Revisiting Our Surprise Wedding

This time 8 years ago, I couldn’t wait to reveal that tomorrow, the day of this over the top engagement part Johnny and I were having, was actually our wedding! (And feeling nostalgic tonight I have already tried my wedding outfit back on–It’s a leeetle bit tight!– and now I am moving on to quickly stream-of-conscious writing about it.) It may have been a bit Britney Spears of us, but it really worked out to be just what we wanted. Born as much as a simple fun idea, it was also the best way we could keep numbers down for both a shyness/enjoyable factor and also a budget one too.

As with all ideas, some just have legs. Ideas with legs are the ones that pop up in your mind and move around so much that you can’t sleep, can’t stop thinking about them. They run through your mind. Or they are the ones you say aloud, you put them out there, and people sort of run with them. An idea has to have legs in order to run. You see? Many ideas I have had fall flat on their face never to be picked up again, but some of the good ones have legs! And this one turned out to be one of those.

After a Christmas Day engagement, we had 3 months to plan our surprise wedding on my timeline. My timeline (bridezilla?) consisted of an urgency to either get married before the heat (summer/all days in San Antonio) or to wait until it was nice outside again which is usually around November. An 11 month engagement would have been the death of any secret-keeping-surprise factor, and also, just way too long for me to wait. And while I can be flexible on many things, sweating on my wedding day was something I really, really didn’t want to do. (It’s my party…) So spring time was decided and now that I look back, I think that was sort of a providential season for us to get married too. It’s certainly part of our story. Maybe/hopefully more on that later but at the rate I’m posting it will be next March.
So, the time crunch made things fun and fast and from the time constraints sprung unexpected bouts of creativity and solidarity through secrecy. The only people who knew that it was our actual wedding we were planning were our parents, our married siblings, a couple of chosen friends to help insure that people wouldn’t skip the party, and then like, the caterers, string quartet, florist… but by and large, no one knew! My own little brother, (I say “little” but he’s 30 with a complete head of salt and pepper hair which I only mention because it looks great and emphasizes my point that he’s not little, I will also mention he’s single. And handsome) did not know it was our wedding day until probably noon the day of.
The Ruse: We told everyone that we were going to have a small wedding at my husband’s family’s ranch, in October, but that because it was far and did not easily accommodate a very large group, it would be mostly family and close close friends. The time to celebrate with us would be our engagement party which we would be having in March. And bless San Antonio, every time someone throws a party the men just automatically retrieve their tuxedos. (If it’s not something they can wear a guayabera to.) In an otherwise very casual city, I have heard from many sources who live elsewhere that no one puts a tuxedo on more than the gentlemen in San Antonio. Lucky for me, this meant that because our party (wedding) was falling the same night as a deb party, people would be dressed just-so for lovely wedding pictures, and it didn’t seem too, too, suspect that we were asking everyone to wear black tie to an engagement party.
So, we sent an invitation that we had painted in watercolor of the pair of doors leading into Johnny’s parent’s home. This is where the party would be, but it was also a subtle hint that this would also be the spot where we would get married. Right in front of the doors. Two invitations were sent out to guests. The standard invitation invited people to come to our party, which was essentially our wedding reception. Then enclosed within 100 of the invitations was a special invitation to a “seated dinner”which was our small ceremony. That invitation only went to our family and our closest friends, and when they arrived expecting to sit down for a seated dinner, they instead sat down, with programs painted by my grandfather, to watch us get married. Even thinking about it gets me giddy again!
The outfit: So as you know if you’ve had a wedding or helped plan one, wedding dresses can take a million years to come in after you have ordered them. They are also exorbitantly expensive, particularly if you look at them on a cost per use basis, and both of these circumstances were issues for me. One, I didn’t have the time. And two, there was the budget. From the get-go of getting married, I tried not to think of things in these terms “Welllll how the hell are you going to host hundreds of people for a party on a limited budget when that is both your father’s nightmare (expense) and your future husbands nightmare (shy)?” and instead understood it as this: “This is the time that people generally expect to spend a lot of money letting you have a party, so do with it what you want!” Annnnd woohoo. There you have it. Framework. I love some framework. I am a problem solver who can be creative in certain situations.
