April 17, 2009.
I hadn’t been sleeping well. I had been sleepy at work. In bed by ten thirty and awake at five. My procrastination had gotten the best of me and the things I was responsible for at my own wedding I lackadaisically pushed into the final two weeks where even Natalie had faith I would have them done… she just wondered how.
She had left for Orlando three days earlier. Part of the plan is that she would be there having taken everything for the wedding with her, including The Book, an overstuffed green three-ring binder that had accompanied her pretty much everywhere for the past fourteen months. On occasion, she would have me take a picture of something with my cell phone so she wouldn’t forget and then notes would be scribbled in The Book. If the end times came before Saturday at 6:00p future civilizations could recover The Book and know, in theory, exactly what our wedding would have been like. The things I needed to bring were stacked by the front door so I wouldn’t forget. One day to go and I am still not a hundred percent sure how we’re going to do the music for the cocktail reception. I am 97% sure but ninety-seven will tell you it’s not one hundred.
I wake up and I start cleaning the house. Not In-Law clean but just clean enough to satisfy my OCD and in the event I die in a fiery crash on I-4, my mother won’t be saddled with the burden that her son is not only dead, but also a disgusting swine. I do laundry. I take out the trash. I vacuum. I tidy. At 9:00a I drive to the barber shop next to the Blockbuster and pay for my first haircut in twenty years. I want to get this right. I can’t have a spot I missed on the back of my head as I am prone to do when I am in a hurry. At the barbershop I am the first one there and a polite tattooed/ponytailed man in his forties trims me up. I haven’t cut my hair or shaved in three weeks (which gives me the facial hair of an unkempt fifteen year old rather than a man leaving his thirties). I ask if he does shaves and he explains almost no one does that anymore.
Thank you, Gilette and your five-bladed disposable blades.
I go home and take a shower and realize I am running late. I call Natalie to tell her I am leaving. Is there anything else she needs me to bring being that she’s planned this wedding with an accuracy and foresight that George Armstrong Custer wished he had. Rings, cake toppers, marriage license, ceremonial candle, picture frames, wedding favors, wedding party gifts, pens, cameras, memory cards, checklists. She tells me, “no,” and I tell her I am on my way.
I get four blocks from the house and realize I left my tuxedo draped over the couch in the living room… where I wouldn’t forget it.
Twenty minutes later I am at my brother Bobby’s house. We all pile into my truck. I throw luggage on top of various audio equipment from favors I called in. The plan is I ride back with Natalie after the honeymoon. My family drives my truck home with whatever gifts people have generously bestowed onto us. I assure my brother none of this equipment is coming back with us so the truck will be mostly empty except for their things.
We drive to Orlando. Two weeks later I will receive a picture of my car running through two toll stations and a request from the Florida Department of Transportation for $1.50.
We get to the hotel. Twenty minutes later Tony and Yuri, my groomsmen, show up. We meet my family in the hallway to go to the rehearsal. Bobby has jeans on. Alex is in shorts. I ask if that is what he’s wearing and he asks why and I tell him Natalie gave me specific instructions not to wear jeans or shorts to the rehearsal.
“Well, she didn’t tell me,” Bobby replies.
Rehearsals are good things. We run it through once, hammer out the kinks. People throw out their ideas and we do it again. As Stephanie, The Officiant, reads her lines, Natalie and I make faces at each other trying to make the other one laugh. This goes on for an hour and then we go to TGIFridays and I pay for the largest dinner tab I have ever gotten in my life. Natalie reminds me not to tip on a party of twenty because they already did that. Making sure I properly tip is one of her many functions. Not that I am cheap (which I am) but my mother was a waitress so I reward good service… it’s just that I hate math and tend to just make up numbers.
There is an hour break and then we round up in the lobby for a field trip to Colonial Lanes, a bowling alley with a… wait for it… karaoke bar in it! Again, I am running slightly late. My phone is ringing and Natalie is wanting to know where I am as I walk in the door behind Heidi and Crystal. In the corner of my eye I can see my friend Jessica and her husband Mike from Indiana between the hugs Heidi gives out for any reason she can find. I walk forty feet through the lobby which is a Who’s Who of people from various points in my life and tomorrow there will only be more. Jessica was literally the first person I met when I moved to Florida from Pennsylvania when I was fifteen. I didn’t go to her wedding because 1) I was twenty and couldn’t afford a ticket and 2) she was getting married and I wouldn’t really see her and 3) seriously, on your wedding day, your mother could not show and you’d be lucky to notice and 4) she lives in Indiana which isn’t like “hey, wedding in Florida!” and mostly 5) wedding aren’t my thing.
We start pushing people into cars with total strangers to get everyone there. I ride with Natalie’s sister Adrienne and her friends Debbie and Andrew from Seattle, who, when together, form some kind of giggle vortex between the two of them. Some people are referred to as the “life of a party.” Well that party is five foot mobile radius around Debbie, which often envelopes her husband Andrew.
The bar in Colonial Lanes is a very dark, very loud bar. My first impression is, “Where the hell has Natalie brought us?” It takes a few minutes for people to get acclimated and soon they start commandeering tables and as soon as we figure how the bar works, I see people returning with iced buckets of beer. My mother is there and the sight of my mother in a bar is just weird. Just football bat weird. Every now and again someone leaves the table and some random dude saddles up next to her probably just for a place to sit but just to be safe, I wander back over and make sure someone is with her. I see Natalie’s aunt and grandparents arrive. From what I have been told her grandparents like to be part of the action. Her father, Bruce, told them this was for the young people and they were better off not going but they insisted.
In the twenty minutes it would take her father to get home after dropping them off, he’d come home to a phone call requesting an immediate extraction.
The night is fairly blurry to me. I spent most of the time with Jessica and Mike because the point of the night was to spend time with those who came distances you know you won’t get face time with tomorrow. On occasion I make sure nobody is putting stuff in my mom’s drinks. I stand in the back of a room while Natalie sings her drunken rendition of Salt N Pepa’s “Whatta Man” to me and witness Yuri Scala’s even-drunker performance of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” (now with Venezuelan accent!) I learned that an entire crowd of people who have never met will butcher the hell out of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Crystal, when unleashed in a bar, will make friends with everybody and have take pictures with people she doesn’t know (including a girl wearing two very long pigtails and goggles on her head and oddly resembled Jar Jar Binks).
Crystal really should be the goodwill ambassador to something. We need more foreign dignitaries discussing world events over a game of Presidents and Assholes.
At eleven forty five I round up my family and we head out. I am tired but this is mostly because Natalie really doesn’t want me to see her on our wedding day before she is wearing her dress. I oblige. Two weeks later she tells me she’s surprised we left so early and never remembers the conversation.
We get back to the hotel and Tony, while scouting for food, finds Danielle in the lobby looking for a nightcap while my brother is working out in the gym (slightly after midnight). Yuri comments my brother did more exercising in the thirty seconds we watched him that he’ll do this year. We meet them by the pool and talk until a little after 2:00a when we turn in.
After all… I am getting married in the morning.