When I joined the girls in the bridal suite at the Inn at Longshore on the morning of the wedding, beautiful bouquets of white roses and pale green succulents rested in water-filled vases atop a round walnut coffee table. Duffle bags and shoes littered the floor along one wall. In the bedroom, flowing chiffon dresses in varying shades of gray hung from hangers hooked over the door. In their midst, an oversized garment bag, promising in its puffiness, cloaked the wedding gown from view.
Casey and her bridesmaids were red of lips and flawless of complexion through the wonders of youth and cream foundation. Lengthy false lashes fringed their eyes. They nibbled strawberries and sipped champagne from slender flutes, striving to minimize jaw and lip movement that might create creases and smudges in their make-up. Each of the maids wore yoga pants and a black tank top with “Bride Tribe” inscribed across the chest; Casey’s tank was white and declared her the “Bride.”
While Casey and several of the girls were lavishly coifed with hair pinned, braided, and twisted, Lisa, Casey’s cousin-by-marriage, sat immobile in a chair, still in process as the hairdresser worked her craft with a curling iron and blow dryer.
By 1:30, the assembly of maidens was ready. Casey and PJ’s “First Look” photos were scheduled for 3:15, the bridal party at 4:00, families at 4:30, and the service at 5:30. Easy. Plenty of time.
Lindsay, the matron of honor and Casey’s friend since childhood, had ordered lunch. The girls bit off tiny pieces of pizza with their teeth, carefully drawing back their lips to avoid contact with greasy cheese. We wondered how their elaborate hairstyles and make-up would remain fresh for the next ten hours.
Throughout the day, the photographer, Monika, had been in and out of the suite, taking shots of the make-up and hair-styling process, capturing the girls’ excitement as they helped each other with hair pins, curls, mascara, and eyeliner. The flower girls, two Avas and one Tessa, arrived in voluminous tulle dresses, as proud as the princesses they resembled.
Suddenly it was 2:45 and the tempo shifted from languid to bustling. As the girls padded across the carpet and lifted their dresses off the hangers, I zipped upstairs to take pictures of the groomsmen. Such a different scene between the men and the women! No make-up to blot or lipstick to freshen, just a little help with each other’s ties, a quick swig of beer, a glance at the TV to see how the game was going, then shrug on their jackets.
“Where’s Tucker?” PJ, my soon-to-be-son-in-law, asked me.
“Tucker?” I said blankly, glancing around the small room as if perhaps PJ had missed seeing my son in the chair by the window. PJ was correct; Tucker was not there.
“He’s a groomsman,” PJ said.
This I knew. But Tucker was also “family,” and the time I’d heard bandied about whenever schedules had been discussed at home had been the time for family photos: 4:30. Oh dear.
I also knew that Tucker and Lisa had Paul to contend with, and like scientists tweaking the timing on a new experiment, they’d been adjusting my grandson’s feedings and naptimes in order to ensure, as best they could, a cheerful child during his big moment as ring-bearer. It must also be said that Tucker is a Sylvestro and they are not known for punctuality or attention to schedules.
Stomach knotted, I called Dave. He said there’d been a misunderstanding. Just as I’d thought, Tucker had keyed in on the time for family photos. I could imagine the wild scuffle when that error was discovered, but Dave said not to worry; they would arrive at the inn “soon.” Wisely, he opted not tell me how recently they had left. We live half an hour away and “soon” might be a while yet. Sternly, I glowered down my hand-wringing inner control freak, forced her into retreat, and went back downstairs to Casey and the bridesmaids.
It was time for my girl to unveil her dress, slip it on, smooth the soft fabric over her hips, and zip up. Again, easy.
Back in the spring, after coming up empty at The Plumed Serpent and Kleinfelds, Casey, her friend Jayme, and I tried another bridal boutique: A Little Something White. When we met our rep, Kelly, we liked her immediately. She was friendly and relaxed, and made us feel she cared as much about this dress as we did.
