Happily ever after.

March 31, 2015 7 Comments

Happily ever after.

When we arrived at the decision that we wanted to get married, it was the fall of 1997. What we couldn’t decide on was the how of it all. I kept telling Michael that it didn’t matter to me. I would’ve been just fine with going to the courthouse on a Thursday morning. I had already had a wedding; he hadn’t. It was more important to me that Michael have the wedding his way, not mine.
 
As it turned out, he would have it his way. Yet what never ceases to make me awestruck is that his way would be to please me. To astonish and delight me. His way would be to create and orchestrate the wedding of my dreams. One that would take our entire relationship into consideration and leave not one detail unexpressed. It would be deeply personal; so much so that it could be felt by each and every person who would bear witness. And he would do it all for me.
 
As I write this on our 17th wedding anniversary, the feelings are fresh because we revisit this drama every year and it stirs up all of the emotion all over again. Plus, it pretty much puts Michael on a pedestal for the whole weekend. I hope I can do it justice, honey. Here goes:

 

The Surprise.

 

He said to me one day: “How about this. We will get married, but you won’t know  when or where. I want to surprise you. All you need to do is get the dress.”
 
It only took me a second to answer. “Yes, yes, yes!” I replied, delighted and clapping my hands together like a little kid, bouncing with excitement.
 
“Ok. Here are the rules: you have to answer every question I have for you, but you cannot ask any questions yourself, fair enough?”
 
I nodded solemnly but my smile was wide.
 
Over the course of the next several weeks, Michael had rallied his support team, an integral part of which were his sister and my parents. It wasn't long before I realized what awful liars my parents and his sister were, and what a disturbingly good liar my soon-to-be husband was. I chalked it up to his drama courses at Wayne State University.
 
I also learned that shopping for a wedding dress was not going to be as easy as I thought. Here’s what happened at my first bridal boutique appointment:
 
“Hi, are you Kerrie?” Yes!
“And is this your mom?” Yes, this is Mary.
“Ok, so let’s get started! When is the wedding?” I don’t know!
(The look on her face…it clouded over briefly and then her chipper banter continued.)
“Well, Spring? Winter? Fall? Summer?” I don’t know, actually.
(The cloud returns and stays longer)
“Ok then! Let’s just start with long sleeves? Or short sleeves?” I look at my mother helplessly and see that she has turned head so that the saleswoman doesn't see her covering her mouth in laughter.
(Now the cloud has set up residence and her chipper-ness is replaced with something more like cool irritation.) Um, short sleeves? I murmur unconvincingly. She asks us to take a seat and starts hauling in gowns while my mother and I try to remain dignified.  I’m quite certain she thought I was certifiable or a grand waste of her time. Needless to say when I explained that it was to be a surprise, it fell flat.
 
After that catastrophe I quickly rationalized that short sleeves covered just about any season and simply made up the other answers to placate future bridal shop gate keepers. What did I know? My first wedding gown was made by a friend.
 
Were there some people who thought I was crazy to relinquish control over this ever-important day? Absolutely. But we were two crazy romantic young fools madly in love with each other. Plus, I genuinely like to be surprised. Michael genuinely likes the idea of surprising me and once I realized the sincerity of his effort, well, who would want to ruin or discourage that?
 
We played an almost daily game of random questions that were arbitrarily tossed into a conversation: White or yellow flowers? White. Candle light or morning ceremony? Candle light. Emerald or diamond cut? Emerald. I could peer straight into his eyes and he would never flinch by my response. My future sister-in-law on the other hand, quickly reached a point when she could no longer look me in the eye. When we ate lunch together she would frequently get an emotionally strained look on her face, squinching her eyes first then her smile twisting into something else entirely — and she would have to look away or leave the table to compose herself.
 
These waves of emotion were a constant between all of us. My Mom would just break into laughter; Dad's eyes would mist over and he would look down. As for me, I could sense whenever something around the wedding was being discussed when I walked into a room and I would just turn and walk away, blissfully removed from the details.
 
Michael was masterful at bringing his plan to fruition. Once we were chatting on the phone about what he wanted for dinner. A seemingly innocuous conversation that a couple may engage in on any given day. Only he was talking to me in Nashville from Michigan where he had flown that morning to solidify our wedding venue. He later told me he was only slightly worried he might miss his flight and our dinner and blow his cover entirely.
 
The energy between us was even more electric than before. Everyone that was involved in this plan was equally as charmed by the amount of thoroughness and thoughtfulness that was being displayed as Michael painstakingly orchestrated the wedding of my dreams, one detail at a time.
 
