The day before the wedding, Friday, July 11th, the plans all came together. All the hours of work, the showers and parties, all the checklists and all the worries were over.
We live together and both got up early that morning. Jeff went to the golf course with his brother, Bobby, and best friend George. Donnie, the fourth man in the wedding party, had to work that day and didn't make it. I went to Karen's Beauty Shop, in Ravenna, Ohio, to get my nails done.
The appointment was over by 10:30 a.m. and after a quick trip home for lunch I took off in my car for the hall. It was a warm sunny day in July and I had all the decorations ready to go. It wasn't open when I arrived. Everyone was supposed to be there at noon and I was alone without a key.
After a quick look around to see if the grass had all been mowed, the horseshoe pits prepared and the volleyball net fixed. I checked to see if everything was really locked. Unfortunately, it was, but I found a window ajar. The building was an outside screened-in, picnic pavilion and was way off the road so I opened the screen and slipped inside. (A little illegal, but a minor point.)
I opened the door and started carrying supplies for decorating. Even after carrying my tools and everything inside no one had arrived yet. So, I swept the floor and started getting organized. George showed up first, after the golf game, and was a little surprised to see me inside because he had the key. Melissa (my best friend and bridesmaid) came soon afterward and we began to get organized. Others who came were my fiancée's aunts and Jeff's 9-year-old daughter, Brandi, followed by (my other best friend and matron of honor) Donna. Jeff came last and brought the keg of beer.
We soon set the guys to arranging the heavy picnic tables. All the rest of us hung the long lengths of red checked gingham in swags, draping it at each of the 34 windows. There were 14-16 windows side-by-side down the long walls and some on the end flanking a double door. Then we finished each corner off with a 6" grapevine heart filled with silk daisies, blue bachelor buttons and ribbons. We had made the decorations over the cold winter months.
The cake table was all set up so when it arrived the next day the baker would know precisely where to put the cakes. I made a "frame" for the cakes out of more silk daisies and ribbons. Because of the heat, we decided not to have the traditional towering cake because, after all, it was a country barbecue. Instead, we had the baker make two sheet cakes. One shaped like my lace wedding boot, the other like his cowboy boot. They were trimmed and looked great! We used a cake-topper that had been given to us as a centerpiece on the cake table.
Next we set out the wishing well. We had created small bouquets with silk flowers and ribbons and decorated it to match the rest of our room.
We finished up by putting white tablecloths on all the tables. Then we added the gift-wrapped disposable cameras (complete with rhyming instructions). At each place we put tiny favor baskets that we had made from mini red and white baskets, stuffed with gingham and tucked with mini daisies. These also had a little label on them with our names and wedding date. I put a piece of double-sided tape at each place and held the basket in place as they were very light and we hoped for a breeze.
We almost didn't have any centerpieces! The day before we decided the live white daisy mums originally destined to be on the tables were way too dead and awful. So we scrambled to come up with another idea. Off to Wal-Mart we went. Gathering silk daisies, blue babies breath and hunting for something original to put them in. It couldn't be too expensive or too big. We ended up with small crystal votive - type bowls. We hot glued a bit of florist's foam inside then tucked in green dried moss around the foam. Into the foam went daisies, greens and the blue babies breath. We had also made small gingham roses from the extra fabric and stuck a few of them in the centerpiece as well. The result was lovely little arrangements. Each a little different and a perfect country picnic table decoration. Ahh, another disaster averted!
With the hall done and securely locked the group left for the church and the rehearsal.
We were to be married in a little white country church. It was over 100 years old and had all the original beautiful stained glass windows and glowing wooden pews and alter. It was perfect! After we talked with the Reverend and we met with the organist for the first time. I had talked to her on the phone but really had no idea what music to select and just explained we wanted something traditional and simple. About midway through the rehearsal a neighborhood dog wandered in and Rev. Harvey said that he was okay, and actually had better attendance than some of his neighbors! The only other thing to do was a walk-through and - oops - we need someone to start the tape for our song! George Strait's I Cross My Heart. Bobby's wife, Freda, stepped in and everything went smoothly.
After the rehearsal, we headed for Donna and Donnie's house for dinner. It was just the bridal party and a few extras. Only 8 of us were there. The bridal party, my mom and my sister's little boy rounded out the lively group. We grilled steak, baked potatoes, made a fresh salad and strawberry shortcake. No one drank much alcohol because we knew the next day was going to be busy. After dinner Melissa set up her sewing machine and sent my sister to try on the extra bride's maid outfit. It was ordered for my grown daughter, Alicia, who couldn't make the trip from her home in Atlanta, Georgia. My sister wears only a 7 and after pinning her in, we resized the outfit. The girls all wore white lace-trimmed soft cotton blouses that were laced up the back and blue broomstick cotton skirts. I knew it would be hot and I wanted them comfortable. We also worked on the direction signs for guests to follow from the church to the reception.
