the hug

“Of course you are going to be my Maid of Honor.  I am going to be yours, too, right?” This is how my sister blandly informed me that I would be filling the most coveted position of best friends, sisters, and the occasional cousin. It was decided, I am to be her M.O.H..

Growing up, I believed that when my sister finally popped the question – my question – I would somehow turn into Katherine Heigl from 27 Dresses. But here I am, a college senior, and only last week I turned my bathroom rug bubblegum pink from a forgotten sock. How am I supposed to assist my sister – who is a complete type A personality – in planning a wedding? Scratch that, her wedding. This will be one of the biggest days of her life, following just behind my birth and her acceptance into medical school. I can’t let down the person who believed I was her living babydoll when I was the age of three, the one that literally picked me up when I fell, and now continues to pick me up when I figuratively fall, which is often.

I have begun the ‘Pinning’ process, and I now pin everything. I believe this is how modern-day weddings are now planned; hopefully, because flower and table arrangements, altars and color coordinations have flooded my home page. Things I never thought about or even knew were part of the M.O.H.’s duties are now gracefully streaming down my To Do lists at a rapidly increasing pace: “Get your wedding guests up and on the dance floor with these songs” and “How to keep your guests engaged while you say the big I DO”.  I had no idea that people could get bored by these things; I thought that dancing, boozing, and the saying of “I do!” was the entire point of attending a wedding, because we all know it is not for the sitting, baking, and awkward “Oh, hey” to that guy you never wanted to see again. But, before I go into the madness that is planning a wedding, let’s just begin by the planning of the proposal, a proposal my soon to be brother-in-law, Eric, wanted to keep secret from my big sister, Jessica.

holding hands


Keeping the secret of her engagement was, by far, the hardest part of this process, and not because I couldn’t keep the secret, but because everyone involved was trying too hard to keep the secret. My biggest piece of advice? Act casual! Trying to get this woman to do her nails, buy a fun, photo-perfect outfit, and go to a different city in one week screamed “YOU ARE GETTING PROPOSED TO!” in huge, flamboyant, showgirl letters. Friends and family tried to keep it cool by not being cool in the least. My mom kept darting behind corners to take personal phone calls. My sister’s best friend, Mandee Dees, who is a complete powerhouse of “I can do it myself. I don’t need no man,” asked my sister to go dress shopping for a date she said that she had that night. Trust me, people, less is more when it comes to someone not knowing.

Let’s start with what we all want to know: How was she proposed to?

sitting on the bench 2

The Proposal:

Eric met my sister, Jessica, through their mutual best friend, Mandee Dees, aka Powerhouse. Her name sounds too perfect to be true and her personality is just the same. Being that our families live in the sprawling metropolis that is Bakersfield, their first unofficial hang-out (date) was ice-luging, also known as ice-blocking, down the grassy, green hill of our childhood park. Their official first date was to the county fair, and, as their decision to keep dating concreted, Eric began to frequently visit Jess at UCLA in her three-bedroom, six-tenant apartment where he would pass time painting her door chalkboard white as she worked toward becoming a P.A.. Now, an important part of this story is that Eric has very little money, top-ramen-every-night little money, but he figured out a way to visit my sister no matter if that meant catching a ride with a buddy and then walking the rest of the way, literally. This boy set the standards high for any man I or my friends decide to date. Their romance is one of those terribly wonderful, low-budget films that banked on a love story to get through to the epilogue. One that everyone watches thinking that the movie will be an entertaining pastime, but whose tears roll right along with the credits. But, because Eric never wanted money to be a burden on my sister, he would budget his life around being able to work as hard as he could to make her happy and to her feeling secure.


Merry go round

One earlier date-night, Eric took my sister to a little eatery out of town at Fritto Mistro in Santa Monica. Located right next to the world famous Santa Monica Pier, the brightly lit Ferris Wheel caught my sister’s eye. After walking around the beachy town throughout the day, enjoying flavorful food and great conversation throughout the evening, Eric’s credit card was declined at the end of the night. Whether from the chapstick he had bought Jess earlier that day or the lemonade he ordered at dinner, one of those extra expenses put him over his budget. If you haven’t got Eric’s financial crutch, you most definitely do now. They walked around the pier, passing by the ferris wheel, and as Eric grew silent with defeat, my sister turned to him and said, “It means more to me that you are willing to spend your last dollar for me than that you actually have that money.” As Eric now tells us, that was the moment he knew he wanted to marry Jessica, a kind, caring, patient woman with whom he could see himself starting a family.