It was a Saturday morning when Michael informed me that his sister and my friend Lou would be coming over to help me pack for the honeymoon. “You will pack for a European vacation, a beach vacation and a winter vacation,” he instructed. “They will write down what it is you wish to bring and your things will be packed for you. Today, you'll pack for a winter vacation.” He had a devilish grin on his face. I could tell he was relishing in his clever little plan. I blinked and blinked again my thoughts racing as I absorbed these instructions. “OK,” I obediently replied.
 
I didn't realize how tedious it would be until we started hauling outfits out of my closet. Boots, belts and sweaters were inventoried and examined for their honeymoon worthiness. These two wonderful women in my life taking painstaking notes on yellow note pads until we had filled two pages with what would be the best options out of my closet for a winter-time honeymoon.
 
“Wait a moment,” I said, “what about lingerie? After all it is my honeymoon.”
 
They exchanged glances and then after only a second of hesitation said over each other: “Oh yes! We will come back for that one.” “Yeah, knowing you that could take forever!”
 
At dinner that night, Michael asked me casually if I wanted to go up to see my parents for Easter or my birthday? Every year we went up to see them on one or the other. It was the first week of March as he is asking me this. By now I knew enough to remain as flexible as possible but keep in mind - I'm still trying deliberately not to uncover any detail whatsoever. With that in mind I merely replied immediately that it made no difference to me. Then - and I must admit this was the only time I actually thought about the possibility of any of this coming to fruition anytime soon - I said, “Why don't we go for my birthday?” Tucked away in the farthest reaches of my little heart was the hope that perhaps, just maybe, he might choose my birthday to get engaged. That seemed right and fitting.
 
He agreed without a stitch of emotion, and I went to check my work schedule to make sure I had no concerts or travel on the calendar.
 
A few days went by when Michael approached me to let me know that he had agreed to help some friends of ours remodel the kitchen of their cottage up north while we were in Michigan. “I’ll leave the day before you and meet you there.” Just like Michael, I thought to myself, to offer up his talents and his labor. He is such a generous man.
 
At the office the week before my birthday, I was chatting with the office manager about my nails needing a manicure. Stretching them out before me I wondered out loud if I should leave them longer or go shorter? “Oh longer!” She replied, much too quickly and with too much enthusiasm than the moment called for. I looked up at her and let the realization wash over me that this was a bit off and then walked away. I was determined. Even though I was excited at the possibility of getting engaged, I surely didn’t want to ruin whatever surprise Michael had planned for me and most certainly not over a discussion about how long my nails should be.
 
By the time I arrived to my childhood home in Livonia, Michigan, I could sense something was definitely going on. The energy was nervous and my mom was laughing more than usual. “Let's go shopping,” she said, almost as soon as I arrived. “I’ll buy you a dress for your birthday!”
 
Hmmm. This is getting hard to ignore, I thought to myself. I allowed the thought to enter my mind one more time. Maybe I am getting engaged on my birthday! We were going out to dinner; but that wasn't unusual. Michael and I had been playing a relentless game around the subject of getting engaged: “When are you going to ask me to marry you?” and his reply was always, “Oh, when I ask you, you’ll know!” Michael interrupted my thoughts with a phone call: “Hon, I'm up here in Grand Blanc and I'm hoping to be done in time to join you guys for dinner, but don't wait for me in case I get tied up, ok?”
 
Poof. My heart deflated. But on the ride to the restaurant, my giddy hope was renewed again as my Dad drove a bit faster than usual, jaw clenched, quietly intense. Me in my new dress. I just might be getting engaged today, I grinned silently in the back seat.
 
We arrived at the country club where my parents current favorite restaurant was and parked in an empty lot. We entered an equally empty restaurant with just a smattering of golfers at the bar. The Cooper’s always did eat early. We waited as the maitre d’ gathered up the menus and escorted us to the table past the proverbial poster of the guy in the tuxedo who would be performing the standards on his keyboard a little later on.
 
Once we had ordered and were well into our drinks — Chivas and soda with a twist for dad, a Beefeater martini on the rocks for mom and white wine for me — everyone seemed to relax just a bit. I looked through the tall wall of windows out onto the greens and thought to myself, what a charmed time in my life this is. How happy I am to be out with my parents on this classically blustery spring day: mild temperatures, but a wind that could lift a kite. I smoothed the front of my dress and glanced down with approval on the glossy new manicure on my long fingernails.
 
