On Saturday, April 27, 2019, my only daughter, my baby girl, Colleen, married the most wonderful man I could ever have hoped for her to meet and fall in love with. On that day, I had the pure pleasure and honor to be Mother of the Bride for the first – and last – time in my life to the most beautiful, intelligent, caring daughter any mom could ever ask for.
Less than a year before, Matt had asked Colleen to be his wife during an impossibly magical trip to Lake Como. They were engaged at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, a 16th century Baroque chateau that can only be described as “fairytale.” Of course, the next 8 ½ months of wedding preparation often descended from the lofty splendor of Lake Como to a more frenetic pace.
After a lot of careful investigating, visiting wedding venues from Bolton Landing to Montauk, the couple – who live in the West Village – opted to tie the knot in Manhattan, at the New York Athletic Club, an iconic Manhattan landmark known familiarly as the NYAC. While the destination was most convenient for the largest number of family and friends attending the nuptials, it meant that “MOB,” as my position is referred to in wedding jargon, would have limited ability to help my daughter prepare for the big day because I live three hours away in Ballston Spa.
While I did my best to help from a distance, it mostly came in the form of moral and emotional support, as Colleen almost singlehandedly put together a wedding for the record books – not a surprise to me. From the time she could walk, Colleen knew intuitively how to take charge, absorb information and formulate winning strategies and plans. Her diligence and determination to be the best she can be has taken her from a successful career in academics, athletics and dance to a burgeoning professional career. I knew she would tackle her wedding plans with the same attention to detail as she’s approached all challenges and responsibilities in her young life.
From the church to the music, the venue, the food and the photographer, every detail was meticulously planned, with little left to chance… except the weather and fate.
Before we knew it, the wedding day was upon us. That morning, the bridesmaids, maid of honor, myself, my sister and Colleen’s future mother-in-law all gathered in a large room on the 9th floor of the NYAC, to submit to the female ritual of readying ourselves for the ceremony ahead. While all of us had, at one time or another during the preceding eight months, experienced varying levels of stress and pre-wedding nerves, on that particular Saturday morning, there was a calm, a peace and a serenity that was both unexpected and abundantly welcome.
For the next four hours, we had our hair done and makeup applied as we nibbled on breakfast, sipped on champagne and mimosas, and shared stories of Colleen and Matt and our hopes for their future together.
During those few hours, we fulfilled the age-old tradition of women gathering together to nurture, support, pass on family histories, reminisce about those who were no longer with us, and create bonds with others from different generations, different geographic locations and lifestyles, but who were all connected by their shared love of Colleen and Matt.
My stepdaughter and Colleen’s sister, Kim, was maid of honor, a role she took seriously and fulfilled with love and a quiet pride for the baby sister she was so thrilled to welcome into the world 29 years earlier. She was a rock that morning and for the rest of the day and evening, infusing her tasks with quiet joy, pride and bursting filial love for her baby sister.
Colleen’s mother-in-law, Lori, had already become a dear friend. The stereotype of the in-laws who can’t stand each other was just that. For me, meeting Lori for the first time over the telephone was like coming back to an old friend. We hit it off instantly and quickly became good friends. Having her there to share that special morning together was truly a blessing. This wedding was a first for us both and we swapped stories about our kids, the loves of our lives. We talked excitedly about things we would do together as a newly blended family, enjoying the prospect of someday being grandmothers together and joking about sharing time with grandkids.
Colleen had also invited her aunt, my older sister, Helen, to be there that morning. Our mom, Colleen’s grandma, had passed away 18 years before, when Colleen was a young child. For my sister, myself and Colleen, it was a morning to reflect upon a woman who had exerted such a strong influence on all our lives. I had given Colleen the mother of pearl prayer book my mother carried for her own wedding. Having
it there with us only heightened the feeling of ease and calm in the room. I felt my mother with us that morning. I knew how thrilled she would have been to see how her first granddaughter had grown into the beautiful, accomplished and loving woman she is now.
While there were so many remarkable moments from the wedding day and the celebration that ran late into the night, that quiet time in the morning spent with my daughter, our family and friends, is one of the moments I will cherish most from that day. It was transformational in so many ways. It is so much more than a group of women in slippers and robes with curlers in their hair and a mimosa in their hands. It is a time for women to share in the ritual of preparing for that next, most important step in a young woman’s and a young man’s life.
That morning was a priceless gift that my daughter gave to me on her special day. And my advice to all future MOBs in waiting is this: use that special time of preparation, before the wedding begins and all the craziness descends, to be in the moment with your own beautiful daughter.
Celebrate the woman she has become. Remember those other women who have impacted your lives and the lives of your daughters. And capture the true joy and meaning of the day ahead. It’s not the church, the dress, the food, the music that matter. It’s the grace you see on your daughter’s face and the happiness you feel seeing the remarkable woman she has become.
Photos courtesy of Unique Lapin Photography