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LOUISE KNOTT AHERN: When Everyone Was Watching

June 6, 2006 by in category Going to The Chapel tagged as

Here’s the thing. I’m actually a very private person. I hide it well, and most people describe me as outgoing. But that’s really just an act I put on out of habit, thanks to a career as a reporter.

In fact, one of the reasons I write romance is because it’s the only way I can express that side of me. I can write about other people’s love lives. But please don’t ask me to talk about my own. When it comes to my love life, I’m about as open as bad clam. Which is why writing this blog has me twitching.

It’s also why I grew up believing I was defective. That I, as Sarah Jessica Parker says in an episode of “Sex and the City,” was missing some kind of bride gene. Every other girl I knew growing up had elaborate wedding plans mapped out by the time they were teenagers. Not me. The thought of professing my love for a man with a room full of people watching had me blushing and stammering even in my daydreams. I wouldn’t even hold my boyfriend’s hand in high school if I knew someone was watching!

This presented a pretty big problem when I met The One. You know who I mean. The One I couldn’t keep my hands off. The One who had me daydreaming and giggling in the middle of the day. The One with whom I spent so much secret time, my mother practically put out an APB on me. The One I knew I had to spend my life with.

My husband and I were friends for a year before we became more than friends. And within a month of becoming more than friends, we were engaged. It seemed so natural, but I was terrified to tell my mother. When I couldn’t put it off any longer, I swung by my parents’ house one night after work. Mom was cleaning up the kitchen. We talked about my job, her job, my brother’s job. Finally, I casually mentioned The One. She casually asked how serious it was.

I shrugged, looking anywhere but at her. “What do you mean?”

“On a scale of one to ten.”

“What does one mean and what does ten mean?”

Mom sighed, exasperation evident in her jerky movements. “One means you’re casual acquaintances. Ten means you’re getting married.”

I ran from the room. I grabbed an afghan off the couch, ran back to the kitchen, and threw the blanket over my head so she couldn’t see my face when I told her the truth. So she couldn’t watch.

“Ten,” I said, voice muffled.

There was only silence on the other side. I lifted a corner of the blanket and peeked out. Mom stood frozen.

“W-would it help if I had something over my head, too?” she finally asked.

I nodded. She went into the living room, grabbed a couch cushion, and then came back in with it balanced on her head. I replaced the blanket over my face.

“Are you saying that we have a wedding to plan?” she asked.

I nodded, the ends of the blanket swishing against my legs.

“When?” Mom asked.

“We were thinking Christmas.”

I heard a noise. I peeked through the blanket again. Mom was sagged against the kitchen counter. “That’s only – “ she paused to add the months in her head, “seven months away.”

“I know, but we just want something small. Just close friends and family.” Because, you know, I couldn’t stand the idea of walking down the aisle and repeating my vows with a room full of people watching.

So much for that. Thanks to Mom’s persistence, The One and I decided to wait until April. Then Mom talked me into something “slightly bigger.” Then she talked me into a big hotel. Suddenly, I had it all. A string quartet. A soaring ballroom. More than two hundred guests. The big cake. An even bigger wedding party. An antique car to whisk us away from the church to the reception.

The best part? Mom’s best friend from childhood was, at the time, a designer for a major bridal label. Mom paid for my maid of honor and me to fly to New York to spend the weekend with “Aunt Cindy,” who took us through the city’s garment district to pick out the fabric and design my dream dress from the first stitch to the last.

It was the perfect fairytale wedding. But I was still terrified.

When the big day arrived, I gave my all of my bridesmaids a pair of those gag glasses with the nose and mustache because I didn’t want anyone crying in my presence. I hid behind my own camera, snapping pictures of all the action behind the scenes. Anything to keep the attention away from me. To keep them from watching me. When my dad came to get me for the big walk down the aisle, I shushed him the minute he opened his mouth.

“Please,” I begged. “Don’t say anything mushy. I can’t take it. Let’s just get this over with.”

Then the music started. The doors opened. And we started down that long, long aisle. I purposely avoided looking at any of my guests. I kept my eyes locked squarely on my husband-to-be. I pretended he was the only person in the room.

