I’d never given much thought to my wedding when I was a little girl. I didn’t spend any time ruminating or even daydreaming about what sort of dress I would wear, what flowers I wanted, where to have it, or even who the lucky guy would be. I have memories of playing dress-up, but no memories of even wanting to play wedding with barbie dolls, or even remotely talking about it with my Mom or any of my friends. In short, I was so not like Monica Geller who had an impressively terrifying binder of wedding ideas and dreams and plans. Even when I grew older, and started dating Roger, the man I would marry, the concept of marriage embedded itself in mind and heart, but I still couldn’t see it– the wedding, that is. I had my perfect man, and yet, nothing. I kept thinking, what is wrong with me? Why can’t I visualize it?
It wasn’t until a few days after my wonderful boyfriend got down on one knee in a frigid, red and golden Christmas village on December 9th 2017, and recited a poem he wrote and memorized, and asked me to spend forever with him, and I’d said a joyfully-tearful, “yes,” that it came to me: a wedding with books in some capacity. That’s it, I’d thought, and Roger agreed.
Mere moments after Roger proposed. A pair of friends noticed what he was doing, and took a picture for us afterwards!
My now husband and I both majored in English in undergrad at different schools. We met in our MA program at University of North Dakota, and we got into the same PhD program, studying different facets of English: he’s the compositionist and I’m the literary critic. Needless to say, we’re diehard English nerds and irrevocably in love with books. Together, we enjoy the gamut of literature— from contemporary romance to early American novels, from speculative fiction to the Victorians, from Shakespeare to Maya Angelou’s poetry to Harry Potter, Stephen King, and Margaret Atwood. We truly love it all. And, the more we thought about it, the more we just knew we couldn’t not have a fabulously nerdy book lovers wedding. It was so us.
Of course, we soon found out that wanting a literary wedding and actually pulling one off were two completely different ideas. You see, when I pitched the idea to my Mom, she wasn’t the biggest fan, which manifested in not-so-subtle phrases and semi-sardonic questions, such as: “How are you going to do that?” or “I’m not sure it’s possible!” or “Will that even look good?” or “That seems like a lot of work…”
And, in retrospect, she was right. I mean, when I started researching and even tried replicating some of the stuff I’d seen on Pinterest, it just didn’t seem… right. It either looked tacky, ridiculous, or just not as me and Roger as I wanted it to be– that is, too cluttered or rustic or sparse. Even though I was floundering, I’d assured Mom that we would figure something out, but really, I had no ideas. At that point, I was half tempted to just stack some books on the table, put a flower on top, and call it a day. Who cares if it looks tacky, I told myself. But, when we tried just that at our dinning room table, and it looked terrifically terrible, I abandoned all hope.
About a year out from the wedding, I figured we should probably start doing something. We’d had our venue, and I was adamant that it was time to start securing other aspects. We came up from Iowa to visit my parents and my desire to make progress on the wedding was unyielding. So, on a lovely summer’s day, Mom, Roger, and I went into a local flower shop and settled on the flowers. We didn’t exactly care what they were– save for my bouquet had to have some purple sweet peas, a testament to my dad who called me that growing up– but they had to be purple and pink. Trying to be adult about it, I’d insisted we split the cost. My parents were slotted to pay for the centerpieces and we’d pay for the bridal party flowers. On that day, Roger and I paid for our half, while Mom would pay later. (That’s how the whole deposit thing worked). It was a done deal, or so I thought.
A few months later, I got a phone call.
“So, I called the flower shop,” Mom said.
“I cancelled the order. I’m going to make the flowers.” She went on to explain that she’d mentioned the book-themed wedding to someone at some store, and they’d convinced her she had to make our flowers.
I remember listening to her, but positively freaking out. I have no idea what I’d actually said in reply, but I knew– much to my embarrassment and chagrin now– that I wasn’t wildly fond of the idea. From my perspective, it felt like it had taken months to make any progress on the wedding– which was symptomatic of a longer engagement– and my Type A personality absolutely loathed the idea of taking a step back, but I wasn’t going to tell her that. I probably mumbled something like, “Okay, sounds great,” whilst praying she couldn’t detect my irritation or the fact that I was already about to burst into a million pieces due to wedding-related stress.
After I hung up, I put it out of my mind. Little did I know, Mom did the exact opposite.
As soon as I gave up on wedding planning, and secretly harbored misplaced doubts about hand-making the flowers, my Mom– a woman who only has two speeds in life, which are all in or none at all– found her wedding planning rhythm and stride in spades. During the winter, I was in over my head with teaching and wrapping up my dissertation, so I wasn’t really in a place to help in direct ways. My involvement, bless my Mom’s heart, was purely opinion-based. Every day, several times a day, I’d get texts from her with dozens of pictures, asking: What do you think of this? Is this cool or lame? What about this design? Which do you like better?
Some of the pictures I got in text messages from my Mom. This was her experimental phase.
