Well, that wasn’t supposed to happen…

I never wanted to get married. It wasn’t a fantasy of mine. Like, when I was little, I didn’t walk around in a veil made of pillow cases (although, if you tuck a towel behind your ears just right, you can look like Virgin Mary). And I didn’t organize some elaborate ceremony for Barbie and Ken. It just wasn’t my thing.

So, as an adult — an engaged adult — it’s not like I have any dreams, or a real plan, or any preconceived notion that my wedding will be this absolutely perfect, completely flawless thing. I expect imperfection. I plan for the unplanned.

But you really never know how much will not go as planned. I’ll save you the surprise — it’s a bunch.

I’m not going to say anything went “wrong.” I’ll just say that a few things haven’t read straight from a storybook. Instead, they may have been better suited for the highlight reel at the end of the film.

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As you know, I put a lot of time and effort into the hand-painted boxes I put together for my bridesmaids. I packaged each piece (hand-painted champagne flute, bottle of bubbly, etc.) into the box all nice and cozy, wrapped it in a bow, and then packaged it again in a much bigger shipping box with the help of UPS, who assured me that my beloved gifts would arrive at their destination safely and promptly.

That was not necessarily the case.

My maid of honor lives in Pittsburgh. She lives on a tiny street where cars jockey for parking with garbage cans, piles of snow and each other. And from what I remember, it’s a semi-high-traffic area, where a lot of younger folk frequent. Not necessarily the sort of place you leave an adorable little pink package on the doorstep.

I worried about sending this package. But I thought, hey, UPS knows more about shipping than I do — they’ve got this. And then, after days of not hearing a peep from my potential MOH, I panicked — at 4 a.m. — and checked the tracking information online. My package had been delivered days earlier, to the wrong address — right house number, wrong street. Probably the most important package I’ve ever sent in my entire life, delivered to someone else.

Thankfully, after a call, it was sorted out and Kim’s package was taken to a UPS Store. She just needed to pick it up. Which she did NOT for a few additional days. So again, I panicked. I wondered if she got it, read my proposal and was then trying to think of a polite way to say “no.”

That, of course, was not the case. She said “yes,” and all was right in the world again.

Now, for Kristi’s package… Like I said, each one included a hand-painted glass and that teeny bottle of bubbly. I had it all planned for weeks. Bought the individual pieces, and painted and packaged each one. And then I received the amazing news that my girl was expecting a little one.

FYI: Sparkling grape juice does not come in teeny bottles.

That’s OK. I worked out with her husband that, upon the package’s arrival, he was going to pull out a bottle of grape juice and explain the snafu. Thing is, Kristi travels quite a bit, so timing was shaky, and it just didn’t go down as this sitcom skit I had laid out in my head. Regardless, she, too, accepted my proposal, so it all worked out.

My final bridesmaid is one I haven’t yet mentioned — my fiancé’s daughter. Who’s 14. And who clearly does not drink champagne from hand-painted flutes (at least, she better not).

I thought about presenting her with the same package as the other bridesmaids, but replacing her champagne with sparkling grape juice. But drinking sparkling grape juice insinuates drinking, in general, and I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about that. Maybe I put a little too much thought into that one, but I played it safe and nixed that idea altogether.

So how exactly do you ask a teenager to be part of your wedding party, and have it be memorable? I’ll tell you what I did. And how I failed. And then if any of you come up with a much better, super rad idea, please share. Because teens are effin tough…

My soon-to-be stepdaughter, like every other girl her age, is obsessed with Josh Dun from Twenty One Pilots. (*Parents: He’s the drummer. The one with that hair. The green mop.) So I thought, how cool would it be if JOSH asked her to be my bridesmaid? Brilliant, right?

I found the perfect picture of him — a goofy close-up with a Cheshire Cat grin and a drumstick in his grill. I had it printed true-to-life, and I painted a “Will you be my bridesmaid” sign that I hung with ribbon from the drumstick. It was awesome! Turned out WAY better than expected!

