And it was awesome.
My little sister arrived at our hotel at lunch time and we ordered a platter of salty fries and diet Cokes for room service. Because, you know, that's what everyone should eat before squeezing in to their wedding dress (truthfully, I have low blood pressure, and needed to stock up on salt so I didn't faint at the 'altar').
We watched bad daytime TV (our wedding was on a Tuesday) and she did my hair and make up. She's sixteen, and has a knack for those things.
My parents joined us, along with our photographer, for about an hour to take photos before the ceremony. My mom helped me pin the veil we made together into place. We only had one hotel room, so Mike got dressed in the hotel's public bathroom (along with a homeless dude who was taking a 'bath' in the sink next to him).
I was surprisingly calm, given that I can get silly bouts of anxiety before things as mundane as going out for dinner. Strangely enough, I think our photographer helped keep me calm. He has a very gentle presence. (Thank you, Evan.)
Mike and I were texting back and forth while I was getting ready, as he and our brothers set up for our ceremony in a nearby park. Let me publicly thank Mike and our families here: Without their help that ceremony would not have happened. You guys are the best.
My mom's phone rang. It was my dad, letting her know that Mike was naked in the park. My heart rate spiked. If you know Mike, this isn't entirely out of the realm of possibilities. If I was calm before, I was anything but now. In hindsight, it's pretty funny that that was what set me off!
It turned out that Mike didn't want to get his wedding suit dirty or sweaty while he was setting up so he had gone shirtless. (My dad might have mentioned that and saved me a heart attack.)
Fully dressed, Mike sat everyone at our ceremony site.
As I stood in my hotel room shifting from foot to foot in anticipation, Mike texted me: 'OK, you can come over now.' And we were off.
My mom and sister accompanied me on the short walk between the hotel and our ceremony site - about 300 meters along a sidewalk.
As I got nearer and nearer to the ceremony I had the distinct feeling that someone had just pushed play on a tape player (why a tape player, and no other media device, I have no idea). It was almost as though I could see a finger hitting the play button with the green triangle on it, on an old stereo, and the tape started rolling. It was like I was watching everything happen before me, but taking part in it at the same time.
Mike and I discussed it after and he agreed, it's the most surreal feeling. Like you are taking part in an event that's bigger than you, that you created, but that's rolling along on it's own. You can't stop it, not that you would want to. I guess that's what they call an out of body experience.
My mom said something that snapped me back to reality and I realized my photographer was crouching in the receiving bay of my favourite-ever public radio station taking our photo. He brought me back to earth, with his zen and smiles. I started to feel nervous laughter bubbling up in my chest.
I rounded a corner saw the giant white balloons bobbing above the line of parked cars that obscured the rest of our ceremony site from view. I thought a dozen things at once: those are for me! they look great! holy shit! that's my wedding!
My Spanx had started to slide down a little, pressing uncomfortably into my stomach. It was breezy, and I kept feeling like like my veil was snagging on the beading on my dress. I stopped about five times to adjust everything. For a brief moment I felt like I might faint, or be sick. My photographer ran to the other side of the street to get a photo of me crossing it. I was watching the cars zoom by, hiking my skirt up a little higher, then I stepped into the traffic.
On the other side of the street I climbed up a rough dirt path to wait behind a big tree for the 'signal' to start my lone walk towards Mike. I could finally see the whole ceremony site and it was perfect. A semi-circle of shiny gold chairs with giant white balloons tied to them, and Mike in the middle of it. I smiled and waved at everyone. I could see my grandparents on the chairs closest to me.
I think my mom and sister adjusted my dress, but things start getting fuzzy here. I was holding back tears. I passed my phone and my clutch to my sister, and they walked towards the ceremony site. I could see the photographer halfway between me and Mike, whose back was turned towards me as we had planned. My mom and sister looked beautiful when their dresses whipped around in the wind as they walked away from me.
My veil was long and to stop myself from tearing up I was playing with it, letting it fly behind me in the wind. I remember how it was a lighter pink than my dress, and lighter still against the deep green grass. I was smiling, laughing, then trying to compose myself. I saw two girls about 100 meters away from me, sun bathing in bikinis on a big blanket. I wondered what I would have thought if I was them, watching a wedding happen while I was sunbathing.
I was happy they were there. I wanted our wedding to take place in the middle of normal life, in this spot.
I was looking for the signal - the first notes of my processional song, or a thumbs up. I saw our photographer crouching in the grass. I looked at the hill I had to walk down on my own and hoped I didn't fall down.
And then the music started. And I took a step forward.