent our first moments together as husband and wife? One oar, the perfect metaphor for our wedding.
First there was Bed and Breakfast where we’d initially hoped to hold our wedding, house our immediate family and spend our wedding night. Six months before the wedding, we got an email from the owner telling us how very sorry she was but she could no longer host us. The City Council on Bainbridge Island, the destination for our impending nuptials, had decided to reinforce a previously unenforced ordinance. B&Bs could no longer host big events on their property without paying a hefty ($5K if I recall) permit fee.
And there we were, six months and counting down, with a caterer, florist, photographer and officiate all confirmed–for July 28, 2007. Facing the task of finding a site, at this late date, with our date available, seemed impossible. But find one we did, when–out of the blue–I asked the owner of a B&B in Poulsbo, where good friends were vacationing, if she might be open to hosting a wedding on her property, a lovely farm with a small pond, views of the Olympics, come chickens and a llama or two. She said yes! We also found another B&B nearby where we could spend our wedding night. Hallelujah! We were back in business.
Then, one month before our wedding the B&B where we hoped to spend our first night as husband and wife emailed us to say how very sorry they were but they’d decided to retire from the B&B business altogether and so we would need to find another location to stay on our wedding night. The owner of our new wedding site immediately sent out emails to all her contacts in the B&B world and, miraculously, she found a spot…a room above a garage in a brand-new B&B. We thanked our lucky stars we wouldn’t be sleeping in the barn with the llamas.
Finally, the pièce de ré·sis·tance–OUR WEDDING DAY–and the moment my husband-to-be received a phone call from our officiant telling him how very sorry she was but she wouldn’t be there to officiate! T-minus three hours to our ceremony. Yes, you read that right. Her story was she’d been in a car accident, was on medication and therefore could not drive to the ferry. I was in Eleven Winery on Bainbridge, blissfully amidst a wine tasting prior to my appointments to get my hair and makeup done.
It’s hard to really sum up what goes through a bride-to-be’s mind when she’s face with the reality that her wedding might go belly up. I’m sure the number of times this happens is infinitesimal. But it happened to me. I felt angry, ripped off, bereft. Was the universe trying to tell me something…like maybe I wasn’t destined for marriage?
But sometimes fates conspire for, rather than against you. The winery owner’s wife, who was conducting the tasting, came up with the brilliant idea (I am eternally grateful to this day) to post an “Urgent: Officiate needed“ post on a the island’s moms’ website (I love you mamas!!). We got two responses. One respondent, Debbie, had performed only one wedding for a coworker but read the posting and wanted to ensure we got married. T-minus 30 minutes before the ceremony, she appeared at our venue–our officiate angel–adorned in a robe and stole, ready to help us say “I do.” Tears streamed down my face in disbelief, to the chagrin of my makeup artist. Maybe we were to be married after all.
Clouds had filled the sky, threatening rain on one of the four weekends each year deemed to be the “most likely to be sunny” in the greater Seattle area. Yet another ominous sign. But at 5:30, the time we’d set to begin our ceremony, the sun burst out, and I walked towards the light and the man I love.
Forty-eight guests, a few llamas…and one heron, watched from the sidelines as we said our vows and pledged–to stand beside each other–for better or worse. And then…
WE WERE MARRIED!
I wish I could say all’s well that ends well, but I should add that our officiate also “could not find” our marriage license so we were sort of married in the eyes of our beloved family and friends, but not really married–at least not until either our ill-fated officiate found the license and we could sign and file it with the City of Seattle. If we couldn’t pull that off in 30 days they’d have to issue us a new one. And if we failed in this regard, well then we’d have to go “get married” all over again.
Off we went on our honeymoon, sending increasingly desperate emails: Have you found it yet? We wanted that license…and our deposit back (Did I mention our officiate was supposed to be our “day of” wedding coordinator as well?). Our emails went unanswered until we finally said we’d take our ex-officiate to small claims court. She agreed to meet my husband (wait, he wasn’t really–yet) at his place of work at 5:00 on a Friday. Amazingly enough, she materialized, with a check in hand to cover our deposit but…no license.
On Monday, there we were, back at the City of Seattle’s Marriage Licensing Department. We need our license reissued. The empathetic clerk told us it was “the second worst story he’d ever heard.” I hate to think what might have been the first.
We FedEx’d our license to Pittsburgh, where our best man lived, so he could sign it. He signed and FedEx’d it back. Then we made a date with our new officiate to meet us at the winery and sign our marriage license. I stuffed my wedding gown into a backpack and me and my Mr-to-be hopped on a ferry to Bainbridge Island. I did a quick-change in the bathroom and there we were–signature, signature, signature. TA-DA. We were married!! For real. Our wedding license, now framed, hangs on our bedroom wall. The date of our ceremony: July 28, 2007. The date we got a “witness”: August 11, 2007.
I’ve shared this story countless times with friends, relatives and strangers. One version or another has appeared on my blog, nine years running. And yet every time I tell our story, it blows my mind because it’s just so crazy, so completely inconceivable, that had I not actually lived it, I would never believe it was true. Our wedding–the wedding that almost wasn’t. But our story? I’ve never heard one better.
Happy Anniversary to us! Nine years and counting.
It’s all about the journey,