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She was going to visit us on a Friday, and my plan was that, when she opened the door to her bedroom — BAM! There he’d be, in his black-and-white glory, holding my super cute, super colorful sign, asking my very important question.

(*Cue the emotional track, slow the film reel for our hug…)

She’d get all excited and squeal. Clap her hands and say, “OMG, thank you thank you thank you! I just LOOOOOVE him!” And then she’d take 4,9723,801 Snapchat photos…

Again, blooper reel. That didn’t happen. In true 14-year-old fashion, she had another obligation she “oh my god, couldn’t miss” (you remember those days), hours away, so the trip was postponed. And I was left with a picture and a phone proposal. Not exactly how I had envisioned, but the result was the same. I got myself a fourth and final bridesmaid, and one I absolutely knew I needed in my Bride Tribe from Day 1.

I also got a few more days with ’ole Josh, and a few Snapchat photos of my own.

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These are only a few of the things that haven’t exactly gone as planned, but that all worked out. I’m gathering that this is kinda what wedding planning is all about — a bunch of things that don’t necessarily go as planned, but that still work out in the end. Plus, they make for fun blog posts.

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Will you be my bridesmaid?

I’m super crafty. I’m not typically a bragger, but I AM quite artsy. Like, if Martha Stewart knew I existed, she’d totally want to be my BFF (sorry Snoop). I like to think of myself as Lady MacGyver — I can pretty much make anything out of nothing. A real trash-to-treasure kinda gal.

My grandmother, on the other hand, has a much different way of describing my “talent.” What I think is “innovative,” she often times calls “cheap.” Whatever. I love a good challenge and creating something really pretty from next to nothing is fun for me.

I look at it like this: if it’s something I can make myself, and that’s something I absolutely love doing anyway, why wouldn’t I? And doesn’t a personalized, handmade, straight-from-the-heart gift mean more anyway? It does to me…

Last week, I talked about how I chose my bridesmaids. This week, I’m going to talk about how I asked them to join my crew. And, I’ll be honest, I’ve been SUPER DUPER excited about this blog post for a LONG time!

These women — Ginger, Laura, Kim and Kristi — have been a part of my life for what seems like forever. In fact, Kim, my maid of honor, was a college roommate, so she’s seen 20+ years of trials and tribulations! Those kinds of relationships deserve a Bride Tribe proposal as special as they are to me.

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I created a gift box for each one. A pretty little wooden box, filled with all sorts of love and goodies hand-made just for them.

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I started with an 8.5-inch, unfinished wood box from Michael’s. I removed the hardware, sanded the edges and then painted it metallic rose gold, one of our wedding colors. Once the pieces dried, I replaced the hardware.

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Our wedding décor will include a lot of collectibles and antiques, so I found small frames that look aged and I filled each one with a “vintage” photo of me and each of my girls.

I bought a set of four stemless champagne glasses and hand-painted each woman’s name on each one. This took a little bit of time because (1) I’m a perfectionist and (2) I painted and baked each one twice to ensure the lettering was permanent [*shameless plug: this hand-lettering gig is actually something I do quite often. Check out Love Letters on Facebook + instagram].

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I tucked each glass into a small fabric bag that featured little bird feathers, and I wrote long, personal and deeply heartfelt massages to each woman in cards that matched the fabric bags (I won’t say anymore about those messages cause I’ll cry. Again.). I shredded newspaper for my filler, and popped a teeny bottle of champagne into each one. And then I wrapped a shiny rose gold ribbon around each one and shipped them off to my girls… sending out a little prayer with each one that the recipients would accept my proposal with a “Hell yeah!” [*Spoiler alert: they did]

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In total, I spent about $40 — $10 for each completed box. I thoroughly enjoyed creating every piece of those gifts, right down to the shredded newspaper. Those boxes contain more of “me” than any store-bought gift ever could, and my girlfriends know that. It’s not the amount of money that counts (although we all know I love the challenge of finding a good deal), but the amount of love that comes with a gift like this. And these boxes overfloweth…

I’m engaged. Now what?

