Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Step One...

This past weekend Erin came home for a little "family" time with me and her dad.  She and I had spoken earlier in the week about what we might do.  Erin suggested we go dress shopping.  Not just any dress, mind you.  THE dress. The WEDDING dress.  This isn't supposed to be the first step on the wedding planner list, is it?

It has been quite a long time since I planned a wedding.  Even then I didn't know what I was doing.  All  I really cared about was that at the end of the process, John and I were married.  Erin is already much better at this than I ever was.  When it looked as if the time was approaching where some definite plans must be made, Erin attacked that process as she does everything else...full out.  It is still about 54 weeks until her wedding and this is what she has done so far: picked a date, picked a venue, picked bridesmaids, picked colors.  Now I am aware that most little girls have a vision in their heads most of their lives about what they want our wedding to be.  Generally, that is just a basic idea of the church, flowers, colors, etc.  

So, now what?  The venue.  Erin and TJ's wedding will be at B and A Warehouse in Birmingham.  While that is quite a distance from home, it is still farther away for TJ's family.  When Erin started shopping for places, she sent me pictures of several different places she was thinking about.  Then she took the next step and checked on open dates at the places she liked the most.  Her final decision was this place in Birmingham.  I thought she was jumping the gun on choosing a venue.  I mean...it is more than a year away!  Boy, was I wrong.  Several of the places she was considering were already book for April and May in 2013.  Dang!  I guess I'm the only one that thinks booking a venue a year in advance is too early!  But she is really happy with the place she has chosen and so am I.  She knows what she wants to do with the place and is on track with the wedding planner who comes with the venue.  Oh!  I didn't mention a wedding planner comes with the place? It does, thank God!  Like I said, planning this kind of thing isn't my talent.  As competent and talented Erin is at this sort of thing, I am a lot more relaxed about this whole deal knowing there is a professional involved in the process.  The room has exposed brick and columns and the pictures I have seen of other weddings held there promise it will be incredibly romantic.  

Next step?  Bridesmaids.  Erin has that firmly in hand and has already spoken to the girls she wants to stand up with her that day.  Along with bridesmaids come dresses, shoes, accessories, flowers, the whole deal.  Erin and I have talked about this a little but not that much.  She has chosen a color scheme and her next step is to try to pick a dress and accessories that will suit all the girls she has asked to be bridesmaids.  I've seen some pretty ugly bridesmaids' dresses in my time and I'm glad Erin is taking this route.  She really wants all the girls standing with her on her wedding day to feel beautiful.  I'm not sure how she is going to find something to suit all of them, but I'm sure she will work it out.  

Next?  Flowers.  I'm really stumped here.  I know that wedding flowers come and go in trends.  What is popular now won't be popular in six months.  Knowing Erin as I do, I'm pretty sure popularity and trends won't really have a part in her decision.  She has very classic, elegant tastes.  If she sticks to her own history, she'll pick something simple that serves as a romantic backdrop for the wedding.  I know that one thing she is thinking about is carrying calla lilies.  How much more simple and elegant can you get?  They are beautiful yet won't detract from her or the bridesmaids.

Music?  She and I talked a little.  She doesn't like the traditional wedding march, so I'm going to try to find some other alternatives for her to consider.  She has some ideas herself, so we're going to get together on this at some point and try to put something together.  

Now the really big decision:  the dress.  As I said in the beginning, Erin and I decided to go dress shopping this past Saturday.  We left early enough to have plenty of time to look in as many stores as we possibly could.  Neither of us left home that morning thinking we would buy a dress.  The goal was to try on lots of dresses to get an idea of what is out there and what style she thinks she might like.  At the first two stores she tried on a total of about ten dresses.  She did try on one ball gown style just for me.  Thank you, Erin, for fulfilling my Cinderella dream!  Anyway, she didn't think that with her complexion she would look good in white so she tended to choose ivory.  She did try on a couple that were white, which quickly killed the idea that she couldn't wear white!  With every dress she tried on, there was something she loved and something she didn't.  On one she liked the top.  On the next, she liked the bottom but not the top.  With every dress she tried on, there was some little detail that just wasn’t what she envisioned when she imagined her wedding dress.  My job was to help her get in and out of dresses that were more difficult to manage than Chinese finger traps!  Dang!  What are these designers thinking?  One of the dresses had laces from the curve of her lower back all the way up to Erin's neck!  That takes some doing to get it laced up correctly!  She had I had quite a few giggles in the dressing room as we tried to figure out just how to get in to some of those dresses. For every dress she liked, I took pictures and made a note of designer and item number.  The plan was to take pictures of every dress she liked.  Then, on our way home, we would stop at Wal-Mart and have the pictures developed.  That way she could take the pictures of each dress and lay them all out next to each other so she could have a better idea of what the dresses looked like on her.  This was supposed to make the decision easier for her in the long run.  What a waste of time!