In retrospect, I’m ashamed that I had any doubt. She wasn’t just making flowers, she was making us our flowers, along with a whole host of other literary wedding decorations from freaking’ scratch, out of real book pages. It was wonderfully overwhelming. Later, I found out that she watched several dozen youtube videos to learn how to fold flowers, and then, once she got the hang of it, she experimented with multiple flower styles, flower centers, colors, and sizes for center pieces, bouquets, and boutineers. While it took mere seconds to fold a rose-style flower, it took about 10-15 minutes to fold the more complex flowers, and that doesn’t include all the time it took her to find the right colors, and sort and cut the materials. I also found out that once she solidified the styles, sizes, she folded somewhere between 300-500 flowers. (I swear).
Mom really started to crank stuff out! The house, I’m told was covered in flowers and books.
And, of course, once she really hit her stride, she branched out from flowers because her creative inspiration was an unstoppable torrent. She got some votives from my best friend, Sam, and started to add a literary touch to them as well, cutting out dozens and dozens and dozens of hearts, threading beads on wires, and hot gluing it all in place. One day she called me, and said, “I want to make book balls, but it takes a while.” I told her it was okay, she didn’t have to, but several weeks later, I got a picture with a box full of book balls. She was worried that it wouldn’t get all done, and when Dad was away on business, she stayed up until 2 AM just folding and folding and folding into the night.
“Mom,” I’d said once I’d seen the picture, “How long did that take?”
“Oh, an hour per ball,” she’d answered, casually, as though it wasn’t a big undertaking.
“An hour per ball?” I’d screeched.
“But they look really cool! And I’m getting faster and better at it,” she insisted.
To say that my Mom is incredible– well, that would be a tragic and pathetic understatement. It seemed hard to believe that only mere months prior we were squabbling and wondering if we were ever going to pull off our book lovers wedding.
After months of planning and prepping, dreaming and imagining, the day to decorate finally came, and the result look my breath away.
The bare ballroom at the golf course in a town twenty minutes from my house transformed into a literary haven. The guestbook table had the most decorations– that is, our welcome sign, two stacks of books Mom painfully hand-selected to match our plum and navy wedding colors with scrabble letters saying, ‘Sign our Guest Book’ and ‘Love,’ a few bouquets of rose flowers with pearls, and a type writer. It was stunning. And it was all my Mom. I hadn’t seen anything like that on Pinterest.
In addition, each of the tables were decorated with a purple table runner (that Mom and Dad generously purchased specially because we couldn’t get purple table cloths from the golf course), several candles, and a center piece with the folded book flowers and spiral roses my Mom spent all winter making. The tables also weren’t numbered, but recognized by an authors last name, which was pretty much the only idea I contributed to the decor and design. And, to enter the ballroom, Mom strung up three strands of heart banners, also made out of real book pages. We also hung a book ball on the back of every chair, the party favor for the guests. When we had it all put together, each ball draped over a chair, Mom and I shared a look, a look that said, Oh yeah, hell yeah, that was worth it.
It’s very The Big Lebowski to say so, but the entire room really started to tie together nicely. From the library card guestbook (also my mom’s idea) to the Harry Potter cake (my idea) to the strand of book page hearts (her idea), every little literary detail stood out and complemented the rest of the room. And, of course, last but not certainly least, my bouquet of flowers had a few book page flowers in them, too. While I have no idea what book ended up in my bouquet, I always like to think that it was something from Jane Austen. Regardless, it felt amazing to walk down the aisle with my Dad carrying flowers my Mom had made with so much time and love and precision.
My bouquet of flowers.
A close up of the book flowers!
Because of my Mom’s artistry and proclivity for creativity (even though she won’t admit it), and of course my Dad’s support and encouragement in other extremely loving and invaluable ways, my husband and I had the literary wedding of our dreams, a dream I didn’t even know I had until my parents made it happen.
My parents and I!
Months after our wedding, Mom and I were in Joanne Fabrics to purchase materials she needed to make some ornament pillows for a friend’s daughters. As we searched high and low for the very specific materials we needed, we ended up chatting with a random woman, who needed our opinion. I don’t remember what Mom said, but she cast doubt on her ability to actually make the ornament pillows whilst talking to the woman.
I interjected, “No, Mom. You don’t to say this.” I turned to the woman and explained all Mom had done for Roger and I in regard to the wedding. I even pulled out pictures. The woman’s jaw was on the floor. When I was finished, I turned back toward Mom, and said, “See, so don’t even!” The woman agreed with me.
That’s the thing about my mom. She’s wonderful, but understated, and there’s a quote from one of Maya Angelou’s book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, where she says, “to describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow.” I love this quote because I feel like also captures my own mother.
Merm, my mom, is the type of woman who harbors a secret, but robust and envious power. She holds it close to her chest, and sometimes, I feel like she forgets that it’s there; however, when she lets it shine, it’s spectacular. Her sunny and colorful disposition, coupled with occasional sass and goofiness, is a positively unstoppable and radiant combination. She’s superwoman. If I could be half the mom she is one day, I’d consider myself lucky. And while we might have fought like cats and dogs throughout the entire wedding planning process, when we both saw it all come together, none of that mattered anymore. She had accomplished the impossible and made me feel exactly how I wanted to feel on my wedding day: like Dr. Fairy Tale Princess.
Thank you, Merm! It wouldn’t have been the perfect day without you.