With some of the most important wedding guests delayed on a bus (the kids!), a local mom, about to remarry, felt lost. But their arrival turned things around, and made a magical day into a real “family wedding.”
The bus carrying our wedding party and most of our guests was an hour late getting to our house, the spot we’d chosen for the ceremony and reception. Eric and I waited. Today, after three years of dating, we were getting married, joining our hearts, homes -- and five children -- Johnny, Jamie, Olivia, Sophia and Luke, ages 4 to 10. Our little quintet would be our wedding party. And they too were stuck on the bus.
The children had been excited since our engagement five months before, wondering where we’d go on our honeymoon. After the announcement, we all moved into the historic Henry Finch house circa 1842, Eric and I having passed on purchasing one of the cookie-cutter colonials that had closets and updated plumbing. The Finch House had character: thick moldings, a Harry Potter closet under the stairs, and four chimneys to give Santa options. All this and our own slice of the Saugatuck River, which cut through our backyard, where there was now an arbor, rows of wooden white chairs, and a piano set up for the ceremony, which was supposed to start an hour ago.
With the children at the hotel last night, I’d imagined a leisurely morning, a long hot shower, a chance to comb my hair. Instead, I was a sack of mud up until noon. Eric and I moved the trampoline, in the drizzle, to the neighbor’s yard, and while Eric fixed the party tent that had blown down in last night’s storm, I drove Lemon, our oversized Brittany Spaniel, to Dog Gone Smart, the pet hotel, since he gets hyper around a host of people. Lemon was short a shot (required for admission), so I’d raced him to the vet and waited an hour for Dr. Noonan to immunize him.
Eventually I did get dressed. I wore a fitted ivory gown, nipped at the waist. The gown held every inch of me in except for my calves, where the dress flared, producing, what I felt now, was the look of a mermaid, not the look of an hourglass, as my mother had convinced me in the bridal shop. I’d curled my long blonde hair, normally straight as uncooked spaghetti. I put on pink lipstick. Then felt I had to jazz it up somehow. I tried the false eyelashes, ultimately flushing them down the toilet in frustration. Other than those lashes, I did not fuss much. I had no time. Until now. As I waited for the bus.
I stood at the kitchen window in the mermaid gown. The servers flew in and out the screen door, keeping the salmon crepes warm, moving everything into a second kitchen they’d set up in the garage. I took a small sip of scotch. Straight from the bottle.
Clearly at some point in the wee hours I’d fallen through the rabbit hole and like Alice, woke in a nonsensical place with strange characters that surrounded me now. The Justice of the Peace, a top-heavy middle-aged woman who I had a bad feeling about from the start but who was available on this date, paced in the living room, tapping her silver wristwatch. The DJ, a substitute for the man I hired, blew by me. “Everything’s cool,” he said, positioning his ponytail.
I was a spectator in my own home and I did not fight it. My sister-in-law, a woman who can manage twelve tasks at once, breezed by holding organza bows and a hammer. “You look beautiful Marcelle,” she said. Antonio, the cook, passed by -- “Bellisimo Marcello” he said, blowing me a kiss and waving the carving knife he’d finally found. I laughed out loud, feeling sillier by the minute in the gown. I took another small swig and considered changing into my jeans.
Out back, the river swelled with rain and the September air swooned with the smell of butterfly bushes, penne pasta sauce, and a hint of hornet spray. Several dozen of our local guests sipped blue martinis in the backyard, under the fixed white tent whose tiered tips poked into the late afternoon sky.
At last, a wheeze.
The Lakeside bus pulled up along the fence, taking up half the street, stopping cars in both directions. The people in paused cars watched my beautiful children, wrinkled, but finely dressed, race in the front door.
“Mommy! Your hair is excited!” Johnny, just 4, said, his hand in the pocket of his pinstripe sear-sucker jacket, his light blue tie touching his belt buckle. He was referring, I think, to the curls in my hair. “I ate 12 Twizzlers and two gobstoppers on the bus,” he said, passing me a purple jawbreaker he’d held the entire ride, which now made a lavender stain on his palm. I popped it in my mouth.
The girls swooned around me like bees to a petal. “Mommy, you’re a fairy queen,” Olivia said, touching a thin line of beads at the waist of my dress. My eyes dropped to Sophia and Olivia, ages 9 and 8, and my step-daughter Jamie, just 7, in mismatched white dresses they’d chosen from the sale rack at the Lollipop Guild. Just last night, they’d tried the dresses on again. Dancing debutantes, spinning in front of the full-length mirror in my bedroom, skirts blooming. “It’s hard to believe I’ll love you even more tomorrow than I do right this minute,” I’d said to them.
The guests filed into the folding chairs and Leonard Bernstein’s “Make our Garden Grow” played through the speakers, the notes gently pulling Eric and his little best man, Luke, my stepson, age 10, beside him.
They walked down the makeshift grassy aisle, in matching blue blazers, a slice of sun catching the silver in Eric’s hair. I remembered that first date at the SoHo Grande, two hearts winking tears, lips in a kiss under a plaid umbrella. He was the good guy in every movie I’d ever seen. The one the Hollywood starlets wished they’d chosen once the bad boys broke their heart. He was mine now. Always would be.
Jamie entered stage left, herclick-clack shoes tinkling the slate pathway, tiara tucked into a blonde bun. Awestruck by the crowd that now filled the chairs, she forgot to drop even one of the silk flower petals from the white woven basket, though for weeks she’d practiced throwing big bunches at a time. Johnny, my youngest, the tiny ring bearer, followed close behind, steadying the ring on the small pillow I’d stitched from the plaid flannel robe my father wore for at least 30 of his short 56 years.
My maids of honor, Sophia and Olivia came next, holding hands, their long dark hair, secured with faux diamond clips, scrolled down their backs. The children surrounded Eric at the arbor. I took them all in, considered my life in that instant, not precisely what I had planned, but perfectly imperfect.
My brother, who’d be my stand-in father today, walked me down the aisle, and placed me before Eric like a teacup. Eric and I said our vows to each other, then to the children. Eric’s family, veterans of the theater, performed our wedding song and my nieces read Jack Prelutsky poems. My father–in-law Ed, a man who saved Shakespeare in a small Vermont village, read Sonnet 116, something he’d done at every Feidner Family wedding for decades. The Justice of the Peace raced through the family medallion portion of the ceremony, and the exchange of the rings. She had another service to perform for which she was already late.
We are married almost three years now, and we celebrate our anniversary family style. “The day we all got married,” Johnny, our youngest, a ripe young man of 7, likes to say.
Marcelle Soviero is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in "The New York Times" and Salon.com. Born and raised in Huntington, Long Island, she lives in Connecticut with her husband and five children, a happily blended family unit.
For more advice for blended families, Nicholas Strouse, director of Westport Family Counseling, offers some stepparent survival skills.