And when we reached him at the end of the aisle, I was shocked to discover that he was nervous. So nervous, he was sweating like he’d just run a marathon. Finally, I had something to help me get through it. From around the base of my bouquet, I unwrapped the antique handkerchief – my “something old” – that my grandmother gave me to carry. I reached over and wiped a line of sweat from my husband’s face.

Then we both started laughing. We couldn’t stop laughing.

And suddenly, I didn’t care who was watching.

Louise Knott Ahern is a freelance journalist and public relations coach who writes contemporary romances. She’s the author of “Opting Out: A Career Woman’s Guide to Going Home Without Going Crazy,” a blog for mothers at www.optoutguide.blogspot.com. She is also a contributor to The Writer’s Vibe (www.thewritersvibe.typepad.com), a blog for professional writers.

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NOELLE GREENE: Funniest Joke in the World

June 5, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

My little brother has this face he makes, kind of a scrunched-up goofy smirk. He has perfected it since early childhood, when he first discovered this Stan Laurelesque look could make one of our sisters laugh like crazy. As the years went on, he tested his power from time to time. He usually got a chuckle, from her at least. Everyone else in the family had long since become immune.

Sadly, on my wedding day, one susceptible grown woman’s mild amusement incited full-out group hysteria. Church hilarity is a well-documented phenomenon. I believe it could be some kind of biological imperative. Its evolutionary purpose is not clear, but I don’t think I care to know anyway.

We’d planned a brief ceremony on the campus where my husband and I met. The university chapel was small, peaceful and surrounded by redwoods that gave the place the dignity of a cathedral. However, I hadn’t considered the down side. An intimate setting makes it impossible to overlook the behavior of your guests.

The wedding began relatively smoothly. A minor problem of lost luggage forced my future father-in-law to attend in a t-shirt that said “I Got Lei’d in Hawaii.” Not ideal, but what can you do?

The minister had encouraged us to personalize our vows so I had naturally tried hard to find passages that reflected our serious commitment. I knew our guests would find the selections thought-provoking, profound, even witty.

Unfortunately, as the minister began to read, suppressed laughter emanated from a middle pew. On the bride’s side. Very near that particular brother and sister.

Giggles rippled like dominoes along the pews. One by one they fell: brothers, sisters, their spouses. The minister was all but drowned out by a crescendo of muffled snorts. I shot dirty looks in the family’s general direction but I knew it was futile. It’s very much like a stadium wave. Once it starts, you can either watch in helpless fascination or join in. I opted for helpless fascination and barely noticed what the minister said until the kissing part.

The experience reminded me of the Monty Python skit about the funniest joke in the world. The joke’s punch line results in fatal hilarity. Anyone who hears or reads it laughs so hard they die. Of course the joke turns out to be something incredibly dumb. For a few minutes on that day, I wouldn’t have minded an outbreak of fatal hilarity.

I found my little brother after the ceremony and reminded him, “What goes around, comes around, buddy.” Sure enough, ten years later, it was his turn to stand at the altar. His wedding was a traditional Catholic mass, with all the trimmings. Suitably, the person giggling helplessly at his side was his own bride. We all sympathized, though. She was entitled to be punchy after all the excitement, what with the exploding limo, the twenty foot flame and the burning palm tree nearly igniting the bridal suite balcony.

So as it turned out, I didn’t consciously have to do a thing to disrupt his wedding. Except hire the limo.

Noelle Greene
OCC/RWA Chapter Member

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JULIE HURWITZ: Annie’s Calmest Day

June 2, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

It’s a well-known fact in my family that my cousin, Annie, is slightly neurotic. Okay, she’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 “Little Mary Sunshine,” as she matured through the years and the roles until she blew me (and the critics) away several years ago as Annie Sullivan in “The Miracle Worker” 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 fiance’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 – 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 “The Rev,” couldn’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 – 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 parents’ suite (which served as Bride Headquarters). Annie’s calm was tested several times. From our vantage point on the suite’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. Annie’s mother Judy, my mother Bonnie and Liz’ 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 they’d gotten off the golf course snack cart.

We shooed The Mothers away for a little while, telling them to come back when they’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 they’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 – 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 – participants and guests – 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, that’s how long the marriage will last. There weren’t even shards left of that wine glass – 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
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.

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TINA RALPH: At the End of the Day

June 1, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

Today we begin the Going To The Chapel Blog Contest. Every weekday for the month of June, we will post a new story. We have a special judge to select the winner. So please come back everyday and read the blogs! Tina Ralph is launching the contest with her entry–At the End of the Day. Enjoy!

