First we’d like to thank our judge:
Debbie Macomber, with over 60 Million books in print and the author of new Mira hardcover Susannah’s Garden. Debbie is as gracious and giving as she is talented! Thank you, Debbie!
And now our Second Runner Up is…
The First Runner Up is…
And The Winner!
THE WEDDING UN-DRESS by Maria Dolatkha
I breathed a sigh of relief as the pilot announced we were ready for our descent into the Atlanta area. I almost didn’t make it. Just my luck that the most important deposition in my legal career would end up on the same day as my wedding. Opposing counsel droned on and on without regard to my objections. He knew it was my wedding day and still refused to reschedule.
I had raced to the airport after the deposition with a small carry-on suitcase and my wedding dress in a plastic zip-up cover. After waiting in line to go through the metal detectors, they selected me to search and I panicked at the thought of missing my flight. I was landing at three and my wedding was at five.
The lights came on and I stood up to get my dress out of the overhead compartment. As I reached for my dress, a gentleman’s dry cleaned suit on a cheap hanger caught the zipper of my plastic cover. To my horror, my wedding dress tumbled onto the aisle. The owner of the suit apologized and bent down to help me get the dress, when a toddler with a juice box barreled down the aisle, tripped over the gentleman’s foot and splattered my dress with fruit punch. I let out a sound of the most horrific primal nature, and the toddler and I both began crying.
My dress was ruined. A flight attendant tried to use tonic water to get the stain out, but it was no use. In all this commotion over the dress, I was becoming in danger of being late. When I planned the wedding, they were so booked that I not only had to take a Friday but that another wedding was scheduled right after mine. I couldn’t afford to be late.
When I got off the plane, I hurried to the nearest bathroom to check the damage. As I feared, I had no more makeup. The brutal reality in the mirror replaced the $200 illusion so painstakingly applied this morning. With my carry-on in one hand and the stained dress in another, I stood outside the arrival terminal and searched for my brother’s truck. When I saw the old Ford, I realized that he ignored my request to leave his gum smacking spoiled brat of a girlfriend at home. I slid next to her in the cramped cabin.
“What happened to you?” she asked.
“Yeah, you look awful,” my brother said as he almost crashed into the bus in front us.
“Careful!” All I needed now was to get in an accident.
As I explained the sad story, little miss gum smacker giggled and said, “That sucks.” Resisting the urge to stuff the gum down her throat, I asked my brother to step on it. When we finally arrived, my mother was standing on the sidewalk waving her arms frantically.
She gasped when she got a good look at me. “Let’s get you to a dressing room.”
I croaked, “Mom,” and held up the stained dress. I couldn’t even talk. She told me not to panic, that someone must have a white dress and she ran into the chapel. I went back to the dressing room. I could hear mom arguing with the wedding director and the director complaining we were off schedule.
I felt a soft hand on my back. It was my ninety year old grandmother holding a wrapped gift. “This was supposed to be for tonight,” she said and handed me the box with a trembling hand. Inside was a long backless opaque white nightgown. “The dresses you girls wear today look like underwear anyway,” she said. “Try it on.”
I put on the nightgown and fixed my veil. My white satin sandals matched the silk and the gown draped nicely to the floor. My mother walked in rattling off all the people she called looking for a dress. She saw me and stopped. For once she was speechless.
“Not bad,” Grandma said.
Standing at the threshold of the door leading to the chapel, I looked at my guests with tears in their eyes and my fiancÃ©â€™s adoring gaze. I noticed a tag sticking out from the gown prominently declaring “Victoria’s Secret $49.99.” I ripped off the tag, smoothed the dress over my thighs and took a deep breath. Itâ€™s not how I had envisioned going down the aisle, but it was beautiful none the less.
Maria Dolatkhah is a freelance writer, recovering attorney and regular contributor to OCPC Orange County Community Magazine.
I am due to get married this September, so I don’t have an actual wedding story yet…but I do have an unusual tale to tell about how my future husband and I actually met.
I actually knew my fiancÃ© for about four years before I actually met him in person. I work in technical support for our company, and employees from all over the country call me when they have a problem with our software. It’s always the same 300 or so employees, so over the years you get to know people.
I “knew” Jay this way, but it wasn’t until we had a particularly hairy problem that resulted in both of us spending nearly two hours on the phone one day that he really registered on my radar. Jay worked in our California office, and I am located in the corporate office in New Jersey. I’d never met him or even seen a picture, but he had always come across as so mature and professional on the phone that I imagine a much older man. I found out during this memorable conversation that he was actually only two years younger than I am!
During the course of this phone call, it came out that he was tall (so am I), that he was part of an a cappella singing group (creative, I thought…good). . .and that he had recently relocated to our Arizona office to be with his fiancÃ©e.
