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When Tony and I were torn between getting married this summer or next, my Maid of Honor Katierose had the brilliant idea that we throw an engagement party this year, and the wedding next. My dad’s response? “It sounds like you’re asking me to pay for two weddings.”

That is exactly what happened. For all intents and purposes, we just had a wedding (except for, you know, the getting married part). We called it an engagement party, though.

In the heat of a recent wedding “discussion,” my mom said about our wedding: “This isn’t about you.” And at our engagement party, in the best way possible, she was right: It was about all the people we love. When we first started planning the party, my dad thought perhaps one or two of his and my moms’ friends would travel down from northern CA; nearly 50 did, most of whom have known me since I was a baby.

{Two of my parents’ best friends, with Katierose’s boyfriend Matt.}

{More lifelong friends, with Tony’s mom Nancy.}

{More friends. The surprise guest in the middle is a long story. More on that later.}

{My mom made all her friends strut down the patio staircase with her, Scarlett O’Hara-style.}

My grandma came, and just writing that makes me cry again. She’d had the hardest few weeks leading up to the party that would wipe anyone out, and she still came. My Uncle Rolf drove her down and she got to see our house for the first time and stay with us, have her first vacation in years. It breaks my heart that my grandpa couldn’t be there, but he certainly was in spirit, and my grandma was the guest of honor. One of the most special parts of the night was seeing how many of my friends took the time to sit down with her and chat, treating her like the bell of the ball she was.

{Grandma & Mom at the engagement party.}

{3 generations}

Tony’s sweet, wonderful mom Nancy flew in all the way from Washington D.C., with her chihuahua Astro Boy in tow. His brother/doppelganger Nick came in from Colorado, taking time off from the very busy business he owns and his generous wife holding down the fort with their two kids at home so he could be there. It was the first time either of them had ever met my family, and they both worked so hard to make it out so that could happen.

{Mom & Nancy in our backyard.}

{Tony & Nick at the engagement party.}

{Tony, his sweet mama & her grandfurbabies who love her so much.}

My childhood best friend and Matron of Honor Jacquelyn, whom I’ve known since I was two and is like a sister to me (my dad officiated her wedding!), drove 7 hours to be at the party. Despite having just moved across the country. With an infant at home. Tony’s best friend Rob took leave from INTAC (Individual Counter Terrorism Awareness Course, heavy duty military obligations) to fly in from back east. His other best bud and college roommate, also Rob, took time off work to fly out with his girlfriend from Washington D.C. Another of my childhood besties/bridesmaid Alison, and her fiancé,́ re-arranged their shifts (they’re fancy doctors) to travel in from out of town. My bridesmaid Barbara had her husband stay home with their newborn so she could come, and spent the night taking pictures because she knew I would be too busy to. Julia, another bridesmaid, made sure her husband could take leave from his job in the military so they could travel in. My bridesmaid Michelle told her boss she couldn’t travel for work that weekend. My aunt and uncle flew in from Texas. Heck, my Grandpa’s 90-year-old best friend RSVP’d yes +2, and up until a health issue a few days prior to the party, was planning to drive down from the bay area.

{Aunt Lynn & Uncle Paul, out from Texas!}

{Tony & Barbara}

{Me & Katierose}

{Tony, the Robs & Christine.}

I could write a novel, describing why each and every person who showed up was meaningful. It was the most overwhelming, incredible feeling, to have so many loved ones together, there for us. That, most of all, was what made it feel like a wedding.

{Grandma & her son-in-law, Uncle Rolf.}

It also felt like a wedding because of the grand scale of the whole thing; in the early stages of planning, my mom said, “I want something spectacular to happen. I don’t know what. Something that will make it so no one ever forgets this party.” The fear of letting her down on this one was the motivation driving most of Tony and my decisions. So, instead of an engagement party, it turned into an engagement party weekend.

{Teaching my mom duckface, so she’d be ready for all the party photo ops.}

I kicked it off by forcing Tony to accompany me to the Flower Mart in downtown L.A the Friday before the party. I had the brilliant idea that buying flowers wholesale, and then arranging them ourselves in these cute blue mason jars I bought at Michael’s, would not only save us tons of hot cash that we could spend on more important things (like, sushi or shipping anemones in from South Africa for our August wedding). I was CORRECT. We got 16 dozen roses for $50. (That’s right. 192 roses for $50.) We spent a total of $85 on flowers for the party. Hot tip: Go toward closing. We did this because I have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning and out the door, so this was the soonest we could get there; but, because we were so late, we were getting 50% off deals from vendors who simply wanted to unload their inventory before leaving. We scored.

