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Thursday, May 8, 2008


Our guest today is Merrillee Whren who writes for Steeple Hill's Love Inspired line.

When my daughter Kara got engaged in June several years ago, she was living in Boston. She and her fiancé Joe decided to have a big wedding with about 250 guests the following year in August. They planned to have an outdoor wedding at a yacht club north of Boston, which took care of all the arrangements accept the band and photographer. All I had to do was buy a dress and show up.

Fast forward nine months. The wedding was off.

Fast forward another ten months and true love prevailed—the wedding was back on.

In the intervening months Kara had taken a new job in Pittsburgh, so the wedding plans had changed dramatically. Instead of a wedding in Boston, they wanted to have the wedding here in Florida at the beach with the reception at our house. Instead of 250 guests, the guest list was pared down to fifty close family members and friends. Instead of five attendants each, they planned for only a maid of honor and a best man. Instead of an all-in-one facility to do the planning, I was now in charge.

Since they were getting married at the beach, I logically chose a beach theme with shells everywhere—on the tables, the invitations and the cake. I immediately learned that I could find almost anything I needed by searching the Internet. Kara and I e-mailed each other and shared Web sites until we came to a decision. I found a photographer, a place to rent a tent, tables and chairs for the reception, the cakes, the flowers, the caterer and floating candles for the pool. Kara found the invitations with a shell theme and a shell bottle stopper for a favor for the guests on the Internet. I collected shells when I took my daily walk on the beach. I made shell lights by putting shells on strings of Christmas lights. I found my dress for the wedding and artificial flowers for the arbor and table centerpieces at stores in Jacksonville. Finally, I also began praying that it wouldn't rain on the day of the wedding. We had contingency plans, but we didn’t want to use them.

The weekend that Kara came home to have her wedding gown fitted, we finalized the menu for the buffet and visited the florist and ordered the cakes. She wanted an arbor at the beach, so her father began making a wooden arbor that we planned to use in our yard after the wedding. He wouldn’t go the easy route and order one off the Internet. I’ll have more about the arbor later.

Kara’s sister would be the maid of honor and her uncle would perform the ceremony. We planned to download music onto our laptop computer for the reception. At this point, finding someone to play a guitar or violin for the ceremony and figuring out what to do for a dance floor were the only things I had left to do. About ten days before the wedding, I finally found someone who was willing to play a violin at the beach. The difficulty with finding someone came down to musicians being afraid that their instruments would be ruined by salt air and sand.

Everything was well under control, or was it?

Five days before the wedding I called the caterer to give them the final count for the reception. The caterer also ran a local restaurant, and they were in the process of moving. When I called, I got was a message saying they were moving and would open again in June. I was thinking: What about my daughter’s wedding? I figured if suddenly we had no caterer, we would serve deli food from the grocery or something. There was no reason to panic. Right? Finally, Kara was able to reach the caterer through an e-mail. Everything was fine. We were on their calendar—one catastrophe avoided.

When I look back on the day of the wedding, I wonder how we managed to put it all together. We were up early with a plan of attack. My daughters, sister-in-law and I had our nails done first. I was the last one to finish at the nail place, so Kara went to pick up the flowers. When we got back to the house, we helped my husband, the groom, the minister and my other daughter’s boyfriend put together the dance floor. We laid eight-by-twelve sheets of plywood on the pool deck. Then we covered them with stick on tile. Our temporary dance floor worked well. Then the guys ran the wires and set up the speakers that would play the music programmed into the computer.

The tent, tables and chairs were delivered and set up in the yard. The caterer stopped by with the tablecloths, napkins, plates, glasses and flatware. My daughter and sister-in-law put out the place cards, centerpieces and favors at each table while Kara and I went off to pick up the cakes. When we got to the grocery store bakery, the wedding cake was sitting there ready for us, but they couldn’t find the groom’s cake—the chocolate one with the chocolate-covered strawberries. After much searching, they realized it had never been made. The order was stuck behind the order for the wedding cake. Since it was two in the afternoon and the wedding wasn’t until six-thirty, they said they had time to make it. Then they would deliver the cakes free of charge. The cakes arrived while we were at the beach for the ceremony—another catastrophe avoided. And the caterers were also at the house setting up.

