I wasn't a little girl who dreamed about my wedding day. I'm not sure what I was daydreaming about as a kid-- probably ghost stories, and come to think of it, new places I wanted to go. Not so different from now. I think this lack of lifelong dream wedding scenario worked to the benefit of how the day went. It didn't go perfectly, and in not being perfect, it was just right. It was a day that represented us, and it was a hell of a lot of fun.
[Photo by Kristina Carter, Vrai Photography]
I was so not that dream-about-my-sparkly-butterfly-princess-wedding-day girl, that I was embarrassed by much of the hoopla of being a bride. I was embarrassed by the very word "bride," largely due to the grotesque bridezilla caricature it has come to conjure of late. (Of course, this comes from someone easily shamed, [no] thanks to Catholicism anyway.)
See? Garment bag for wedding dress before:
Dress wasn't from there, as if, so no free advertising.
And as much as I looked forward to the wedding itself, I dreaded that first walk down the aisle. All eyes on me. Better look the best ever. Better not tumble ass over teakettle and have to get played out by Keyboard Cat.
So it was with an unreal, "here we go" feeling that we departed a week ago Wednesday to New Orleans Airport. The wedding time had been so long in coming, and yet in the last few weeks it seemed we were skipping over whole chunks of time. But we'd finally gotten most things done on our almost never-ending to-do list.
The first thing we realized upon arrival at Louis Armstrong International Airport was that, although we had a nearly unmanageable amount of bags, we were missing one crucial one: the laptop case. In it, fiance's iPod, with all the wedding reception music. But our wonderful neighbros came through as usual, overnighting the bag to our resort (at a shocking cost the fiance opted not to divulge). Between that and fretting my dress was being hopelessly crushed in the tiny plane closet after a careless Continental flight attendant smooshed it in and slammed the door ( : 0 ) , and the residual stress from all the planning, it was a stressful trip.
We arrived in San Francisco, and I finally got to meet our evening's host, the fiance's old pal Heather, who I would totally be bffs with if we lived in the same area. We set to instantly bonding, heckling the f while drinking champagne, and talking horror movies. The next day in Palo Alto dawned clear and just the right temperature-- fiance noted it was the same beautiful day he woke up to every time he'd stayed with her in that area over the years. I love California.
We headed up to Tahoe, stopping in Sacramento to pick up my soon-to-be mother-in-law. There we ran into groomsman Bubba (hi, Bubba! he's a lurker on this blog) and to our dismay, saw a kid in LSU purple and gold. Was there no escape?! Bumping into friends and LSU references were to be two leitmotifs of the trip, so it set the tone.
And then: Tahoe. Gorgeous as always. We got settled in our room and got dinner. Then we gathered at Cal Neva's Circle Bar for the first night of fun.
And now, I must explain our setting, which was a major character in the events of the weekend.
Cal Neva is a rustic resort and casino on the state line of California and Nevada (hence the name). In the early 1960s, it was owned by Frank Sinatra, so it used to be a Rat Pack hangout, and was also frequented by the likes of Marilyn Monroe (whose cabin, number 3, bff KarTek stayed in, described here), and JFK.
This Rat Pack history appealed to my love of mid-century Americana, and FYI if anyone has found this post by Googling "weddings at Cal Neva," the price is right and wedding planner Sharon is extremely helpful. We give it a thumbs up. We give massive thumbs down to Sand Harbor, the gorgeous beach and state park where our wedding ceremony was originally supposed to be held. The unresponsive staff there gave us the runaround at the beginning of 2009 and contradicted everything we'd been told when we chose the location months earlier. So if you've found this post by Googling "weddings at Sand Harbor," as far as weddings go, Sand Harbor can suck it. Email me if if you need more information.
So Thursday night happily reunited yours truly with bff ecs, newly returned from Australia, and hopefully she and husband Ed are now here in the US to stay.
We convened in the Indian Room, which has a collection of animal heads on the wall and is bisected by the state line, where the reception would take place two nights hence. Suffice it to say, within moments our conversation had offended this departed creature enough for a frozen protest.
Still got it! Thursday evening marked the beginning of a successful merging of fiance's and my friends, many whom who had never met before. Sadly, it's impossible to relay the sordid, repulsive assholishness we were going on about in any way as funny as we found it. Fiance and I got into our room late and I blasted Born to Run on the iPod speakers, leaning out the screenless window, breathing in gulps of the invigorating clear air. The neighbors were probably pretty jazzed about the tunes.
A few short hours later, on Friday, the fiance and I had to run down to Reno to get our marriage license and buy wine for the reception. Only hours after drinking dirty martinis, then traversing extremely winding roads, in a dry altitude, and with a nervous stomach, I vommed. Here comes the bride, with barf breath. Fiance and I laughed, as we do.
Reno appeared to be teeming with creeps and seediness, aka blogging gold, but we were on a deadline and would have to investigate further later.