The lift


On the night Eric did propose – finally, I have been wanting a brother since five Christmases in, and apparently Santa does not provide that service – it was the weekend after Valentine’s Day, he had picked up the engagement ring, shoved it in his shoe, and made reservations at the same Fritto Mistro that began their journey. He planned to give my sister the night as it should have been the first time they went to Santa Monica. Friends and family lined the pier, cameras at the ready. A friend of Eric’s played Jessica’s favorite songs by her favorite artist – Ben Howard – and as a planted couple asked my sister to take their picture, Eric got down on one knee and waited for my sister to turn around into her future. A singular “Yes”, tears, hugs and cheers filled the air, and dynamics changed. Jessica became a financé, Eric became a brother, my parents gained a son, and I finally got my brother. The reality of a life together became concrete.

And, then, a panic started to arise after they set the wedding date for a short six months after the proposal: September 3, 2016.

The Stress Test:

The night terrors began as wedding to-do lists filled the small openings of her notebooks full of medical terms and definitions, graduate schools, and potential jobs.

After the camera flashed, the ring was placed, and Eric stood erect, I figured the stress is over, the planning is done, the proposal went as perfectly as it could have. But, much like a Vera Wang paired with grab-and-go shoes, I could not have been more wrong. The planning is just beginning. Long veil or short veil? Conservative veil or decked out veil? Maybe follow the path of Gilmores and wear a tiara. Where should the wedding be held? Where should the reception be held? Who will be their pastor? What type of food should be served? Where can I find hundreds of rose petals? Where can I find hundreds of chairs? Where can I find the fortitude to budget all of this?

But, September is a good month for their wedding, a strong and meaningful month. My grandparents anniversary is on that day, and the 6th of September is both my birthday and my great grandmother’s. September brings good things into our family.

This was the way I decided to begin thinking, not about the to-do’s and the to-don’ts, but about how utterly amazing it is that my sister has found love with this humble man, that she will begin an entirely new life and a family (one day). And, this is how each wedding should be thought of. In the words of Randy Pausch, “Never, ever underestimate the importance of having fun.” Weddings should bring joy and love; they bring together old friends and create new families.

Before you know it, the wedding started to come together. Her color theme had been chosen: navy blue and coral with accents of marble, copper, and floral – it is less chaotic than it sounds, I swear; this of how beautiful a kaleidoscope is once you arrange it just so. The bridesmaids have been set, the venue will be in our own backyard (literally), and our first of what I am sure will be numerous shopping excursions has been successfully endured. We woke up early, had breakfast at my grandmother’s, and then hit Old Pasadena in search of the dress, THE dress! Jess found it in the second shop; in the time it took me to eat two street tacos, Jess found the one item most brides spend months designing and importing piece by piece from all over Europe. Much like how she asked me to be her M.O.H., she was very “Onto the Next One” about it. She has decided upon popsicles as her dessert, as September in Bakersfield might as well be July in Yuma.
I will be planning the Bachelorette party and the wedding shower, and Powerhouse will be planning the flash mob; it is definitely going to be a new-aged wedding, but the thing I am most excited for actually came from another story I wrote for Weddinc: “Putting Your Hope Into Something Solid.” As you can read in that piece, a Cassone or Hope Chest, is a traditional wedding gift of the Italian culture gifted to the bride on her wedding day. Now, our family is not Italian, but I could not get over how beautiful and meaningful this type of gift would be for my sister to receive, and here is why: My uncle is a carpenter, my father is a workshop fiend, and Eric is simply an all-around talented man. The plan is to have each of these three men, together, create a unique version of a Middle Aged treasure. Her friends and our family will then decorate and fill it with letters, photographs, trinkets of all shapes and sentiments.. I cannot think of a more perfect way to show someone how much she is loved and cared for than to see all of her favorite people put so much work and time into something she will be able to cherish for decades to come and pass on to future generations. 

It is a place for love to be kept and to grow, and to remind her of how important and special their September day will be.

Rewind to a little over three months prior, and here we are; my mother, father, and I ducking beneath plush animals being sold for $5 on the very same pier Eric realized he loved my sister.

the family