Most of the doctors warned me to postpone it. They shrugged their shoulders and looked at me with doubtful eyes when I asked if they thought I could do it. Well I showed them!
I did it!
I didn't get much sleep the night before the wedding. I don't know if it was nerves or excitement, but I woke up at 6:30 am and couldn't get back to sleep. I checked the weather on my phone and frowned at the chance of thunderstorms in the late afternoon. The ceremony was scheduled for 5:30 pm! Oh well, nothing I'd be able to do about that. After lying there staring at the ceiling for another 2 1/2 hours, I finally decided to get up and wake the boys, who had actually slept at my house for the first time since I started chemo treatments.
Both boys took showers and I made them chocolate chip pancake puffs and Taylor ham for breakfast. Jimmi was upstairs getting ready while I hung out in my pajamas for as long as possible. My stomach was bothering me, but I ignored it.
When all three of the men in my life were clean and dressed in casual, pre-wedding clothes, I finally went upstairs to take a shower and pack for the day and for the night in the bridal suite. I carefully checked each of the bags. Headpiece, bracelet, rings, shoes, boys' tuxes, Jimmi's tux, games and snacks for the kids, toiletries, make-up, wig tape, hair brush, clutch. Did I have everything? My mom was bringing my dress, so I didn't have to worry about that. Yup, I think we're good. We were just about ready to go, but I couldn't ignore my nausea anymore. I popped a pill and hoped for the best.
Jimmi packed up the car. The boys, a babysitter and I hopped in, and we were on our way. I know, I know. Jimmi wasn't supposed to see me before the wedding, but we really didn't have a choice. I'm on so many drugs that have heavy machinery warnings that I didn't really feel safe driving myself. It's ok! My hair - or my wig - wasn't done, my makeup hadn't been applied and my dress was nowhere in sight. Once we arrived at the wedding venue, we would be in two separate areas of the mansion until we were all dressed and ready and the photographer set up our "meeting".
Barely an hour later, we were there. Skylands Manor looked like a castle from a fairy tale. MY fairy tale. From the stone face to the arched, wooden doorway, to the perfectly manicured landscaping, everything was beautiful. The weather was holding up, though it was a bit overcast and very humid.
We got out of the car and headed inside to look for our event coordinator, Linda. She greeted us with a huge smile. "I'm so excited for you!" she exclaimed when she saw us. Linda showed us to the bridal suite and we dropped off our bags. "Where can Jimmi and the boys hang out while I'm getting ready?" I asked. "They can go to the library. Wait, there's a rec room on the third floor with a big screen TV, games and a pool table. How's that?" Dylan's eyes lit up. "A pool table? Let's go there!"
We followed Linda to the third floor where I settled the kids in with their babysitter, Jimmi and Jimmi's brother, Dan. Dylan immediately roped Dan into a game of pool, while Justin set up a chess board and started to teach the babysitter how to play. I giggled as I looked at the shirt Justin was wearing, which was a gift from Jimmi and I. It was a black t-shirt with white letters that read "RPA - Ring Protection Agency". To make the ensemble even cuter, he was also wearing a silver, star-shaped RPA badge and black sunglasses. It was the perfect present for my little ring bearer who wants to be a spy when he grows up. Then I noticed the time. "I need to go and wait for my stylist now," I told them. "Be good and I'll see you in a few hours." "Bye, Mommy!" they called out as I kissed both of them and Jimmi and headed back to the bridal suite.
Jamie, my stylist, was set to arrive at 1:00. I had about 20 minutes to go, and I really needed to rest. I looked around my beautiful suite and found a chaise lounge that was calling my name. I kicked off my flip flops, straightened out my Swarovski crystal lettered "Mrs. Kane" hoodie, and flopped myself onto the soft cushion. I laid back, swung my legs around and crossed my ankles. I can't believe I'm getting married today. I peeked out the window. Still not raining. I listened to the silence for a few minutes while I got my thoughts together. Then I heard the footsteps and Linda's voice at the door. "Suzanne, your stylist is here!"
