The day before our wedding my eyes popped open maniacally at the stroke of 5 AM. The sense of calm that had hung over the previous days had been replaced by low level buzz of anxious anticipation. A feeling akin, I must imagine, to waking up on Christmas Eve with just one present left to purchase – the excitement of the holiday being so near mixed with the light panic of the important task left unfinished.I passed the hours until my family woke up chugging coffee, pacing around the house and doing planks, in hopes that some light core exercise might calm my nerves and also transform me to Gisele Bundchen in under 24 hours.
Spoiler alert: it did neither.
I have now seemingly blacked out the next several hours. I remember we packed gift bags into boxes and made a bunch of piles and knowing me, I probably ate some kind of eggs for breakfast but the next moment I remember, it is coming on noon and my mom is asking me to take a look at the wine she plans to bring to the hotel suite and I’m snapping “I don’t care! You just make a call! Pack it all! Or none! I can’t look at that wine right now, I don’t care!”
It was not my finest moment. But also not my worst!
Unsolicited Expert Tip for Brides: Remember, your mom is probably just trying to be helpful and doesn’t mean to get on your nerves, treat her with some grace!
Unsolicited Expert Tip for Moms: Remember, your daughter is probably just a little anxious and does’t mean to snap at you, treat her with some grace!
We moved past our drama and the group scattered to all four corners of, um, Lancaster Pennsylvania. Bernie, Michael, Marge and Aunt Katy headed into the city to check into the Lancaster Marriott, where we’d all be camped out for the weekend, and run some last minute errands, while Brian and I snuck off for lunch at a cool restaurant called Aussie and the Fox for our final romantical date as a non-married couple.
Months before the wedding we settled on the plan to set aside a few hours just for us on Friday and it was one of the best ideas we’ve ever had. EVER. Another piece of Unsolicited Expert Advice: do this! Try to find a little time in the days leading up to the wedding for just you and your partner to take a quiet minute and recharge – a meal, a walk, a stealthy makeout sesh, whatever. Maybe have some lunchtime wine and a gigantic sandwich, which will surely reverse all positive effects of your morning plankfest but hey, it’s your wedding weekend. You deserve it! This was one of my favorite parts of the weekend. We talked about what we were most excited about in marriage, at the wedding and what we were nervous about, too. Brian even let me take that cute picture of him and normally he finds it annoying when I try to papparazo him during meals!
Extra glad for this brief moment of calm and wine and Australian food because as soon as we finished, suddenly EVERYTHING. WAS. HAPPENING. We met the rest of our family back at the hotel, where none of our rooms were ready for check-in and we were one of SIX wedding parties dropping off welcome bags at the front desk. We had rented a hospitality suite for the weekend (best money we spent, truly!), which blessedly was open and ready for us to get into. No sooner had we dropped our bags in the suite, than people started to arrive.
First on the scene: bridesmaid / facebook wife Maureen, who kindly devoted her whole birthday weekend to #hottwedding festivities. She’s a gem. As a bridesmaid/birthday/10 Year Facebook Marriage and Friendship Anniversary gift I’d made her a photo book with memories of our romantic life together. I had it shipped to my office and showed it to my assistant, Margaret, and we both gleefully clapped over how nice it was and how it was “totally going to make Maureen cry.
WHY would this make us happy? Like, yes the hope was for good tears but what is with the goal of “I’m going to make someone I love WEEP in front of me.”
HUGE NEWS she totally wept. So did I. I gave her this gift while she was doing her makeup in the suite’s beautiful bathroom and I sat on the toilet while she sat on the sink counter and flipped through our shared memories and we both totally heaved and sobbed and sputtered “I love you so much!” and laughed about how ridiculous it all was, us hiding in the bathroom crying like a couple of weirdos. It was another of my favorite moments of the weekend.
So favorite, I’m tearing up right now reminiscing on it. Get it together, Hobag!
While Mo and I were sobbing away in the lavatory, my brother took my mom’s car to the train station to pick up my girlfriends who had taken the train down from NYC – bridesmaid Kathleen, stationary designer/wonderperson Jamie and ceremony musician Amy. This is an important, Chekovian note for you to keep in mind for later.
