A few weeks after Bryan and I got engaged, I found myself sitting on the hardwood floor of our apartment scouring pages of bridal magazines. Bryan would be on the couch – undoubtedly watching USC football highlights – while I went to town ripping out page after page of unique ceremony, cocktail and reception ideas. It was my happy place of sorts, sitting there on the floor surrounded by my newest friends: Modern Bride, Wine Country Weddings and print-outs from TheKnot.com. I would share with Bryan an endless array of ideas, from programs that doubled as fans to escort cards secured in half-cut wine corks. Always the patient and adoring fiance, Bryan would indulge me with a smile and a kiss; a simple act showing his (sometimes feigned) excitement over the tiniest of details behind our upcoming nuptials. His approval was enough to send me happily bouncing back to my cross-legged spot on the floor, moving on to the next magazine. It was an easy, relaxing time, one when our biggest worries centered around the outcome of USC's next home game (Bryan) and whether we really needed to narrow down wedding colors (me).
A mere six months later revealed Bryan and I in similar spots, with him on the couch and me, again, cross-legged on our hardwood floor. But this time the mood was not celebratory; rather, it was incredibly subdued as Bryan was fighting a brain tumor and would nap quietly for hours, resting away the effects of an intense regimen of radiation and chemotherapy. The silence of his sleep and the gravity of our new-found reality awoke in me a need to do something I hadn't done in 15 years: paint, draw, cut, glue, etc. I had always loved art as a child and a teenager, especially as a creative outlet during tough times. Well, this was definitely a tough time. So while Bryan napped I embraced my inner child and channeled Martha Stewart; cutting, spray-mounting and tying ribbon on 120 wedding programs and escort cards. I made quizzes for our cocktail hour, sketched out ideas for our Candy Land wedding cake and even glued hundreds of corks to picture frames, creating wine-themed table numbers. Seeing each and every piece materialize gave me a sense of accomplishment as well as control, a feeling that's often missing when fighting cancer.
I never thought that a simple art project would help me cope during one of the toughest times of my life, but it did. And when I look at Anna's photos of these simple details, the beauty of each shot hides their story well. But it's a story I'm proud to tell.
By Christie Clough
Right before our wedding, people would ask Bryan and me the same type of question over and over. "Are you nervous?" "Are you scared?" "Are you freaked out about getting married?"
These questions surprised us, because given the fact that Bryan and I had faced one of the toughest challenges a couple can go through – namely, Bryan's diagnosis of an inoperable brain tumor – we were not nervous. We were not scared. We were not freaked out. On the contrary, we couldn't wait. We knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that we were brought together nearly three years ago as soulmates who would be faced with a seemingly insurmountable challenge. We couldn't wait, after six weeks of intense radiation and chemotherapy, to celebrate together and finally become husband and wife. Because the truth of the matter is, Bryan and I were already married. Not in the legal sense, but in a spiritual, emotional and intellectual sense. We felt, in the best way possible, as though we were celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary rather than the beginning of our lives together. Simply put, a couple doesn't go through something as devastating as a brain tumor diagnosis (not to mention treatment) and come out of it nervous to get married. Instead, they come out of it with a foundation of marriage more solid than a rock. In Bryan's and my case, there wasn't a sentence we couldn't finish for each other, a feeling or look we couldn't immediately recognize, or a silence that didn't speak volumes.
So when people asked us if we were nervous to get married, our reply was always "no." And while I was nervous about practical things, like Bryan's ability to walk to the alter (his leg was weak from radiation) and his energy level (he had finished treatment less than two weeks before our wedding), the one thing I was absolutely not nervous about was becoming Mrs. Bryan Bishop. Because in my mind, I had been that way forever.
You can read more about Bryan's brain tumor and treatments on Christie's blog, An Inconvenient Tumor
Today's Bride Guest Blogger is Christie Clough. She has a very important story, one which makes me remember how important my job really is.