By the time dessert came, after I had nervously glanced over my shoulder at least fifty times in anticipation of Michael arriving, I was as deflated as a shriveled forgotten balloon weeks after the party was over. “If you'll excuse me,” I said, “I’m going to the restroom.” I set my napkin down and left the table. Mom followed closely at my heels.
 
As soon as the door closed behind me I wailed to mom: “It's my birthday dinner and he couldn't even be here. Plus…” I hesitated looking up through the tears forming in my eyes …  “I thought I might be getting engaged,” I confessed.
 
“Well, Kerrie Lynn, what can I say? I thought we had a nice time together all the same.”
 
“I know…it's just that…”
 
A couple of tears slipped down my face. “Just give me a moment Ma, I'll be right out.”
 
I proceeded to have my own little pity party, completely unaware that out in the parking lot Michael was nervously waiting for me to take my seat again.
 

 

 

My father smiled warmly at me as I returned to the table. My mother tilted her head in concern. I gave them both a resigned brave look and said: “Ok I'm here, I'm over it…where were we?”
 
The sound of music from the back of the restaurant caught my attention, it's a little early to start the entertainment I thought to myself as I turned in my chair to see if the guy looked like his picture on the poster.
 
My breath caught in my throat and my hands flew up to cover my gaping mouth as I watched Michael, strumming his guitar with a rose between his teeth, walking toward me. In solemn procession behind him were our dearest friends and family. When he got to our table, he began a song I had never heard before. I hung on every word as the rest of the restaurant — now much busier than before —  silently watched this drama unfold.
 

 

The lyrics were beautiful and made me blush. I alternated between looking down to hide my emotion and staring unabashedly deep within his eyes. He paused, handed his guitar over and dropped to one knee. He is proposing to me in a song I realize incredulously. Of course he is.

 

 

Then I hear the lyric ask me to marry him. I didn’t intend for a long pause, I was just in the best kind of shock. I kept staring in his eyes and shaking my head in disbelief, this beautiful man had rendered me speechless. I have no idea how much time lapsed as I tried to absorb everything that had just unfolded before me. Michael’s eyes were happy and inquisitive and eventually, someone in the background offered the thought that I may want to answer the question and that brought me out of my daze. I whispered yes.
 
The room erupted and the music kicked on and my mother laughed and my daddy cried.
 
Champagne was served and as Michael and I clicked our glasses together in a toast, he scans the room grinning at the party going on around us and without even looking at me says: “What are you doing tomorrow?” I'm floating by now, high above everyone else gathered among us, and the question strikes me as preemptive to these festivities,  so without a thought I merely say: “I have no idea.”
 
“Want to get married?” He asks. It takes a moment to settle into my brain.
 
“Are you kidding me?!” I say. I'm so glad the photographer caught this moment because my expression says it all.

 

 

He throws his head backs and laughs and takes a sip of champagne before he  calmly answers, “Why not?”
 
“What about my dress?”
 
“Long white one with a veil?” His sister has appeared, smiling broadly. “I’ve got it for you.”
 
And that's how it happened. One glorious moment unfolding into the next and without a care in the world I let my soon-to-be husband direct my every move: “You've got to go now, darling, I'll meet up with you later.”
 
His sister Kerry leads me off, my mom and dad were blowing kisses my way and I'm taken to a lingerie party with the girls. At some point in the night it pops into my head that this must be why they shrugged off my suggestion to pack these things.
 
Then I am swept away again to yet another celebration, this one with Michael and our families and even more friends. I didn't want to leave his side. “How did you do this?” Every time I saw him throughout the night I would just shake my head and grab his hand. He would grin and laugh out loud.
 

Getting married.

 

The next day I was driven to a location in downtown Northville, Michigan and dropped off in front of a clothing store where I was then covertly lead through buildings and up stairs, passerby’s nodding and smiling, it seems everyone knew what was happening but me; until finally I'm instructed to wait in what could only be the dressing room of a theatre. I primp nervously and ask to see my mom because there is a glitch with my veil. “There’s no time,” I'm told. Michael's little brother comes to get me and takes me upstairs when I realize that I actually am in a theatre. Oh my god we are getting married in a theater! It makes me grin so big. Of course this music man would plan our wedding as a theater production. It was so perfect.
 
I am greeted by my Dad, which of course makes me start to weep. He smiles broadly and gives me a squeeze and a kiss and hands me his handkerchief. The curtains open and I take it all in: white candelabras, a choir on a riser, flowers on pedestals everywhere and there's Michael and he starts to sing. I am overwhelmed with emotion and look down to silently collect myself, breathing deeply in but unable to look back up at all of that beauty; it’s too perfect and I have to remind myself that this is all for me. That I have a love that great.
 

