Tag Archives: marriage

The First Big Trip — Part Two

Can it even be called “Part Two” when “Part One” was two months ago?  I don’t want to think about it.

Let’s instead focus on the wedding of the year.  This wedding was spectacular for a myriad of reasons: it was the marriage of one of my best, closest friends I’ve known since I was 13, it took place at an extraordinary farm on the same road as the farm my parents lived on during their first year of marriage (I mean, seriously!), and it was on July 26 — the twins’ first birthday!  All of this just further reinforces our life-long friendship connection.

Plus it was gorgeous.  But when this lady is the star of the show, isn’t that obvious?

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The ceremony was a Catholic mass, which was beautiful and solemn and celebratory all at once.  The bride’s brother sang, her sister served as maid of honor, and her parents radiated joy the entire day (that’s her happy mom Anne to the left in the photo).

Plus this was the jaw-dropping cathedral.

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Amy married Brian, who you may remember from Italy, and he is one of the funniest and most generous people I know.  Now, he’s also one of the luckiest.

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Side note: that dress.  I cannot even.  It is exquisite.

During the ceremony my family took care of the babies, one of whom fell fast asleep.  Hint: it wasn’t the one in the tiny tan suit, it was the one in the tiny Parisian dress.

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Their bridal party was top-notch — entirely supportive, hugely fun, and, if I may say, uncommonly attractive — check us out just working it during the photo sesh:

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They couldn’t have been more welcoming to this lone bridesmaid from the west, to the point that I’m keeping in touch with a few of them…this bride has great taste in friends.

Plus we really excelled at kicking back.

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The reception site was a completely updated and renovated farm.  It had a gorgeous hundreds-year-old farmhouse where the ladies got ready, a refurbished barn for the dinner and dancing, and picture-perfect grounds with lush weeping willows and a peaceful pond.

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I mean, look at that magazine-worthy barn.

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Amy is probably the most thoughtful bride I’ve ever encountered.  She told her photographer in advance to take family photos of us because it was the twins’ birthday.  We couldn’t believe it and we’re so thrilled with these priceless memories we’ll always treasure.

A little back story: last year, the babies were scheduled for induction on July 25, and I was so wrapped up in that it didn’t even occur to me that the following day was the one-year-prior-to-the-wedding day.  Once the babies were born on that day instead, I think it took a full day afterward, in my drug-addled state, to turn to my mom and say, “Wait, what day is Amy’s wedding?  Is it today next year?  Were the babies born on her wedding day?”  And as I said it I knew.  And I felt a mix of new-mom joy and anxiety, with an exclamation-ridden thought train that looked like this:

“Oh my gosh Amy and Brian and the twins are going to share this day forever!!”

“Amy will be with the twins on their birthday!”

“I’m a bridesmaid so I will be busy the whole day…away from my babies on their first birthday…I had these children hours ago and I’m already feeling like the worst mom ever for missing their birthday!”

“It doesn’t matter, this is her WEDDING day!  FAR more important than a million birthdays!”

“We can just have their birthday party the week before!  This isn’t a big deal at all!”

“I can’t be away from them on their first birthday!  I am just going to pretend this isn’t happening until it is.”

“I hope this doesn’t occur to Amy so she doesn’t worry about it!  It’s NOT her problem, she’s the BRIDE!”

You can see I didn’t over-think it at all.

Well, I shouldn’t have given it any thought.  Amy humbled me to my knees with a mini-birthday party right in the middle of the reception.

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Her parents announced that it was Henry and Arden’s birthday and out came custom cupcakes and the entire room of guests sang happy birthday.  I was so moved, so totally overwhelmed, I did a lot of the thrilled-while-half-crying face.  A lot.

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Who’s the luckiest boy in the room?  Usually the groom.  In this moment, Henry.

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In a moment I’ll always remember, Mike lifted Arden high in his arms and she did what she always does when he does that — she kicked her legs in unison and we yelled “swim swim swim!” while she went crazy with happiness.  To our surprise, everyone started yelling “swim swim swim!” and she just kicked her little heart out.

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My heart was so full.  Standing next to the new Mrs. Fuga, surrounded by her wonderful family and mine, amazed that we’ve been friends since she was 12 and I was 13 — and here she was yielding the spotlight on her biggest day to celebrate my precious babies.  It was just overwhelming and so undeserved.