Taking the arbor and the torches to the beach was the final task before getting ready. I drove to the beach in my convertible with the torches and arbor sticking out of the open top. The wooden arbor was sitting in our yard. After all that work, we realized that an inexpensive tube arbor from Michael’s was a better way to go. We decorated it at my mother-in-law’s house, which is very close to the spot on the beach where the ceremony would be held. We hauled it to the beach, stuck it in the sand and hoped that no one would bother it. We rushed home with just enough time to take a shower and go back to my mother-in-law’s house, along with the bride and maid of honor, to get dressed. The photographer was ready and waiting for us when we walked in the door. My prayers were answered. It didn’t rain. The wedding I had planned was underway, and it turned out to be one of the best days of our lives.

Merrillee, thank you for sharing such a wonderful story with us. You can visit Merrillee at her website.

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Blogger Myrna said...

Merrille, I loved this story! (especially the part about you gathering shells on the beach). I hope you're using this experience in a book.

May 8, 2008 at 7:24 AM  
Blogger Merrillee said...

I haven't used my experience as an amateur wedding planner in a book yet, but I did use bits and pieces of the wedding ceremony in my upcoming book, MOMMY'S HOMETOWN HERO, that comes out in January 2009. The hero and heroine of my Feb. 2008 book, FOUR LITTLE BLESSINGS, get married in MOMMY'S HOMETOWN HERO.

May 8, 2008 at 8:21 AM  
Blogger Judy Thomas said...

Wow, Merrilee... I got tired just reading that! I hope you had yourself a good rest afterwards :-)

May 8, 2008 at 8:50 AM  
Blogger Virginia said...

Great story Merrilee, I am glad you got things together. I am really glad things went so great.

May 8, 2008 at 9:04 AM  
Blogger The Write Life said...

This was a wonderful interview, Merrillee! Thanks for sharing it. I hope some of my children go for a beach wedding. They're always so beautiful.

I'll let you pop over here to the panhandle and plan it for me. LOL.

Paige Dooly

May 8, 2008 at 9:05 AM  
Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Sounds lovely, Merrillee. And I bet it's even more special to Kara because her mom planned everything.

May 8, 2008 at 10:53 AM  
Blogger Merrillee said...

I didn't have much of a rest. Four days later I was off to Texas for my nephew's high school graduation and a book signing.

May 8, 2008 at 12:33 PM  
Blogger Brandy said...

My Mom planned my wedding and I wish now I had known how much work it had been.
I hope everytime your Daughter looks back on her day, she realizes how much she owes to you. It sounded beautiful!

May 8, 2008 at 12:38 PM  
Blogger Linda Goodnight said...

Oh my lands, Merrilee. I thought being the mother of the groom was trying. You, girl, deserve a medal of honor and maybe a month at spa for handling all that. What a story. So glad it turned out well. And if those are photos from the wedding, it was gorgeous!!!

By the way, I almost hyperventilated when I read that the chocolate cake was missing. Now THAT would have been a disaster. LOL

May 8, 2008 at 12:54 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Great story! I'm so glad everything turned out so well. I would have been a nervous wreck!

May 8, 2008 at 2:54 PM  
Blogger Julie Hilton Steele said...

I didn't realize how much the groom (and groom's mom) was responsible for until my son got married...now I am eyeing my daughter and her boyfriend. Better brace myself.

Merrillee, loved Four Little Blessings! Looking forward to the next book.

Peace, Julie

May 8, 2008 at 4:53 PM  
Blogger Merrillee said...

Thanks to everyone who stopped by. This was fun! I enjoyed reliving the wedding experience. It was a lot of work, but we had such a great time. We have a lot of good memories of that day. Kara and Joe will celebrate their second anniversary in a couple of weeks.

Julie, I'm so glad you enjoyed FOUR LITTLE BLESSINGS.

May 8, 2008 at 8:06 PM  
Blogger Janet Dean said...

Merrillee, I was on the edge of my seat reading your post. I would've been a wreck with all the "What ifs" of an outdoor wedding and reception, but you and your family pulled together a beautiful wedding and reception. And God took care of the weather.

May 9, 2008 at 8:18 AM  
Blogger Sundy said...

Merrilee, Thank you for sharing your daughter's wedding story! What girl, doesn't just love to read a good wedding story?? I'm looking forward to reading my mom (Linda Goodnight's) wedding story book, Winning the Single Mom's Heart! All of the books in this series look amazing... And, by the the way... What a sweet father to build the arbor for His daughter-- that sounds like something my father would do :)!

May 11, 2008 at 2:12 PM  

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