Behind the Scenes, 2: Near-Mishaps & Almost-Mayhem (or, the Rest of the Story)

NJM 2800 medb.phpThe best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men Gang aft agley…

–“To a Mouse,” Robert Burns

The morning of our wedding started out well enough: I woke up early and had time to put the finishing touches on our “S” decorations before my parents stirred. I made eggs and Canadian bacon for family breakfast. I took a relaxing shower to prepare for my hair and makeup appointments.

Then I gave myself a second degree burn.

Cuppa Ouch

Bridesmaid Sherry was joining me and my mom for hair and makeup. After she arrived, we gathered purses and key supplies: the lipstick I’d purchased for the wedding, my birdcage veil. As we headed out the door, I decided to take a cup of tea, since the sniffles I’d had the day before had morphed into a scratchy throat and were threatening full-on cold status. Back in the kitchen I filled a tall ceramic cup with water, placed it in the microwave, pressed the buttons and waited. Continue reading

Behind the Scenes, I: Details, Details

We have access to all our wedding pictures now, and we’ve enjoyed re-living some of our favorite moments of the evening through them. It’s been equally fun to experience vicariously some of the moments we weren’t privy to at the time: our guests interacting as they waited for the ceremony to begin, my brother escorting my mom down the aisle, some awesome photo bombs during the cake-cutting. As I scrolled through the photos, it occurred to me there were a number of small details that were meaningful to us, objects or choices with stories whose history or deeper significance wasn’t immediately apparent. So, here’s a behind-the-scenes tour of some of those details that helped us put our special stamp on the day.


NJM_9465 lgMy train and the gold-tone brooch pinned at its apex: The train I wore, which attached to my dress at the waist, was made from the train of my mother’s wedding dress, a Watteau-style that fell from her shoulders like a cape. The lovely Terrisa Vaughan of Her Perfect Day refashioned it for me after my mom cut some of the lace to make the ring pillow, which also included fabric from her dress and my grandmother’s wedding dress (read the story of the ring pillow here). The gold brooch at its apex had been worn by my maternal great-grandmother, my grandmother, and my mother at their weddings. The legacy piece served as my “something old.” I also wore my paternal grandmother’s wedding ring on my right hand.

I wore two bracelets with special significance: the first was a vintage pearl and silver marcasite piece Steve and I bought in a shop on Portobello Road during our trip to England last Christmas. I was drawn to it because my mother also wore a silver and pearl bracelet, a gift from my father, at her wedding. I also had a sterling and aqua chalcedony bracelet made by my friend Janna of A Little Twisted, which represented the love of my girlfriends. Both were also “something new.”

Steve and I wore the gifts we’d given each other: His was a silver cuff engraved with the latitude and longitude of the Rooftop; the inside sports the date and the phrase “here beside you.” He gifted me with a delicate anklet of bright blue butterflies, an homage to the Butterfly Garden that was part of our celebration. It was also “something blue.” My “something borrowed” was a beaded coral bracelet my friend Sarah had brought back from a trip to Nepal, and it was tied around my bouquet. I did in fact have a real “sixpence in my shoe” (taped with washi tape), courtesy of my now-stepson Dusty, who’d procured it during his study-abroad at Oxford.

The men in the wedding party wore bright polka-dot socks mostly because I thought it would be fun (and I love bright colors and polka dots!). We gave my nephew a pair of “Hobbit socks” with toes because Steve kept joking it would be “so cool” to have Ethan dress as Frodo, since he was “The Ringbearer.” In homage to the groom’s family heritage, specifically Steve’s maternal grandmother, his sons each wore the McIntosh plaid, Dusty in the form of a kilt and Tucker in his tie.


NJM_3080 lgThe venue itself has some backstory. My mom gifted us with a cocktail hour held in the Science Museum’s Butterfly Garden because it was as close as she could get to the courtyard wedding we’d dreamed about together when I was a girl. And Steve and I chose the Rooftop because of our own history with it—we danced together the first time at the Center in the Square’s grand-reopening, so it was fitting we share our first dance as husband and wife there, as well.


Some of the decorations also had stories. The vintage-map-paper flowers that were scattered around the tables were crafted in honor of Steve’s love of and longtime work with mapping and GIS software. (Our invitations, which also featured a map theme, focused on Virginia, since that’s where we met and fell in love—and, well, Virginia is for lovers, right?)

Next to our guest book, we placed a painted tin that featured an olive shell on top, which hearkened back to the first time I’d told Steve I loved him (“Olive you”) during a beach trip, as well as the fact he later proposed to me on another beach.

I wrote back in December about wedding favors and noted we had chosen something useful and personally meaningful: jars of wildflower honey bottled by my father, Garry, a beekeeper.