Casey had run through her usual list of “don’t wants”: no satin, no strapless, no bright white. She was cheerful, but by this time, the search seemed more urgent. In addition to our prior hunts, she and Lindsay had taken a jaunt up to Madison. There, she found a dress she liked, but still, she wasn’t smitten. And at every store she’d visited, she’d been unnerved when the salespeople looked startled upon learning the wedding date. “Wow. So soon? You mean September of this year? We better get on it then!”
The dresses arrayed for Casey’s consideration at A Little Something White were lovely, some ivory, some lacey, some V-necked. Several were satin, strapless, and bright white. My inner bitch was whipping off snide remarks about Kelly’s listening skills, but apparently she knew her business better than I knew my girl, for when Casey emerged in one such gown, her face was beaming… beaming. I gazed in wonder at my beautiful daughter. “Omigod sweetie. It’s gorgeous. You are gorgeous.”
Jayme had her phone in hand and up before her eyes and was snapping photos while Casey turned and swished, her eyes shining as she followed her image in the mirror. “Still, maybe we should go back to Madison and try on that other dress again?” she said.
“Absolutely,” Kelly encouraged her. “And when you’re there, compare that option to this dress… the way you look, the way it makes you feel. Imagine yourself walking down the aisle toward your fiancé and think about that moment. Which dress do you want to be wearing?”
For a minute, Casey was quiet… then she burst into tears and said, “This one!”
And now, it’s time. As if embracing a beloved friend, Casey wraps her arms around the impressive garment bag and lifts it from its mount on the closet door. She lays the bag on the bed, unzips it, and slides out her stunning, satin, strapless, bright white dress. Having stripped off her tank top and yoga pants, she steps into the gown and shimmies as she pulls it up and into place. Monika calls in from the adjacent room, “Are you dressed?”
“Almost! Just have to do up the buttons.”
Monika enters and directs Casey and me to stand near the window. She wants the muted light to glaze this wonderful mother-daughter moment: Casey, statuesque, a bridal goddess, her mom bending with matronly pride and calm to fasten the satin-covered buttons that will mask the zipper.
But shit, this dress is tight, tight and form-fitting to complement Casey’s voluptuous figure and eliminate the need for bodice-tugging when the dancing begins. And the zipper and its attendant buttons (endless buttons!) start at mid-back and flow in a graceful, sinuous line down to the floor. Plus, the designer in his wisdom felt that slim loops of thread would be just right to secure the buttons, just right if they weren’t ripped out by fumbling fingers, fingers now rushed, sweaty, and totally inept because this impossible task was taking forever and it was time for Casey to go for the “First look” and there were still countless buttons to fasten.
“Perhaps some of the bridesmaids might help the mother?” says the photographer sweetly, her eyes kind, her Swedish accent appealing and non-accusing.
Lindsay and Karis, the maid of honor and Casey’s partner in conquering Asia, lend their lithe fingers to the task, the three of us fighting with those little loops. “Does anyone have a crochet hook?” Karis asks with a laugh that holds a twinge of hysteria. Of course no one does, but that’s what we need.
“How about this?” asks Lisa, and a bobby pin is passed from hand to hand. Oh honestly, a bobby pin? Yes! For picking locks and securing innumerable fabric-covered buttons, a bobby pin does the trick. Thank god. The three of us step back, waving hands ineffectually before our faces, the girls patting – not rubbing! Careful of the make-up! – their glistening foreheads.
And Casey is ready. Her auburn hair twisted in elaborate braids and loops at the back of her head. Her dress, sleek and lustrous, those damn buttons tracing a graceful line down her back to the floor. Her precious face reflecting a welter of nervousness and joy. With the back of a curved finger - and mindful of mascara, eyeliner, and lush lashes - she blots tears that threaten to spill down her cheeks. We, her maids and mother, stand in a circle of loving admiration. She gives us a radiant smile and thumbs up, then leaves the room to show PJ his bride.