Today I met my friend Sumi for a cupcake tasting. She is getting married in September and probably invited me due mutual appreciation of all things dessert. The fact that I also got married nearly a year ago may have also had something to do with it. When people are planning these things, they usually need the support of someone who’s been through it all before. Sitting at Tiger Törtchen and going over the arrangement of cupcakes on tiers (meant to imitate the traditional multi-tiered wedding cake but in a playful, devil-may-care way), I was reminded of a couple of things. First, how incredibly hectic and stressful last summer’s months of planning were, and how everything seemed to take a back seat to each and every tiny detail I had yet to check off my long list. Second, how exciting it was to plan such a great big event, when I’ve hardly even bothered to throw myself a birthday party since my parents were planning my sleepovers. Third, how glad I am that I will never ever have to do it again.
The planning of it can be a fun sort of game, as you try to create your ultimate, perfect, dreamed-about-it since-kindergarten day, but as we learned from experience, even when you work together to plan everything perfectly, the one thing that is out of your control can turn it all upside-down. Whereas I’d like to pretend I have gotten over the absolute devastation and misery that was the weather that day – that whole weekend – I would be lying if I said that I was all grown up about it. Sure, it was one out of undoubtedly thousands of events that were ruined by the weather last summer – the rainiest summer on record in Germany, apparently – but while your kid will always have another birthday party and you can postpone that barbecue, a wedding only comes around once (you hope).
I still remember the feeling of despair as I awoke at 3 o’clock in the morning the day of the wedding to rain pounding on our roof. We had ordered a tent but it would not be enough and anyway was sort of an afterthought – we knew the whole thing was ruined. Over the next few hours, as I lay awake in bed and raged, raged against the dying of the sunlight, it became clear that there was nothing we could do. With over a hundred people invited, some having flown or trained or driven in from other countries, this was one outdoor barbecue we simply couldn’t cancel. There were tears, oh were there tears. At one point between the Standesamt ceremony and the church ceremony we went upstairs, locked the door to our bedroom, and simply cried together over the injustice of it all. We may have been saved only by a knock on the door from my dear friend Ashley, followed by a suggestion from my new sister-in-law that we get off our asses and start moving things indoors. Thank God we had a house big enough to accommodate that many guests…and with almost no furniture to boot.
The next few hours went by so quickly I barely remember them. I feel more than remember the pleasant shock of seeing so many people from so many different parts of my life altogether in the same room, all of them smiling at me and hugging me. I know that the church ceremony was at around 3pm, and that dinner started at 8pm, and that I probably went to sleep after midnight, but what I did in those nine or ten hours in between is a complete mystery to me. I know that there were grilled meats and an abundance of salads and then three desserts even before the wedding cake was ceremoniously cut. I remember feeling quite happy that our caterer, with whom we had fought over her escalating prices and diva-esque behavior only days before (note to all brides-to-be: it’s not a wedding unless you fight with your caterer over escalating prices and diva-esque behavior) had come through in the end with an absolutely decadent feast that many wedding guests would call some of the best food they had ever eaten. I was also incredulous but happy that around 110 people had successfully distributed themselves among ten tables set up in four rooms over two floors, and that my feisty 95-year-old grandfather had found himself a perch from which to reign over one of those tables. (Later on, many guests from several countries would ask after him in English and German, remarking that he was the star of the night—I was perfectly happy to let him be.) I remember waving the last of the guests off into the night and telling the stragglers they could stay up as long as they wanted and enjoy the leftover food and wine, and wearily but happily traipsing upstairs to bed.
When people ask me, sort of playfully if they know what went down, whether it was the “best day of my life,” I usually reply, “no, but the day after the wedding was.” I remember J waking me up to tell me that my parents had just arrived for breakfast—and the overwhelming sense of joy and contentment that here we were in this house in the middle of nowhere in the German countryside, and here was my beloved family showing up on our doorstep just as I was getting out of bed. I remember greedily digging into the leftovers and packing up brownies and cupcakes for the trip back to Berlin. I remember opening gifts (lovely that in Germany, people actually show up to the wedding with gifts instead of sending them), and being moved to tears by the care so many people had taken to give us the most beautiful and personal things. I remember blowing up heart-shaped balloons and throwing wrapping paper into the air, and piling up the loot like Christmas morning and thinking, “yeah, this is sort of the real reason people get married.” The rain had continued through the night and into the next day, and we had to clean up the house from the biggest party of our lives, but somehow the day after really was better than the day of.
A few months later, we sat down with two friends who are getting married next month (exactly one week after our first anniversary) to watch Father of the Bride Always a fan of this sweet movie as a kid, I could never have imagined how honest and prescient it would become. That first scene with the credits rolling and the champagne bubbles dancing up up up in the glass, a confetti and bottle-strewn mess of a living room, and Steve Martin in the middle of it, looking wry and sly, talking about how “you think it’s just a wedding” and “how bad could it be?” I might have ended up annoying my friend by leaning over to her every ten minutes for the duration of the film and whispering, “it’s all true” and “you have no idea how right he is!” The fact is, weddings can and sometimes do get out of hand. The big weather shocker in the movie is that it snows in California on the day of the wedding and “Fraahnk” (the Martin Short character) and his assistant have to get down on their hands and knees and defrost the flowers with hair dryers. It’s just a bit more romantic and movie-silly than relentless rain in northern Germany in summer. But watching Steve Martin sit there after the wedding, breathing a sigh of relief, smiling a knowing smile, and wondering only half seriously how he could have gotten sucked into the whole thing; that’s a feeling I know all too well. I look forward to many years of planning many weddings for many beloved friends, but I’m happy that mine is over. I’m also happy that, even though this summer’s storms are attempting to give last summer’s some serious competition, I can check the weather every morning, decide what shoes to wear and if I should take an umbrella, and leave the house in perfect confidence that if someone’s wedding is going to be rained out today, at least it won’t be mine.