The milk-glass cakestand that displayed our wedding cake I inherited from my grandmother. Instead of a caketopper, I painted two wooden S’s that stood in front of it. Steve’s was green and decorated with a forest of tiny trees (he is a forester), stripes, and a bow-tie made from map-printed fabric. Two miniature books represented his sons, and a clay figure I’d sculpted of his dog Imoh sat in the curve. My S was aqua, for sky and water, and featured polka dots and a tulle bow, along with a small collection of seashells. A miniature journal, open, represented writing, and two cat sculptures, black kitty Lola, and tabby Charlie Kate, completed it. I kept the S’s a surprise for Steve, so he did not see them until just before the ceremony.


The lyrics and history of the songs were important too. I selected Ronan Keating’s version of “I Hope You Dance” for the father-daughter dance, because the lyrics echo the advice my father always gave me. Steve and I danced to John Denver’s “Annie’s Song” for our first dance because the nature imagery touches on all the beautiful places we’ve been together–forest, mountains, ocean–and loved. Our last dance song, to Norah Jones’ “Come Away With Me,” hearkened back to a night we turned on an iPod and danced in the woods.

And I still don’t know whether anybody caught it and got the joke or not, but I enjoyed the moment immensely: our recessional song was “I Do” by Colbie Caillat, but it was immediately followed by “Finally” by CeCe Peniston: “Finally! It’s happening to me!”

Finally! Sings the forty-something first-time-bride, with a wink and a grin.

Next week: more behind-the-scenes stories about a few things we didn’t expect….

All photos by Noah Magnifico

Via bridebook: What If It Rains?

So, it’s been pouring rain here in Southwest Virginia, going on four days now. The rivers are roiling and cresting, basements are seeping and leaking, and the sky has held the same deep grey for so many hours I can no longer tell, without a clock, whether it’s early morning, late evening, or some time in between.

It seems a good time to share a link to my most recent bridebook post, which was published the week before our wedding, a post in which I wondered, “What if it rains?” It didn’t rain on our ceremony or reception, though showers early in the day made us cross fingers and toes. But it rained all last weekend, when I’m sure many lovely couples tied the knot, and it’s sure raining now, and the rain is predicted to keep right on falling.

So this one is for all those folks whose weddings have been and will be wet. Take heart and carry a big umbrella. As my wise brother said, “The wet won’t stay. The married will.”

The skies looked ominous enough! Photo, Noah Magnifico

The skies looked ominous enough!
Photo, Noah Magnifico

FsFTB in bridebook: What If It Rains?

Dear readers, FsFTB is moving to a once-a-week posting format. New posts will now appear on Fridays. Thanks to all who’ve followed our love story this far, and all who keep on reading!


Hooray, We’re Hitched! (Raise a Glass!)

We're hitched!We did it!

Steve and I are now officially a Mr. and Mrs.! It was a beautiful day in every way (even the weather—it rained early on but cleared before the ceremony!), full of family, friends, and joy.

I took a week off from blogging (and the office) for the wedding festivities, and now I think I need another week to recover…. I’ll be back soon with some reflections on our big day (and how it flew by), a few behind-the-scenes stories (you’ll never guess who almost got arrested), and descriptions of the elements we kept a surprise (everybody loves a parade!).

In the meantime, kick back and enjoy one of our “Quite a Pair/Pear” signature cocktails (recipe follows below), and check out our wonderful “next day album” provided by photographer Noah Magnifico, who brought us hard book copies the morning after the wedding so we could enjoy and share immediately!

Sandee and Steve’s Next Day Wedding Album, Magnifico Photography

Enjoy with a Quite a Pair/Pear and Elderflower Martini (from Barinacraft):

  • 1 oz. pear-infused vodka
  • 1 oz. elderflower liqueur (St. Germain)
  • 1/4 oz. dry vermouth
  • Mix ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a glass. Garnish with a pear slice as desired.

    Raise a glass and stay tuned for more tales from FsFTB!

    Steve Speaks: Looking forward

    NJM med

    magnifico photography

    Every so often my fiancé Steve shares his thoughts. Here’s his last pre-wedding post.

    It’s just around the corner. The 10-day weather forecast now extends to the wedding (partly sunny, highs in the upper 70’s…). I keep getting asked, “Are you excited?” “Are you nervous?” “Are you ready?” Yes, no, yes and no.

    More and more I’ve found myself saying (and hearing) “…after the wedding.” As in, I know we need to do X, and maybe we can get to that after the wedding. When will we find and unpack the rest of our dishes, pots, and pans? After the wedding. When will I get caught up at work? After the wedding. When will we have friends over for dinner? (You know the refrain).

    I look forward to life after the wedding, because so many things have been on hold while we’ve been merging households and making preparations. The top five things I’m looking forward to leaving behind:

    5. Dates as planning meetings. You go to dinner with a beautiful woman, sit down across from her over a candlelit table, order a bottle of wine, and… each pull out your calendars and to-do lists. I look forward to leaving the notebooks behind.

    image4. The craft room fiancée. Sandee and her mom are making lots of lovely decorations for the wedding, some of which I’ve even been allowed to see! But she’s labored some long hours over a hot glue gun. On good days, I hear her singing upstairs. On other days, I hear the occasional growl. I won’t miss the time and stress involved in so much high-pressure D-I-Y.