{Flower mart}

I also thought I’d save us loads of dough and channel my inner Blake Lively/Martha Stewart/Cupcakes and Cashmere by making our party favors from scratch. I’d seen these adorable “make your own s’mores” kits on Pinterest and, seeing as that is a dessert synonymous with Tahoe and also my mom’s favorite treat, decided that was the way to go. I ordered these adorable wooden tags on Amazon, used the calligraphy pens I’d purchased to DIY our invites, and enslaved Tony to string ribbons in our wedding colors through them. This alone took hours, and luckily he did it while watching a marathon of Arnold Schwarzenegger movies the weekend before. All we had left to do was put the s’mores together and tie ‘em up! Easy peasy.

{Tags: DONE!}

So, Saturday I put together a quaint little sweat shop. My parents had driven 7 hours the day before with their two enormous (obese) dogs, so they were well-rested and ready to work by 8am! The assembly line of s’more bag-stuffing went efficiently until noon, when we took a break to meet Tony’s mom and brother. Luckily, they are good-hearted people who didn’t mind that we were mostly in sweatpants and had not yet bathed or taken a break to eat. There was work to be done, and they joined in and had s’more fun stuffing favor bags while getting to know each other!

{Only 160 left to go!}

When work like that is so fun, the day really flies by. Suddenly, the sun was going down and it was time to put the s’mores down, take a quick shower and rush over to the Dark Room, where we were hosting passed appetizers, wine, beer and cocktails for the out of town guests before heading over to Tony’s Groundlings show.

{Halfway done!}

Side note: When you’re in WEDDING MODE, nothing can phase you. Not even when the private area you’ve reserved has strangers sitting in half the booths, only two bottles of wine are chilled, no food is ready, and you, your family/servants and your Maid of Honor/servant end up helping pour wine and drinks until your dad mutters to someone who appears to be in charge, “Just keep bringing food and wine it doesn’t matter if we order it or not please just keep bringing it until we are gone I don’t care what it costs just bring FOOD please. Please!” This does the trick!

I also discovered that night that WEDDING MODE is an effective diet. You are simply too busy to eat; you allow yourself to lie once and say you’re going to the bathroom so you can shamefully shovel a piece of pizza into your face in the corner, and eat a cupcake while you’re walking across the street. You don’t need food anyway, your body is eating it’s own anxiety and adrenaline!

Tony’s Groundlings show was incredible. The director came out at one point and asked the audience who was there to see Tony; more than half the theater raised their hands. Most of them had never been to a comedy show before. The director also cheekily mentioned they were taking bets backstage to see if everyone would laugh because they loved Tony, or hold back their laughter in judgement to see if he was good enough for their little Annie. Luckily, it was the former. My dad and I were both grateful none of his sketches featured him taking his clothes off, one of his favorite character choices.

After the show, it was time to rest up for another day of labor. My bridesmaid Ali mentioned they were having a pool party at the W Hotel the next day, before the engagement party, but there was no time for shenanigans like relaxing with loved ones who traveled so far to see us! There were flowers to be put in jars, engagement photos to be printed and put in frames (that still needed to be purchased for God’s sake, Tony!), the menu needed to be hand-drawn… And we still had to finish shoving those f*****g s’mores in their G*****n bags. GET BACK IN WEDDING MODE.

{Get back to work, Dad!}

Sunday, we got up at 7am to get s**t done. My dad and I were on s’mores, Tony was on photos and frames, my mom was on flowers. We took a break to inhale some food. I moved on to menu design while everyone else finished their tasks. Rob and Nick helped Tony stuff frames. When we got an email from the restaurant that their iPod (which they use to project movies onto the wall on the patio), wasn’t working, Tony’s other Rob downloaded movies for us and went by the restaurant to test it.

{Mom, rebelling about 2 hours before the party.}

{Tony & Nick, resigned.}

We got ready feverishly! Everyone but my dad left without me because 1) I took too long to get ready and 2) everyone was sick of hearing my voice barking orders! We arrived at Wood & Vine in Hollywood with 20 minutes to set up, and luckily the restaurant staff was waiting outside for us, ready to unload our cars and help. (*If you ever need to throw a party and want it to run smoothly, go to Wood & Vine. They are on it. I love that place so very much.)

{Rushing to finish. Day 3 in those pajama pants.}

We threw the mason jars full of the flowers my mom had spent 8 hours trimming the thorns, leaves and dead petals off of (there was a reason they were $50!) and arranging out on the tables, assembled our framed engagement photos and set up a display at the front with our families’ wedding photos, my mom’s wedding dress (!!) she’d had heirloomed and brought down as a surprise, and plopped down the bane of everyone’s existence, the box of s’mores.