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After dinner…the dancing, which was phenomenal.  It may be worth your time to inquire about this DJ.  He killed it.

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(Bridal party entrances are key.)

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Weddings with family are everything.

What a spectacular wedding filled with an enormous amount of love.

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And I have this girl to thank.  Seventeen years and counting, my friend!  Cheers to you on marrying the love of your life.  Thank you for allowing us to share in your joy.

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A Life Well Lived

My grandmother, Charlotte Maxine Allison McMurtry, lived 89 years, two months and 9 days.

She was married to my grandfather for 67 years, three months and 13 days.

She had four children (one of whom is my mother), eleven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Those are the facts; remarkable, but still just facts.  Those words don’t have her life breathed into them.

Isn’t she a classic beauty?

The thing about my grandma is that she was very comfortable occupying two sides of the same coin.  She was relentlessly well-presented, but equally down-to-earth.  She didn’t like a lot of fuss, would actually scoff if one complimented her, but she also never missed her weekly salon appointment to have her hair professionally styled.  Even at 89.

This is a woman who, in the last weeks of her life, still insisted that her nails be filed and polished to a perfect rose red.  You just don’t find women of her caliber every day; she inhabited a personal standard that felt like it belonged to a bygone era, which is probably why it enchanted me so completely.

1985 with Grandpa holding my cousin Allie

I don’t mean to singularly emphasize external poise, but she was such an icon for me in my 27 years that it’s hard to gloss over her timeless style.  Of course she was everything a good grandmother should be: warm, funny, loving, generous.  But I am afraid if I highlight only those attributes — the virtuous, Godly, kind woman that she was — then the sparkling, unique part of her may be lost, and I couldn’t bear that.

We were very close, closer than many of the grandmother-grandchild relationships I see around me.  I think our relationship was so easily built because I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t in my life.  When I was little, both of my parents worked, and my grandparents lived just a few miles away, so they would watch us during the day until my mom and dad got home.  It was only a couple of years, since eventually we started school, but through that precious time we came to know them intimately.

2010 seven of the grandkids celebrating Grandpa's 88th birthday

We had inside jokes, special traditions, and a bond that felt as reliable as the rising of the sun.  We had these things until the day she passed, and with my grandpa, we still have them.

That’s the other thing about my grandma: you can hardly begin a sentence about her without including my grandfather in the thought.  After an epic 67 year marriage, it’s easy to see why we all view them as one entity, one soul with two bodies.  They have always been the pillars of our family, quietly exhibiting their selfless love for one another and for us.  When I think about it now, I realize I’ve been a student in the greatest marriage class ever taught.

No one talks about the end of a marriage, do they?  The end is much quieter, much more private.  There aren’t invitations sent, locations booked, and dresses purchased like there is at the beginning.  There isn’t loud music and public proclamations of love.  Toasts aren’t given, presents are not sent.

Watching my grandfather care for my grandmother for the last couple of months, I learned that devotion isn’t proved on the wedding day, not at all.  Devotion is proved when the husband is staying up all night with his wife as she battles her weakening body.  It’s proved when he attends to her every need, sacrificing to make her as comfortable as possible.  It’s moving toward her, not away, when her mobility shrinks from just quick car trips, to just inside the house, to just the living room, to just this chair.  Devotion and love are being present, every day and every night, until the moment comes when the Lord says, “Well done, good and faithful servant, I’ll take it from here.”

That’s exactly what my grandfather did: he cared for my grandmother every day for 67 years, and he was holding her hand when she passed.  It’s something untouchable, something so remarkable that everyone in my family is still standing in awe.  Because what more can you ask for, really?  What more can there be in life than to share another person’s entire existence, and then usher them into heaven?

2009 at my cousin Amy's wedding

The magnitude of her life and their love is what makes writing about it so complex.  No words can ever do it justice, no essay can capture all her days and the relationships she shared.  I feel especially inadequate when I consider that I’m only able to record one of her relationships, because it’s the only one I was a part of — her relationship with me.  Sitting down to write about that is like trying to write about what it feels like to have sight — how can you describe something if you’ve never not had it?  Since I’ve had my grandma from the beginning of my life, how can I explain what my life with her was like? 