After we left the second store, Erin and I were talking about the dresses she had tried on and trying to re-focus on just what it was she was looking for.  Her list?  Lace, trumpet bottom, pretty back, possibly a sweetheart neckline.  She had tried on several dresses with those elements but not one dress had all of them in the combination she was looking for.  I need to preface this next part with a little explanation.  Erin and I are absolutely addicted to a show on TLC called Say Yes to the Dress, especially the one filmed in Atlanta. Southern brides are fun to watch!  So, after Erin and I left the second store we were talking about how the brides on that show experience THE moment.  You know the one.  All the girls in the show may try on a dozen dresses, but she invariably puts on one and knows - - - immediately - - - that she has found THE dress.  Somehow she just knows the one she has on is the dress meant for her.  Erin hadn't had that moment.  Even though we knew our goal for the day wasn't to buy a dress, I think we both really thought she would find something she would like.  Erin reminded me that one of the people working at Kleinfeld's on the show, says that not every bride has that moment.  Some don't ever have it and just pick a dress.  Even though I didn't tell her, I really, really wanted her to have that moment.  I wasn't too worried, though, since we wouldn't really be pressured about having a dress for about another six months.  So, we went in to the third store with no expectations.  The lady who greeted us, and I use the term loosely, asked what we wanted.  Erin told her that we would like to look at bridal gowns.  That kind of made the sales lady a bit more amiable.  I think she had been having a really stressful day with teenagers looking for prom dresses.  Anyway, she asked Erin what she was looking for, then helped her pull some dresses.  After pulling several, Erin chose three to take into the dressing room.  I helped her in to the first dress then went out into the room with the big mirror to wait for Erin.  When she came out of  that room, I knew she had found it.

The look on Erin's face as she came out of that dressing room was the look I had been waiting for all day.  I could tell by the way she carried herself as well as the look on her face as she looked at herself in the mirror that she was having THE moment.  She had found her dress.  Now, don't get me wrong, I thought Erin was beautiful in every dress she had tried on that day.  She told me later, that despite my efforts not to let my likes and dislikes affect her choice, that she could  tell which ones I liked  and which ones I didn't.  But, really, seeing her in a wedding dress was so special for me.  She was beautiful in every single one of them.  This dress was different,  In this dress she wasn't  beautiful.  She was stunning!  I've always thought Erin is beautiful, but in this dress she truly was stunning.  Even the saleslady started grinning when she saw Erin in this dress.  She turned around and picked up a veil so Erin could see how the dress would look with a veil.  Then, she went a step farther, and added a small headpiece to give the veil just a little something extra.   What the saleslady added couldn't be any more "Erin."  It was perfect.  I asked Erin simply what she thought.  Her answer?  "Mom, this is my dress.  This is it."  She wouldn't even try on the other two dresses in the dressing room. 

Before we left that shop we did the only thing we really could do by that point.  We ordered the dress.   I know that it is still a year before her wedding, but I was afraid that if we waited the dress style would be discontinued and she wouldn't be able to get it.  The saleslady measured Erin and we ordered the dress and a simple, unadorned, finger-tip length veil to go with it.  We brought the headpiece to go with it home.  It now sits in my cedar chest awaiting the day when Erin will put it on and march down the aisle to TJ.  I can't wait to see the look on his face!  

