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The Season of June - Here Come The Brides

(or "How to Throw A Wedding For Under Five Hundred Bucks")

 Who says we don’t have seasons in Southern California?  Heck, June is a season all to itself. To start, there’s June gloom! And, in our ever-changing ‘hood, June is busting out all over. Roses are abloom. Lavender Jacarandas are ablaze against the blue sky like a Monet painting and our streets are covered with blankets of lavender leaves. The intoxicating scent of jasmine fills the air.

If that isn’t a season, I don’t know what is. And I’m from New York!

During the season of June, bridal shops are hopping. Mothers of brides are in a shopping and planning frenzy. AND, our local churches and synagogues are getting ready for the big “June Wedding” push!

I wasn’t blessed with children, so being the mother of a bride was something I never expected to be, but, as we all know, life plays surprises on us all the time.

Back story: I’m a writer. Translation: I have a flexible schedule and a lot of time on my hands when the muse is sleeping it off. Some years ago I volunteered in an after school tutoring program at the Lankershim Elementary School in North Hollywood. It was there that I met an adorable third grader, a Mexican-American girl that my husband and I “adopted” in our hearts and mentored ever since.

Not that long ago, our daughter called. She was getting married in four weeks and, because her family couldn’t afford to do a wedding, she and her fiancé were going to City Hall. Could we join them? To make sure this was what she really wanted, however, I had to ask if she’d prefer a garden wedding at our house. Can you spell “duh!?”

So, now we were hosting a wedding.  In 30 days!!! 

Because we live in a California bungalow (translation: not a McMansion), we have a smallish backyard, dominated by a pool. The guest list needed to be limited to about 50. No problem. A wedding, no matter how small, is a celebration.

Did I mention that my husband and I are both writers? Translation: no fancy caterer or wedding planners. Not to worry. Husband is a fabulous cook and I had been an “on-air, guest design consultant/decorative artist for HGTV (how’s that for a credit?). Again, no problem! Well, husband might not agree since I decided to use every white linen table cloth my grandmother left me, none of which was pressed. But, hey, they were free! He definitely disagreed when I decided, two weeks before the wedding, to finally paint the dressers in our bedroom a “shabby chic” white. OK, so I had a couple of problems.

While I ironed a kazillion tablecloths, I decided to further cut wedding costs. No paper plates! I’ve been collecting antique dishes since college, and have more than enough mix-match Limoges, Lenox and Staffordshire to fill a china shop. I also have plenty of silver-plated mix-match cutlery. Glasses would have to be plastic, though. It’s one thing if a plate broke and fell into the pool, but clear glass? Broken in the pool? Nope.

The bride’s mom offered to make a few potato/pasta dishes. The groom’s mom would bring the soft drinks and we would provide the rest of the food, champagne for the toasts, white wine and the wedding cake.

Finding the perfect cake turned out to be an “only in LA” story. We interviewed bakers and tasted their confections, but everything we liked was more than we budgeted. Our search ended with the woman who made the cake for Eva Longoria’s wedding: “Baker to the Stars.” Now that’s a credit! She loved our bride and groom story and gave us the two-tiered red velvet cake we wanted at the price we could afford. We had our perfect cake.

Husband’s menu included a Waldorf salad (the groom’s fave), grilled tri-tips with a chimichurri sauce and poached salmon with a mustard-dill sauce. The salmon and sauces could be made the day before. Always a plus when planning a big party.

We scoured our ‘hood’s local nurseries for flowering plants to dress up our garden. I plopped a potted pink hydrangea onto a wooden chair with peeling green paint. I tacked straw hats and vintage paintings on the fence and draped an antique quilt on an old painted screen door that leans against the fence. More “shabby chic-ness.”

Husband programmed some music into his iPod. Who needs a DJ!?

The morning of the wedding I dressed the outside tables with the ironed linen.  Husband slapped ten pounds of tri-tip on the grill. The dining room table was set…serving dishes a-ready. China and silverware arranged on the buffet. 

At noon, the cake arrived and put in its place of honor in the dining room. By 2 P.M. the centerpieces, boutonnieres and bouquets arrived, paid for by the bride’s parents.

The mother-of-the-bride arrived with two enormous bowls of pasta and potato salad. To “go with,” she made about 50 sandwiches on little dinner rolls, “just in case” and brought extra bags of rolls as “back-up.” Well, you can never have too much food, right?!

Father-of-the-bride brought in a half-dozen coolers filled with an array of sodas, sparkling and flat waters. A minute later, the groom’s mother walked in with Caesar salads, cut veggies, and a variety of empanadas, “just in case.” One guest brought croissant sandwiches, another brought platters of sushi and fruit to go along with the cheeses and strawberries we had already put out as “appetizers.” We had everything from sushi to nuts. Literally. I ran out of serving dishes.

Showtime!  Husband cranked up the ipod and classical music filled the air as the bride and her attendants walked down the “aisle” alongside the pool to the waiting groom.  The ceremony was beautiful. It was in Spanish for the bride’s parents and, though I didn’t understand a word, I understood the “I do’s” and cried. I, too, was a “mother-of-the-bride.” The groom dipped his new wife as he kissed her. Everyone cheered.

Time to toast. To eat. Time to dance by the pool. And when it was over, I went in the kitchen to climb the Everest of dishes, but the bride’s mom and sister were already there. A brother-in-law was stripping the tables. Another was sweeping up. There was little for me to do. I kicked off my shoes and had another glass of wine.

By eleven o’clock everyone was gone, but just before our darling daughter left, I asked her if her day was all she hoped for. With tears in her eyes, she told me “It was perfect!” 

Wedding: $490.  Our “daughter’s” happiness:  Priceless. 

Que mas puedes pedir? Translation: What more can you ask?

Carol Kukas June 16, 2012 at 04:59 PM
That's a beautiful wedding. All weddings should involve all the people that love the wedding couple! Kudos!
Nina Malone June 16, 2012 at 06:34 PM
What a sweet story, lucky girl
MickMil June 16, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Well, you once again prove that it's not the price tag, it's the love and emotion you put into the wedding. Sweet article!
Ilona Saari June 16, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Thanks guys - being able to give our girl a wedding, no matter how small, meant a lot to us. And it was just plain fun! ;o)
CraezieLady June 17, 2012 at 04:15 AM
Made me cry! Wish I could have been there!
Ilona Saari June 17, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Hope it was a happy cry, Craezie Lady.
Irene DeBlasio June 24, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Ilona, You are the most perfect example of the resilient New Yorker -- always ready to tackle whatever comes your way. The wedding sounds like a fabulous success. I love your writing! YOU ROCK!!!

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