I suppose the best I can do is explain how it feels not to have her now, which is like not having sight, I suppose, because everything is a little darker.  She’s only been gone a month, so I think of things I need to call and tell her, and then I remember that I can’t.  Her absence is incredibly surreal, and it pains me to think of the things I won’t get to experience with her: having kids, visiting her, and creating future memories.  Missing her creates a visceral ache that rises quickly to the surface at the slightest provocation, but it’s an ache that is always welcome because I’d rather miss her intensely than not think of her at all.

2010 all four of their children together: Deb, Beth, Alyson and Jimmy

So I will.  I will think of her, I will talk to her, and I will wait for the day when I’ll see her again.  I know for her it will pass in the blink of an eye, and that comforts me more than I can say.  For the rest of us, time will move much more slowly.  But that’s okay, because I know she wants me to live my life, and love my husband, and laugh out loud, and hug my future children, and wear pretty things, and spend time with my parents, and serve others, and drink a glass of rose, and travel the world and thank the Lord I get to do it at all.  She, along with my grandfather and parents, is the reason I have life in the first place, so the best way to honor her is to live it, and live it well. 

Meema, here’s to living a life that would make you proud.

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Blurring the Line Between Aunt-al and Parental

It’s not every day one gets to fully immerse oneself into the life of a parent.  OK, “fully immerse” might be a strong description for a 40 hour experience, but it was legitimate all the same.

Last weekend, Mike and I babysat for our nieces and nephew while their parents were attending a wedding in Los Angeles.  The three small fries live in Cheney, WA, so it wasn’t as if we meandered next door for a casual sleepover.  We left Friday after work and arrived at 8PM to relieve the babysitter who was minding the gap between the parents’ departure and our arrival.

The kids go to bed at 7PM, so we were expecting an evening of quiet, perhaps watching a movie and having a glass of wine.  But when we walked in the front door, we looked up the staircase and saw the oldest, Josiah, standing at full attention.

Mike and I have opposite instincts, of course.  I’m instantly like, “Let’s say hi to him and then guide him back to bed.”  Mike is like, “Look — he wants to be with his Uncle Mikey!  And Uncle Mikey breaks the rules!  Because Uncle Mikey rules!”  I rolled my eyes and pointed to the three page Word document Uncle Mikey’s sister had left us, which clearly states bedtime is 7PM.  Uncle Mikey just started looking for snacks.

We let seven-year-old Jo, as he’s called, stay up to the breaking-dawn hour of 9PM, and then he headed to bed without complaint.  Mike and I poured a glass of wine and watched “Touching the Void,” because 90% of the DVDs on their Netflix live-stream were about mountain climbing — a true testament to the mountain climbing man of the house.

This was not a smart movie choice for me, because it set me on edge and made me think of darkness and cold and ice and danger — not ideal for babysitting in the middle of a prairie.  I told Mike my concerns and he scoffed, “We’re in the middle of NOWHERE.  Who would come rob us in the night when we’re half a mile from a paved road?!”  It occurred to me this was the second time that evening that our logics left us in completely different places; to me, us being in the middle of a prairie only means that no one is around to hear my screams.

Dramatic, I know.

Uncle Mikey’s sister, Wendy, mentioned that it would be normal if their three-year-old, Ellie, woke up crying and came to sleep with us in the middle of the night.  I thought that was not a big deal at all, until I realized as I lay in bed that it would mean a door swinging open at any hour in the middle of my REM cycle.  Since the thought of this made my heart clench with anxiety, my body decided the best solution would be not to sleep at all.

Ergo, welcome to motherhood!

Come she did, like clockwork, and I was alert and ready for it.  She came to the side of the bed and seemed not at all alarmed that the mother she was expecting was, in fact, her aunt.  She just reached her arms out and climbed right in next to me, cuddling close.

The instantaneous feeling of being so completely necessary, so utterly comforting to this little girl made me wonder how I ever could have mistaken this event with something terrifying.  I was so overcome with the desire to make everything peaceful for her, that I dared not move even long after my arm had fallen completely asleep under the weight of her little blonde head.

