Two weekends ago, my now-husband and I packed what seemed like a million suitcases (no, seriously, we exhausted our ample supply of luggage) and headed to South Lake Tahoe for our wedding.
We arrived safely at the airport, checked four gargantuan bags weighing 49.5 pounds each and headed to security with two carry-on roller bags, a very poofy wedding dress, and Pokey the rhino in tow. I should have known after deftly maneuvering through TSA’s screenings that things were going far too smoothly.
Our lovely Delta flight crew found a place in the first class closet for my dress (whew!) even though we’d be flying Coach, and three hours later we landed in Sacramento to find a gorgeous, sunny California day.
We picked up our silver minivan (who needs black car service when you can rent a Toyota Sienna?) and headed to purchase groceries and alcohol—three carts full, to be exact. Fully loaded, Kevin and I meandered through the El Dorado National Forest in our Sienna on our way to the nine-bedroom ski chateau we rented for the festivities. The drive was nothing short of serene, and the chateau was just as breathtaking and expansive as I remembered (it had secret stairways like the ones in Clue).
And then, the wheels came off the bus, as they say. Guests wound up stranded overnight in San Francisco and Phoenix due to missed connections. Early Thursday morning we were visited by a bear—an actual, living, breathing, eat-you-for-dinner bear—who strolled across the very front porch where we’d planned to have the ceremony. High winds moved in late Friday, closing the gondola we’d planned to take up to the Heavenly Ski Resort for group photos.
We woke up Saturday morning to a downpour in a destination that barely averages a half-inch of rain the entire month of September. My photographer—a dear friend from here in Minneapolis—gingerly asked about my contingency plan. What contingency plan? It never rains in South Lake Tahoe! I had no contingency plan. Kevin and I had spent hours scouring historic weather data, climate reports and the like to make sure we didn’t need a contingency plan.
Yet, everything turned out fabulously. Our friends and family were rock stars. My parents, who could pass as event-planning professionals, rushed to my rescue. Under their expert guidance, everyone pitched in to turn the living room of our chateau into a gorgeous ceremony space, with the two-story stone fireplace serving as the altar. My maid of honor and photographer outdid themselves on my hair and makeup, transforming a girl whose daily routine consists of Chapstick and a spritz of hairspray into a princess. And, my dad stepped in admirably with a pair of pliers after we broke the zipper pull off my dress while getting ready before the ceremony.
Photo by Leslie Plesser
Looking back, very little went according to plan. My beloved “Day of Wedding” spreadsheet detailing the day’s events in 10-minute intervals was quickly cast aside as Mother Nature exacted her revenge. My own mother quietly reminded me that it’s good luck to have rain on your wedding day, and I put on a brave face amid the craziness.
In the end, I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful ceremony. Walking down the aisle with my dad next to me was unforgettable. Our friend Sean, who officiated, turned out to be a natural. Kevin’s vows were so touching they made my heart stop (but my expertly applied makeup stayed put—thanks, ladies!).
Afterward, Mother Nature offered up about 10 rain-free minutes for outside pictures, and we used every second to trek through the woods, climb rocks and take advantage of all the gorgeous scenery within 100 feet of the chateau. The shores of Lake Tahoe will just have to wait for our return trip.
When Kevin and I got back to the chateau, our family and friends had transformed the massive foyer into a reception venue, complete with gorgeous décor and a fabulous display table for our wedding cakes. Sitting there listening to our friends’ toasts, noshing on the most amazing chicken piccata I’ve ever tasted (how often can you say that about wedding food?), I realized just how blessed Kevin and I are.
My wedding didn’t turn out anything like the day I had spent the past year planning. It was better.