34: Turn Around

34: Turn Around

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

Turn Around

Who, being loved, is poor?

~Oscar Wilde

“Stand there underneath that gazebo and look out over the park,” my boyfriend ordered one sunny Sunday with an old-fashioned 35mm camera in hand. “No, turn around! I want a picture of you gazing out over the landscape. Look pensive.”

I dutifully did as I was told, patiently turning my back and entertaining myself by watching a young family playing on the hill in front of me as he artistically snapped the picture he’d already framed hundreds of times.

“Okay, you can turn around now.”

I spun, trivial statement playing on my lips... to see the camera abandoned on the ground in front of his knee, the antique diamond ring winking at me, his hands shaking and words jumbling as he tried to find the right words to ask me to be his wife.

In that instant, that one turn, I’d twirled from a girl to a woman, a college sweetheart to a fiancée, a “me” to an “us.” We were ready to dance off into the sunset, plan our fairy-tale wedding, buy our first little home, and live happily after ever.

And then the floor dropped out from underneath us.

You see, that momentous walk in the park was in 2009. While I was tearfully saying yes to my future, banks were crashing. As we were salivating over bacon-wrapped scallops and bruschetta and debating the merits of filet mignon versus prime rib, the unemployment line was growing exponentially, and the rations at food banks were flying off the shelves.

One day, curled up in my apartment after a long (successful!) day of wedding dress shopping, perusing bridal magazines flaunting elaborate centerpieces and exotic honeymoon locales, my mom sheepishly informed me that four of the nine support staff positions at her small elementary school would be cut. She wasn’t sure if she’d be returning from her weekend trip to a job, to a steady paycheck.

A little voice in my head piped up, nudging me back to a reality the rest of the world was already dealing with. Flowers and four-tier cakes and favors... those trappings were merely the icing on the cake. Who needs pounds of sugar-filled frosting on the already-sweet-enough cake of true love?

So wedding planning took another turn.

A scrapbook-savvy aunt spent hours deciding between mellow yellow and canary sunshine cardstock, imprinting tulip stamp after tulip stamp onto my save-the-date cards — as a wedding gift to us, and a fun craft project to keep her busy when her husband’s job was transferred across the country.

My soon-to-be mother-in-law continued my tulip theme, purchasing a flower-shaped chocolate mold so she could make our favors. She toiled in the kitchen at midnight, flecked with pink sugar glitter and chocolate, mixing yellow food dye into white chocolate to prove she could come up with just the right shade to match my flowers. She spent hours tying white ribbon onto the green stems of the tulip lollipops.

A former co-worker of my mother made me a garter belt after she happened across an antique blue tulip pin that made her think of me.

Her aspiring baker daughter volunteered to break out her icing tips and baking pans for me, not even flinching at the mention of the food allergy that would’ve made ordering a professionally made cake a major financial investment. (I’ve never met this girl.)

My grandmother offered up a beautiful pearl clutch that perfectly matched my ivory lace dress without even being asked.

I put my crafty self to work, too, creating table numbers, invitations, place cards, thank-you notes, and more, presenting each piece of art to the steering committee composed of my top-notch wedding coordinators: my mother, sister, and husband-to-be.

On April 24, 2010, I walked down the aisle toward the man of my dreams and a new life as “the wife.”

Was it the wedding I’ve always dreamed of?

No.

It was better.

My wedding was a perfect balance of convention and professionals and pure, unadulterated talents, favors, and love. In the midst of stock market crashes, layoffs, and a deluge of negative headlines, the sun shone on an unseasonably warm spring day, and 110 people forgot their own troubles and laughed, cheered, cried, ate, and danced right along with me.

Did I mention the groom was perfect, too?

I married a man who loves cooking at home and saves fancy restaurants for “special occasions.” Who knows a Sunday afternoon matinee is the perfect way to watch a movie, and that a glass of wine and a paper cup full of dark chocolate M&Ms beats a dozen red roses every time. Who couldn’t wait to rip down wallpaper and paint in our new home — all by ourselves.

Every time we kneel down in the pews where our friends and family witnessed our vows, we both know we have so much to be thankful for. While a recession may not have been the ideal time to start a life and embark on such a busy, crazy, expensive roller coaster of a journey, it taught us that we can treasure the best of times — and survive the worst of times.

Together.

~Caitlin Q. Bailey O’Neill

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