My stepson John and his bride-to-be Jessica had planned their wedding for nearly two years. They wanted a June wedding/reception at a pretty little vineyard in New Hampshire and June 6, 2020, was the first Saturday that was available.
All the usual planning began…dresses, fittings, flowers, photographer, invitations, seating arrangements, the ever-expanding guest list, hotels, menus, transportation, etc… it goes on and on. Jess worked so hard and her wedding day was planned down to the last detail. Or so we thought.
No one was prepared for Covid-19, shutdowns, quarantines, and the like. As the day drew near it became more and more obvious that the wedding of her dreams was quickly dissolving before her eyes. First, the bachelorette party was canceled, then her bridal shower too.
A big decision loomed before them. Postpone the wedding for a few months? A year? Should they elope instead? John was bound and determined to make her his wife sooner rather than later so with three weeks left until their original wedding date, it was decided that an intimate ceremony with immediate family attending was in order.
They asked me and my husband if the ‘reception’ could be at our home after the church service and of course, we said yes. Jess tried not to show her disappointment and was thankful for our being willing to use the house for “ family dinner at the kitchen table” after the wedding. She said, “Love isn’t canceled.” and I knew we just had to make the reception as memorable and special as possible.
Mind you we had just moved a few months earlier. We had only brought a few pieces of furniture with us, the house still had boxes everywhere, and the updates to bring the townhouse into this century were still a glimmer in my eye. My closest and dearest friend in the world had recently died and I had lost my desire to care for much of anything. But this was the spark I needed to find my ‘juju’ and get back into the land of the living. In my mind’s eye, I pulled together the event, the décor, and the use of each space.
All the basics were planned for – food, drinks, music, first dance, cutting the cake, décor, and such. But what about moments such as being introduced as “Mr. and Mrs.” for the first time? Would that be taken from them too? We had moved to a small community on a golf course and had a golf cart sitting in the driveway.
What if the newlyweds drove through our street and the neighbors could toast the happy couple from their front steps? Although this wouldn’t be the same as having a DJ announce them as they waltzed into a reception hall filled with family and friends, hopefully, all these ‘strangers’ would provide some smiles and joy for their new beginning.
A quick email to the neighborhood was answered with overwhelming support – everyone seemed excited to have something happy to look forward to and a reason to venture out of confinement. I was more than a little excited and nervous about how this surprise would go. Would the weather hold up? Would it come across as lame and underwhelming? Would all the neighbors really participate?
And then the little miracles started happening. The day of the wedding, gifts for the bride and groom began to appear on our doorstep from neighbors that we hadn’t even met yet! A mom gathered the neighborhood kids and created chalk messages on the street (in 90-degree weather mind you!). Others made signs and posters and another brought us food for the day after when would be tired and hungry (and maybe a little hungover too).
After the ceremony and photos, we all arrived back at the house. A quick drink and appetizer were served to get the party started and we led John and Jess out to the garage where their chariot awaited. They laughed in surprise and hopped in the decorated golf cart and drove out the driveway with tin cans clamoring behind.
They were welcomed by nearly 60 neighbors lining the road, some in chairs with appetizers and drinks of their own because it was a reception after all! The dogs joined in too with one in a little Tuxedo. Kids threw rice. Someone had a horn blasting as they drove by. Posters with well-wishes were held up high. Collective “Cheers” went up as they drove on by. They drove around a second time ‘cause how could you not?
Afterward, they walked up and down the street thanking everyone for all the love and support.
A week or so after the wedding Jess sent a video she had taken from her phone on their golf cart ride. You can see the neighbors with homemade signs and hear the cheers and well wishes.
But for me, it’s what wasn’t seen that was the most special – it was the sound of Jess and John’s laughter. It was reminiscent of a baby when they discover laughing for the first time. Pure, genuine, and from the belly. The kind of laugh that makes you laugh. At the end of the trip down the street, the camera is pointed to the ground as Jess seems to have forgotten the video is rolling, and I hear John laugh and say, “Could it get any better than this?!?”
Love wasn’t canceled. Far from it. You can plan and plan and plan…yet in the end, so much is out of your control.
As wisdom teaches us, the only thing you can control is your reaction. Your attitude. How you face a challenge and unforeseen circumstances. That there are no guarantees, entitlements, or should’s in this world. It’s how you rise above. How you navigate the thousands of little and big things life will throw you. Jessica and John did this with grace, style, laughter, and a whole lot of love.
When you step back and let go of the control, you’ll notice all the little miracles that are happening. Things you never could have planned for in a million years. Things that would never have happened otherwise. You see all there is to be thankful for.
Expectations were canceled. But love sure wasn’t.