With dinner over, we (Jeff, me, my mom, my sister, Theresa, and her son) went to our house. We visited awhile then went to bed. Yes, we were one of those that made love the night before we got married.
The Wedding Day, Saturday, July 12, 1997, had arrived! We woke up about 6:00 a.m. and met everyone in the wedding party for breakfast. It was a last meeting to be sure everyone knew their roles. I had given them all checklists a week before that included each other's phone numbers and the things they were responsible for as well as what I had to do. This way there were no surprises. Also, because dinner wasn't until 4:00 p.m. we wanted to be sure everyone ate at least once before the day began in earnest.
Breakfast concluded, the ladies all headed to the beauty shop. The men went to the tux shop to pick up Bobby's tux because he had just arrived from Michigan and hadn't been able to get it sooner. George's tux and all of the guys shirts had been picked up Thursday. Donnie and Jeff already owned western style tuxes. All the men wore a western tux, red vest, white shirt, black cowboy hat and boots. It was a country and western wedding. The men also were assigned the duty for that day of posting directional signs from the church to the hall.
Melissa had to make a stop to get new roses for the moms, the ones I had bought the day before and put in the refrigerator had wilted!
The beauty shop was fun with every hairdresser doing a different lady and fixing the silk flowered combs in their hair. Karen did my makeup and the others finished their preparations. Donna had made a beautiful white crown of little white flowers for the flower girl's (Brandi) hair. She wore a pretty white dress with a big satin bow. With her dark hair up and in curls she was a precious picture!
We finished up at the beauty shop by 11:30 and it was of to the church! The men weren't there yet so we hustled in the back door and downstairs to the Sunday school classroom.
My dress was lace all over with sheer lace sleeves and a sheer bodice. I wore a triple-tier veil and a cotton slip. No big slip for this girl in the middle of July. It seemed to befit the look more to leave the dress gently falling in the front. With a little magic from Melissa in the form of lace-covered buttons we bustled the back up and the froth of lace looked so great that I decided it went well with the lace prairie boots and left it up the whole time.
I did have a problem gathering the old, new, borrowed, blue. But ended up with an antique borrowed bracelet from Donna, new under things, and blue trim on my garters.
While getting dressed and I couldn't help but peek out the window to be sure the men had really shown up, I broke a garter and just used my decorative ones. I had decorated two with gold boot charms and our colors because Jeff wanted one to throw and one to keep.
My mom and sister came in and checked to see how I was getting along. Their presence was a big surprise in the planning of the wedding. Only days before the wedding my daughter, told me she couldn't come. I called my mom for help. She and my sister and her son, Nicholas, drove up from Kentucky to come to my rescue! Everything would be fine!
Just a few minutes before the wedding I had either a nervous episode or an allergy attack. I thought it was my mom's perfume - but later had to apologize because they had just mowed the hayfield out back. I felt terrible, but she understood it was probably a little of both.
At last we were ready, the organist started and they all went upstairs. The boutonnieres were sent upstairs and the bridesmaids got their flowers. They were small bouquets of daisies and other silk flowers intertwined with gingham ribbon. Donna's was a miniature version of mine with no roses. When I grabbed my bouquet I couldn't help but think that it looked like a summer garden! A silk arrangement with lilacs, roses, hyacinths, snapdragons and a little ivy trailer with ribbons that ended in rosettes. Dawn had done a wonderful job!
I stood at the back of the church partway up the stairs while Alice, my beautiful mother, watched for me. I finally came to the top. I could see the guys - oh my - there was Jeff! Did he see me? Maybe a little. So I stepped back and waited. Jeff's Aunt Clara was up to the left of the altar and was taping the processional and caught it all on the video.
Theresa's 4-year-old son didn't want to let her go down the aisle without him and she had asked me what to do. I said, "Just walk him down with you and sit him in the front row with his grandma, he'll be good." He was.
So, when my mom and I, not sure of our cue, peeked around the corner several times to check, it was caught on video. We finally saw the Reverend rapidly nodding his head and stepped out. I said, "Come On Mom!" Then this huge smile hit my face, the nerves were gone and down the aisle we went. I felt a little giddy and later on tape thought I looked like a white cloud. Maybe the blusher veil was a bit much. But that grin shown brightly!
