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My first wedding dress experience happened on a Thursday. I walked into the salon thirty minutes before my appointment. Yes, this was the first time in my life I had been early to anything. I’ve slept through job interviews and waltzed in late to every class I’ve ever taken. I didn’t even get to see the ceremony of my friends’ wedding, but this time, I was early.

The salon was just what I expected, classy and good smelling with a touch of snooty. I went to the receptionist’s desk, gave my name and was told to look around for just a bit while my consultant finished up another appointment. I became aware of the soft music playing just as I spun around, which, as soon as I spotted the dresses I recognized to be Etta James’s “At Last.” A smile took shape on my face, goosebumps filled every patch of skin on my body and I (somewhat) gracefully leapt into the showroom. And, as Etta James sang to me, I knew I was home.

Those close to me understand this story because they know I’ve been planning my wedding since birth. For those who are not close to me, you must understand that I sprung from the womb carrying a Martha Stewart wedding planner and a handful of silk, organza, lace and tulle fabric samples.

This experience was one of the greatest of my life. Who would have ever though that playing dress up could actually be this joyful?

As per the instructions of my consultant, I surveyed the store searching for a gown I liked in each of the different styles and silhouettes. Just before we went into the fitting room, I spotted another, and asked if I could take that one along too.

“You’re welcome to try on anything you’d like,” she said, and then I knew that the next words out of her mouth were going to break my heart. “This is a Lazaro dress, and they’re a bit pricey.” That’s like saying that the bitter cold of the icy tundra is “a bit chilly.” I suppose I shouldn’t have tried on a dress I didn’t feel comfortable falling in love with, a dress that I would later find out costs nearly six thousand dollars. But I tried it on, fell in love, and wanted to marry that dress more than I wanted to marry Patrick.

From then on, my mission was clear: Find the version of this dress that is within my price range.

The next day I went searching at another bridal boutique after work. I left, sans wedding dress, filled with discouragement. I’d begun to believe that I wouldn’t find anything comparable to that designer dress. It didn’t help when the bridal consultant and the second boutique told me I’d have to buy a dress from a couture line if I wanted the cut and style I was looking for. She told me I had expensive taste, and I punched her in the ear. Then I left, wishing a stranger would approach me on the street and hand me a $6,000 wad of cash.

My friend and bridesmaid, Krystle, came into town for a visit late that night. I had recruited her to be my partner in Operation: Vision in White. We drove for hours to a boutique near Tampa. And, after trying on dress after dress, I found it. I found the next best thing to that Lazaro dress, and I actually liked it better than the original.

Now, more than ever, I’m looking forward to making my grand entrance. I think “At Last” will echo in my head that day. Amen, Etta James.

Whitney

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I’m always on top of things. I’m really good at quickly and thoroughly completing menial tasks.

So, when the idea of planning a wedding started to creep around the corner it didn’t faze me.

I’ve heard horror stories about wedding planning but so far I’m enjoying it. Whitney always has good ideas but goes terminally psychotic when it comes to making “tough” decisions. I’ve learned that’s where I step in and all is well.

We’re still almost two years away from the Big Day so, Whitney and I are still in the very early stages of our to-do list. Up first: Engagement announcements. I’m a little clueless when it comes to all things wedding. Whitney, in her anxiety-ridden crazy lady hair all over the place psycho way, does her best to guide me through what things we should do.

We made it through the designing and printing of our photo engagement announcements (albeit slowly) and the next step was easy, right? Find some decent looking envelopes in which our 4″x6″ announcements would fit snugly. Well would you believe that no big-box, niche, mom & pop or hole-in-the-wall office supplies store carries the A6 size envelope?!! It was as if someone knew I was out to find one hundred or so A6 envelopes and carefully extracted them from every Staples, Office Depot, Office Max, Kinko’s, Wal-Mart, Target, CVS and Walgreens in the greater Orlando area.

