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Stephanie Wilbur Ash
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By Real Brides-to-Be
A Premarital Valentine's Day
By: | Posted: 02/20/2013
I am my mother's daughter, which is a good thing if you ask me. Talk to my father, though, and you might get a different opinion. Let's just say that life in a house with two strong-willed women couldn't have been easy for him! Even though we may not bear physical resemblance to one another (my mom is 5'6" to my 6" and her beautiful brown eyes are a stark contrast to my steely grey ones), our personalities couldn't be more similar. If I had to guess, it's a classic case of nurture over nature.
Growing up, I remember spending nearly every Saturday with my mom. It was our day. They typically started with some kind of sports practice (gymnastics, swimming, and then basketball when I got older) followed by lunch out and a little window-shopping. I'm not sure my mom knew when she started our little ritual just how big an impact it would have on our relationship. Now that I'm an adult, our Saturday routine has given way to annual girls' vacations (Las Vegas, Florida, New York City, Caribbean cruises, to name a few). Every trip reminds me of how special our relationship is (and how thankful I am that Kevin doesn't snore).
Don't get me wrong; it isn't all sunshine and kitties because both my mom and I lean a bit toward the stubborn end of the spectrum. We've certainly had our blow-ups (like the time I was grounded over homecoming), but we've also made a lot of great memories along the way. Right now, I'm certain she's remembering us in a fitting room trying to figure out how a dress, which turned out to be a bizarre-shaped skirt, was supposed to fit. Oh, we laughed so hard we cried, which happens frequently when we're together.
Once Kevin and I decided to get married, I couldn't wait to tell my mom. But, we wanted to tell our parents in person around the same time, which was a challenge since our parents live in St. Louis. So, I waited, and I waited. Although it was only a few weeks before our parents' visited, it seemed like forever—especially since my mom and I talk almost daily.
I wanted to come up with a special way to share the good news. I figured I owed it to my mom to make it memorable because I'm pretty sure she had accepted that her daughter would forever be a spinster. It just happened that we were belatedly celebrating my parents' birthdays, so as a final gift, I had wrapped a up a copy of Martha Stewart Weddings.
Her reaction was priceless. She immediately started to cry but quickly responded in the most serious of tones (like when she used my middle name as a child), "This better not be a joke." Given my past flirtations with humor (at one point, she was convinced her honors student had mooned the senior class thanks to some crafty note-writing by a couple of my favorite teachers), I suppose her reaction was justified.
Once I shared a few concrete details, she was convinced I was for real. From there, we did what we do best: started planning. As Kevin (and I'm sure my dad) would tell you, my mom and I are planners down to the nitty, gritty detail. I distinctly remember binders from family vacations filled with a sheet for every day of the trip. Each sheet contained our route, the total milage to be driven, estimated expenses broken down into line items and a column in which to write the actual expenses. Microsoft Excel didn't have a thing on my mom's system.
It seemed only natural, then, to implement something similar to my mom's system when it came time to plan a wedding. After all, our destination wedding in South Lake Tahoe bears striking resemblance to a family vacation. And thus, the Wedding Spreadsheet has emerged. Part tribute to my mom's vacation binders and part tribute to my fiance's obsession with all things Excel, the Wedding Spreadsheet is a work of mathematical art with myriad tabs, rows, columns, and even a pivot table or two (don't ask me!).
Planning a wedding with my mom has been an amazing experience—from lucking into the dress of my dreams to sampling a number of desserts you couldn't pay me to finish eating. Oh, there have been tears and raised voices (I'm pretty certain we haven't hung up one another yet), and I'm certain there will be more tense moments (she still has to purchase a mother-of-the-bride ensemble). But mostly, we've reveled in laughing at all the ridiculousness that wedding planning entails.
Through it all, she's been supportive of my choices (yes, even the rhino theme) and eager to lend a hand to help me save money. I even think the Wedding Spreadsheet makes her gush with pride knowing I picked up a thing or two on those family vacations. What she may not realize is that I learned one of my most important life lessons during those countless journeys in the family truckster: You can't be so wedded to the plan that you are incapable of enjoying the surprises life throws at you along the way.
I am certain there's no way I can perfectly plan and execute every detail of a five-day trip to Lake Tahoe for more than a dozen people. No one could. Things will go wrong and mistakes will be made, but many of my best memories resulted from the moments when life took an unexpected turn. And, if all else fails, at least I have my mom to fall back on. Oh, and there will be plenty of cake. Or at least, I planned for there to be plenty of cake.
Carly is manager, Social Media and Audience Engagement at MSP-C. See her engagement story.
Vanessa is creative director and co-founder at Bow & Arrow Magazine. See her engagement story.
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