On May 23, the News Gal and the Whitless Wonder officially tied the knot.
I don't feel much different now, 10 days after the fact, than I did before we said our "I do's." Let's face it - I was off the market more than four years ago when I bumped into the News Gal in the frozen foods cooler at Farm Fresh and she gave me her number.
For almost four years, we spent almost every night I wasn't working together, called each other first thing every morning and, if I was working, every night before she went to bed.
Bachelorhood waived bye-bye to me a long time ago.
So, yes, I think I'm the same guy I always was, or at least, have been for some time now. Let's run through the checklist, just to be sure:
Silver ring on my finger? Check.
Still like red meat? Check.
Watch the Yankees every chance I get? Check.
Think Caddyshack and Blazing Saddles are the two funniest movies ever made? Check.
Hate stupid people who almost run into me because they can't drive? Let's just check that one three times.
Advocate for the neutering of inconsiderate people? Check plus.
Drink milk out of the carton? No check - it grosses the News Gal out.
Avid video game player? No grade - I haven't had time to even turn the PS2 on in the last week (someone might need to do CPR on my brother if he's reading this).
Really good looking? Check plus plus plus plus plus.
So, yeah, I still rock.
Now, in the interest of future grooms everywhere, the Whitless Wonder will pass on some of the things he's learned from the last 16 months.
Lesson 1, you ask? Listen to all the stories your married friends tell you about the time leading up to the wedding. They're all true. Every single one of them.
For example, I thought Bussman was pulling my leg when he told me there were a couple of times he and his wife weren't really fond of each other in the weeks leading up to their wedding - and his wife never really morphed into Bridezilla, the fire-breathing, soul-crushing monster that has made more than one groom-to-be reconsider both marriage and their interest in women.
I remember telling him, in no uncertain terms, that would never happen to the News Gal and I. We think too much alike. We both want the same things. I'll just say she's right at all times if it ever starts looking dicey.
Bussman was right.
We held in well, right up to the last two days, before we needed a break. It's just the stress of pulling together all the loose strings a wedding brings. It's inevitable.
After two days of killing ourselves at the reception hall, my best man and groomsmen took me out to The Pub for lunch before the wedding. The News Gal calls and, thinking she's talking to my best man, sounds all bubbly. When I tell her, "Baby, it's me," she just says, "I don't like you very much right now."
Here's another bit of knowledge for you, though.
It passes, and when you see your wife walking down the aisle in that white dress, all the madness of the preceding 48 hours melts away. I have to think really hard to remember what the heck the News Gal and I were annoyed at before the wedding, but the vision of her walking down the aisle at New Heights United Methodist Church will never fade.
Open up your knowledge basket, because the Whitless Wonder's going to let you in on a couple other secrets, before the News Gal cracks the whip.
1. There is never enough time before the wedding to avoid being rushed in the last two weeks.
The News Gal and I spent 16 months planning the wedding, and the four days before the wedding were four of the longest days we've ever had. Up by 8 (on a good day) and in bed at between 2 and 3 a.m. The loose ends are ridiculous - table numbers to be finished, favor boxes and tags to be put together, place cards, table numbers and wedding programs to be finished, family to visit with, travel arrangements to get lined up, a hall and church to decorate, and, for the lucky couple handling their table settings, plates, cups, silverware, pop and all the other reception goodies to buy and set up.
It can't be done ahead of time.
Have you heard about that wedding thing where the groom can't see the bride the day before the wedding. It isn't because seeing the bride is bad luck. It's because, after a week of being the one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest, if the two don't spend some time apart, they'll choke each other on the wedding cake. It's a delicious way to go, but, you know…
2. The day goes by too fast.
Everybody I know who has been married warned me about this, and I swore I'd make sure to take the time to enjoy the day, visit with people I haven't seen in a while and still take part in all the traditional wedding day staples.
The ceremony, which clocked in at more than 40 minutes, according to the DVD the News Gal and I watched the other day, seemed to be over in, like, 10 minutes. My bachelor party weekend was over in a flash. It felt like the reception lasted as long as Jose Canseco's ultimate fighting career (in other words, it didn't last very long at all).
For something that lasts all day, here's what the wedding day felt like. Wake up, put finishing touches on the hall, eat lunch, gotochurchgetmarriedeatdrinkbemerrycleanhallgotosleep. There was no time to chew food, swallow or take a breath. It was the most insane day I've ever had - and you're talking about a guy who lived through the capture of Ralph Phillips, complete with guys with guns pointed in my general direction. I'd no sooner sit down with a friend I hadn't seen in six months than get called back to the front of the hall for something. I never did get a chance to see her uncles Harvey and Bill, two of my favorite members of the News Gal's family. They had to leave before I got a chance to leave the table.
I never got a full piece of cake until two days after the wedding.
I got to see my buddy Hendu when he was on his way out of the reception hall to go home, for about 45 seconds.
I only got one dance with my new bride before, somehow, it was time to pack everything up and go home.
It's 10 days later, and I'm still catching my breath.
3. It doesn't matter how much you save money, things get tight right before the wedding.
Unless you're independently wealthy or her parents are paying for the wedding, let me tell you it's a group effort to get everything paid for.
The News Gal is unbelievable at cutting corners, she was amazingly flexible when I told her there were things we just couldn't afford since we were paying for a lot of the wedding by ourselves, and still, the day of the wedding, I was wondering how we were paying for a couple of things.