My fiance, Bryan, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in April, just three short months before our wedding. Suddenly, meetings with cake decorators and florists were replaced by an onslaught of neurologists and neuro/radiation oncologist appointments. The last eight weeks of wedding planning became secondary to Bryan's six-week course of daily radiation and oral chemotherapy, and our wedding itself took on more meaning than I can properly explain. So many engaged couples breeze through their wedding vows, repeating the time-honored phrase, "in sickness and in health" without truly understanding the depth of its meaning. After all, so many other late-20 and 30-something newlyweds – just like us – often feel invincible, like the world around them can do no harm. Just four months ago, we were of that very mindset, too, with our biggest dilemma revolving around selecting cake flavors. It's amazing how, in the blink of an eye, everything – and I mean everything – can change. Thank goodness Bryan and I decided to hire a professional wedding planner, because while she was originally enlisted to help balance our full time jobs and keep us on track through the inevitable snafus – think securing the perfect venue and working with our vendors – she quickly became our rock, taking on more than her fair share while we dealt with doctor's appointments and blood tests. Another rock? Anna; she was literally our first and only choice for a photographer, and little did she know she would have to help carry my husband out of a vineyard. But I digress. Six months into the wedding planning process Bryan and I were practically done with our checklist. Life works in mysterious ways, as we had absolutely no clue that not only our careers, but our mortality, were about to be shaken to the core. Between February and April, Bryan and I were both laid off from high-profile L.A. entertainment and advertising jobs. However, we relished our new-found unemployment (not to mention years of diligent savings) and couldn't wait to sleep in 'til noon, take advantage of 4pm happy hours and generally enjoy life for once. However, our joy was short-lived and our plans displaced, as barely five days later Bryan shared that "something was wrong." He had been feeling increasingly dizzy and off-balance, and it was getting worse, not better. Now, I'm not a particularly religious person, but looking back it was absolutely no coincidence that Bryan and I were able to be together for the moments that have since followed; during the doctor's appointments that incorrectly diagnosed Bryan with multiple sclerosis, and then, terrifyingly, correctly diagnosed him with an inoperable brain tumor. Despite our struggle and the challenges we continue to face – and let me tell you, they are serious challenges – the one thing that hasn not been tested is our love and dedication to each other. Not once. Upon receiving the news, we rallied, put our game faces on and buckled up for the ride. And what a ride it's been. Four months, two lay-offs, and six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation later, Bryan and I exchanged vows in an amazing ceremony in Napa Valley. And as I proudly helped my battle-weary husband make his way down the stairs after being pronounced husband and wife, I knew it was time to celebrate. But on that night, we weren't just celebrating marriage. We were celebrating life.
You can more about Bryan and Christie's story at Christie's blog, aninconvenienttumor.com
Event Design: Michelle Buckley at Mint Julep, Inc
Venue: Vintage Inn in Yountville
Florist: Mandy Scott
Cake: Branching Out Cakes
Bryan was very proud that he tied his own tie and buttoned his own shirt on his wedding day. These are the kinds of simple tasks that give him trouble now. My assistant Beth took this photo.
Christie and her dad right before walking down the aisle.
The reception room.
The crazy candyland cake!
Bride Guest Blogger runs every first of every month. Liz Garcia is a screenwriter in LA and her husband Josh Harto is an actor and writer. This is Liz's third Bride Guest Blogger post. ALSO: Great news, Liz and Josh's wedding is featured in this month's InStyle Magazine! Yay!
IN DEFENSE OF DITCHING THE PLAN
>by Liz Garcia
A wedding starts with good intentions. Among them, to be generous with guests, to look your best for pictures that will go down through the generations, to combat nerves in order to be sincere and present for your betrothed, to personalize the ceremony and reception so that it could never be mistaken for someone else's wedding. And to get it all done. On time. And with a year and a half of engagement time, why shouldn't every moment of wedding have gone just as we planned?
Because we're writers. And writers wait until the deadline is breathing down your neck like dragon fire. With the help of our super-organized and formidable wedding planner, Pamela Cianci of Outlined Productions, the fundamentals were nailed down immediately -- the in-demand Anna (book now!), the venue (year in advance!), band, decor, cake. Which left the details. Details which Josh and I SWORE we'd do ourselves. On time. That was the plan.
And we did a lot. We did. We calloused our fingers and maxed out our Kinko's card upholding much of our end of the bargain - working into the wee hours on favors, programs, a 40 page 'Welcome Packet.' But then there were the things that um, didn't go as planned, 'cause we, um, didn't get to everything. The signs we planned on putting up to ensure guests could find their way through the labyrinthine wine country roads, they didn't get put up. And dear friends called us lost in the thick, velvety night and having nearly driven into a pond. And the day of, my maid of honor was clomping through the supermarket aisles in her dress and heels, hungry baby on her hip, 'cause I forgot about the wind and needed serious hold hairspray.