Can you hear the thud of my heart as it hit the ground?
Nevertheless, I was taken by this fellow, and I pathetically seized any chance I had to speak to him on the phone, even if the problem we were discussing could be handled with a simple email. He seemed to enjoy our conversations, too. The company was about to release a new product, and Jay told me there was a possibility he might be sent to New Jersey to be trained on this product. Wow, I thought, we’ll finally meet…even though he is taken! (Drat!)
This was a couple months away and not set in stone. Then a funny thing happened. I suddenly could not get a hold of him at his phone number in Arizona. We had a case we were working on, and it was unlike him not to respond. So I dropped him an email, and I got a quick reply. “Moved back to California,” it said. “Big life change. Tell you about it later.”
So I emailed him my phone numbers and told him to call me at home if he wanted to talk about it outside work.
He called. He had broken off with his fiancÃ©e and moved back home to California, and yes, he was going to be sent to New Jersey for training! So for the next six weeks we talked on the phone regularly, and the more I spoke to him, the more I liked him. There was just that one last step–the face-to-face meeting–to accomplish before either one of us felt comfortable admitting there might be something more than friendship developing. That meeting did happen the day after he arrived in New Jersey. We had made plans to go to dinner, and I went by his hotel room to pick him up since I had a car, and he was sharing one with other people who had also come out for training from his office.
He opened the door to his room, and I was so nervous, I rushed inside, babbling about needing to charge my cell phone. It took a moment to plug it in, then I turned to face him.
Violins rose in a sweeping melody. Lightning and thunder rolled, even though it was a sunny day in May. I felt as though the rug had been swept out from under me…but that even if I fell, he would catch me.
Soul mates had met.
I couldn’t believe such a thing could happen–heck, I write this stuff for a living! But he felt the same way about me. When he had to return to California after that week he was in New Jersey, we both felt as if a limb had been amputated. We spent the next three or four months flying back and forth to see each other over long weekends, and the rest of the time talking on the phone or chatting via the internet. Whenever I flew to California, we would go to Disneyland, since he lived right in Anaheim.
That autumn, a position opened up in my office that was identical to the one he held in California. By then we had both decided that we couldn’t live without each other. He posted for that job and transferred out to New Jersey in October. The following May, he proposed to me outside the door of the hotel room where he’d stayed that first time. I had no idea this was going to happen. He had gone out to California to visit his mother for Mother’s Day and had come back with an engagement ring in his pocket. He proceeded to carry this ring around for the next week and finally proposed on Friday the 13th on a day when we had had a disagreement. Never let it be said that this man is not a gambler!
Jay has been here in New Jersey for nearly two years now, and our feelings for each other have never wavered or weakened. We are set to get married on September 2, 2006 at Disneyland, the place where we spent so much time during our courtship. So I’m goin’ to the chapel…just not until September!
Scandal of the Black Rose, Avon Romantic Treasure, February 2006
This is a bonus blog from A Slice of Orange’s Blog Editor–Jen Apodaca. We have filled up all the available spaces so I’m sneaking my blog in on a Sunday!
I came on scene in the middle of their story. By the time I was born, my Aunt Edith and Uncle Dick had been married 22 years already. To me, they were always larger than life. They had a fiery passion for social justice, they lived well and traveled the world, and they suffered some of life’s very cruel pains with dignity and strength.
My dad suddenly died when I was 13. In spite of their own grief, my aunt and uncle stepped up, making sure my mom had family support, and for me, the youngest, and only child left at home, they made sure I learned the stories that kept my dad close in my heart. They arranged family reunions to keep my dad’s side of the family together, events that have very special memories for my kids.
When my mom was dying, it was my aunt who supported me. Even though Aunt Edith was starting to struggle with her own illness, she kept up regular phone calls that were my lifeline. I was making hard decisions and she reassured me over and over that my mom trusted me implicitly and told me to never second guess her trust or love for me.
On our last Thanksgiving all together, my uncle and I were doing the dishes (he truly is a man before his time), and my uncle was telling me another story about my dad as a fighter pilot in World War II.
It finally dawned on me that for all these years, my uncle was giving me a gift of knowing my father through him. It’s a priceless gift that I will always treasure. I vividly remember looking at my uncle and asking him what he did in the war. It took some real work to get it out of him that he flew the planes that carried wounded soldiers to safety and medical care. He told me that he wasn’t as good a pilot as my dad. I beg to differ, he was a hero. And my dad would agree. I hugged him, embarrassing him to no end.
They meant the world to me, my aunt and uncle. But they weren’t finished teaching me.
