(Click the pictures as you read. Some give you a larger image, but some have more pictures behind.)

Wedding Day

     My alarm wakes me from a sound sleep at 6am. I sit up in bed, confused that it's going off so early on a Saturday morning. Then I see my new blue suit hanging with my red paisley tie on the back of the bedroom door and think "That's right! Today's the day I'm marrying my best friend."

     Before we got together, we had known each other for years, having worked at the same store, albeit on different shifts. When I first met her, she was married, and I spent most of my free time hanging out with the people I worked with. Sure, I went out on the occasional date, but never really had a long-term relationship. I guess I was just looking for the right girl. It took me a while to realize that she was right there.

Our first apartment      Shutting off the alarm, I get out of bed, shave, shower, and get dressed. It's strange, being alone in the empty apartment we've shared for the past couple of years. She spent last night at her maid-of-honor's house, because her stylist was going to be there very early this morning to do their hair and get them ready for the big day. I put my suit coat into the car, and load in our stereo, the huge speakers that my buddy and I built years ago and are so heavy I once threw my back out lifting them incorrectly (not with the knees) and the stack of mix tapes featuring all of our favorite music that we had so much fun compiling over the last couple weeks. Five 100 minute tapes, with a dual tape deck, and we should be set. With that, I'm on my way.


     When I first started working there, I didn't see her that much because she worked days and I mostly worked nights, but if I worked during the day, she was there, laughing and joking with the rest of the crew. She and her husband would occasionally join us at the tavern across the street, and once, well before we were dating, she and I went to see "The Seven Samurai" at the Biograph. I had tried to get a group from work to go, and even tried to talk her husband into going, but he wasn't interested. Eventually everyone else dropped out and it wound up just being her and I. We had a great time, and I now wonder if she had any clue on that day what was in store for us. I'm pretty sure I didn't.

     I stop at McDonalds to get a little breakfast on the way. I eat my Egg McMuffin on the long drive south to the forest preserve that we booked for our reception picnic. We didn't want to have a traditional reception, because we are not traditional people, plus we didn't want to have to pick and choose which friends we were going to invite. We decided on a picnic in a forest preserves so we could invite them all. We checked out a couple places, but on the day we stopped by this particular place, there was a herd of deer grazing there, and we took that as a sign that it was a good spot. I check my pockets to make sure that I have the picnic permit that we went down to City Hall for over the summer. I need to drop off the permit and the stereo to our friends who are supposed to be there to decorate the place.


     Friends had a big part in getting us together. I remember the Christmas before our first date, a bunch of us from work were at a pal's house for a small Christmas party. I was there with my buddies, and she brought her husband, even though we all understood things were not going well between them. A girl from one of the other departments walked up to me, and said "You know, you should ask her out." I didn't know what to say, especially since she was standing there with her husband, but the girl insisted. Later that night, the guy throwing the party suggested the same thing. I started to think that maybe they were seeing something that I wasn't. She and I were part of a large group that went on a Caribbean cruise a couple months before, and we did spend quite a bit of time together then, but it was purely platonic. Or was it? She was a lot of fun to be around. Was there something between us that I wasn't recognizing? Was I that dense?


     As I pull into the parking lot at the preserve, I see the big wooden stand-up figures of Mr. and Mrs. Tazmanian Devil that we had commissioned after she found a flyer under her windshield wiper one day. We wound up buying a framed animation cel of Bugs Bunny dressed as a preacher marrying the Tazmanian Devils on the day we went looking for wedding rings, so it seemed only appropriate to have them there as part of the wedding party. At the pavilion beyond, I can see a couple of our friends busy decorating for the party, with streamers all over and small paper palm trees and pink flamingos (the "theme" of our reception, and a nod to the John Waters film) on all the tables. As we unload the stereo at the pavilion, I notice that the popcorn wagon we arranged for is already there, as is the tent and porta-potties we rented, and the hot dog vendor is unloading his wagon. His corner in our neighborhood is our favorite stop for a quick snack on a summer evening, and one day, on a whim, we asked him to cater our reception! It didn't take much coaxing, either. We have a keg of beer and wine and soda and, of course, a wedding cake with flamingoes. This is shaping up to be a heck of a reception. All that is missing is the bride. I have to get to the chapel!


     Shortly after that Christmas party, her marriage went down for the count, and she moved back to her parent's house. That's where a bunch of us from work picked her up one Saturday to take her out to celebrate her birthday. We took her to Greek town for dinner, then to Rush street for an evening of drinking and dancing and general mayhem. The low point of the evening was when one of the idiots with us parked his car in the Jewel lot, from which it was promptly towed, and we had to go to the auto pound across the street from Cabrini Green at 2AM to get it back. The high point was when I took her home. She was the last person I dropped off, and we stopped in a parking lot a block away from her parents house and talked. And talked. And kissed a bit. And talked some more. I think that's when I truly realized I was falling in love with her. The next day, I officially asked her out on a date and she said "Yes". I remember thinking of nothing but her until our first date the following Saturday, and for days and months after that, she was never far from my thoughts.



     It's a short drive from the forest preserve to the chapel grounds, but I can't get there fast enough. As I pull into the lot set aside for the bridal parties, I catch a glimpse of her walking toward the chapel. She is wearing a beautiful rose-colored dress, and has her hair done up like I had never seen before. She is breathtaking. I park the car, and walk up the path to the chapel. As I get to the door, some of my relatives and friends are standing around, waiting to go in. My uncle, who lives in Morton Grove, comments that he left his house Tuesday morning in order to get there on time. We all laugh as we walk into the chapel.




     

All the time we had been together, I had been very good about remembering the anniversary of our first date. It was very easy for me to remember, because it was exactly a week after her birthday. But I sometimes regret that I don't remember the exact date I proposed to her. The reason for that is that it was not your typical proposal. Remember, we don't do things traditionally. When we were working together, we spent a lot of time at the bar/pizza place across from work, and the bartender there always said that if a guy doesn't propose in the first six months of a relationship, he never will. I took that to heart, and somewhere near the end of the sixth month we were together, I told her that I understood that she was just out of a marriage and was probably not ready to commit yet, but I wanted her to know that I was determined to marry her, no matter how long it took. Turns out it only took four years.


     I step into the chapel. Almost all the pews are full. As if I couldn't feel any better about today, I'm thrilled to see the chapel filled with friends and family, all who came out this early on a Saturday morning to see us formally pledge our love to each other. It couldn't be more perfect.


     We did not set out for this to be a traditional wedding. From the chapel in the woods to the picnic as a reception, from the hot dog wagon catering to the Iggy Pop, Tina Turner, and Frank Zappa that will be playing at the reception, from her picking my groomsman to me picking her bridesmaid, from the plan to have all Beatles music at the ceremony, which we decided after seeing Paul McCartney at Soldier Field last summer, to the plan to just get in the car and drive north for the honeymoon, we just wanted to have fun and celebrate with our big day with our friends.





     As I stand at the front of the chapel, the organist begins to play "Maybe I'm Amazed", and I see her walk down the aisle, looking even more beautiful than I have ever seen her, I realize there is one traditional thing about this day. I am about to marry the love of my life.





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