Although we’ve been winding up for one of my daughters’ wedding for the past six months, I’ve been very quiet about it. Maybe out of superstition, but it just seemed smarter not to talk a lot about it until it was over. But we’ve been slowly laying plans for it and organizing it, for these many months. The wedding took place last Saturday, in our San Francisco home.
The first and most noticeable and remarkable thing about it was the fact that not only was my daughter not ‘Bride-zilla’, but she was so ridiculously easy to work with, so sensible and reasonable, that every decision was made in about 5 minutes, with no fuss, no muss, no bother. She had a vision for her wedding, and as she often sets the stage for photo shoots in the fashion world, she’s good at visualizing things, and with her sister’s help (who also works in fashion, in design), they had some fabulous ideas, and I was afraid they might create something ‘over the top’. They didn’t. If something was too complicated, not available, too difficult to achieve, or too expensive, they gave up on it immediately, and the bride moved on to another idea. A couple of times I braced myself for what I was sure would be arguments about details, only to be faced with a 30 second conversation that ended in “That’s fine, Mom.” Huh? What? It is?….it was astounding. Had no one told her Brides are supposed to be difficult? She never was. She was a dream.
She initially wanted a garden setting in upstate New York, which sounded beautiful and impractical. We live in San Francisco and Paris, and I have a wonderfully creative staff in California—-planning a wedding 3,000 miles from either of our homes sounded like a major challenge. My daughter Vanessa, the bride to be, drove around the area in upstate New York, and found the locations difficult, expensive, no great hotels near at hand, and complicated to get to, especially for many guests coming from Europe, so within weeks she decided to get married at home in San Francisco, which was infinitely easier, and more meaningful for all of us. She decided on a very small wedding, with fewer than 100 people, and wanted only family (we have a big one!!) and their closest friends. So the cast of characters and the location were set almost immediately, in optimal conditions, which rapidly set the tone for everything else.
She knew who she wanted to make her dress, and she fell in love with the first one she tried on (and it looked fantastic on her. It was extremely simple and elegant, with a slightly old fashioned feeling to it. long sleeves, high neck, slim fitting, with a small bustle in back and a short train. It was all exquisitely embroidered, and I talked her into wearing a veil)…And the whole wedding was like that. Piece by piece it all fell into place, naturally and quietly, like a puzzle taking shape. And I was stunned by how calm she was. She works extremely hard and would call me between business trips and meetings, and make one more decision, always choosing the simplest route. I thought mothers and daughters were supposed to have fierce arguments over weddings, we were supposed to hate each other long before she walked down the aisle. Instead, we got closer and actually enjoyed making plans together, and did most of it long distance. The only time I gulped hard was when she decided to turn my living room into a dining room, to make the house look ‘different’. I don’t like it when someone moves a book on a shelf, or a plant, the idea of emptying my living room of furniture and turning it into a dining room with two long tables had me hyperventilating for a minute, but in the end, it worked out perfectly and looked absolutely gorgeous. I almost wanted to keep it that way forever. By June, two months before the wedding, all the plans were set, and the only thing left to do was the seating of the guests who accepted the wedding. The rest was all done. There would be lots of details to attend to, to make sure that it all went according to plan, but everything that could be predicted had been, we’d even had a delicious tasting of the food for the wedding (and sampled 15 kinds of wedding cake. She chose two—-I of course gobbled large portions of all 15….mphhhh…..yummy…..try that one!!! She wound up choosing a simple vanilla, and a double chocolate).
I won’t deny that the last few weeks before the wedding were hectic. In fact extremely so, but not because of her. Every wedding, no matter how large or small has a myriad component parts. She opted not to have bridesmaids, although she has 4 sisters, but had her 6 nieces and nephews instead, who are between 3 and 7 and were incredibly cute. We had to choose their dresses, shoes to match, try the dresses and suits on squirming children, and make sure the shoes fit. We had to make sure the menu was right, the wine had been ordered, that we were recording the responses properly. There was a DJ and a band. Place cards were done in calligraphy. Party favors for each guest had to be wrapped. Play lists of the songs they wanted, the vows to be written, the photographer and videographer reconfirmed, hotel reservations for the out of town guests, what music to play when she walked into the service, conversations with the minister, the wedding license to be obtained…..by a week before the wedding, I was waking up at 5 am every night, thinking of everything that could go wrong. And a lot could have, but miraculously nothing did. But I don’t think I slept more than 2 hours a night in those last weeks, although she looked remarkably calm.