Finally at 87, my aunt was dying. The courage of her and my uncle was tremendous. They accepted reality with such stunning grace. My sister and I went to spend some time with them. A moment that stood out was my uncle sitting by my aunt’s bed and adjusting it patiently to find a comfortable position.
She teased him with what little breathe she had left that he had to sit there and wait while she “tested” the position.
He looked at her with a private smile. A smile that melted the years off both of them, stripping away the illnesses and heartbreaks of life to reveal the lifetime of love between them. A love that I imagine was only a seed when they took their vows in that chapel over 65 years ago. A love that grew into a life force of its own, so vast and powerful that I knew not even death would extinguish it.
I saw what a lifetime of love looks like in that moment, and it is a rare thing of true beauty. I will carry that memory in my heart for the rest of my days.
My aunt took her last breath with my uncle by her side holding her hand. Death may have parted them, but their love lives on.
I didn’t cry at my wedding. If you knew me, you’d know how shocking that is. I cry at commercials, songs…the beauty of a nature hike can bring me to tears. But at my own wedding I didn’t shed a single tear.
Because I was so concerned about everything else!
I remember watching my husband as I walked down the aisle. This man, who doesn’t cry and still won’t admit that he did on our wedding day, was leaking like a sieve.
And here I was, with this big, fat, dopey grin on wondering why the hell I wasn’t crying…and if the coordinator had maneuvered the cake onto the dance floor like she’d hoped, and if my mom was having fun, and if the guests were comfortable, and if I would laugh my head off inappropriately during my vows, and if I would remember the steps to the intricate waltz my husband and I had practiced for our first song.
For the record, everything went beautifully. Every wedding has a major disaster story, right? Mine didn’t.
By all accounts, everyone had an amazing time. Our ceremony didn’t last too long. The food was excellent, though I only got a bite of mine. The toasts were poignant. Everyone danced like it was 1999. And our first dance was so good my girlfriend’s mom just told me last week that it is the most beautiful first dance she’s ever seen…and it was almost a decade ago.
So, even though I had this perfect, wonderful day, I always felt a little cheated that I hadn’t cried. What was wrong with me? Didn’t I love my husband? Was I not touched by the sentiment of the day?
I got my answer last year.
When we first got married we thought it’d be fun it to renew our vows in Vegas. It sounded like so much fun we said, “Let’s do it every year!”
But you know how life goes. It took us years to actually do it.
So off we went last year. And when I say we, I mean my mom and the kids too. I couldn’t leave them out of such a momentous occasion!
We stayed at the Paris. It was gorgeous! And my husband took care of all the arrangements for this ceremony. All I had to do was show up…and get the kids dressed, of course.
I didn’t wear white. There was no DJ. No photographer. No five-tier white cake with gum paste roses. No crystal Tiffany lamps on the tables. No reception at all.
But I cried.
When we got to the chapel, made famous by Michael Jordan and Jackie Collins, we ran into another lovely couple from Boston who, on a lark, hopped a plane to renew their vows after 25 years. We were chatting and cracking up in the lobby with the same attitude of “What the hell…ain’t this a kick?” But when they came out, their faces were tear-stained and wobbly. I couldn’t believe it.
“What did they do to you in there?” I asked.
But they just smiled and shrugged. They couldn’t answer. But they left hand in hand and cuddling like 18 year-olds.
Then it was our turn. My little ones were our attendants, which was really cute because one of them was just walking. And I do mean just walking. We were so proud.
And then it was time for our vows.
What went through my head this time can only be compared to what people say go through your head when you face death except it was like a montage of every hardship and joy we’d faced together. And everything the officiator said was the perfect counterpoint to everything I was feeling.
I couldn’t believe it. This cheesy Vegas ceremony in a rundown chapel that married couples faster than you could get prescription glasses affected me more than my wedding that took me a year and a half to plan.
But there I was. Focused solely on my husband this time…I didn’t know I could love him any more than I already did, but in that moment I loved him more than I ever had.
And you know all those fears you have when you’re first going through it? Can we really make it? Am I really choosing Mr. Right like I think I am? Well, while I was renewing my vows, those uncertainties weren’t even on the radar. I knew we could make it. We had. I knew he’d be Mr. Right. He was.
But this time there was one disaster. My little one lost Bunny! We looked for that damned thing everywhere before we finally found it…in the parking lot…with a tire track on it from where limo had run it down. Poor Bunny. My little one cried too.
Dana Diamond is the OCC/RWA Secretary, a columnist for OCC’s award winning Orange Blossom Newsletter, a contributor to The Writer’s Vibe and hard at work on her next book. For more on Dana and her interview with Charlene Sands, be sure to visit Dana’s blog at: http://www.danadiamond.blogspot.com/
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