 

I'm nudged to walk down the aisle and onto the stage where I kiss my Dad on the cheek and turn to face Michael who's hands are reaching out to me. I take his hands in mine and breath out slowly. “I don't know how much more of this I can take…” I say under my breath but the crowd hears me and laughs.


We are married right there on stage by a pastor by the name of Lisa Presley. I find my voice and the words of our self-written vows flow effortlessly. Michael is exuding confidence and control. I think we are almost to the part where we kiss when suddenly the lights dim and a male voice starts singing and Michael asks me to dance. I know this is above and beyond and some of you may be rolling your eyes right now, so you've got to know that A) dancing is a big part of our life together and B) we've known each other since we were 12 and so our repertoire of music spans decades and C) so we danced to a song that was important to us in junior high: "Always and Forever." I know. How perfectly sentimental. Took me right back to 7th grade.

 

 

Pronounced man and wife, there was nothing left to do but take a bow.

 

 

 

The reception was connected to the theatre. We were in a dinner theatre, featuring a seven course Italian meal and a twelve piece band playing the standards. This man knew his bride and had not missed even a tiny detail. Spirits were high as people gathered in the bar and the music started. After the first course, there were some rumblings among a few of the tables and then sheepishly, one of his brothers (Michael comes from a family of 7 siblings) comes to the stage with his wife to sing us a song. I laugh out loud when Michael tells me that after every course, someone in his family had to perform something — anything. All of this is payback because Michael was asked to write an original song for every single one of their weddings and so here we go, let the entertainment begin: we had beatnik poets, an original rap song, a presentation of an original poem and a duet. It was charming and endearing.
 
After dinner, everyone filed back into the theatre to watch a professional comedy troop perform some hilarious skits tailor made to feature many of our friends and family.
 
At the end of the night we are headed to the hotel when Michael says to me: “What are you doing tomorrow?” At this point I can do nothing but laugh hysterically. Well, he says, I hope you brought your honeymoon things. “What?! I only got to pack for one…” I start to exclaim. Then it hits me. Clever boy. We are going skiing. Of course, skiing, it was our first vacation together; a comedy club was our first date, he has literally shaped this entire event with all the things we enjoyed most in the world. Wow. I thought to myself. How am I going to top this?
 
So that is the story of our leap into happily-ever-after. I say that tongue in cheek, don’t you know, because those fairytales that end at the wedding with the beautiful couple waving and the parting words: “and they lived happily ever after…” are leaving you off at the beginning of the journey. You only need to enter into the first few years of wedded bliss to better understand that life is messy and complicated and full of joy and heartbreak…and so is a marriage. We’ve had to work hard at it and let me tell you, it hasn’t always been pretty and it is certainly not easy. But I’m happy to say that after a hefty dose of “for better, for worse, in sickness and in health,” we have reached a damn near perfect place of bliss in our love together. Sort of like this picture.
The end.

 

 

 

 

 




7 Responses

Lori Woodward
Lori Woodward

September 21, 2015

Thank you Kerrie for sharing your Exciting Wedding, we met as children & I wondered about you through the years.

Karen  Moskalczyn
Karen Moskalczyn

April 01, 2015

Written Beautifully..I was on every word. I knew some of the DeMay’s growing up. Just as u were my service squad Girl…That makes the story more exciting . What a lucky couple ,the two of you are. Best of blessings in years to come! Again,ROYAL!!!!

Kerrie Cooper
Kerrie Cooper

April 01, 2015

Paula, I love your note. You touch me deeply. Thank you for sharing your emotions and for reading my blog!

Kerrie Cooper
Kerrie Cooper

April 01, 2015

Ashley Post…that is the sweetest thing ever! You were so young back then. I have a picture of you in the audience as I was getting ready to walk down the aisle. It is precious, the look on your face. All my love darling.

Paula
Paula

March 31, 2015

…. I’m trying to figure out how to spell the sounds coming from my heart, lungs, eyes, throat, etc. Thank you for sharing this story, and your love, with us! Better than any Hallmark channel movie I’ve ever seen! … so, the myth really does exist! I hold onto the hope of something this beautiful and this real. <3
Ashley Post
Ashley Post

March 31, 2015

i remember this wedding! I remember telling dad that I wanted a wedding just like yours. He just kept telling me to shush! I remember thinking you were a princess who found her Prince Charming. I love you both and am thankful for all you have done for me through the years. You deserve so many blessings.

Brother
Brother

March 31, 2015

Excuse me….but was I there ??

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