I do not like surprises that involve people. Let me clarify. Presents wrapped under the Christmas tree are meant to be left alone until Christmas day. I like that surprise. Waiting for an elevator door to open and wondering whether a person will appear on the other side, I do not like that surprise. I anticipate someone so much so that when I am greeted by an actual human being, I usually end up shrieking in his unassuming face despite the fact that I repeated my mantra There might be a person. There might be a person. As a result, the time spent waiting for James to ask me to marry him was giving me much anxiety. Ravaging James' house until I found the ring was looking like the only option left available. Not romantic but then again the two of us are not that romantic.
Naturally, I am a civilized lady and did not end up resorting to that method of acquiring the shiny piece of jewelry. I waited out my last few days of girlfriend status like a champ by demanding friends and James to tell me when it was going to happen! James held strong. He must be planning something well thought out, I mused.
In fact, James did plan something well thought out and touching. He did not just execute it as such. On August 16, 2014, I was coaching a cross country meet during a heat wave in North Carolina. Needless to say, this girl was sweaty. After the meet, I was rushing over to the Rand Bryan House to meet James and check out the venue, which I learned about at the bridal show (Contrary to popular belief, I did manage to be productive at the bridal show rather than eat my face off the whole time!). Before arriving to the location, I got a text from a friend from high school who moved down to the Raleigh area too after college. It was a picture of her hand. Most people can safely assume that when receiving a picture of a hand, the sender can mean really only one of two things. 1.) I painted my nails. 2.) I am engaged. Please admire my ring. Since we were both not thirteen year old girls anymore, the latter makes the most sense. However, I teach deaf students by trade and am, therefore, used to looking at pictures of hands for a variety of reasons. I zoomed in to validate that she was indeed engaged and not just showing me some ASL hand-shape. She was wearing a ring! I was so excited! I told James right away, for we both love her and her fiancé. He was thrilled too.
After arriving to the Rand Bryan House, I pulled James aside while we were standing in the parking lot and suggested that we just say that we are engaged if the owners so inquire in order to avoid confusion, a lengthy explanation to our circumstance, or a pitying look conveying to me, "Oh honey, when will he ever propose?" James, getting all serious, stated that we didn't have to pretend anymore and began to crouch down to one knee. James had fooled me so many times into leading me to believe that he was proposing that I took his gesture as another prank. I began to walk away. Seeming defeated James called back that this was the real deal, producing a box to prove it.
Oh. Like right now. Here in this parking lot of a wedding venue that we might not even have our reception. When I am wearing running clothes and sweaty. Ok lets do this then.
And we did. As it turned out, James got too excited when he found out that our friends were engaged and renounced his plans of taking me to the airport observation deck under the moonlight and opted to do it right then and there. Just us. No surprises. Simple. In a parking lot. Of a wedding venue where in 10 months time we would have our reception. And it was perfect.
The Mecca of the Brides
We all love free stuff. Well, unless you genuinely enjoy flaunting your "straight cash, homie" every time the opportunity presents itself, you probably don't care for free giveaways that mere, peasant folk like me can sniff from miles away and tend to flock to in a shameless manner. For example, Sam's Club is a gold mine for frugal, money-hoarding cheapskates who would rather wander around the warehouse for over an hour plotting schemes on how to get seconds on the free samples than dole out 5-6 bucks on lunch at a fast food joint (Also Shout Out to Trader Joe's, job fairs for yourself, job fairs that you take your students to job/college orientations, random open houses for houses that you are totally uninterested in, the coaches' tent at track and cross country meets, the handouts before a 5K race-BTdubs don't need another water-bottle or extra-large shirt, the food spread after a 5K race, and free-donut day at church for all trying to live up to Sam's Club's expectations!). That being said, I was totally unaware of the Holy Grail of Free Stuff that I was about to encounter as I began my journey toward nuptial bliss. Bridal Shows.
Now that I was "engaged" (see previous blog to understand the quotation marks), I decided to take advantage of this opportunity to do some preliminary research on wedding venues. Laptop in hand, my scrutinizing endeavor to find the perfect place for the reception (Ohh emm gee!!) was now in the hands of Google. I typed. "Wedding + Venues". Hmmm…too broad. I tried again. "Raleigh Wedding Venues in a Barn That Have Plenty of Room for Outside Activities Like CornHole, Badminton, and KanJam And Maybe Have a Small Pool In Case Guests Get Hot". Too Specific. My unrealistic parameters for the Perfect Place were beginning to put a damper on this search. I was about to take a much needed break when my cell phone rang. The caller was my mom who announced that there was a bridal show to take place at the Fairgrounds and that I should go to get some ideas. My initial thought was the following: Oh gag me. I don't want to be trapped in a room with hundreds of people tantalizing me with products such as napkin calligraphy or an ice sculpture of the bride and groom when a.) I don't give two hoots about that crap and b.) I can barely survive the Guy In the Middle of the Mall trying to get me to buy some cream to make my skin stop aging without making awkward, unbreakable eye contact. How will I be able to outlast a multitude of those guys and ladies? Nevertheless, I agreed to my mother's suggestion.