And here is the certain situation that followed: In my dreams, I had wanted a Naeem Khan white on white embroidered dress that I had seen a few years prior and fallen in love with. I will search for a pic when it’s not almost midnight because I really need to go to bed. When I saw it, I thought the only way I’d be able to buy that dress would be if it was my wedding dress. So, I decided it would be my wedding dress. Howeverrrr, 2 years later, it was nowhere to be found. I couldn’t order it, couldn’t find it on sale, and if you’ve seen Naeem Khan embroidery then you know, you can’t have it made. I mean I guess unless your Luann De lesseps (pre- recent arrest) and are friends with Ranjana. But even then….Very Questionable.
Then out of nowhere, my mom calls one day (she works at a store in San Antonio that basically will always pull through for you in your sartorial time of need) and says she has discovered a skirt that someone must have special ordered and not ended up buying. And it was beautiful. And perfect! And with a bow! But….. no top. So, with no Naeem and no top, I went to enlist the help of a stylish friend/friend-of-a-friend to design a top for me. At the time, said friend was leading up a cute line called Porter Grey, only to become modern day gal behind Markarian.
This is before Instagram and Pinterest and this is also a time when taking things to the mailbox was not my strong suit. To be fair, it’s still not my strong suit. But, we exchanged some emails discussing ideas and then one day my mom found this thick satin wrap that was the perfect weight and shade of white/cream. I think it was $100. And so she bought it and just figured, it’s worth it, we are desperate, send it to your friend in New York and tell her she can use that fabric to match whatever she makes the new top out of. So, friend, Ali is her name, is great and made some cool examples of tops she could create, and mailed them to S.A. but again, I’m not best with mail, and some details were difficult communicating that far apart. So I think at this point, I’m about 2-3 weeks out, topless, and my mom picks up the satin wrap and holds it up like “gosh I really wish we could just actually use this??” And this brilliant seamstress starts looking and says quietly… “well… maybe.…” as she wraps it around my shoulders…. And so I take a piece of paper and sketch out a top. We all kind of consider it,  assume it’s a far cry that this will work, and the seamstress says to come back in a few days. I come back in a few days, she puts it on me, and I have to take a little breath in for her to finish zipping it only to reveal it’s absolutely perfect!! Made all the more perfect because in reality, it’s a wrap that my mom purchased on a whim, because it was on sale, to be used as a fabric sample, that flew to New York and back?? Talk about legs! Things really came together.
Anywho, the night went off great, and the whole process taught me so much, which I’m grateful to be able to say about my wedding process. I think that big beautiful weddings are amazing. I have been to many that I count as some of my favorite nights/days. I love an actual bridal gown, and I don’t recommend that anyone wait until 2 weeks out from their wedding and still be wondering what they are going to wear…. But! I do recommend taking heed of the framework within which you are given to host your wedding, because it is all a gift.  Unless you find it enjoyable, and there is a lot to enjoy about tradition, it’s just not necessary to try to create your wedding from framework that has been decided for you by an industry or by the way everyone else has done it. That can be any number of factors from personality to age to budget to timing. But, any event, and especially your wedding should be a time of genuine celebration and not the opposite (fighting, stress, bickering, forcing things, comparison). A wedding should honor the gift of a spouse, as well as the community of people who fostered the love you share and will hopefully help you uphold that. And that certainly does not always mean a surprise wedding is the answer!  Probably rarely is in fact the answer. But P.S. there are lots of ways to “do you” for your wedding, and the important thing is just to actually do it. It’s yours! Because again, there are a million ways to melt a marshmallow and no one can do it just like you.