Jamie walked in with a big smile and a hug. "I'm not supposed to hug anyone because of the germs," I said, "But I guess I made an exception." Jamie scanned the room as Linda ran out to get a stool for me. The lighting wasn't great in the suite, but Jamie found enough outlets and windows in the bathroom to make it work. "Will you have time to give Dylan a mohawk?" I asked. Jamie smiled, "Of course. Let's get you started first."
I sat in the stool and gave him full control. Since I've been sick, there wasn't any time to do a hair and makeup trial, but Jamie and I have been friends for years and I trusted him to make me beautiful. "I'm gonna curl your hair first, then do your makeup, then put your head piece on." I nodded. "Whatever you want," I said.
Jamie heated up the curling iron and went to work. "Just make sure the edges of the wig won't show," I said sadly. "Don't worry," Jamie assured me. "No one will see a thing." A few minutes later, Orlando, my photographer arrived. He immediately started shooting the process. Just then, I got a text from my matron of honor, Jen. "We're here!" it said. Jen and one of my other bridesmaids, Andi, had just gotten their hair and makeup done and driven up together. I let them know where I was, and a few minutes later, they both popped their heads into the bathroom, "Hi!" they sang with excited smiles.
They stood in the doorway watching Jamie transform me from pale to pink with a few shots from his airbrush makeup machine. Orlando went off to take some pictures of my shoes and accessories, then came back with a concerned look on his face. "Where's your dress?" he asked. "My mom is bringing it. She'll be here in a little while." As if on cue, my mom sent me a text, "We're here!" I asked Andi to help with the dress and Orlando followed her to shoot it. "Make sure Jimmi isn't around or he'll see it!" I called after them.
It started to become really real. I was getting married. Everyone was starting to show up. My mom walked into the bathroom with a smile that took up her entire face. She looked at Jamie's work-in-progress and came over to hug us both.
Little by little, my bridesmaids and flower girls arrived. Each one was wearing a short-sleeved hoodie with rhinestone letters on the back saying "Bridesmaid" or "flower girl". It took some time, but I had made them all myself months ago. Now the day was here and they were wearing them!
Finally, Jamie was done with me and he went upstairs to find Dylan. We were running a little bit behind schedule, and everyone really needed to start getting dressed. I had heard that all of the groomsmen had arrived, and Orlando's other shooter was with them. I sent everyone off to get dressed except my mom, who stayed with me. "Can you help me with my dress before I help you with yours?" she asked. She pulled out the dress, which I had picked for her before I got sick. It was a beautiful, strapless, beaded gown, that was far from a typical mother of the bride outfit. I helped her into it and zipped it up carefully. My mom was stunning.
Now it was my turn.
We waited for Jen to come back to the suite, then she and my mom took my gown from its "Mrs. Kane" hanger, which was a gift from my brother's fiancee, Meghan. They unzipped and held the strapless, beaded, ivory, silk-satin piece in front of me so I could step in. I pulled it up carefully and let it hug what was left of my curves. All I could think was "Thank God my boobs are fake!" I've lost so much weight from the treatments that the dress would've fallen off of me if my boobs had gotten any smaller!
Before they finished zipping it up, we opened the door so Orlando could shoot the finishing touches. Click! Click! went the camera as I put on each accessory. When the florist arrived, my bouquet was brought into the room. It was perfect! White roses and mulberry calla lilies with diamond pins scattered throughout. The pop of color matched my bridesmaids' dresses, and added just enough of an accent to my bridal ivory. After a few more clicks of the camera, we were ready to set up the reveal.
The reveal, as Orlando called it, was the moment when Jimmi and I would see each other dressed and ready for the first time that day. We decided to do it before the ceremony so we could get all of the formal pictures out of the way early and be able to enjoy the rest of our night. "Just give me a few minutes to get downstairs," Orlando said, "then come out to the garden. Jimmi's back will be turned. When you get to him, tap him on the shoulder and we'll be snapping away." He left the room and I took a deep breath.
Here we go.