I’m a pretty organized person. More than “pretty organized,” actually. Like, I’m one of those people who color-codes things and makes lists and, basically, creates some sort of system for just about everything. And although I HATE to plan things like day trips and weekend getaways (I’d rather fly by the seat of my pants), I’m excellent at planning things like fundraisers and other big projects.

I always thought I’d make a great party planner. Or wedding planner. Like J.Lo in that movie — the one where Matthew McConaughey says, “But I know the curves of your face and I know every fleck of gold in your eyes…” [*swoon*] Why can’t real-life boys read from a script?

But I digress.

I thought that, if I ever got engaged, planning my big day would be a cinch. I mean, I’m organized, I’m thorough, I know people who could assist along the way and, most importantly, I work for a bridal magazine, so it’s not like I’m a complete rookie when it comes to all things wedding-related.

And then I got engaged and none of that actually mattered. My mind went completely blank. I had absolutely no idea what I was supposed to do first.

We got engaged on a Monday night. We made some immediate phone calls to family, and saved a few others for the next morning. By 10 a.m., the texts started rolling in. And as much as I wanted to give each one the proper attention and response, that’s impossible after the sixth or seventh. So we had to put the phones down and decide how to announce it before social media and friend/family phone chains took over.

I remember my fiancé watching me just stare blankly at my phone for a minute and asking, “Are you getting nervous now?”

About the engagement? No. Not at all.

About how quickly word spread out of my control? Yes. Absolutely.

It doesn’t matter how many to-do lists wedding magazines and planning professionals put out for newly engaged couples — real life doesn’t work that way. Sh*t feels out of control super quick, excitement pretty much takes over, and it becomes hard to think straight almost immediately.

So here’s what we did — we posted a picture to social media. Made our announcement the same way most people do these days, and then we watched our phones light up.

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To be honest, I wish we wouldn’t have announced it that way. But here’s the thing — word spreads. People talk and social media is at everyone’s fingertips. So someone who probably should have been among the first to know could have possibly been one of the last if we had tried to keep it to ourselves. Someone would have found out, and then mentioned it to someone else, who would have then posted on my Facebook wall, and then BOOM! That quick.

And I thought I had my sh*t together. At this point, I had only been engaged for about a minute and I already screwed up! And I don’t think it’s cause a first-timer — I just think wedding planning is a lot and there’s no right or wrong. I know I’m not alone in this…

The next few days were definitely fun — impromptu work parties, congratulatory gifts and cards, champagne toasts, chocolate cake. You know, all the good stuff!

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But then the questions: Have you set a date? Will you have a big wedding? What’s your dress gonna look like? Are you having it here or in Pennsylvania (both my fiancé and I are “transplants” to the beach)? Where will you live after the wedding?

WHAT?!? Honestly, people. I’ve been engaged for, like, 30 seconds. I announced my engagement with freakin’ Facebook post and I’m still trying to remember to put my ring on after a shower — do you REALLY think I’ve actually got it together enough to have given ANY of those things any thought just yet?

In hindsight, I wish I’d taken a day or two to just be with my fiancé, and to keep it all to ourselves — just like the wedding magazines and planning professionals suggest. But, when it all goes down, it’s SO hard to do that. It really is.

And then there’s a list of things you need to do shortly after your engagement. Insure your ring, pick a wedding date, call venues, schedule appointments at bridal shops. Oh, and also go about life as usual.

Oh. My. God.

We got engaged in early June. I knew EXACTLY where I wanted my wedding to be, and I had my heart set on a specific photographer, florist and deejay. And we nailed down those few things immediately. Oh, and we set a date — Oct. 14, 2017. Outside of that, not much got done. By July, wedding plans took a back seat to our busy lives.

That was a mistake. There’s so much to do, apparently, and it’s mindboggling. Overwhelming is a better word. Planning your wedding could really be a part-time job. Even if you decide it’s going to be a small, simple wedding, like we did. It’s still the same amount of research, planning and decisions. And keeping order is hard. Doing it all in the right order is hard. Even for someone as organized as me.

But, as I always say, “It’ll get done.”