I don't believe it is possible for Erin to be any more breathtaking in another dress.  She is right.  This is THE dress.  The saleslady brought out a cutaway tux jacket and suggested that tux style would really compliment Erin's dress.  I loved it and evidently Erin could, too.  I said, "Erin, do you know what your dress with that tux reminds me of?"  I was about to tell her when she answered, "Gatsby."  She was right!  She got so excited!  She told me later that she had been trying to think of a way to explain her vision of her wedding to the wedding planner.  After finding her dress and seeing that cutaway tux with it, she can now tell her wedding planner that her vision of  her wedding is Gatsby.  Vintage yet elegant.  Wow!  Now she just needs to get TJ on board  with the cutaway tux idea!  He hasn't been able to deny her anything yet, so I don't really see the tux being the first.  

I so want to post a picture of Erin in this dress.  But, she doesn't want TJ to see the dress before she walks to him down the aisle.  She wants the moment of their eyes meeting and the memories that will give them both.  So do I.  So I will abide by her wishes and not show this dress to anyone she doesn't want to see it.  That doesn't mean I won't carry a copy of the picture with me so I can look at it and dream any time I like.  

Erin, I have never seen you so beautiful as you were Saturday afternoon in that dress.  I wish I could come up with a better word, but the only one I can think of is stunning.  Thank you for sharing that moment with me.  I'll never forget it.

Oh, one more thing, Erin.  I didn't cry when we were shopping Saturday.  I promised myself that I wouldn't embarrass you that way.  I did pretty well, didn't I?  I have to confess, though.  That night, when there was no one to see, I cried.  I don't think it will be the last time.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

They're Going to the Chapel and They're....well, you know!

I was looking back over my blog today and found this one under "Drafts." Why didn't I ever publish it? I'll never know, I'm sure. But, I really like it so can I just use it to celebrate their first anniversary? I promise I'll be a bit more prompt from draft to publication in the future if you'll let it go just this once.

It’s just one surreal jump in life after another around our house!  We are officially getting ready to welcome a new member to our family…a son-in-law!  That’s right!  Erin’s engaged! 

How can she possibly be engaged?  She’s only 3 years old, right?  I realize this is so clichĂ©, but here goes anyway…where DOES the time go?  (The all caps is so you get the Southern mama emphasis in the right place.)  I swear when I look in her face, my sweet cherub-faced baby looks back at me.  Every single time.  Now we’re talking about cakes, bridesmaids, and dresses.  Sometimes I feel myself backing out of the situation and just watching myself from a distance.  The whole thing is just so strange.

Before I really get into this, I guess I should be completely clear about one very important detail.  Erin’s fiancĂ© is Todd Jack Tuls.  He comes from a good home with a solid family background.  He has good old-fashioned Southern manners.  He knows to stand when a lady enters the room.  He doesn’t sit if a female in the room is standing regardless of how many empty chairs there are available.  He is unfailingly polite.  He is kind.  He is considerate.  He has a work ethic I never thought I would see again.  He has goals.  He has a future.  I could go on and on, but I won’t.  I think to sum it up best, I need to say that he is everything we have ever prayed for in the man in Erin’s life.

Not long after Erin was born, my sister Donna made some comment about praying for not only Erin but also for the man Erin would marry.  I thought that was a little peculiar, but it was Donna and we get our giggles from what we think is peculiar about the other.  I just couldn’t help it, though.  I had to ask.  Why was she praying for a person whose entrance into our lives was so far in the future?  Her answer was truly profound and based on unshakeable faith:  somewhere out there, somewhere we probably knew nothing about, the man Erin would marry was being raised by a family we didn’t know.  Donna prayed for his parents.  She prayed that he would have a strong family structure with a secure home.  She prayed for his safety.  She prayed for his faith.  For twenty years she prayed for a man we didn’t even know.  This is not the first time Donna’s prayers have intervened on our behalf.