We got married at 1:30 p.m. Because I had read somewhere you should get married with the clock hands on the upswing for luck. It sounded like a good idea, so I used it. The ceremony took about a half-hour. When Jeff took both rings at first from the minister's hand I had to giggle.
I wasn't aware of much beyond Jeff's face and the minister. I knew Julie Trainer, the photographer was there and I did hear Donna sniff a few times and knew that most of our closest friends and co-workers were there.
When the taped song came on and Jeff started to sing to me I almost got misty then. I was so full of love it threatened to spill over! But I still had that ecstatic smile!
The vows were mostly borrowed from ones I had found on the Internet and tweaked for our own taste. The ceremony was traditional and wonderful and went quickly in the warm little country church.
After we met in the receiving line and took the indoor pictures we went outside. The newly mown hayfield, with its rolled bails and bright sunshine made a gorgeous background for the bubbles our friends blew our way and a picturesque background for photos!
We got in the best-man's van (Jeff's brother) and went towards the hall. After a quick pit stop at the money machine and to grab some Michelob we arrived to find our friends already changed in to their comfortable summer clothes. We had told them this was fine. We wanted everyone to be comfortable and have a nice afternoon.
We checked on the caterers (Special Moments from Streetsboro, Ohio). They were out back busy grilling ribs and chicken and setting out the rest of the summer feast inside the hall. We didn't buy much alcohol, only one keg and two bottles of liqueur (for the shot dance). We didn’t want the focus to be on getting drunk, but on food, family, good music and friends.
A two-man band was set up in one corner. They were warming up. Steve Vanderink and Tony had asked me what they should wear and what kind of music I wanted. I told them golf shirts and shorts because of the heat and we had already discussed a mixture of CD's and acoustic songs. What a wonderful Irish tenor voice Steve had! It was a gentle background for the party and fun to dance to as well.
We included most of the traditional elements. The entry, the bridal dance (to Lady by Kenny Rogers), the garter and the bouquet toss. By then most of the bridal party had also changed into their summer clothes. The bridal boots came off and I slipped into some white ballerina flats. By the time we finished dinner and the best man made the toast, almost everyone had changed into comfortable clothes. We drank the toast in pilsner glasses I had hot glued ribbons and rosettes onto.
We two-stepped, cha cha'd and waltzed. The children enjoyed the outdoor activities. All the while Julie took pictures and the guests got into the act with their disposable cameras. Although, you do get some goofy pictures taken by the guest's cameras.
One of the most memorable moments at the reception did not get caught on tape, but we won't ever forget it. At one point the band started playing American Pie. We started singing and looked around. Everyone was singing! I still get chills when I think of it! It was so very cool!
Soon after that I ducked into the backroom and with a little help changed into a white flowered sundress. I kept my veil on and already had the little white shoes on. I was comfortable now! Jeff never did change out of his tux, although he did take off his jacket for the dancing.
He looked so good with his blue eyes and cowboy hat - I want to always be that happy!
We did find time that day to give presents to each other. I got him a digital camera because he loves high-tech toys. He gave me a beautiful ruby bracelet.
The only thing I did that I consider really dumb was to empty the wishing well and put the envelopes in my purse. I didn't do it until the guests were gone and just the wedding party was left cleaning up. But, I guess I misunderstood that the gifts and the wishing well were being taken to our house. I thought I wouldn't see them until after we got back from the honeymoon a week later.
We went home and got some well-deserved rest. Don't let anyone tell you that living together spoils the first time you make love as husband and wife. It is really a magical time!
The next day we drove 7 hours to Penn Hills in the Pocano Mountains of Pennsylvania. The little private cabin was really neat! Nestled in the tree tops and very private. The resort itself must have been really special in its heydey. Our favorite part, outside of the room, was the evenings in the lounge. The activities were fun! All of our photos were taken with
Upon our return we wrote thank you cards and used most of the wishing well money to build a deck we had wanted for a long time.
Our whole wedding took almost a year to plan. We wanted to create a casual atmosphere where we could enjoy our friends and family. We had a limited budget and did most of the work ourselves. The things we spent the most money on turned out to be the reception and the photographer. I highly recommend that no matter how many corners you cut due to budget consraints, that you hire a professional photographer. We are glad we did!
I feel we should all plan a wedding that incorporates our idea of the perfect day. Although some things are mandatory, like the license, most are a matter of what you like. Some elements are common in your part of the world, while you would never think of the others. Do what makes you and your loved one happy. Make it the perfect day for you both.
Love, Norma and Jeff
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