37: The List

37: The List

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

The List

Details create the big picture.

~Sanford I. Weill

As a single parent for more than thirteen years, I didn’t think I would ever wed again. That changed in October 1999 when the man I had been dating for nearly a year popped the question. We chose a date in February 2000, coincidentally exactly a year from our first date.

Things were on a whirlwind pace to get a wedding planned in four months amid the Christmas and New Year holidays, but I took the planning in stride. You see, I was a fundraiser at the time, and special events are a staple in the fundraising world. I had planned successful garden parties, silent auctions, golf tournaments, and black-tie galas. All of that took planning and attention to detail. So, what was a wedding? Just another special event!

I decided I would plan our wedding accordingly. First, I drew up a budget. A second marriage for each, we both had financial obligations. We believed we could have a meaningful ceremony and a wonderful reception if we were really savvy about how we used our money. Second, I developed a very detailed “to-do list,” complete with deadlines and the person responsible for completing the tasks. My soon-to-be husband, Terry, laughed at me.

“What is all this?” he inquired one afternoon, looking through several pieces of paper.

“It’s how we’re going to get the wedding done and make it come in on time and at or under budget,” I replied.

“With all these lists?”

“Sure. Hey, I do this all the time at work. It’s my mantra for success… Plan your work and then work your plan.”

Terry picked up my to-do list, seeing his name in several places on the sheet of paper. “I can already see how our marriage is going to be,” he said with a smirk on his face.

And my plan was working beautifully! My matron-of-honor and I spent an entire Saturday afternoon choosing beautiful silk flowers and then fashioning bouquets, corsages, and boutonnieres. I found Victorian-inspired stationery with matching envelopes and response cards, and printed our invitations on my home computer. Terry and I decided that our groomsmen and ushers would be outfitted in what it seemed every man possessed: a navy blazer, gray slacks, and a white shirt. We would buy matching ties to coordinate with my attendants’ dresses, which, of course, I found on clearance.

But the real bargain was my dress! Shopping for what my daughter would wear, I stumbled across a gorgeous white tea-length dress, with a sparkly beaded bodice and sleeves, and a chiffon skirt. Not only was it my size, but it was on sale for only thirty-five dollars! Right then and there, I decided I would decorate a wide-brimmed hat to wear instead of the traditional veil.

As our special day neared, Terry and I really kicked into high gear, packing boxes with some of our own things to use at the reception to continue to keep the expense under budget. A friend asked Terry how things were going.

“Betty has all these lists to check before she packs the boxes! But as soon as I suggest that I’d like to take a box to church to put in the storeroom, she has to check the box again — just to make sure it’s all in there. It’s starting to drive me nuts!”

Didn’t Terry understand that paying attention to detail was how a special event was planned and implemented? Didn’t he want our day to be perfection? I was sure that when it was all said and done, he would appreciate my strict adherence to both our budget and time constraints. What a good wife I would be!

However, the day of our blessed event, I was starting to have a few doubts of my own. We had stayed up late the night before making cream-cheese mints and preparing raw vegetables for the reception. The next morning, we arrived at church right after the men’s group breakfast so we could decorate the room. After that was my trip to the hairdresser. When I arrived back home, Terry informed me that he had received a call that our pianist for the reception was on the way to the hospital with severe flu-like symptoms. Both of us frantically searched our CD collections to find suitable music. Things were not going according to plan!

The time was nearing that we were scheduled to arrive at the church. With my ever-present list, my soon-to-be husband, two children, and I started loading the car.



“Guest book?”






“It looks like we have everything, Mom,” my son said.

“I want to check the house one last time.”

I could hear all of them groaning as I walked through every room in the house looking for any boxes or other items that were left behind. I was confident that everything we needed was in the car. I got behind the wheel for the ten-minute trip to the church.

I pulled up in the circle drive in front of the church, and four car doors opened simultaneously. Boxes and other items were unloaded and placed on the concrete sidewalk.

There was a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. My wedding dress was missing!

I checked the lists I had in my hand. Nowhere did I have a check mark for my wedding dress. In fact, the entry for the dress hadn’t even made the list!

“I’ve got to go back home,” I told the family.

Three sets of eyes looked at me questioningly.

“I seem to have forgotten my dress. It must still be hanging on the back of the bedroom door,” I said sheepishly.

We all looked at each other and started laughing. “The list” had failed me! I drove home and fetched the gown, laughing hysterically at the irony.

A few days later, after returning from a short honeymoon, I found my wedding to-do list among what was brought back from the wedding. As I ran my finger down the check-marked entries, I realized that “the list” had served a lot of purposes. Sure, it had kept us focused and on-task during a crazy time. But it also reminded me that, no matter how hard we try, not everything turns out the way we want. And, sometimes, it’s better that way.

~Betty Ost-Everley

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