Hell yeah, I will!

Before I get too far into my crazy adventure in wedding planning, I should probably tell you the story about how I got to the point where I’d be planning a wedding in the first place. It’s not fairy tale material, but it’s beautiful to me. And so perfect. Imperfectly perfect, in my opinion.

My now-fiancé had planned the most amazing birthday weekend. It was my 40th, a big one, and he scheduled every day and night. Friends from New York and Virginia came to town. There were dinners and bonfires and late-night giggles. All of my favorite things.

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He was especially secretive about a Saturday night bonfire at Assateague, though. He got up really early that day and told me he’d be gone all day because there was so much “setup” needed before everyone headed out to the beach. Which was weird, I thought, because honestly, how much effort does it take to plan a bonfire? Wood, matches, beer — boom! Done. But I let him do his thing and I spent a peaceful day alone on the water, just me and my paddle board.

I figured that something pretty special was planned, though, since he made such a big to-do about the bonfire. So when I was getting ready, I put a little bit more effort into my hair and makeup — you know, just in case there were pictures to be had. I also figured that, since preparations were an all-day affair, I’d be welcomed on the beach with a beautiful spread of white twinkle lights, candles, balloons, a big Happy Birthday sign — the whole nine yards. So imagine my surprise when I arrived to a semi-circle of three SUVs, a not-yet-built bonfire and a handful of my dearest friends. It was, just as he’d plainly said that morning, a typical Saturday night bonfire.

No twinkle lights. No down-on-one-knee. No oohs or ahhs. And a faceful of the GOOD makeup, all for naught (ladies, you know what I’m talking about).

I won’t deny that there was the teeniest, tiniest pang of disappointment, but also a wave of relief — I’m not good at being the center of attention. I’m super awkward and visibly uncomfortable when I’m put on the spot. And I probably would have crawled very, very deep into the sand.

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The day after, I slept a little later than usual, I ate birthday cake in bed, had lunch on the water, and I rode my pretty pink Hello Kitty bike in the rain. It was perfect.

And then Monday came, and life was back to normal.

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That night, we had tickets to see one of my favorite reggae bands. We met a few friends at the bar, had a few drinks, and watched the band from the same spot where we hang out every time we go to this particular bar — tucked away to the right of the stage, close enough to see everything, but far enough away from the crowd. A few songs in, my boyfriend — who would rather punch a kitten than rub sweaty shoulders in a pit of drunk 20-somethings — grabbed my hand and said, “Let’s go in. Let’s get closer to the stage.” So I obliged.

We weren’t there long. Like, half of a song. He looked at me and asked, “Are you over it?” I didn’t even answer. I just started walking toward the back of the mass. We kept walking till we were in a completely different room, at a completely different bar, where we sat down with the intentions of getting one more beer and some food to go.

While we waited, he asked me if I had had a good birthday. Did I get everything I wanted? I was honest — told him there wasn’t anything tangible that I wanted, and that hanging out with him and my friends was as perfect as it gets. Although, if I were being honest, I had thought that maybe he had something more planned for that night on the beach.

HIM: “You thought I was going to propose at the bonfire?”

ME: “Well, yeah. Why else would you make such a big deal about a stupid bonfire?”

HIM: “I wasn’t going to propose on the beach. I was going to propose tonight.”

And then the most perfect ring, and the most intense feeling of love, and the most beautiful tears, and the probably the most amazing hug we’ve ever hugged. I almost forgot to say “yes.”

And then the applause, and the bells, and the cheers and whistles. And then I realized we weren’t alone, but at a bar with a few hundred other people who had been watching the whole thing! It’s crazy how you can truly get lost in a moment…

My boyfriend had planned to propose on stage that night. He’d met with a member of the band earlier that day and had the whole thing arranged. Which is why I was pulled into the crowd that night, so we’d be that much closer to the stage. But the musician flaked, so the plan was altered.

But it turned into the most amazing, perfectly imperfect proposal. At least, in my opinion.

** ENGAGEMENT VIDEO: https://youtu.be/QthmChdFOX

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