It all worked out, but that doesn't mean it isn't stressful.
Here's the rub, though - we stopped doing anything fun for something like two years before the wedding.
No vacation trips. A lot fewer lunches out. No meeting the guys out for a beer on a Friday night. A lot of things we both wanted to buy for ourselves (and for each other) got put off. About the only thing that didn't get cut out of the budget was snacks (you've got to feed the fat man or he/I get angry), root beer and wedding magazines for the News Gal and the occasional six pack of Sam Adams for me.
Take it from us, money will get tight. You'll have to tell her no. She'll have to give up on some things she really wants. You will be angry, disappointed and stressed out at least 10 percent of the time, and that percentage goes up the closer you get to the wedding
Here's the upside. If you make it through without killing each other, you've got a keeper.
4. Hire people you trust.
Nobody's ever happy with all the vendors at their wedding, so don't expect to love everything your photographer/disc jockey/caterer/cake person does. In fact, if you're happy with 60-70 percent of what your vendors provide, you're probably doing well.
I've got to give a quick shout out to our photographer, Joe Liuzzo, who not only takes the best pictures you'll see anywhere, but, when the reception bogged down because we hired Bernie Lomax to be our disc jockey, stepped in to make sure tables were being sent to eat, made sure all the requisite reception things happened (garter toss, first dances, bouquet toss and cake cutting) and still was able to get amazing photos, all for more than $1,200 less than one of my friends paid for his wedding photos a couple of years ago.
Did I mention Joe was dealing with some family health issues that entire week?
Our cake vendor, Cakes by Joyce and Peggy, not only made one of the most beautiful and best-tasting wedding cakes I've ever seen/tasted (I had the last piece last night, and it still tasted great), but the News Gal got them to make a groom's cake with a Yankees hat and baseball that looked amazing and tastes better than it looks (I'll post a picture when I get a chance). It's a good sign when people see the cake and you hear people saying wow, and they never got to taste it.
Our food was handled by Debbie Rexford, a friend of the family, saved us at least $2,000 and was really good. We've been eating it for a week, and it's still yummy. The au jous sauce on the roast beef is about the best I've ever had (what's left of it is sitting in my freezer) and the chicken parmesan was nice and juicy. The Payne Pantry made a really cute watermelon wishing well for before dinner, and the petite fours (little cakes with chocolate frosting) were to die for. People wonder why I'm fat (not that I can blame the last five years on the wedding food).
And, I can't forget Jackie Benson at Bro-Laines Bridal. Not only did they make the News Gal feel like a princess every time she went in to look at dresses or have a fitting, they beautifully handled the News Gal's mother's dress, helped the News Gal pick out perfect bridesmaid dresses, handled the tuxedo rentals for me and my side of the bridal party and helped keep the costs from killing us. It's unbelievable when you can get amazing clothes locally.
Yeah, other vendors were spotty, but focus on the good ones and all the positives they'll bring to your wedding.
5. Enjoy the time with your groomsmen/bridesmaids.
My best man, Dave Kurpiewski, lives in Cleveland. We try to talk once a month, but sometimes we go longer than that. We sometimes go a year or two without seeing each other in person.
I'll never forget, though, spending most of the last two weekends hanging out like we did in college. We picked the worst weekend ever for a bachelor party - nobody else was able to do much (except for my buddy Teddy), it rained during golf, by the end of the night my back was killing me (a story for another day) and I consumed more beer that weekend than I have in the last three years combined. On the wedding weekend, we got to hang out more - and it was an honor for me to have Dave sign my wedding license.
For four days, as a chapter of my life was coming to a close, those four days hanging out with Dave, Todd, Dennis and Josh took me back to my early 20s. Hanging out at Shawbuck's listening to The Porcelain Bus Drivers, playing nine holes at Timber Creek, shooting the breeze and watching sports with Dennis, talking at the Pub with Dave, hanging out in front of a movie with a 12 pack with Dave.
I wouldn't want to do it again, and Dave has seriously got one coming if/when he ever gets married, but for four days, it was great.
The only thing that would have made it better is if my brother had been home, instead of in Iraq. He was supposed to be home, but the Marines sped up his redeployment, so he missed the wedding (we'd have had co-best men) and the birth of his daughter in July. Him being home would have only added to the fun of that week before the wedding (and probably some really late nights playing video game hockey).
Take it from me, my friends, enjoy that time with your wedding party. They're part of your day for a reason, and you're missing out if you take it for granted.
6. A final lesson taken from my favorite wedding day memory.
After taking the final load of stuff out of the hall and getting it home, the News Gal and I settled into bed well after midnight.
We were exhausted after three or four days of getting two or three hours of sleep, at the most, a night and killing ourselves every day to get the wedding preparations finished. As we lay there, waiting for sleep that never seemed to arrive, we started talking about little things that happened during the day.
Did you hear the whole church sigh when Nikki, our flower girl, pulled Gavin, our ringbearer, down the aisle in a homemade white wagon?
How amazing was Shawn (Wilder, our soloist)?
I loved the way you teared up when we exchanged our vows.
I can't believe you put the ring on my middle finger on the first try (guess which one of us did that!).
On and on we went, until almost 2:30 a.m., for two hours, still exhausted, before we finally drifted off, a perfect end to our first day as a married couple.