We stayed that way, still, silent, sleeping (one of us, anyway) until I knew it would be five long hours to morning if I didn’t make a small adjustment.  I slipped my arm out from under her and rolled toward snoring Uncle Mikey, expecting that she would be really annoyed that I had ruined everything with my need to sleep.  Instead, as if we slept that way every night, she threw her tiny arm around my neck and spooned me, and I thought I would die of unknown causes relating to adoration of Ellie.

Ergo, welcome to motherhood!

(Editor’s note: I am not pregnant, but merely sharing the cracking of my black heart. End quote.)

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The Other Other Royal Wedding

Forgive me for not covering the royal wedding of Zara Phillips, I had another royal wedding on the brain — that of my little sister, Sam.

Sam and her new husband Aaron were married on July 22, and it was a fantastic day.


Sam and Aaron were engaged in November 2009, so this one was a long time coming.  We were all so thrilled and ready for this day, and we had a great time getting ready for it.

Sam hooked all of the bridesmaids up with the best bridesmaid gift I’ve ever received — a leather jewelry travel wrap, flip-flops for the dance floor, and a can of Sophia Coppola champagne to settle the pre-ceremony jitters.

Don’t we look relaxed?

Sam had the genius idea of choosing Tart dresses that can be wrapped dozens of ways so each bridesmaid looked unique.

But who cares about the bridesmaids?  The only one anyone wanted to see was the bride!

She was stunning, and the ceremony was really beautiful.

…and brief — just the way Sam and Aaron wanted it.  That thing was over in less than 20 minutes.

But that doesn’t mean it didn’t make me wish I’d carried tissues down the aisle instead of flowers.  When Sarge (Aaron’s nickname in our family) read his vows to Sam, I worried I would lose it — tears or wobbly heels, I wasn’t sure which would bring me down first.

Luckily, before I could fall apart, we were all cheering as they recessed down the aisle and headed for a celebratory photo session.

Some formal, some….not so formal.

That’s when it hit me the relief I was feeling;  I hadn’t realized that I was subconsciously holding my breath the entire day, wanting so badly for everything to go well.  After the ceremony many guests asked, “How are you feeling?” and I kept replying, “Relieved!  Everything went so well!”

And it only got better: dinner was delicious, the music was rocking, and everyone kicked up their heels for a good time on the dance floor.  In the middle of dancing around ecstatically, I tried to tell each out-of-towner how grateful my family was that they had traveled so far to celebrate with us.  Something about twisting and shouting made me realize how fantastic it was to have them there.  I looked around the dance floor so grateful to God for such incredible friends and family: Amy and Brian, Sarah and Casey, Beth, Debbie and Amy, and Grandma, Tom and Jackson.

Erin and I each gave a toast honoring our little sister, and it felt really special sharing about our unique relationships and our hopes for her future with Sarge.

Everyone says that your wedding day flies by in a blur, but no one warned me that it feels the same if you are a family member of the bride.  The entire reception felt like 45 minutes to me — it absolutely raced forward, and I kept trying to breathe it all in before it passed.

The most important thing, the best part to watch, was how much fun Sam and Aaron were having.  They were beaming the entire evening, totally overjoyed over their new marriage.  It was such bliss to witness.

After running down a sparkler-filled aisle to their classic Rolls Royce, they flew to Puerta Vallarta for a week of recovery.  That’s my word for a honeymoon– it’s therapy after planning a wedding.

They’re back now and settling into newlywed life in their new condo in Bothell.  From what they tell me, all is well.

Congratulations, Stanley and Sarge!

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Yawn (Amid Scandal)

Prince Albert II married Charlene Wittstock last weekend, and it really didn’t rise above expectations.

At least I prepared you — when you saw her signing her marriage license in the legal ceremony, her pantsuit didn’t alarm, did it? 

Thanks to some decent WBO fashion sleuthing, you were totally prepared for a wide-legged, powder-blue pantsuit.  Though it hasn’t been condemned adequately in the fashion blogs, the fact that you can’t find a full-length picture of it anywhere speaks volumes.  It’s like the Monaco police are trolling the internet, deleting the offense.

Despite the Eagles concert, fireworks show, celebrity chefs and oceans of champagne, the occasion failed to herald the kind of attention Wills and Kate received.  In fact, the event fell so low on the British royalty priority list that they only sent Prince Edward as a rep. 