And then guests started arriving! All that work and anticipation, and the party was happening and it went by so fast. My mom insisted on a receiving line (she says this is so we could be sure to greet everyone, but I think it was so she could show off her wedding dress and tell people to ask me why I don’t want to wear it, and I’d have to explain it was because she weighed 93 pounds at the time and it wouldn’t fit over one of my thighs.) But, this ended up being a smart move; we spent over half the party greeting people, and still didn’t get to talk to everyone, which I am horrified by. There were a few people who saw the long line, wised up and went straight to the bar (as any smart guest ready to party would), and I didn’t even know they had come. It was crazy how many people I love, who were packed into one place. If you read the first few ALTARED blogs, you will understand the significance of The Snowman showing up!

Suddenly, it was dark outside and time to give speeches. I snagged a slider on our way out to the patio so I wouldn’t pass out, and was shocked to find that my dad wasn’t speaking first… My bridesmaids were! They completely surprised me by reciting a poem they’d all written together over email. It was hilarious, touching and the most wonderful gift. Not only did I win the lottery when it comes to fiancés, I also won the lottery when it comes to friends.

{My bridesmaids. I am the luckiest.}

Then, my dad gave a beautifully brief speech welcoming and thanking everyone, and brought Tony and I up. I don’t remember what I rambled about; I was on the verge of tears from this beautiful thing my sweet girlfriends had just done for me, and suddenly realized, in the hullabaloo of preparing for the party, we hadn’t prepared anything. I hope we properly expressed our love and gratitude.

{Our view from the speech.}

And then, it was time for my mom’s “spectacular” moment. A few weeks prior, I had gone to the wildest wedding of all time (I’m not exaggerating. It ended up on TMZ, it was so amazing.) One of the many performers was an a cappella group, and one of the vocalists in that group was my insanely talented friend Allie! When my mom heard this, that was her “spectacular.” I reached out to Allie, and she generously put a group together, and they sang The Way You Make Me Feel, You’ve Got the Best of My Love and Over the Rainbow. It was magical.

The entire night was a blur of happiness that was over all too quickly. At the end of the party, I realized that not only had I not tried any of the food (aside from that one slider) I’d spent so many hours obsessing over, I hadn’t taken one picture with Tony! (For real. This picture of me looking like a beast that likely left people wondering if I was pregnant or considering a neck-job before the wedding was the only picture I had of us:)

At that point, my over-sprayed hair had worked itself into one giant, sweaty dreadlock. I didn’t care. That was the most relaxed part of the night, when all the work was done, most of the guests had left, and I could spend a few minutes with Tony and a few of the close friends I see on a daily basis. My incredible Maid of Honor Katierose, her boyfriend Matt and my bridesmaid Barbara also let me know they’d been taking pictures all night… Which saved the day, because otherwise I wouldn’t have captured memories like this:

{Another photo of me and Tony! We’re in focus and it’s an above-belly shot! Thanks, Matt!}

{Us, watching the a cappella singers. My mom and I are twins.}

{Grandma, loving Nancy’s pup Astro Boy.}

{Tony, his sweet mama & Pegge}

In the end, it didn’t matter that the projector screen never worked and the movies never screened against the wall out of the patio. Or that I didn’t really eat any food. Being surrounded by so many people I love overshadowed and outweighed every other tiny detail I’d been losing sleep over. So many people worked so hard to make my dreams for that weekend a reality, whether it was traveling a long way or spending days making s’mores-in-a-bag. It was overwhelming, special, full of love – perfect. I wish I could do it all over again and really be present in that beautiful moment.

{Tony’s sweet family.}

From this entire experience, however, I learned a lot about how I want the wedding itself to go down. So did my dad. The day after the party, in his usual jovial manner, he said “That was a heck of a lot of fun, but I don’t want to do that ever again.” But that’s a different blog, for a different time…

Thank you, Tony, for still loving me after that insane weekend! Thank you, ALL our loved ones, for traveling so far to be there to celebrate us. And thank you most of all, Mom and Dad, for the most beautiful, epic party weekend of all time! Mom, I hope it was “spectacular” in all the ways you dreamed. Dad, I promise the wedding will be totally different (but I can’t promise on all the ways you’re dreaming. I saw an awesome idea for DIY wedding favors on Pinterest that I bet we can knock out over Christmas…)


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