My Mother is a wedding planner, a hyper-traditional, WASPy North Toronto-style wedding planner. Her life's dream is to see her beloved low-maintenance, tree-hugging daughter trade her bike helmet for a veil and walk down the aisle dressed in white.
Welcome to my personal hell.
I was raised in a world of white tulle and boutonnieres. I could plan a wedding blindfolded with my hands tied behind my back. Flowers, cakes, fittings - I can do it all.
But my view of the pageantry has been mostly from behind the scenes. Time and again, I saw dramas, in-fighting and alliances masked by veils. From my vantage point, the wedding participants looked more like tribe members on Survivor than members of a family.
I've seen the seething underbelly of WASP-land Toronto: a father who got loaded and hurled insults at the guests; oodles of divorced parents and steps who couldn't manage to be civil for just one day, a golf course sprinkler system that went haywire and drenched everyone, and most delightfully, a mother who held the bridal flowers hostage in her SUV until she got her mascara-streaked daughter to consent to having a receiving line. Can you feel the love? Please!
Growing up, I swore I would never get married. Non-marriage has been good to me for 34 years, but I've hit a snag. My beau, Justin, can handle living together, but he'd rather get married. He believes weddings are warm celebrations of love and commitment that you share with family and friends and all that crap. Poor deluded bastard. He assures me that ours will be different, laid-back and low-profile. We're going to break the law of weddings, judge and jury be damned. But my mother is the judge, so we're the ones who are damned.
She seems to accept our choices gracefully at first. There'll be no church, no golf club, no head tables and no fussing, a casual party with a justice of the peace, free of puffy dresses and receiving lines. Just food, wine, family and friends sometime in the not-too-distant future.
But "sometime in the not-too-distant future" isn't good enough. Wedding Planner Mum needs to plan. She begins dropping gentle suggestions - many, many gentle suggestions. Her voice takes on a creepy, über-efficient tone. I'm in trouble. We don't want announcements or diamond rings, showers, stags or, god forbid, engagement parties. This is very confusing for Wedding Planner Mum.
"Are you engaged or aren't you? Then why don't you get a ring?"
"I don't wear rings, Mum."
"Can't you try?"
"Why should I?"
"When your brother got engaged, he gave Jennifer a ring."
Every few days, there's a voice mail: "I think Justin will be hurt if you don't wear his ring," or "I think it would look pretty if you had something simple and wore it on a chain," or "What do I tell people?" Arrrgh!
Justin has the same problem. "Don't believe her," his grandma tells him. "All women want a ring. Is it because of money? I'll give you the money." Justin finally makes me a wire ring to get them off our backs. True, it's a napkin ring, but they don't have to know that.
Wedding Planner Mum calls to "suggest" I phone my godparents, come out to them as an engaged woman and then take my man down to Ashley's to peruse fine china instead of that "silly pottery co-op nonsense. Really, dear, there is a right way to do things."
Mum has always encouraged sensitivity on the part of her clients, but hers has flown the coup. The final straw is the phone call that warns me to start thinking about clothes because, apparently, there will be showers and, apparently, I will attend and enjoy them "or else." In addition, I should consider going shopping so that for once in my life, I'll have something "that fits properly."
My transformation into a monster bride pulling a weep-athon over one little phone call is complete.
I mop up my tears. Everything is back in perspective. I'm sure the monster will rear her tear-streaked face again, but for now, the wedding is off, or so we have told Wedding Planner Mum.
She'll be receiving an invitation, hand-delivered by yours truly. We will have our day, sans peach-clad bridesmaids and receiving lines, she'll see her baby married, and I promise to wear something that "fits properly."