(You know, Prince Edward, the youngest of Queen Elizabeth’s children, the groom in another forgettable royal wedding, the Earl of Wessex…OK I know you stopped reading half a sentence ago.)

Let’s take a look at the Armani dress in the religious ceremony the following day:

According to a press release, Armani explains his design:  “The idea was to go for a completely modern look, without an obvious sense of nostalgia or revivalism.”  I’m not sure what that means, except that apparently it took a lot of work.  According to multiple sources the dress took 2,500 hours to create and featured 40,000 Swarovski crystals and 20,000 mother of pearl teardrops.  The veil alone took 100 hours to embroider.

And yet…it doesn’t wow me.  It is certainly beautiful, but it didn’t send me to the moon the way Kate’s did.  I’m pretty sure it’s the chest and stomach area — something about that just doesn’t win me over.

As for Albert, he looks like he’s on a float in an age-inappropriate Disney World parade, dressed as an unattractive version of Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid. 

But it’s not like anyone was looking at him anyway.

I will say the ceremony setting was beautiful, and the castle was a picturesque backdrop.

Something is amiss, however, when the bride is  the only one at the wedding who sheds a tear.

Though I don’t think we have to struggle to suppose what brought the waterworks.  It was widely reported that just days before the ceremony, yet another woman hit Prince Albert with a paternity claim.  According to The Telegraph, “Monaco officials privately admitted there is “truth” in a rumour that Albert faces a paternity test.”

Nothing like a paternity test to get you excited for the big day!

Did I mention the woman accusing him hasn’t had the child yet?  She’s still pregnant…I’m no mathematician, but I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen prior to Charlene and Albert’s four-year relationship.

See?  Even princesses have to deal with baby mama drama.

In the end, Charlene may be getting the last laugh.  After all, her new name is Her Serene Highness, Princess Charlene.  Even Duchess Kate isn’t an actual princess by title (though when you’re guaranteed to be queen one day, who’s counting?).

I, for one, am rooting for her, and will raise a glass in the hope that all of Prince Albert’s future children are Princess Charlene’s.

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The Other Royal Wedding

Pop quiz:

1.  Did you know that a royal wedding is happening this Saturday, July 2?

2.  If you did know, can you name the bride?

I didn’t think so.  And that’s my point exactly.

We’ve gone from the biggest royal wedding in history to a royal wedding two months later for which no one is even bothering to purchase new hats.  Let’s explore why.

First of all, the wedding in question is that of Prince Albert II of Monaco and former Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock.   Hmmm, a prince marrying a commoner…this sounds familiar and compelling…so why isn’t it?

Let’s look at the less-than-appetizing facts:

  • He’s 53.  She’s 33.
  • He has already fathered two children out-of-wedlock with two different women; his daughter is 19 and his son is 6.
  • Charlene has spent the last four years living in an apartment in Monaco, paid for by the prince.  She hasn’t had a job in that time, and seeing as she’s only just learning French, it doesn’t seem like she could have obtained one.

But before I get too critical, let’s not forget that she is going to be a princess.  Of MONACO, easily one of the most fabulous areas of the Mediterranean.  She’s going to live in a castle, with staff, with nothing more to do than produce an heir and appear at state events.  Sounds like a good deal to me.

Oh, and she gets a ring that takes up half her finger:

On second thought, I don’t think I would take all of that if it meant marrying him.  No offense, Al.

One advantage Charlene has over Kate is two sisters-in-law to turn to for guidance.  Kate married a man with one brother, while Charlene is marrying a man with two sisters, Princess Stephanie (shown below) and Princess Caroline.

One can imagine it would be quite helpful to have a few experienced princesses around to show one the ropes.

Though apparently they haven’t been jumping to serve as fashion advisors, seeing as they are both ill-qualified.  I can’t decide who looks worse — Charlene or Princess Stephanie.  No, Stephanie definitely looks worse.

Apparently Charlene agrees.  In a recent Vogue article, she spoke of this particular fashion misstep (at the 2007 Monaco Red Cross Ball),  “Finding my fashion feet has certainly been the biggest challenge,” she says.  “I was literally a fish out of water. I thought it was all fun, fun, fun, and didn’t give my outfit any thought. I had been playing beach volleyball all day, painted my nails red, and threw on a dress. I thought I looked great at the time, but looking back, I realize that my debut into Monaco society should have been better executed!”

