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Charleston Would Be A Perfect Venue – What Could Go Wrong?

Happy anniversary photoToday we celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary. Looking back, it’s a wonder we managed to get married at all. Buckle up. It’s a long one.

I was living in Maine and my husband in Florida when he proposed to me. The only family I had in Maine was my ex-husband’s family. He had no family living in Florida at the time so we decided to have our wedding in Charleston, SC. We made all the preparations remotely with hubby and his sister exchanging details via fax machine (It was 1996, ya’ll).

I chose the flower colors and ultimately the type of flowers (blue and white), drew up the design for our cake, and went about designing and mailing the invitations. My daughter was attending the University of Maine in Farmington. My son was graduating from high school and had been accepted to East Tennessee State University so we were also packing up the house and making plans for both our moves. It was hectic but we were soon on our way driving to Tennessee.

Two hours into our drive, we passed through the gate leading onto the Massachusetts turnpike, when suddenly my little Nissan Sentra (packed to the gills) would only accelerate to 15 MPH. Long story short, we had the car towed and ended up staying in a hotel with no restaurant and no transportation while some unknown mechanic in some unknown garage finally discovered the culprit – a $30 plastic part leading into the transmission. Four days and $600 later we were on the road again.

My son got settled into school, my husband flew to Tennessee and we started our drive to Charleston. Along the way, I would meet his daughters for the first time. One in Asheville and one at Clemson. Eventually, we made it to Charleston.

My now, sister-in-law kindly offered for us to have the wedding at her home, and my now mother-in-law planned a rehearsal dinner at her sister’s home on the inner coastal waterway. They made gift bags for all of our out of town guests. The cake was ordered, the flowers designed, and the caterers had been given the final count. Everything was coming together perfectly.

I had made arrangements to have my hair color done at a local salon. Since I have been grey since my late 20’s, this entailed ordering the specific brand and color of the dye my stylist had used for years. I went to the salon before the wedding only to find out the color had not arrived, the stylist planning to use some other solution to match the color. Six days before my wedding? Not happening. The following day the color arrived and I was off to the salon.

The salon’s hardwood floors had been refinished the night before which required the gas hot water heater’s pilot light to be extinguished. They were having trouble finding a technician to come back and relight it, which means I was shampooed with ice cold water. Things were going swimmingly!

Shortly after, the warnings and the headlines started to appear:

Hurricane Fran Newspaper Clipping

Hurricane Fran was on her way and making a beeline toward Charleston. The city shifted into preparing for the storm and wedding plans started to unravel.

People from Maine, Florida and Las Vegas were due to fly in and the phone started to ring – cancellations were pouring in. My daughter was flying in from Maine and my son from Tennessee so I was fraught with worry. The minister called and said he could not meet with us because he had families in crisis. The bakery called and said they could not make our cake because they had shifted to baking bread in anticipation of the storm. The florist called and said she needed to make the arrangements four days early because they would be getting no more flower shipments. The county office phoned and said if we wanted our marriage license we would need to come that day because they were shutting down the office and would not reopen until the hurricane had passed. Charleston had suffered through Hurricane Hugo and they knew to be prepared for Fran, a powerful Category 3 storm.

On Wednesday, the weather turned lousy. It was dark and foreboding. Things were not looking good for our wedding day on Saturday. We were on the phone with the caterers, and thankfully they were understanding and allowed us to adjust the headcount of the number of attendees. On Thursday morning, things began to turn in our favor. The storm shifted tracks and was headed to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Did I mention we were going to the Outer Banks for our honeymoon?

Thursday and Friday, guests started to arrive. Things were looking up, but that was not the end of our problems. My husband’s brother-in-law was finishing the deck and he was over there helping finish the work. My daughter arrived, but her shampoo bottle had opened and spilled all over her dress for the wedding. We found a one day dry-cleaner and my sister ferried the dress back to us after it was cleaned. Hubby’s Uncle was trimming trees at his home where we were to have the rehearsal dinner and sadly, fell and shattered his ankle.

Even with all this, we had a beautiful rehearsal dinner and the weather was beautiful. Everyone worked so hard to make it a wonderful occasion. The tables were set outside snd everything was lovely.

My mother-in-law offered for our ‘new family’ to stay together at her condo the night before so we could get to know each other before the wedding. Of course, one of my husband’s daughters was severely allergic to cats and of course my daughter owned a cat. So, we were all closed off in separate rooms. We had come to expect no less. Two daughters in one room. My daughter and I in the other bedroom and my husband and son on the couches. I woke up at 3:00 am with a horrible migraine and came out and laid my head on my soon to be husband’s shoulder and just cried.

Saturday morning rolled around and everything came together beautifully. We would always be remembered as the craziest wedding. It was typically post-hurricane steamy hot, but the ceremony was perfect. My best friend at the time (my ex’s step-mother) was my maid of honor, my son gave me away, and hubby’s two daughters were his ‘best women’. My daughter sang Patsy Cline’s “Always” and she and I both fell apart crying as she sang. Hubby’s daughter and niece played a violin/piano duet – “Ashokan Farewell”. It was beautiful.

We stayed at a suite at the Charleston Place that night. We had not eaten hardly any of the food the caterer prepared at the reception. We were so hungry. Our friends ordered champagne and chocolate covered strawberries delivered to our room and later that night I was sick, of course. We went back to hubby’s sister’s to open gifts and eat some of those leftovers. She had packed all the food up and given it to hubby’s daughter to take with her. Everyone said the food was great, but we would never know.

We stayed one more night in Charleston at Shem Creek surrounded by Shrimp trawlers. The hurricane had made landfall with 120 mph winds at Cape Fear, NC. We decided to cancel our honeymoon reservations but the hotel refused to refund our money. After a three month fight with American Express, they chose to pay the hotel rather than give us a refund.

Now, here we are 24 years later in the midst of a pandemic, still together. For all the things that went wrong, this relationship was the one thing that went right. Here’s to all the years to come – as many as we are fortunate to share.

Wedding Photo, cutting the cake