When we found out Erin was on the way, my sister – in her infinite wisdom – began praying quite diligently for our new baby to be a girl.  Not just any kind of girl, mind you.  A GIRLY girl!  It didn’t take long for me to realize that God must like Donna more than me.  We got what she prayed for.  She will sell her soul for a flirty pair of four-inch heels.  She is addicted to make up and loves purses.  Afterwards, I think God took some pity on us and let Erin’s more practical side develop equally with her “girly” side.  She can put together an outfit out of stuff I can’t imagine going together.  She accessorizes as naturally as she breathes.  She is tall, slender, and blonde.  She has beautiful eyes and peaches and cream complexion.  She has hair other girls have envied.  I say all this to preface one other thing:  she is a tomboy somewhere deep down inside.  She has a fierce competitive side to her and hates to lose.  She gets truly intense when competing.  I used to sit in the bleachers at volleyball games and marvel at the things I would hear coming out of her mouth!  She pushed everyone on her team as hard as she pushed herself and could not tolerate those who were not throwing themselves on the floor going after a ball she refused to let hit the floor.  She spent summers running and working out.  She spent every volleyball season with huge bruises on the inside of her right knee and sore spots on her hip bones from diving for the ball.  For several years my car reeked of sliding pads and athletic shoes.  Getting dirty playing the sport in season never bothered her.  She would just pull that curly hair up into a knot on the top of her head so it would be out of her way, and threw herself into the game.  I had the red clay stains from softball fields and equipment in my old car to prove it.

So, Donna’s prayers for our child were answered and so were ours.  I am just now beginning to appreciate her prayers for Erin’s future husband.  I think that God started listening to Donna from her first prayer for TJ – even though we didn’t know exactly who she was praying for – and began to pick out the person Donna prayed for.  The more time I spend around TJ the more thankful I am for Donna’s prayers over the years.

So here we are planning for a wedding!  I am so excited for the two of them I can barely stand it.  He is so good  to and for her.  Her supports her in pursuit of her dreams and shares his dreams with her.  I knew things were serious the first time she came home and talked about what they had done together the last time she visited with him in Wisconsin.  (YES!   Wisconsin!)  Every time she talked about him, I could see the loneliness in her eyes.  She missed him as if there were a part of herself missing.  Every time she left him in Wisconsin or put him on a plane back home, she lost a bit more of her heart to him.  Now her heart is more his than hers.  Thank you, God, for TJ.  Thank you for the home he was raised in and the values his parents passed on to him.  Because of these things, once she moves to Wisconsin to be with him, I’ll know that someone who treasures her will be watching over her for us.  He takes care of her and treats her as if she is some precious thing.  For that I will always be thankful.

The wedding won’t be until April 2013.  While that looks a very long time away on the calendar, I know just how quickly that time will pass.  My job as Mother of the Bride is to make this time in her life something wonderful to  look back on fondly.  My job is to listen to what she wants and help her do that.  She has already picked a venue in Birmingham.  That isn’t exactly right out the back door, but I don’t care.  She saw the place and fell in love with it.  That’s enough for me.  Her Daddy didn’t bat an eye.  He told me to call her and tell her to book it.  We knew it was coming and Erin and TJ didn’t want to leave picking out a place to the last minute.  They were afraid what they wanted wouldn’t be available so we jumped the gun a little on wedding planning and got an early start.

TJ proposed to Erin on her twentieth birthday.  He met her at the airport in Milwaukee then turned her around and put her on a plane for California.  He took her to Huntington Beach as a surprise for her birthday and proposed the next morning on the beach.  There were flowers and tears involved in there somewhere and evidently it was history’s most perfect proposal.  I know he put a great deal of thought into the planning so I’m glad it worked out the way he wanted.  I know it is a memory that will be special for Erin for the rest of her life.  John and I knew it was coming because TJ had called earlier in the week to ask John for permission to propose.  Even though John was expecting the call, he told me later he got a little emotional in the course of the conversation with TJ. 

Now the peal of wedding bells sounds in my head all the time.  Erin is picking bridesmaids and making plans.  She is very creative and has a vision in her head of what she wants it to be like.  I will do everything I can to make that day exactly what she has in mind.  My job is to be in the background that day, making sure everything that happens has no other purpose than to make the both of them happy.  This will be my last real, official “mama” job.  I feel a weight on my shoulders to do this right.  On the day she marries TJ,  I don’t want her thinking about anything but seeing him waiting for her at the end of the aisle.  I still remember seeing John’s face as the doors of the church opened on our wedding day.  I was looking specifically for him and he was the only one that mattered.  Everything and everyone else faded into the background.  That’s what I want for Erin and TJ…the joy of looking into each others’ eyes on the day they are married and knowing….this is the person God meant for me.  This person is my life. 

Congratulations, Erin and TJ.  I love you both.