After weeks, yes, weeks, I finally broke down and ordered the envelopes online. The whole goal was to avoid the shipping charges, but, to no avail. I, alone, have depleted the country’s oil supply more than entire state of South Dakota during my envelope extravaganza.

Now, I have only this to say: Anything awful you’ve ever heard about planning a wedding…it’s true. But at least I get to go through all of this stuff with the love of my life.

Patrick

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So there we were, eating grilled cheese at 12:50 am. It was dead silent as we scarfed down our food with minimal conversation.

Hearing a loud thud didn’t startle Patrick the way it startled me. In fact, he hardly even noticed until I asked him.

“What the heck was that?”

“Well,” he said, “it was either a scary noise …or a burglar.”

Rewind three hours. I was in Auburn Hills – an hour away from Patrick’s house, and I was just getting off work. I was working in retail and closed the store that night. I’d packed a bag so I could go directly to his house after work. Just as I walked out of the building, the rain began to pour. I was completely drenched by the time I got to my car.

Between the sheets of water cascading down my windshield and the defrost malfunction I was having, the trip to Patrick’s was difficult despite having driven that route dozens of times.

“I’m lost.” I said, a little embarrassed, when I called him.

“You’re what?”

“Well, where are you?”

“Lost.”

This went on for a minute or so before we figured out I’d missed my exit. Upon pulling into one of those “authorized vehicle only” u-turn lanes, I realized (as I nailed a giant pothole) that my car is, well, NOT an authorized vehicle.

Patrick, who played the role of knight in shining armor, jumped on his noble steed and rode toward the beacon that was the flash of my emergency hazard lights. While I was waiting for him to find me, I rolled down my window and a giant wad of karma hit me in the face. I’ve never again attempted to forge authorized vehicle status.

Patrick changed my tire. In the rain. In record time. Starving, tired and bursting with frustration, I followed Patrick back to his house where he made me a delicious grilled-cheese masterpiece. By this time it was nearly one in the morning.

“What the heck was that?”

“Well,” he said, “it was either a scary noise …or a burglar.”

“Haha… good one.”

Patrick’s house is a beautiful colonial house that was built 80 years ago, so it makes a lot of weird noises. This time, though, it wasn’t the house.

I walked out into the hallway, and heard another thud. Holding my overnight bag over my shoulder. I stared at the man pressed up against the back door.

“Patrick. There’s a man.” (I know, how robot-like of me.)

“What? What are you talking about?” he said, sticking his head out of the kitchen. I pointed to the back door, which happened to be only about a foot away from where Patrick’s face was.

“Come here now!” he said as he stayed surprisingly calm. I was still in some strange realm of shock as he pulled me into hiding on the dining room floor, then called 911.

Patrick remained calm the whole time in the face of danger.

“Mom, dad, don’t be alarmed. The police are on their way. Someone is trying to break into the house.”

We gave the description to the police when they arrived: a tall, scraggly man in his fifties, wearing ripped jeans and a plaid flannel shirt. Scraggly gray beard and hair. Such a description accurately describes half of the men in any given high-security prison cell block.

Jim, Patrick’s dad, headed out back onto the porch and, noticing the fresh boot prints, made a comment about how our story did, in fact, check out. Apparently he didn’t realize how dangerous it was for him to open the door and retrace the steps of a could-be killer on the loose (in his bathrobe, mind you).

Patrick and I went back up to his room and began telling all of the scariest stories we could think of (why? who knows). It was maybe ten minutes later that we heard banging on the door. In one swift motion Patrick jumped off the bed, turned off the lights and grabbed his weapon of choice — a golf club — before running down the stairs.

Turned out the police were back. They had caught the guy. He was carrying an empty bag an had no explanation as to what he was planning on doing with it. He said he was looking for a friend he met earlier that day at a party store, but wound up in Patrick’s neighborhood. From then on, he assured them, he would “stick to the main drags.”

As it turns out, there was a warrant out for his arrest. We never found out the name of our scraggly intruder, but we just call him “Rodney.”

Whitney

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