I heard once that love is friendship on fire. That’s how I feel about you. – Ben Feldman as Adam Forrest in The Perfect Man, 2005
When it’s time for a wedding, everyone starts throwing around the word “perfect.”
“It’ll be perfect,” they say.
“No one will notice if it’s not perfect,” they say.
As an experienced wedding planner and coordinator, I say those imperfect moments are what make a wedding perfect. I get to see people in one of their most heightened states of emotions they’ll experience in life and know them better as a result. I see how they react under pressure. I see them at their absolute worst and dirtiest and then see them transform dressed up in beautiful beaded and lace whites, hair placed “just so,” and emotion laid bare that reaches from their smiles all the way up to their eyes.
I coordinated my first destination wedding recently at a three-story cabin in the middle
of Red River Gorge, Kentucky as a gift for my friends Angie and Megan. The cabin was all lacquered wood and stone. It included a game room, three decks, movie theater, ten bedrooms, a full kitchen with four dining tables, a living room with a fireplace the size of a queen bed, and expensive furnishings all decked with country décor.
It was also the longest time I’d spent in planning and coordination mode for a wedding – an entire weekend.
It started with a rehearsal Friday night when I arrived several hours after the wedding party. The alcohol force was strong with these people. They were quite jolly as I called their names and wrangled them to stand in line. I assigned each wiggling and loose body a spot and a direction to walk once reaching the end of the aisle, either right or left. Each assured me they’d remember which way to go. Except one, she announced proudly she had drank far too much to remember anything I was saying, and I quickly assured her I’d remind her tomorrow before the wedding. The room (and the forest, I’m sure) echoed with laughter and talk and wreaked of loyalty (and beer) to the brides and from the brides, Angie and Megan, to each other and their guests in attendance.
I raised my voice to be heard above the liquored crowd,“Y’all be quiet so you can hear me!”
As the planner, I often am not a participant in the wedding and am much more the observer. To know Megan and Angie was to be family. Watching them interact with friends with whom they’ve spent a lifetime building relationships was watching a family celebrate. For few times in their lives would a happy opportunity arise to have all the people they love surround them in the same space at the same time. This was one of the moments when the imperfection of it was absolutely perfect, because for these two, this was a dream.
During the rehearsal or the wedding, no one talked about the fact that these were two women getting married. It was just a wedding, as it should be.
Rehearsal was sloppily rehearsed, but rehearsed none and the less, and the party got on with the partying.
The next day, I arose early to set about the process of removing the “country” décor I described as similar to what could be found at my grandma’s house. My wife and I and a few close friends rearranged the cabin to make a wedding venue out of the homelike
atmosphere. The décor I set up and oversaw was not cheap, but it was worth the photo moments. The brides had chosen a moon and stars theme. We used bourbon bottles as vases. I designated a candle-lighter, and then arranged succulents around table displays and the cake. One of the brides purchased a giant “R” symbolizing the first letter in her new last name. It was decorated with lights and needed batteries.
“Crap,” I said as I realized the thing wouldn’t turn on. “I need two double A batters,” I barked aloud, knowing one of the friends helping me would hear and help solve yet another problem we wouldn’t bother the brides about.
“Check the TV remote,” someone suggested. It used triple A batteries, unfortunately.
“I’ve got some. Be right back,” another friend said.
She returned with two double A batteries in hand.
“Awesome! Thank goodness,” I cried, and held my hand out.
My sweet, beautiful, and ever helpful friend paused and a sly grin appeared on her face.
“Now I need these back,” she said, eyes sparkling. “They go to something important I brought with me.”
She didn’t have to say another word. I knew she was talking about her vibrator, a subject we’d discussed before. We collapsed in a fit of hysterics drawing the attention of the room. I thereafter accepted the aptly-used batteries and thanked her for her donation to this worthy cause. This was yet another moment I could count was perfect in its imperfection. Had the bride remembered batteries, we wouldn’t have had a story to add to their trove of wedding tales.
I wanted to spend as much time on the details of this wedding as possible. I wanted Angie and Megan’s wedding to be beautiful, not perfect. I customized every detail, from the programs to the memory table to ensure each piece spoke about who Megan and Angie were as individuals and who they’ve become as a couple. I wanted them to love their wedding photos. I wanted to create moments – not flawless, but memorable.
The wedding guests did a lot of that on their own, I must add.
In the early wedding planning stages, the brides and I decided we liked calling their ceremony the “epic wedding weekend,” and by darn, that’s what it was. It was as epic as any event where Megan and Angie are in attendance. Anyone who knows them has a story.
And they continued to create more tales to tell throughout the weekend right up until wedding time. As Angie was in the hair and makeup chair, she and our friends devised a scene they decided to play out and video which featured Angie pretending to make her escape from the cabin donning a head full of curls still warm and yet relaxed and an apron with no shirt, beer in hand. After later abandoning her apron, Angie somehow ended up in my black camisole for coverage, not realizing nor caring to whom it belonged. I was, of course, happy to share and giggled at the sight of her in my top.
And then the moment to marry arrived. As Angie accepted Megan’s hands after that walk down the aisle wearing possibly the most expensive thing she will ever wear, neither was thinking about the deposit for the cabin, the decorations, or all the stress. All they thought about was how in that moment all was perfectly aligned, like the stars in their wedding theme.
Friends and family stood on grass in the warm late afternoon sun. I stood on the balcony after signaling the each member of the party when to walk and watched the couple below me surrounded by all the things that make them unique celebrating their wedding Angie and Megan-style with a full weekend party in a huge cabin in the middle of the woods, Jacuzzis for friends without bathing suits to enjoy in the dark, pergola decorated with chiffon by a gay uncle who was also the minister. They didn’t miss the point of a marriage ceremony and what it could mean to them. It will be a wedding no one will ever forget. Just as no one will ever forget them.
Angie and Megan may already know, but the secret to a happy marriage is realizing your relationship will never be without problems. Knowing the flaws of the other and loving your life with them despite those flaws is how a marriage lasts. Working through those moments of strong emotions. Being the bigger person. Speaking first when you are not speaking. Reaching over and holding their hand when you’d rather reach for a bat or knife. Surviving those moments together, learning every quality – good and bad that makes your spouse human – and building an incredible life together despite their personal hiccups … that’s marriage. Like the wedding that starts it all, marriage is perfect in its imperfection.