Jen and my mom helped me down the stairs so I didn't fall on my face, then they watched as I walked outside. "I think I should help you," my mom called after me. "I can do it. I'll be careful," I assured her as I watched my every step on the stone patio. "My dress is getting dirty," I pouted. Slowly, I walked to the steps in the garden. I looked up and saw the back of my groom standing about 20 feet away. I couldn't help but smile, though I thought I'd be crying. I lifted my dress and continued down the steps onto the walkway, then onto the grass. I saw the two photographers getting ready. Slowly, I approached Jimmi, and when I was right behind him, I tapped him on the shoulder. He said, "Uh oh!" and spun around until our eyes met. "Whoa!" he exclaimed, "Hottie!" I laughed and threw my arms around him. He pretended to pull away, then smiled and kissed me. I wiped the lipstick off his lips and he said, "Turn around. Let me see all of you." I spun like a princess at a ball and let him take it all in. "I like," he said. "Good choice. And Jamie did a great job on your hair and makeup." I swear, he always knows how to make me feel beautiful.
And then the barrage of photos began. Family photos, bridal party photos, fun photos, serious photos. You name it, Orlando shot it. Luckily, it still wasn't raining, but it was hot. Hot and humid. I was feeling ok, but worried about how the heat would affect me. Orlando told me to let him know if I needed a break, but I was determined to keep going. After an hour, I finally broke down and asked one of the groomsmen to get me a glass of water. Jamie came out to touch up my makeup and his protective side came out. "You need a break. You need to go inside and rest for a few minutes before the ceremony," he insisted. I agreed to shoot a few more pictures, then take his advice.
We finished up just as some guests were arriving. I walked through the crowd announcing, "No one look! You can't see me!" and hurried back to the bridal suite. My mom and a few of my bridesmaids followed to help me with anything I needed. Jamie needed to re-curl my hair and touch up my makeup and I needed to go to the bathroom. But how? I could barely sit in my mermaid-style gown, let alone lift it up high enough to sit on a toilet. "I'm gonna need to take my dress off," I said to my ladies. They helped me unzip so I could do what I needed to do, then I sat in a towel as Jamie fixed me. Not even 15 minutes later, it was time to begin.
I'm getting married.
My bridesmaids and my mom were sent outside to line up and I was sent to the Great Hall to wait with my dad and Dylan, who were both walking me down the aisle. It was the longest wait ever! "Do you want to sit?" my dad asked. "I can't really sit in this dress, I don't want to wrinkle it," I explained. We stood there for what seemed like forever until finally we heard, "They're ready for you now."
I slipped my arm through my dad's arm and held Dylan's hand. Slowly, we began the long walk across the patio, down the steps and through the garden. Linda met us right before we hit the grass and gave the bottom of my dress a poof. "Ok, go ahead." she instructed.
I heard the guitar and cello players change from the bridesmaids' processional song, "Faithfully" by Journey, to the bride's song, "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" by Aerosmith, and we began. The smile was plastered on my face as we made our way to the rose petal lined aisle. I looked to the left and met Jamie's eye. I saw the tears welling up in the corners and I gave him a look that said, "Don't make me cry!" I scanned the faces in the packed crowd and felt overwhelmed by emotion. Then I saw my friend, Jessica, who flew in from Florida that morning just for our wedding. She was taking pictures, smiling and crying all at the same time and I felt my eyes start to sting. But I held back. I looked up and saw Jimmi. He looked so handsome in his leather-lined, black tuxedo with his black and white leather vest. His bleached blonde hair was slicked back and his aqua eyes were shining.
I can't believe we've finally made it to this day.
We got to the end of the aisle and Jimmi walked down to meet us. Dylan gave me a kiss then pounded Jimmi's knuckles. My dad hugged and kissed me and pointed his finger at Jimmi with a smile, "You better take good care of her," he warned, then shook Jimmi's hand and went to sit down.
It was time to begin.
Our minister welcomed everyone and set the tone for the wedding with an innocent mistake. "Susan and Jimmi..." I felt my body tense at the mispronunciation I hear almost every day of my life. But then I chilled out and whined loudly, "SUZANNE!" Everyone laughed, including me, and the lighthearted mood was set.
With each word of love our minister spoke, Jimmi would whisper, "Ewww!" We laughed and joked and playfully smacked each other on the arm throughout the entire ceremony. Our friend, Laura, read an excerpt from The Velveteen Rabbit called "What is Real?" and another from Captain Corelli's Mandolin called "Love is the Beauty of the Soul." When she stepped down, my nieces, Jennifer and Laura, got up to sing "A Whole New World" from Disney's Aladdin. Then it was time for our vows.