At 4, we met with wedding-goers who opted to attend the secret tunnel tour at Cal Neva. I reunited with all my (relatively few) attending family members and other friends who had just gotten to town. We learned about the sordid Sinatra and Kennedys mob-tied past of Cal Neva, and how the celebrities were able to sneak around the resort without being seen by the public. The Cal Neva staff would like us to believe the place is haunted by at least Marilyn's ghost (she stayed there days before she died) and probably others.
The end of one of the tunnels:
Then came a brief wedding rehearsal. How had we signed up for such a traditional wedding? It wasn't in a church, but we still had this whole suspenseful, "grand reveal" of the bride. Not as simple as the beach wedding we first envisioned.
But then it was time for the rehearsal dinner, at our friend's Cal-Asian sushi restaurant at Squaw, Mamasake. Deliciousness. The families and friends continued to meet each other. The f's parents made extremely touching speeches about their son and future daughter-in-law as a couple. When the dinner was over, more long-not-seen friends arrived.
I called it an early night in Therese & Leah's room (bride and groom not supposed to stay in the same room, we were told) with a mother's little helper to ensure sleep would come, wanting to be super-fresh for the big day. Not many of our friends turned in early. The Circle Bar got a lot of business that night. Groomsman Greg infamously wandered over late-night to the other casino to win $400 (Cal Neva was consistently stingy with winnings), then he ended the evening in the boxers in the Cal Neva hallway, with no explanation of how he got there in said state of undress. When he tried to rejoin society and knocked on his room door, his roommate Bubba asked, "What are you doing?" and Greg brushed by, answering, "What do you think I'm doing?"
The next day, once my roommates and I acknowledged we were all awake, Therese announced, "You're getting married today!"
She reminded me of this throughout the day. Then began the charade of hiding from the fiance all morning and early afternoon while going about our business. We were not supposed to see each other that day, so we played along. This is not a tradition I knew existed.
So began a lot of fiance and I ducking each other throughout the day. At one point just before swimming in the pool (that's in both California and Nevada), I saw him heading in the front door and hit the deck behind the Circle Bar. Therese covered me with a towel.
We went swimming, and for me it served to distract from everything else until it was time to get ready. More friends arrived, including Kristina pictured below. One of the best parts of doing a destination wedding was just bumping into friends and family everywhere we went.
Still, despite all the hiding games, there was much confusion with the fiance departing our suite through one door while I tried to get in through another, as depicted below [photo by Vrai, as above].
Some wedding traditions, like that one, felt silly, but we ended up doing them because no one had thought ahead to decide we're not doing them. One that made sense was having all the bridesmaids in the suite as we got ready. Also there were my mom & Aunt Annie. It was a great distraction from the big event, and they were helpful in their own ways. The girls told stories, my mom and aunt helped me into my dress, ecs did my makeup.
Then it was time! Time for the real business, and time for becoming that spectacle I feared. The weather had turned less than ideal: It was quite windy and cold, the only time that trip it would be that way. The veil, first worn by my mom, then my Aunt Janet before my birth, would never stay on as is. Ecs shoved the comb of my veil deep into my hair, anchoring it solidly, and I owe it to her that the veil held on. As Dionne Warwick would say, "that's what friends are for."
So, the dreaded walk down the aisle wasn't that bad. My dad was there in case of tumble, but thankfully no tumbling happened.
And there was my husband to be, looking incredibly touched. We held hands facing each other and shared our vows. When we'd gone over the ceremony, I had injected a joke about Louisiana (observing that we had attendees today from 14 states and one foreign country-- and by foreign country we didn't mean Lousiana! zing), and a Kurt Vonnegut quote ("dammit, you've got to be kind"). Both the fiance and I were emotional, but not bawling as I'd feared. In that unreal state, I noticed my veil getting tossed around by the wind, and that the skin on my arms was dry, and was that really "Piano Man" drifting down to us from the other wedding? (Really? I have to associate this Billy Joel song with that important moment in life now?) and that my little ring bearer nephew was rolling around on the ground near us, and that Butch yelled "Tiger Bait!" in response to the Lousiana joke (again, really? But that's what you should expect when you bait a tiger fan). Then it was over and we were MARRIED! And that's what this whole shindig was all about.
And now we could mostly just relax with these family and friends. Awesome. Our rogue's gallery of groomsmen and bridesmaids was incredibly fun, walking down a flowered path to the windy lake to take our photos. The groomsmen had each been given a bottle of bourbon, and someone thoughtfully brought one along for this purpose. Most everyone took a swig in turn for warmth and mirth. It worked.
[image: Vrai, as above]
As we headed back up for the reception, there was vigorous pitching of oversized pine cones by groomsmen and bridesmaids, there were many LOLs (with many more to come), and for some of us, including the bride, carefully arranged hair was now windblown. It wasn't a perfect time, but like the Goonies, it was our time.
To be continued...