The day finally arrived, and I was prepared if by prepared you mean I had a loose leaf sheet of paper with three questions scribbled on it. 1.) How much is your service? 2.) How many people does your venue hold? and 3.) Can you play corn hole at your venue? I must have really wanted to play corn hole. Prior to entering, I got a text from my friend who was already there. "It's $10 to get in", it read. ABSOLUTELY NOT! LIKE HELL I AM GOING TO PAY THAT TO GET IN. HOW DARE THEY CHARGE ME TO GET IN AND THEN CHARGE ME SOME MORE TO BUY THEIR PRODUCTS. After realizing that ranting to myself about a measly $10 fee would not get the Bridal Gods to change their minds, I stubbornly debated to myself about whether or not I should go in. I called my mom.
Me: "I'm not going in."
Mom: "You're going in."
That settled I timidly made my way into what was soon to be an Intimidation Zone. Of course, I was right. Upon entering, there were hundreds of vendors with their displays all waiting to lure in their next unfortunate prey. There were high-heeled Brides To Be rattling off orders to their posse as if they were all about to embark on some sort of covert military operation. "Stacey, you're on flowers. Jill, you look for a photographer that is within my budget. She must be cute and chic but, like, not too cute and chic that she is more cute and chic than me, ammiright? Hehe. Megs, find me those adorable mason jars with the monogrammed initials. Socute. Clarie, my maid of honor, you and I are going to look for THE DRESS!!!!! Woooooooo. One-two-three. Break."
Frozen into place, I did not know where to turn until, alas, something caught my eye. Little lines of people were forming throughout the show. What could these people be gathering to see? I wondered. Lo and behold, these people were walking away with plates, napkins, and cups full of FOOD! What was once a war zone had become the Sam's Club of all Sam's Club. My legs couldn't move fast enough to get into these queues. There were cheese trays, cupcakes, cake pieces, ice-cream samples, meats upon meats, bruschetta, dainty little chocolates, teeny flavored mints, popcorn, and all kinds of treats. Ohhh but wait there was more. The drink lines. There were wine samples, mimosas, lemonade cups, and many other quenchers. Ohhhh but wait there was more. SWAG. Coupons, binders, free pictures at the photo booth, massages, magnets, bags, light-up glow rings, a garter that now I didn't have to buy, and at one bridal show a 2-night stay at a resort in Sedona.
I left there with a full belly and bags of stuff in both hands. Needless to say, that was worth it. In fact, I went back the next day and later researched upcoming bridal shows in the area. That search turned out well for me. Oh and P.S. I did end up finding a venue that allowed people to play corn hole but more on that next time.
A prior engagement
According to some article that pops up on my FB and distracts me at all the wrong times, I only display two signs out of twenty of being a stereotypical, basic white girl (I need songs like the Wobble and Cupid Shuffle to explicitly tell me how to dance because I CAN'T, and well who doesn't love brunch?). Normally, I would dismiss this list as another technique of our society to attach labels to people and categorize them in ways that could potentially damage their tender self-esteem; however, as a 25-year old woman who is married to a black man, I am always searching for areas to boost my street-cred and scoring such a low score on this quiz was a proud moment in my life. Contracting to that personal success, I did a major 180 when I proposed the idea of writing a blog (very basic) about, yes, weddings (100% basic). Nonetheless, I wish to share my wedding story with you.
The first step to getting married is having someone who wants to marry you and says, "yes" when you ask or who asks you. But lets back up a bit, I know there are ladies out there whose Pinterests pages are full of wedding dresses and rustic barns and mason jars aglow and that "perfect" ring designed, and these women are single or waiting for "Quincy from the football team" (shout out @kbnoswag!) to finally propose already. These women are winning. They are prepared. They will know what they are doing when the time comes. I, on the other hand, was 100% not ready.
The most I thought about getting engaged and planning my wedding was when I had a fantasy in high school about my fictional fiancé proposing to me in the middle of MetLife Stadium home of the New York Jets while the real life Ed McCain belted out "I'll Be" as beautiful doves were released into the sky, and the Jets took home a victory. This dream was quickly dashed as I grew older and ascertained that I really despise large groups of people staring at me, most birds and the noises they make creep me out, and the Jets rarely win when it actually matters. Although "I'll Be" will forever be the jam, thoughts about weddings and proposals were basically nonexistent up until the moment when I didn't get engaged, but for some reason my parents thought that I did.
Back in the summer of July of 2014, my family along with James took a trip to the Jersey shore. As the seagulls were crapping all over everyone's heads and hypodermic needles were being washed ashore, James approached me very nervously and whispered that he was going to ask my mom for my hand in marriage. He then proceeded to walk over to my mom and ask for my hand in marriage. From afar, I witnessed his asking my mom for my hand in marriage. A short while later, my mom drew near and muttered that James had asked for my hand in marriage. A few days later, before James had had the chance to corner my dad alone, which said boyfriend kept me updated on, my father got into the car with both of us in it. By both of us, I mean that I was in the car with James. Keep in mind, that I am present in the car! My dad then started asking James if the rumors of James' wanting my hand in marriage were true and then with a big grin congratulated the both of us and shook James' hand.
Now, I am no expert nor do I claim to be, but I am pretty sure that, none of that, was supposed to happen in that particular fashion. In fact, I am fairly certain that the person doing the proposing, the family, and all of those involved make their best effort to keep the engagement a secret until it actually happens. However, not my family and, thus, that is how the wedding planning started prior to my even being engaged.
Photo used under Creative Commons from does_not_travel_often