But let me give due credit to the gifts provided by procrastination. Firstly, wedding planning can BE your procrastination. Why hand that outline in on time when you can be scouring wedding blogs like StyleMePretty and IndieBride? Those hours online led me to Anna and Pamela. It's also how we found the images that became the QuickTime movie (oh yeah, seriously determined to not hand in that outline on time) that was sent to the cake maker, florist and lighting designer. And lastly, it was on the day before our wedding that my husband told me he wasn't yet done with his vows. Which meant we wouldn't have time to share them before the day of. My nerves skyrocketed; gone was the plan designed to ensure my comely composure in front of all our guests. But this was truly the greatest gift of the wedding. My husband, who had insisted that he read his vows before mine, lest my finished-six-months-before vows show up his, blew me and everyone else out of the water. And I mean that in the most romantic way possible. Yes, I got unbecomingly tearful and splotchy and carried away because I was so surprised and touched at his lyrical, hilarious, heartfelt vows, but I wouldn't want it any other way. I felt my heart expand in my chest -- seriously! like the Grinch! And as if that wasn't enough, after our spontaneous and intimate display, our guests ... they changed. Their tears and their love ('You changed my life!' 'I don't have to settle for guys who are jerks anymore!' 'I love you two!' All the stuff you wanna hear...) flowed like we were three days into a desert spiritual retreat. It was surreal. Totally unplanned. And the most amazing, profound, connected experience I've had in my whole splotchy, nervous life.
Here is the InStyle spread!
(Here is the second post from Bride Guest Blogger Liz Garcia. I photographed her wedding to movie star Joshua Harto
in September last year at the Carneros Inn. Liz is a screenwriter in LA. )
OTHER PEOPLES’ ADVICE
I hated when people wanted to give me advice about my wedding. Normally, I love advice. I use my facebook status as a means of soliciting advice – best restaurants? Skin care? Good books? Directions? But wedding advice all bears one hideous characteristic in common, a characteristic which chafes at love and romance like sandpaper in a diaper: practicality. No, thank you, I don’t want your practical advice. I’m engaged and in love. I have one day in my life during which I have permission to make my dreams come true. No… just thanks anyhow. My wedding laughs confidently at your practical advice, ‘cause we won’t need it. All the inspiration photos pulled from all the blogs and magazines, those luscious centerpieces and layered fabrics and calligraphied cards and those twinkle-light roofs and glowing paper lanterns, we’ll have all that exactly as pictured. That fat-cheeked flower girl with shiny patent leather Mary Janes – yes, that, too. And the wee custom dress she wears so adorably – yes. All this, and it will all come way under budget. Way. The dance floor underneath the stars where the songs you’ve forgotten you loved issue forth from the band and you gasp in delight, and you and your guests dance with limbs loosened, and good-looking shoes inexplicably comfortable. The grievances temporarily forgotten, gaps bridged, secrets spoken aloud and toasted to and laughed off. We’ll have that. And it’ll last all night. In fact, it’s going to last the whole weekend, and possibly for several more weeks. And everyone I love will be there, and they’ll never leave. We will form a new community, a new country with it’s own rules and it will all come way under budget. Way.
So thanks anyway for your advice, but I know I’ll have no regrets, and I know my wedding’ll be exactly as I pictured.
How to say this? It is. It is exactly what you wanted, though not what you pictured. Because you don’t remember how it looks. And the advice you want to shun? Yes, it is practical, but it is something else, something you’ll like: it’s romantic. Because what those married people are trying to tell you about your budget is that it doesn’t matter. The flowers, the lights, the placecards – all that is fun, and beautiful, but the time and money you spend does not matter. What matters… (Ready for it? ) is what money can’t buy. What only photographers like Anna can capture. What matters is how your wedding feels. And it feels like bliss. It feels like your first night in the new apartment, auspicious and giddy and free. It feels like your childhood dreams, but with the added sweetness that now that you know it’s a dream, you know how special it all is. You know that daily responsibilities and time and practicality – yes – they have decided together to give you a break on this night and step aside for what is larger: matters of the heart. Against all practical reason, you and your mate have made love the first priority. And it feels so sweet. No matter what, it will feel so sweet.