Four days before the wedding, the festivities began, with cocktails at one son’s home, dinner at another’s, a big friendly relaxed family dinner with Mexican food, we all danced together and had a ball. And the next day, relatives and friends from Europe arrived, and those from New York. And the following day, I had a small relaxed dinner in an Italian restaurant for my friends who came. There were only 8 of us and it got things off to a nice start. I forgot to mention that the week before, my furniture was removed from my living room while I tried not to complain (or cry). And the Monday before the wedding, an army of men arrived to build a wooden structure just outside my house, where the wedding ceremony would take place under a canopy of moss and branches, and an archway of white flowers, all lit by candle light.
The night before the wedding, the groom’s mother gave a beautiful rehearsal dinner in an art gallery filled with photographs, overlooking the San Francisco Bay. It was beautiful and different and fun. There were 89 wedding guests in all, almost half of them family and the rest friends, and only three from San Francisco, everyone else from out of town.
The day of the wedding dawned, while I worried about every imaginable detail of the wedding. I was probably the Bride-zilla not the bride. All of my children hung around the house together, relaxing and talking and laughing, and around 3pm, things got serious. Hair dressers and makeup artists arrived, dresses were being steamed for everyone in the house (all my kids and their significant others were at home). The girls had manicures that morning, and I checked the flowers as they were installed. Everything was on track. We’d had a rehearsal the night before, and no one could remember what order we were supposed to walk in. And every man in the house was struggling with his bow tie, since the wedding was black tie (in tuxedos), and I have no idea why, but although men wear tuxes many times in their lives, they always forget how to tie their ties, and need help. And then suddenly I was dressed (in a navy blue taffeta strapless gown), and the bride calmly began getting dressed at 6 o’clock. She put on her beautiful dress, wore very little make up, and had her hair parted in the middle and put up in a small bun. I leant her a lace hankie to put around her small bouquet of lily of the valley. She had her something old (earrings she had borrowed, that filled that requirement too), something new (her dress), etc all in order. And her veil was totally simple, lay flat on her head, and stretched back over her train. She looked like a Madonna as we went downstairs. The wedding was due to start at 7:30, and the guests had arrived. Moments later, the family proceeded down the aisle from the house to the pergola outside, and took their seats. A dear friend of mine, a minister, was doing the wedding, and she and the groom were waiting under the archway of white flowers. And the groom looked as spectacular as his bride, a handsome young man in white tie and tails. And the courtyard and pergola were lit by candles on a moonlit night. I was the last to take my seat, and a moment later, Vanessa came down the aisle, a vision of beauty on this long awaited moment, as she walked down the aisle on her brother Maxx’s arm, and walked toward her soon to be husband, also named Max.
The ceremony was very moving, the setting as beautiful as we had hoped it would be, and the bridal couple touching as they exchanged vows, became husband and wife and kissed. It was an unforgettable moment for us all.
And when we moved back into the house an hour later, my transformed living room had two long tables covered in lace table cloths, with tall candles, and white flowers of different heights. It was a magical setting once again as people chattered and shared in the couple’s joy on this very special night. She had decided against a wedding cake, and had small individual cakes with sugar flowers on them at every place, alternating vanilla and chocolate (I got a chocolate one of course!!). There was dancing all night long, heavy snacks at 2 am, and dancing until 5 am, until exhausted, the party finally wound down after she tossed the bouquet, and the festivities came to an end at last. It had been a perfect evening, the most beautiful wedding I’ve ever seen, and she was the perfect bride. It had taken an army of people to put it together, to create the vision she had had in her head, and it was everything she had dreamed of, and we had wanted to create for her. It was a night filled with love and unforgettable visions and glimpses of a young couple starting out on their life together. May it be long, happy, and filled with blessings, and as easy as the wedding was to plan with such a loving, easy bride.
With all my love, Danielle