This time, 26 years ago, I was just arriving at my chichi downtown Montreal hair salon to have my hair styled for my 11 a.m. wedding. I'd been up all night with my out-of-town girlfriends, sitting on my bed and drinking champagne and talking for hours. I went to bed around 3 a.m. and was dragged from sleep by a phone call at 5 a.m. It was a friend of Doug's working in Saudi Arabia asking if we'd like to get together for dinner in Paris (where we were headed on our honeymoon.) I gave him Doug's number at the hotel and told him go ahead, call him, he'd LOVE to hear from you even if it's at 5 a.m. on the day of our wedding. I staggered around looking for coffee, put on some makeup, and headed downtown (on the bus) to get my hair done.
The stylist turned out to be a no-show.
I wasn't a long-term customer, having just moved to the city a few months before, but still, you'd think the hairdresser would show more respect for a bride. All around me, the employees of the salon went into a minor panic mode trying to find a junior to fill in and do something with my hair. I was surprisingly calm. We'd kept the whole wedding very simple, no fuss, and to me this was a minor glitch.
"Who's doing your makeup after?" a breathless assistant asked. It's already done, I said. I did it myself.
"Oh," was the response. Clearly staying up all night to catch up with girlfriends couldn't be hidden with a light coat of mascara and some blusher. I didn't care.
The hair finally got done, a little half-halo of baby's breath was affixed to the back, and I was back on the bus to go home and change into my wedding dress. It wasn't an official wedding dress, per se, but a Nicole Miller off-the-rack number that cost around $200. We were saddled with student debt and we were paying for the wedding ourselves, so it made sense. Besides, I loved this dress. It was white linen, dropped waist, and looked like something out of Brideshead Revisited, perfect for a tennis match perhaps, or a stroll through the rose garden.
I stepped outside our flat in Westmount to see the little kids next door hugging themselves in excitement, waiting for me on their porch with fistfuls of confetti. Then a car arrived to take me to the church, actually the chapel at McGill college.
I waited downstairs with my friend Marg, my matron of honour, as per the minister's instructions and he said his assistant would come and fetch me when it was time to go upstairs to the chapel. Everyone filed in to the church and waited. I fiddled with my hair and traded jokes with my friend. Neither of us wore a watch.
What we didn't know at the time was that the assistant, owing to some early dementia, forgot about us and left.
Upstairs the processional music began, the groom and his best man and the forty-eight invited guests stood and turned to look down the aisle. I chatted with my friend out of earshot of the music, both of us in blissful ignorance. The organist played the entire song, and everyone sat down. Then he started again, everyone stood up and looked again, and still...no bride. The entire song played a second time. Ten minutes late, and Doug thought maybe I'd changed my mind and bolted. Everyone sat down, whispering to each other.
Finally the minister sent someone to find me and the music started up for the third time. A visibly relieved groom met me at the altar and the wedding went off without a hitch.
It rained a bit that day. They say rain on your wedding day brings good luck.
We came home from our honeymoon pregnant, and brought our first daughter home nine months to the day we got married. By year five we had three children.
We raised those three kids together, added rabbits, dogs, cats, canaries. There have been long road trips to PEI in a rental van that was returned smelling like vomited strawberry shake and fries, campouts under the stars, sleepless nights with kids burning with fever, long summers at the cottage we built together, a basement flood, and the satisfaction that comes from helping people in one of the best dental practices in Montreal.
We created this life together. And we'll continue to do so in the next chapter of our lives as our kids leave the nest.
Happy Anniversary, sweetheart. I love you with all my heart.