Itâ€™s a well-known fact in my family that my cousin, Annie, is slightly neurotic. Okay, sheâ€™s more than slightly neurotic, but even Annie acknowledges that she has some odd quirks. When she was in grade school, she was certain she was going to be kidnapped from her home by terrorists. We all attributed her fancifulness to her creativity as an actress.
I saw her first school play performance as Mata Hari in â€œLittle Mary Sunshine,â€ as she matured through the years and the roles until she blew me (and the critics) away several years ago as Annie Sullivan in â€œThe Miracle Workerâ€ at the Brea Theater.
But it was on June 25, 2005 that she gave her tour-de-force performance.
She got married.
Let me back up to when she got engaged. After her boyfriend, Mark, proposed on bended knee, the next night, the family celebrated with thin-crust pizza and toffee-crunch cheesecake.
Throughout the following weeks, wedding ideas were tossed around, locations considered and many, many bridal magazines were perused. Knowing Annie and her parents (my aunt and uncle), I had no doubt that the final product would be an elegant, classy, warm, and inviting experience. To add to that feeling, Annie asked her cousins (myself, my sister Sally, cousin Holly and cousin Liz) as well as her fianceâ€™s sister to be her bridesmaids.
While the rest of the cousins live in St. Louis, I have lived in Southern California for nearly 20 years, moving here just after college, when Annie was 10 so I felt like an older sister to Annie. And I took my responsibilities seriously, giving her someone to vent with when the details of the wedding started to get too overwhelming. There were several dinners where all I did was eat, nod my head and make appropriate comforting noises.
The venue was decided upon â€“ Ojai Valley Inn. A band was booked, a photographer hired, a videographer hired as well as a florist. The pieces of the wedding were slowly coming together. I was even there when she found the perfect wedding dress. With layers of tulle, the skirt swirled around her feet, making Annie look and feel like a fairy princess.
It truly became a family affair when Annie and Mark honored my father by asking him to perform the wedding ceremony. Little did we know that you could become ordained to perform wedding ceremonies over the Internet. But my father, whose family nickname is â€œThe Rev,â€ couldnâ€™t have been prouder. And although we all teased him about saying something outrageous and embarrassing at the wedding, we all knew that as the family statesman he would perform a wonderful ceremony.
As the day grew near, the RSVP cards poured in and the room reservations at the Ojai Valley Inn became more and more complicated. But through it all, Annie grew calmer. When her parents grew exasperated with the room coordinator, she simply smiled, waiting for the storm to blow over.
Finally, the weekend of the wedding of the century arrived. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, relatives arrived at LAX and made their way north â€“ out of the traffic of the freeway system, into the sheltered small town of Ojai. By late Friday afternoon, nearly everyone had arrived at the Ojai Valley Inn in time to attend the Rehearsal Dinner. Although the Rehearsal Dinner can traditionally be a time for any and all guests to roast and toast the bride and groom, we had much more toasting than roasting.
For the bride and her bridesmaids, the day of the wedding was planned out. Manicures for each of us followed by a light lunch in her parentsâ€™ suite (which served as Bride Headquarters). Annieâ€™s calm was tested several times. From our vantage point on the suiteâ€™s balcony, we overlooked the courtyard where the wedding would take place. So we had a birds-eye view as the staff set up for the ceremony. We managed to avert disaster with the placement of the huppah (a traditional Jewish wedding canopy) and avoided the misplacement of several strands of flowers and kumquats.
As the five of us nibbled on guacamole and chips and a Chinese chicken salad, The Mothers burst into the room, turning our calm haven into a whirlwind of activity. Annieâ€™s mother Judy, my mother Bonnie and Lizâ€™ mother Peggy. They had been tramping all over the inn, making sure that everything was being set up properly for the reception. We even learned about their gastrically-challenged lunch of hotdogs and turkey sandwiches theyâ€™d gotten off the golf course snack cart.
We shooed The Mothers away for a little while, telling them to come back when theyâ€™d calmed down. The dressing process proceeded smoothly with makeup being applied and checked, hair was curled and fluffed and finally the moment came for the bride to don her dress. This resulted in a Dance of Joy between mother and daughter when they realized the wedding dress was everything theyâ€™d hoped for. And happy tears all around when the father of the bride saw his baby girl in the dress for the first time.
The ceremony went off without a hitch â€“ my father performed superbly, combining traditional Jewish prayers with traditional Irish prayers, paying homage to both sides. The bride and groom said vows to each other they had written, bringing the entire group â€“ participants and guests â€“ to tears with their heartfelt words.
After the vows had been said, the promises made, the rings exchanged, the groom lifted his right leg and brought his shoe down hard, smashing a wine glass for good luck.
They say that for as long as it takes for the bride and groom to put the pieces of the smashed wine glass back together, thatâ€™s how long the marriage will last. There werenâ€™t even shards left of that wine glass â€“ just dust.
After the marriage certificates had been signed and witnessed and the last guest had left the courtyard to walk to the reception, the bride and groom looked at each other, grins splitting their faces. They carefully climbed into their flower-covered golf cart and headed off to a life together.
Julie Hurwitz has been a member of OCC since 1989, serving in a variety of positions, including Co-President. She is currently the RWA National Chapter Liaison.