Don’t forget: Michael drives Bernie’s car on Friday evening.
DUN DUN DUNNNN.
And so! Bridesmaids and groomsmen are arriving. Brian’s parents! My dad! Aunts and uncles! Barely anyone’s rooms are ready for check-in! We take turns running back and forth from the 6th floor suite to the lobby to see if our rooms are ready. On one trip I run into a former high school classmate in the elevator. It turns out another E-town grad was getting married in Lancaster that very evening and a whole host of kids I hadn’t seen in 10 years were also staying in the Marriott. I ran into another the following morning and it gave me a perverse sense of pleasure to have all these random high school people milling around and me be able to announce to them “I’M GETTING MARRIED!!”
Adding to the It’s a Small World Disney Ride of it all, our photographer (Kylene! The bestest!) also photographed this kid’s wedding! What are the odds? Probably pretty good, honestly, it’s not that big a town but still. BUT STILL.
The rehearsal was set to begin at 4 PM and by 3:30 my nerves were at an all time high. Not for the wedding, mind you – I was still fully on board with marrying Brian and being committed fo lyfe, but I was in no way prepared for how I would feel once ALL THE PEOPLE started to arrive. This hosting, I guess you’d call it, was actually, for me, the very most stressful part of the whole wedding. Trying to spend time with everyone there, knowing they’d come just for us. Worrying that people were feeling neglected or not having fun. Did I spend enough time talking to my new in-laws? I haven’t seen my dad all summer and he’s telling me about his recent vacation and I’m only half listening because all the groomsmen just walked in and my uncle is sitting in the corner by himself and tomorrow is Maureen’s birthday and my brother’s room still isn’t ready for check in.
Anddd this was just our families and wedding party! Tomorrow’s Main Event would be like 6 times more people.
Ho. Ly. Crap.
Somehow admid the chaos, which I think was actually mostly just imagined chaos inside my own brain, we rounded up the wedding party and our families and walked the pretty two-block walk over to the wedding venue and rehearsed and it all went fine. It went FINE! I cried the entire rehearsal – good tears! – and though I never quite calmed the whole way down, the act of rehearsing, of seeing how the ceremony would proceed and getting positive feedback on our choice of readings and vows helped bring me back to earth and center me. It was all going to be OK!
LET THE PARTY BEGIN!!
We bopped it back to the hotel and hung around the suite for a while- we popped open bottles of wine and champagne and gave gifts to our family and wedding parties. Instead of going the traditional route of giving the same gift to all members of the party, we gave each of our attendants (ugh, I hate that word) gifts that were unique to them, that we knew (or hoped!) they’d like. I’ll do a whole separate post about this because I am VERY SMUG and proud of the gifts we gave and I want everyone to know how thoughtful and great we are. But here’s a sneak peek:
That’s right folks: more free books! (But also other nice things that we paid for. I swear!)
Ok where were we? Oh yes: DINNER TIME! Our rehearsal dinner was very intimate – just our parents, siblings, officiant and the wedding party along with their significant others, a total of 23 people. We did have beer, wine and some snacks in the hospitality suite for any out of town guests but did not open up the dinner to everyone. We did this for a number of reasons – a main one was budget yes, but also we wanted to have a little time to spend with just our parents and the people we’d chosen to stand beside us. OF COURSE I felt guilty not inviting out of town guests to the dinner, because I feel guilty about literally everything, all the time, and these people had travelled all the way to see me and was it rude not to invite them to dinner? Possibly! But buried in here is another lesson I learned/Unsolicited Expert Tip: You don’t “owe” your wedding guests anything except a wedding and even that doesn’t have to look like what tradition would dictate. These people travelled to Pennsylvania (hypothetically! or wherever!) for YOU and your partner because they love you and want to see you take this big step OR maybe because they feel guilty and obliged to be there but either way, they are there of their own accord and they love you and are happy just to be there and as long as you are gracious and warm, that’s all they need. I hope, anyway.
Ok lesson over. But this long ass recap? STILL GOING!!!