Jimmi and I decided to write our own vows. After everything we've been though, we didn't want to do anything serious. We wanted to keep the mood light and throw people for an unexpected loop with our promises. Unfortunately, the microphone wasn't working, so I don't know if everyone was able to hear us. But these were the promises Jimmi and I made to each other during our wedding:
Jimmi and I giggled through the entire recitation, and our guests loved it. We kept the mood light and happy. I didn't want tears at my wedding, and I was doing a surprisingly good job of keeping them at bay.
After the vows, we exchanged rings, just like any other ceremony. But when our minister pronounced us husband and wife and told Jimmi to give me a kiss, I wrapped my arms around his neck and he made a face, smiled and pulled away from me. We all laughed as he said, "Just kidding!" and went in for the kiss to seal our commitment.
Finally, we were married! Just one more special touch and the ceremony would be over and the party could start. We had planned to release white doves after our kiss. There was a box for my boys to release, and one for Jimmi and I to release. There were also two doves displayed in a beautiful cage during the ceremony, and I wasn't sure if they were just there for show or if they were going too. But we had another mishap. When it was time for the dove release, Dylan and Justin came up from their seats to do their job. We turned to find the woman in charge of the birds and she was nowhere to be found. We looked all over, but couldn't find her. "Should we just let them go?" I asked. Without realizing that the boys and Jimmi and I were supposed to release them, my brother opened both boxes and all the doves flew away. "Noooooooo!" I yelled and pointed to my heartbroken little boys. "They were supposed to do it!" I saw the looks on my babies' faces and the tears started to well up in their eyes. Then I looked over at the two doves still left in the display cage. "Go over and open the cage. Let them go," I said to Dylan and Justin. They looked at me with wide eyes, "Are we allowed?" they asked. "I don't know. The lady isn't here. Just let them go." The boys walked over to the cage and opened the door. It took a minute for the doves to realize the were being freed, but once they did, they shot out and flew away. My boys were so proud of themselves as they went back to sit with my parents. Unfortunately, I found out later that the woman who brought the doves had to leave suddenly because her husband and son were in a terrible car accident. I felt awful, but understood why she had disappeared.
And with that, the ceremony was over. We were married! Jimmi and I walked out as husband and wife to "Here Comes the Sun" by The Beatles, and our bridal party followed. After our marriage license was signed, we headed for the cocktail hour which was set up in every room of the mansion. Unfortunately, Jimmi and I never got to see it! We only made it two steps before we were stopped by our guests to be congratulated over and over again. I felt like such a bitch each time someone would lean in to kiss me and I'd hold up my hand and explain, "I'm not allowed to hug or kiss! I can't be exposed to germs." But I had to do it.
We kept trying to walk, but we kept getting stopped. Luckily, my bridesmaid, Kris, came to the rescue. "Do you want me to get you some food?" she asked. "Yes! Pasta, please." Kris was on it. She came back with a plate of penne in lemon sauce, which I devoured as Jimmi sucked down a beer.
Before we knew it, chimes announced that the cocktail hour was over and our guests headed to the ballroom to wait for our arrival. The bridal party lined up and waited until each of their names were called before walking into the room to cheers and music. After the last name was called, the doors were shut, and Jimmi and I heard the music change to "Kickstart My Heart" by Motley Crue. "Here they are. Mr. and Mrs. James Kane!" The doors opened and Jimmi and I walked in to screams and applause.
The look of the room took my breath away. It was even more beautiful than I thought it would be. Our florist transformed the ballroom into a black and silver wonderland with hints of pinks and purples everywhere. There were black, satin tablecloths, silver chairs and chargers, glass vases with vines and purple flowers submerged in water, and white, pink and purple flowers on top. I saw rose petals scattered on the tables and stem glasses with candles setting the mood. There were uplights in the corners with pink gels over them, throwing off a warm color that made everything so romantic. I couldn't believe how amazing everything looked.
The band finished our intro as the singer strapped on an acoustic guitar and broke into our wedding song, "Marry Me" by Train. Jimmi and I looked at each other with nervous energy, and began the dance we started working on months ago at Arthur Murray. We opened the dance with a "death drop" that had me almost flat on my back on the floor then back on my feet, and ended it with a lifted spin. Even after all the breaks in our lessons for chemo and hospital stays, we still managed to make it through the dance without too many mistakes.