    3. Middle-of-the-night financial questions, like waking at 2:00 AM, trying to remember if I actually wrote a check for X or just dreamt that I did. What account was I going to use for Y? Did we over-extend when we decided on Z? I prefer my pondering take place after coffee. In daylight.

    2. Life lived out of a suitcase or cardboard box. For two years, I saw Sandee mostly on weekends, packing a suitcase and driving an hour each way. For two months, we’ve lived in cardboard box limbo, our earthly possessions stowed in unlikely places. Unpacking has been sporadic and scarce as work and wedding preparations have taken priority. I’m ready for us to be home, together.

    1. Wedding-related decisions. I’m OK with decisions; I can be very decisive. I create decision-support models and software. But I’m weary of all the difficult trade-offs. How many of our friends can we actually invite? Where’s the balance between being tight-fisted and responsible about wedding expenses? When is it OK not to care about some décor detail that’s so important to my bride? I look forward to those days after the wedding when the toughest decision is whether to drink red or white wine with dinner.

    Still, I don’t want to be so focused on “after the wedding” that I don’t embrace and thoroughly enjoy every moment of the wedding itself. Here are the top five things about the wedding I want to hold on to and savor like a 12-year old scotch:

    5. Seeing my bride. That precise moment when Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” bursts out with full strings and she rounds a corner, coming into view in a dress she has so carefully chosen, eyes shining, reveling in the day she’s dreamed about. I just hope I’ll be able to see her clearly, and not through blurry, watery eyes.

    Steveboys4. Friends and family. I’ll have wonderful friends and family members at the wedding to share my joy. Some of them I haven’t seen in too many years. Some of them will be standing with me as Sandee approaches. Some of them will meet her for the first time that day. These friends have stood beside me in some tough times in my life; I’m eager for them to be beside me on one of the best days.

    3. Sharing the day with my sons. How many grooms get to share their wedding day with their adult sons? It’s not entirely rare, but it feels very special. Tucker and Dusty have observed (with different levels of involvement and comment) my years of dating. They have cheered me on, sometimes questioned my choices (or tactics), but never begrudged me the search. It will be an honor and joy to have them participating in the ceremony.

    NYpierdancing2. A perfect evening. I know things may not go exactly as planned. The sunset may not be spectacular, I might stumble in the “first dance,” and it’s entirely possible I’ll spill something—hopefully not on Sandee’s gown. But we’ll be dancing to music we selected, eating food we chose, drinking wine from vineyards we’ve visited, and be surrounded by people we love. How could that not be perfect?

    1. The ring. Strange? I’ve never worn much jewelry, but I really like the idea of having a ring on my finger again. I picked it out, and I’ll like the cool feel of it when my bride slides it on my finger, and I will absolutely mean the words I speak over it. And eventually, I’ll grow so used to the reassuring weight of it on my hand that I’ll feel naked without it.

    I’ll be married. And I’m really looking forward to that.


    The Countdown

    initial S'sSoooo, you might have noticed I was absent from these parts last Friday. Things have gotten pretty overwhelming now that school’s back in session and we’re rapidly heading toward the “days away” mark, a situation not made easier by the fact that almost every other item one of us seeks requires a search through at least three as-yet-unpacked boxes.

    This too shall pass.

    And only too fast, I fear.

    I don’t want these days to be so blurry and harried, though perhaps that’s inevitable. I’ve been frantically trying to put the finishing touches on a number of almost-there DIY projects, a process that includes deciding which ones just aren’t going to happen. We’re finalizing details with our vendors, going last-minute shoe-shopping, testing possible signature cocktail recipes (that last one wasn’t so bad…).

    Projects in process

    Projects in process

    We’ve also been joking more and more frequently about the virtues of elopement.

    A couple of nights ago, we tried to slow the momentum and enjoy the moment by practicing for our first dance. We’d thought at one time we’d take a dance lesson or two, but we just flat ran out of time. And a wise family friend who’s seen us dance together had actually cautioned against it, saying that we moved together so naturally, why complicate or even interfere with that ease? It’s a tricky balance, though, wanting to do something special, at least a little planned, but also not wanting to set ourselves up to be so concerned about getting steps “right” that we can’t be fully present. It’s not like either of us is a choreographer, either, so the only language we have to communicate with each other about dance is just, well, dancing.

    We decided our bottom line is that we’d like to avoid falling.

    malletsThe surprises and slip-ups—assuming they don’t result in bodily harm—are the stories that stick, of course. Everyone keeps reminding me of that, and even I, years ago, wrote a poem after my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding that recounted all the funny things that had not gone as planned, suggesting those were the most real, most memorable moments. I’m wondering now if there will be some karmic return on that observation. I mean, it’s not necessary for things to go wrong to have a wedding with great stories to tell, is it? It will still be wonderful and memorable even if everything goes off without a hitch, right? Universe? Please?

    Stay tuned. After all, when things go awry, there’s writing material aplenty.