We held our rehearsal dinner at a super cute place in Lancaster called Commonwealth on Queen. By day they are a coffee shop / cafe and by night, they provide space and catering for private parties or events. We really wanted the night to feel like an intimate dinner party – but without anyone having to cook or open their home. Well, someone did cook, obviously but we paid them to do it. CoQ is about a five minute walk from the Marriott (best part of our downtown city wedding, everything was within walking distance! No worries about shuttles, cabs or drunk driving. Drunk walking, though…another story.) Apparently the third Friday of every month is Live Music Friday (or something like that…I’m too lazy to look it up) in downtown Lancaster. And they are NOT hurting for participants. Essentially every other sidewalk square housed some sort of performer of increasingly questionable musical skill. As we walked the five short blocks from the hotel to the dinner venue we were serenaded by the sounds of a one man troubadour band, several saxophonists andat least four steel drummers. A disco ball inexplicably flashed in the window of the local noodle shop. In the parking lot of my mom’s office, a Fleetwood Mac cover band scratchily warbled “thunder only happens when it’s raining…” while across the street, a man with an accordion lingered in the shadows of a parking garage.
Whether he was a sanctioned member of Free Music Friday or just a creep, we may never know for sure.
It was the most magical five minute walk of my lifetime, and I think at least one of our guests believed us when we said we hired the musicians as part of our wedding weekend, to liven up the rehearsal dinner commute.
The restaurant was perfection. They set up a long table at front of house with beer, wine and BOMB appetizers – all sourced from local farms and vendors! – including antipasta, some kind of cucumbers stuffed with dip situation, mozerrella caprese skewers and these white bean crostini that I still dream about.
Here are some photos taken by our sweet friend Ankita (betrothed of the Best Man!) to illustrate this story:
Father of the Groom, Father of the Bride, Laurie!
Maureen, Jayne (my mom’s bestie who also officiated our wedding), Brian’s mama, Amy (in a dress I’m not sure I complimented night-of but girl, dat dress!) & Jamie
Best man Vai & groomsman Adam
Adam, Sandy, Kathleen & Vai
Super cute venue made xxxxxtra cute with the addition of amazing banner hand made by Maureen. She texted me earlier in the week “if one was to have a banner on their wedding day, what would it say? asking for a friend…” haha. We then proceeded to have a conversation about her “friend” and this “banner” and I don’t know how that imaginary person felt about their imaginary banner but this real life friend LOVED her banner.
As you can see from these photos, the restaurant has big glass windows (as opposed to what, Liz, concrete windows?) on all sides looking out onto the intersections of Queen and Walnut Streets – geographical details which surely mean nothing to 99.9 percent of you (hi to the other .1, Bernie & Angie!) but it’s a relatively bustling area of downtown. As we sophisticatedly sipped vino and noshed on appetizers, a commotion gathered outside of the window. We’re still not entirely sure what went down but from the best of our collective guesses, a (likely inebriated) man in a purple car (stuffed with so much stuff, he may have lived in it) attempted to turn the wrong way down one way Queen Street, blocking traffic including a HISTORICAL TROLLEY. Lancaster, I love ya. Also somehow involved: a well-dressed businessman type driving a black SUV, now pulled over cattycorner from the restaurant and US service member dressed in full camo and driving a big white pickup truck. Cops raced to the scene…on bicycles.
Purple car man was out of his vehicle and pacing around. White truck Army dude was talking to bike cops. Businessman just leaned against his SUV.
Somehow the trolley navigated the mess and pulled away, much to the mutual dismay of the 23 members of our wedding party, now gathered around the window, faces pressed to the glass. This was the most exciting thing any of us had seen since the finale of Braking Bad. Soon some cops in motor vehicles arrived and the poor bicyclists – first on the scene! – were sent back to whence they came…probably patrolling Free Music Friday and making sure faux Stevie Nicks didn’t get too out of control on her keyboard. Inside, we all huddled together, coming up with theories on what was going down.
Who was driving drunk? Was someone on drugs? Was the US Army somehow involved or was that just a lone soldier, caught up in this hot mess? The world may never know!
This picture makes me laugh SO HARD. Here we see our friend Melissa (who will play an important role in our ceremony the next day, stay tuned for THAT novella to come) giving her version of the events – “he veered to the left!” she seems to be saying- while behind the gaggle of ladies, Brian’s sister’s boyfriend Andrew gives his play-by-play, including some very emphatic hand motions. I look stoned. Bernie looks startled (and FOXAY in that dress, might I add) while Kathleen ignores all the drama and makes love to the camera. Werk it girl!