Whew! The dance it over! Now what? "You wanna go see Danny?" Jimmi asked. Then I remembered the surprise we had for our guests. We opened the ballroom door and headed downstairs. Yes, we had a photo booth down there, but that wasn't the real shocker. The Danny Jimmi mentioned is a tattoo artist. No, he wasn't there as a guest. He was there to work! We hired two tattoo artists to come to our wedding and give our guests permanent favors. We weren't sure how it would go over, but we thought it was a unique touch. The artists were set up in the corners across from the photo booth just waiting for their first victims. Jimmi and I said hello, then we heard my mom's voice, "The band is looking for you! It's speech and toast time!"
We headed back upstairs. Our minister said a blessing, then my dad was called up to speak. I can't remember everything he said, but I know he talked about starting off on the wrong foot with Jimmi and making a mistake by judging him by his appearance. A toast from the best man and matron of honor followed, and then it was time to eat.
I looked around a few minutes later and noticed the room seemed empty. Jimmi and I headed downstairs and found our guests crowded around the tattoo artists just watching. People were actually getting tattoos! We couldn't believe it. My friend, Julie, came up to me and said, "He told me to come back at 10:30 to get my tattoo. They're almost full already." What? I walked over to Danny and said, "How's it going?" He looked shocked and said, "I'm starting a waiting list. I don't think we'll have time to do everyone who wants one." For real? Jimmi and I thought they'd be sitting around doing nothing down there and now they don't have time to finish? Wow! It was a hit! "Do you have time to squeeze Jimmi in?" I asked. Danny looked me in the eye, "We'll work around Jimmi. Have him sit down right now." I grabbed my husband and sat him in the chair. Then I watched with a grin and he had "9.3.11" squeezed into an empty spot on his wrist.
We headed back upstairs to try and eat and the band leader, Rob, who happened to be the drummer of the 80s band, Skid Row, stopped us. "You wanted us to play a lot of rock songs and we can't do it because all the younger people are downstairs. The only people left up here are the old people and they're not gonna dance. We've lost our crowd." It was kind of funny. We had to go downstairs and herd the crowd away from the tattoo artists so the band could have an audience.
Finally, the band started rocking and our guests were loving it. Everyone in the room sang along to "Livin' On a Prayer" and then laughed as "Jessie's Girl" turned into "Jimmi's Girl". Everyone was on the dance floor. The party was almost over when I reminded the band that Jimmi wanted to play the drums. The singer called him up and the crowd went crazy. He rocked out to "Girls, Girls, Girls" by Motley Crue, then Rob had him stay there and play "Rock n Roll All Nite" by Kiss. Our friends were screaming like it was a concert and I loved watching Jimmi's face beaming with excitement.
The energy continued, and the party could've gone all night, but it was getting late and our contract had an end time of 11:30 pm. Rob said, "We have time for one more. Do you want Journey or "Youth Gone Wild"? I didn't even have the think about it. "Youth Gone Wild!" I yelled. How could I not have the drummer of Skid Row end the night with a Skid Row song? It was amazing! I felt like it was 1989 again. He even climbed up on his drum throne at the end of the song and knocked over the cymbals. How many wedding bands do that? I loved it!
At last, the night came to an end. We said goodbye to the guests who weren't staying over and I helped my mom get the kids into their pajamas so she could bring them back to their dad's house. I changed back into my "Mrs. Kane" sweats and headed to the ballroom that was already being broken down by the waitstaff. I found Jimmi talking to his friend, Pat. "There's a lot of beer in our suite. Do you know how it got there?" I asked him. "Yeah, I had two cases sent up," he said. I had no idea we were hosting an after party!
We finally made it back to our room at 1:00 am. Jimmi changed and our friends found their way over. I couldn't believe I was still awake and feeling ok. I obviously wasn't able to drink anything but water, but that didn't bother me. We chilled out with our friends and Rob from the band just laughing and talking until 4:00 am. It was the perfect end to the perfect day.
And now I'm married. It's official! I don't have to worry about it anymore.
I made it!
I did it!
Nothing can stop me!