Monday, November 26, 2012


I always imagined my daughters would get married where they were raised. Here, in New England. I pictured elegant brides, photographed against a backdrop of stonewalls and apple trees and red barns and white colonials. There would be a trace of fireplace in the late fall air and we would gather at the quaint, white Congregational with the the high steeple and bells that actually ring on Sunday mornings. Who wouldn't get married here if they could?  What's not to love?

Courtney surprised me with the news of her engagement last May. We chatted about early details;  the date, big or small, and, finally, the location. They'd talked about it. She and John would be married where they met, where they worked, where their friends were and where John's family is - in Cleveland.

Apart from knowing where Courtney lived  and where I stayed when I visited, I didn't know Cleveland at all.  I couldn't picture a wedding there, much less could I picture how I would be present in the planning.    

Friends assured me that mothers and daughters manage wedding details from different locations all the time. But it only made me feel worse to know we would not manage those details together - details which make weddings a creation rather than a date on the calendar.  Now, she would visit florists,  pick music,  sample menus, visit cake designers and pick save the dates - alone. She would travel around from vendor to vendor, trying to pick the right thing, her decisions becoming burdens, her joy dissolving into stress and tears while I, here in New England, would be as helpful as a kindly neighbor at the mailbox:  "So dear, how are you doing out there, with the wedding?"

I moped. Until Courtney told me she wanted to buy her dress in Boston.

L'elite...where I became
a crying person
And so, last weekend, accompanied by her aunt Christine and maid-of-honor/sister Jacqueline, we went shopping.  Everyone said I'd be a wreck, tears, tears, tears. But I am not a crying person.  I am a Shirley MacLaine-making-the-nurses-give-her daughter-the-shot person. I  wanted her to find what she loved and not  be pressured into it by ambitious bridal consultants. I wanted her to be shown budget-appropriate selections and not dresses that were $10,000 too much with snide comments like "Darling, this is Newbury Street." I wanted nobody telling her something looked fabulous that only looked wrong. 

I was not teary. For this detail I was present and on task.

She came out of the dressing room with the first dress on and looked straight at me. 
"Lovely," said a consultant.
"So pretty," said another.
But Courtney didn't love it.
"What do you think?" she asked me.
"What do you think?" I answered.
"I think I'll move on," she told the consultant who shrugged agreeably.

The three of us waited, chatted, looked at the traffic on the street below,  talked about details she would need to handle and how we could help from this end and bachelorette parties and reception logistics and then the curtain opened and Courtney stepped out a second time.

I gasped, and covered my mouth. The dress was an creamy ivory classic with a gentle slope of a skirt that fell like a soft cloud at her feet.  It showed off her pretty curves and ebony hair and was layered with the kind of fine detail that made her look as though she'd been sprinkled with tiny diamonds.

For a surreal moment, she was not my twenty-six-year-old who had started the day in easy to change-out-of clothes and flats, but an older, more sophisticated person I'd never met.

But had pictured a million times.

"Top of the wedding cake," said her aunt. 
"Oh my God," said her sister.
Courtney stepped onto the pedestal and stared at her own image.
"Gorgeous," said the consultant, "just so gorgeous."
I walked to the pedestal and we looked into the mirror together.  
"What do you think?" she asked.
"I love it."
"I love it, too."

She went back into the dressing room, while I became a crying person.

Distance is painful for brides and mothers of brides, both. But thankfully, there is a shot for that. Today, I talked to Courtney about my wish to fly in monthly for planning visits. Would it be all right, I asked,  if I stay with her and John every so often? She was delighted.

Mothers and daughters do it all the time, coordinate weddings from a distance. They  call and e-mail and send links and photos and text little observations and thoughts along the way. They book flights and arrange planning visits and do what they must to be sure the experience is a shared one.

But they don't do it because they're apart. They do it because they are close.


  1. So, so honored to have been a part of this special day. You have and will continue to do this distance planning better than anyone!
    This was a great usual!

  2. Thank you CC. Having you there meant everything.