A slightly more frame-worth op of the same crew.
Kathleen, Maid of Honor Margepants, Melissa, BRIDE OBVI DUH and Bernie, continuing to kill it in that dress
The excitement died down and we all sat for dinner. The venue had two long tables set up and served dinner family style – steak with pesto, eggplant parm, polenta and grilled summer squash. The centerpieces were made by a local florist, too!
Don’t worry, we took them with us when we left.
PS: I love my friends.
After dinner, dessert was spread out on the front table – mini brownies and cookies, coffee, tea and the MOST AMAZING mascarpone parfaits, layered with fresh berries. I had two. So wild of me, I KNOW. Maureen and I sat and caught up with my dad and his partner Laurie – Mo regaled them with tales of her competitive figure skating career – and the rest of our crew was able to move from their dinner seats and keep mingling.
The restaurant was closed to the public for the evening, but the doors were unlocked and they didn’t hang any signage indicating that it was a private event, so throughout the evening people would wander in off the street, hoping to get a table. Instead of stressing me out, this made me feel fancy and exclusive and I am shamed to admit the great pleasure I took in turning people away.
“Ohhhh, I’m so sorry, this is a private party” I’d say, with a condescending smirk. “I don’t think you’re on the list.”
In all earnestness, though, and with no accompanying Mean Girls gifs, the whole dinner was just so fun and again, genuinely relaxing. I was still worrying about getting in enough time with everyone and making sure people were having a good time but for the most part, I felt like I was able to chat with all my peeps and enjoy the food. It really had the dinner party feel we were hoping for and we’re so grateful to The Scotts for hosting and Bernie for her help getting it set up and Commonwealth on Queen for the beautiful meal! And to those idiots for crashing their cars and providing endless hilarity to us all!
After dinner we trucked it back to the hotel, heaps of leftover alcohol in hand, and partied it UP in the hospitality suite. Some friends from out of town had arrived while we were at the rehearsal and they met us back at the hotel after having dinner at a place called Yorgo’s which is a restaurant but I always confuse with Yorgey’s, which is the dry cleaners. This has zero point zero percent to do with this story, I just think it’s a little weird to have both a Yorgo’s and a Yorgey’s in the same town, you know?
Back at the hotel the booze was flowing and we kicked off our shoes and Amy put on a party playlist and cousins arrived from all over – New Hampshire! Atlanta! Upstate New York! – and it WAS SO MUCH FUN. I managed to repress most of my “is everyone having a good time” anxiety (thanks to my dear friend champagne, probably) and just soak up the love and good energy and ooof it was the best. At about 11 PM, my sweet Brian tapped out around to retire to his own room – he is much more the introvert in our relationship, so thinking of how tired I was at this point – as a person who thrives on group energy – I can not imagine how exhausted he must have been. Homeboy was done for the day. I followed suit around 12:30 or so. Bernie and I were shacking up together in a room adjoining the party suite (nontraditional as we sort of are, B and I decided to spend the night before the wedding apart, it felt romantic!), so our group very kindly took the rest of the fest down to the hotel lobby, save my delightful bridesmaids who took the “maid” part literally and cleaned everything up, so when I awoke on my BIG DAYYYYYY the suite was sparkling and clean and calm. It was a gesture that reminded me for the 80 zillionth time why I was so #blessed to have these women alongside me for the weekend.
And That. Was. The. Day! What a long story! I would make a self deprecating remark like “thanks for reading, I’m sure you’re bored” but as part of my Love Yourself 30’s, I’ve decided I don’t CARE if you’re bored, I loved writing this and reliving the day so I’m not even going to end with a joke!
Ok. ONE JOKE: Why didn’t the lifeguard save the hippie?
He was too far out, maaan!
hahaha GET IT! It’s so funny! My friend Kamran g-chats me every day with some of the world’s corniest jokes, so if you liked that comic styling, there’s pahlenty more where that came from.
Thank you for tuning in to this edition of One Awkward Wedding Wednesday. Liz Hott, over & out!