When she’s that honest with herself, how can you not feel for her? 

I am the first to admit that any lady entering the world stage would probably fail in comparison to Kate the Great, but I can’t help but shudder at some of her choices.

Try not to jump back in your chair when you see this pantsuit:


But that’s all behind her now.  Soon she’ll be walking down the aisle in Armani.  Soon she’ll have designers at her disposal.   Soon she’ll be looking back at all of this and laughing over a glass of Veuve Clicquot.

Which leaves me with the final task of watching and evaluating the big day.  No matter how Charlene looks, one thing is sure: we know there will be hats.  Guests may be pulling them from the back of their closets, but there will be lots of hats. 

Stay tuned.

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A Royal Wonder

It was, to borrow the popular British expression, absolutely brilliant.

I shot awake at 6AM PST, an hour ahead of my alarm, and I literally only had one thought in my head, the way you only have one thought in your head on Christmas morning, “It’s done!  They are married!” 

I know this should be embarrassing to admit, but I got over that admission about a decade ago.

I turned on my DVR and fast-forwarded through Bah-bra and Diane’s two-hour pre-wedding coverage to get to the point of the day — her dress. 

Needless to say, it did not disappoint.

I always wagered that she would use lace, if only because it matches so perfectly with her style and grace.  And, it must be said, she had grace in spades on her wedding day.

If I were an alien visiting Earth on April 29, 2011 and happened to land my spaceship in London, I would never imagine that this lady in white was joining the royal family; I would assume she was leading it.

And as she joined her prince at the front of the abbey, I was only thinking one thing: it’s a shame he couldn’t keep his hat on for the duration of the ceremony.

One of my favorite things about the service was that those leading it managed to use the word “betwixt” not once, but several times.  How utterly English is that?  For the remainder of this post I shall now use that word in place of “between.” 

Though we all know I could write the entirety of this post about HRH The Duchess of Cambridge alone (just writing her new title makes me happy), I’m afraid that if I start down that road it will prove as endless as some of the hymns sung during the service.  So let’s move on to the attire of the attendees, shall we?

First stop: cannot be avoided, must be mentioned and condemned immediately:  Princess Beatrice.

I don’t care that she’s wearing Valentino.  I don’t care that her hat is Philip Treacy.  It is absolutely abhorrent and she should have been escorted out upon arrival.

On the other end of the fascinator spectrum lies that other British princess, Victoria Beckham.  Now THAT is a perfect topper.

On a sadder princess note, my former favorite mistakenly thought this was an Easter service and got a little carried away with the color peach:

Without question, a real winner of the day was the bride’s sister and bridesmaid, Pippa.  Wasn’t it obvious she was doing all of the work?  And she was doing it in a difficult-to-walk-in, awkward-to-bend-over-in dress.

She had to escort the little royals down the aisle, which could have gone wrong a hundred different ways in front of two billion people.  She had to carry her sister’s train for what seemed like weeks, and looked like she was happy to do so.

Also, did anyone else notice a little flirtation betwixt Harry and Pippa as they walked down the aisle? 

And who could blame him, when he’s used to dating this:

Let’s just say the difference in level of sophistication betwixt the Davys and the Middletons is akin to the difference in hair coverage betwixt William and Harry.

But I digress.

When they arrived at Buckingham Palace and the crowds were given permission to surge toward the front gate, the sight of a sea of humanity filling the entire mall was overwhelming.  It’s no surprise that Catherine was seen saying “Oh wow!” when she stepped onto the balcony.

In true break-the-mold style, the couple kissed two times.  It almost seemed like they were saying “We actually like kissing, because we actually like each other!  This is not just for show!”  Anyway, I bought it.

After all of the fashion analysis fades and the wedding stops making headlines, I think those who watched it will remember it one way: as a happy event.  It was undeniably exciting, and despite the grandeur it managed to feel strangely intimate.  Somehow Will and Kate brought us all along for the ride, and as silly as it sounds, this fan-since-she-was-13 is grateful.

Here’s hoping the love betwixt The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge is as strong and long-lasting as the stone pillars of Westminster Abbey.

To read about the wedding from someone who was actually there, check out my friend Maggie’s post.

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