In our culture, traditionally, giving birth to a daughter means paying for her wedding. As daughters one and two joined our family, friends chuckled as they reminded us of this fact. By the time daughter number three was born, instead of yelling “It’s a girl!” Our Doctor brought a financial planner into the delivery room.
“Forget the free diapers from the hospital,” he chuckled, ” Take Hal home with you and start saving every penny you can.” As the nurse wheeled me out of the delivery room, I heard the doctor whisper to my husband, “Good luck, young man.”
Okay, maybe girls did cost a little more but I was prepared to spend more on dress up shoes and less on jeans with dirt-stained knees and frog inhabited pockets.
And weddings, who worried about those? Our daughters were still babies. Surely if I started saving now, we could afford to throw three weddings worthy of the Kennedys.
For the next ten years I saved every penny, nickel and dime. On my oldest daughter’s tenth birthday, we uncorked the piggy bank’s nose and counted the coins as if we had stolen pirates gold.
“Wow,” my daughter squealed, “You’ve saved almost $127.”
“Uh huh,” I said proudly. “What kind of a wedding do you think you’d like?” I asked as we fell back onto the overstuffed couch, hands behind our heads as we dreamed away.
“I want a frilly white dress,” she began, “with a veil that goes down to the floor.”
“Lovely,” I responded, remembering my own special day.
“And I want to buy the Hodgson’s house so my husband and I can live right next door.” Oh, so sweet, it was getting better and better. Daughters are just the best, I sighed, my heart growing ten sizes every time she opened her mouth.
“And you know what,” I interrupted, “if I continue to save, I might have almost $300 by the time you get married.
But by the time my daughter announced the big news, I had been kicked out of la-la land only to realize that the wedding business ran at a huge profit.
Scanning a wedding magazine’s estimated costs, I realized the money I had saved would barely cover the cost of printing the invitations. We had nine months to plan a shoestring wedding. It was going to be like having a baby while on a diet. This was going to be one skinny baby.
But we planned every detail as if we could actually afford it and we had a ball.
“I want a garden wedding,” my daughter gushed, “how about in the backyard?”
Great, I thought, this might work. And best yet my daughter wanted lilacs and I actually had several trees growing. Sure, they were only three feet tall and hadn’t actually blossomed yet but we just knew that this would be the year.
For nine months we painted and cleaned and bought bridesmaids dresses off the clearance rack. We made our own centerpieces and put together snack trays and cold cut platters. We did everything we could to prepare for what would undoubtedly be the best day of her life.
And then, around May 1st, it hit us. We looked at each other as if someone had just told us the Titanic was going to sink and we were sitting in deck chairs on the front of the bow.
“What if it rains?” I can’t remember which one of us actually said the words because whichever one it was, the other was thinking it.
But five days before the wedding, a friend called after watching the week’s weather forecast, her voice excited and loud. “It’s supposed to be beautiful on Saturday, eighty degrees, no wind.”
She might as well have told me I’d won the lottery.
And it was beautiful, and my daughter was beautiful, and guess what? After the final guest left, my daughter threw her arms around me and cried, “Mom, this was the best day of my life, thank you so much for everything.”
It really was the best day. It cost a little more than $300 but not much. And while none of the Kennedys came to the wedding, everyone who meant anything to my daughter arrived with laughter and joy in their hearts. It was a fairytale come true kind of a day for a daughter who was happy to create her wedding day out of a three foot high lilac tree and a handful of purple balloons.
“One down,” I whispered to myself as I put my mother of the bride’s dress back into the zippered bag, “Two to go.”
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