Driving down highway 20 with my best friend beside me, I had to ask the question. “Are we sure, we wouldn’t rather go to the zoo?”

“Nope, we’re going to get you married.” Cathy said with determination.

The sudden sound of extra tread hitting the pavement had us rolling our eyes at each other. Sure enough, the flop, flop, flop, was coming from my car. I pulled to the side of the road.

Was this a sign from God? Should I go to the zoo instead of getting married? Again the question reared up and rode across my mind.

I checked my tire. It had lost its rubber but it wasn’t flat, just a little naked like a bald man’s scalp. In the days before cell phones, we were stuck. I thought about flagging someone down and contemplated putting on my wedding dress to get someone to stop. But a nice man in a small truck saved me from that fiasco. He tried to change the tire, but the damn thing was stuck.

Following us to the gas station, he made sure we were safe and went on his way. An angel put me back on the road to my wedding.

After calling my dad — every girl calls her dad to save her, I was no exception — he came to pick us up. Thrilled to be back on course, I was somewhat surprised, to find I’d arrived before my future husband.
Not to worry, Michael was rarely late.


His one task before coming to our celebrated event was to pick up the cake. You see, I had a simple wedding, outdoors, in Texas, in the month of June. We were only having a little cake and punch after the ceremony–simple, quiet, serene.
Others, granted, had more colorful adjectives to describe that day, but I won’t repeat them.

A phone call informed me of his dilemma. The bakery had given our cake to someone else. My beautiful cake was at another bride’s wedding.

The trip to the zoo was looking very appealing about this time.

My comment to my fiance was, “Get a cake, I don’t care if it’s a ‘Q#!@’ birthday cake.” My mother proceeded to give me a lecture on the use of certain language. I walked out.

The guests began to arrive. I stayed holed up in my aunt’s house, waiting for my future husband to get there with some kind of cake.

Michael, to say the least, was fighting his own battle. I would not have wanted to be the person behind the bakery counter. But the man came through, he got us a cake. Another angel was watching over our shoulder.

Now you may be wondering if I was seriously considering the possibility that someone didn’t want us to get married. And yes, it did cross my mind multiple times, but strangely enough, the harder the problems became, the more my resolve was strengthened.

My mantra became “At the end of the day I will be married.” With my eye on the goal, we overcame the obstacle of leaving our own wedding without a car. Remember, mine still had the bad tire that no one could pry off. My fiance didn’t bring his.

Here, the best man saved us. We left in his car with the maid of honor. We had a great time driving back to Dallas, rehashing and laughing about the events of our day.

This year on June 21st, we’re celebrating our twentieth anniversary. We’ve gone through some tough times and have made many happy memories.

At the end of the day, the route to the chapel led to an incredible adventure with a wonderful man. Now, with two teenage boys, two dogs and a bird, I have a zoo in my own backyard. I couldn’t be happier.

Tina Ralph
OCC/RWA Membership Director

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New Contest!

May 21, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

Announcing A Slice of Orange Blog’s new contest, GOING TO THE CHAPEL. We are looking for blogs on the wild, wacky, side-splitting funny or incredibly romantic trip to the chapel.

Maybe you have a passing acquaintance with a real life Bridezilla? Or Groomzilla?
Know a funny story about wedding disasters?
Or a romantic story about a Cinderella wedding?
Or maybe the Cinderella wedding turning into a nightmare, but the simple little wedding in a Las Vegas with the cheesy Elvis impersonator turned into a dream come true?
Know anyone who got to the chapel but their bride or groom didn’t—but they met their real soul mate?
What about overcoming incredible odds to get to the chapel?
Or a story about a couple who has gone to the chapel more than once?
Maybe there was even a ghost at the chapel during your wedding?

We’re writers, so use your imagination and have fun with it! These are the parameters:

Between 250 to 1000 words
May include a picture in Jpeg (no guarantees it will appear in the blog)
Blog can be fiction or non-fiction
Send blogs to Jen Apodaca at Jenapodaca@aol.com

We will select 22 blogs to appear each week day on A Slice of Orange Blog during the month of June 2006. We will have a special judge, most likely an editor to select the winner!

Good luck!

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