Some people just go for it. Without a second of hesitation, they can jump in and let the splashing water overcome the body. Me? Not so much. I’m more of a “stand-on-the-stairs-with-my-toes-in-the-water-for-20-minutes” kind of girl. Once my toes have fully acclimated to the water, I’ll move to the ankles. Then the knees. And most of the time, that’s far enough.
Nine years ago today, a Memorial Day Weekend storm forced me to get wet in a serious way. Every year as the rains come to threaten our Memorial Day Weekend plans, I think back to the time where I took a leap of faith, followed me dreams, jumped in the water and never looked back.
At 22 years old with a year of working in the real world under my belt, I was starting to get an idea of what I wanted to do with my life. I worked at a small PR agency doing a little bit of everything, but handling events was definitely my forte. With weddings on the brain after my own had come and gone, I put an ad on Craigslist hoping to find someone willing to trust me with their big day. I don’t remember exactly what it said, but my ad was something like: “Looking for a cheap wedding coordinator? I don’t have any experience, but I can help!”
It’s shocking that I didn’t have responses piling up in my inbox, but all it took was one. A sweet bride-to-be sent me an email about her wedding that was two weeks away. We met at Starbucks and somehow I agreed to work for free since it was my first wedding.
I enlisted the help of Craigslist to find an assistant for the wedding and surprisingly had more responses from people willing to work for free than I could deal with. All I needed was one normal person who was willing to cheerfully do what I said. Easy enough, right? I found Monica, a twenty-something girl living with her boyfriend who worked in retail in an apartment right down the street from me. We looked like we could be sisters and were fast friends. Thanks, Craigslist!
We showed up at the wedding site unprepared for the work that lie ahead. My first wedding would not be a simple affair. It would actually be the complete opposite. The wedding festivities included a full weekend of activities for about 60 guests at a small resort outside of San Antonio that the couple had rented for the weekend. Guests were treated to a welcome reception, breakfast each morning, lunch each day, a country hoedown with a live band Saturday night and the wedding and reception Sunday evening.
With the gift of hindsight, I can appreciate the amount of people it takes to successfully pull off an event of this magnitude, but at the time, I had no clue. Monica and I packed our bags and showed up for the weekend with no idea about what was to come.
Upon our arrival we were greeted with a large (almost 18-wheeler size) rental truck with tables, chairs, linens, China, glassware, decor and more ready to be unloaded…by us. We called in a favor and had Monica’s brother come help us unload the truck, but we were exhausted even before the weekend began.
The weekend brought more and more surprises as we did things we never imagined. We sliced cheese and opened wine for the first time for the welcome reception. We served meals and set tables. We bussed tables and washed dishes. We climbed on rafters to decorate for three different parties. We made bouquets and boutonnières for the wedding party. We tended to out-of-town guests like a concierge service and made sure all of their needs were met.
A typical wedding has so many hands involved on the wedding day. Everyone from the decorators to the caterer to the florist to the venue staff takes charge of their piece of the puzzle to make it an exquisite day. For our first wedding, we were missing so many pieces of the puzzle!
There were no caterers. The bride bought food at Sam’s Club and expected it to somehow magically appear on her guests plates. There was no catering staff to clear those plates, wash them and return them to the rental company. There was no florist to transform bridal dreams into reality. There was no staff to ensure that electricity worked or guests were taken care of. There was just us. Two know-nothings thrown into the fire doing our best to avoid disaster.
On top of everything that could have gone wrong when having an elaborate DIY wedding put on by two newbies, there was the rain. So much rain. An annoying drizzle turned to thunderstorms which turned to flash flooding.
During the hoedown rehearsal dinner as I cleared China and glassware for 60 guests running between the covered pavilion where the party was and the outbuilding with the sink to wash the dishes in the pouring rain, I tripped and fell in the mud. I sat with Monica in the rain and mud and just cried.
“Why are we doing this?” I pleaded through tears. We thought of all the reasons we should just quit right there on the spot. We thought of all the impossible things we had already done and all of the impossible tasks still ahead on the wedding day. It wasn’t fair for two human beings to work as hard as we were working. And yet, we stayed.
Wedding day turned out to be quite an adventure. Flash flooding minutes before the ceremony threatened not only the wedding, but our safety. The entire riverside platform where the ceremony was to take place was covered in several feet of rushing water.
The bride was getting ready in a secluded honeymoon suite accessed only by a bridge, covered in almost three feet of water. With no way to reach her because phone service was down, I jumped right in, held on as tight as I could to the railing and made my way through the water over to the bride.
The wedding was delayed for a few hours, but with the sun shining, there was a beautiful ceremony and reception. Monica and I looked like wet rats, but we made things happen that day. The guests had a fantastic time and the bride and groom were over-the-moon happy.
Wedding day happened to also be my birthday. The bride had a special cake for me and as the guests all sang “Happy Birthday” to me, all the good and happy feelings from a job well done trumped the despair from our conversation in the mud just 24 hours earlier. We felt like family and knew that we had played such a special role in a memory that would last a lifetime.
Within four months, I quit my full-time job to open my own wedding planning business. I was hooked on making dreams come true. Owning my own business was quite an adventure and nothing like I expected it to be. I eventually decided that wedding planning wasn’t the career for me, but it led me on a path to where I am now and for that, I am so grateful.