Saturday, August 13, 2011

11: Say Yes to the Dress

Once the beginning of September rolled around, Sidney moved back down to Pittsburgh with plenty of time to spare before training camp was scheduled to begin. Not only did it allow him to do some promotional work for the Penguins, but we got some major wedding planning done before he joined his teammates on the ice.

The first thing we did was tour the venues for the wedding. We had decided that we weren't going to have a church wedding; it was easier to secure one place for both events, the ceremony and the following reception, to save time and make things easier for the guests and for us. They had June 30th open, which was a Saturday night. It was so expensive to rent the Hall on a weekend night—four thousand dollars for three hours, and we were sure to go over that—and we were then forced to use their concessionaire for the event. But since we were under the gun, Sid jumped on it and booked the Hall. They were so ecstatic to accommodate our needs, and I felt relieved to have a venue. It made the planning feel more manageable and less overwhelming.

Sidney loved trying the food at the caterer's, and he even made an exception about having sweets during the season so he could taste-test the cakes at the bakery. In fact, he had so much fun with the cake that we ended up ordering a massive, five-tiered cake with each layer being a different flavor and frosting combination. We got chocolate with chocolate orange buttercream frosting, vanilla with hazelnut buttercream icing and chocolate Bavarian filling, almond with French vanilla buttercream icing, red velvet cheesecake, and lastly a banana cake with peanut butter mousse filling and caramel chocolate icing. It was definitely a decadent dessert.

However, it wasn't until it was time to go dress shopping that it hit me that I was getting married. As promised, Véro booked an appointment at the Alfred Angelo boutique in Pittsburgh for us. She name dropped, and they ushered my entourage into a suite with Champagne on ice waiting for us. I was surrounded by my bridesmaids and friends, my grandmother, my mother and Trina. Natalie came too, as my mentor and guidance counselor in all things related to being the perfect hockey WAG.

The consultant, Sandra, took me into the back, where all the dresses were hanging in protective plastic bags and asked me a few questions about my style and price range. "Of course, you'd look so beautiful in whatever we pull out," she said, which I was sure she said to every bride-to-be. "Is there a number in your head you're looking to spend?"

I smiled at her, thinking about what Sidney had told me before I left that morning for this appointment. He told me I had an unlimited budget for the wedding, knowing that I was always mindful about expenses and tried to be frugal, but he suggested that my dress not cost more than an entire year's worth of my salary. Honestly, I couldn't even picture myself spending that much for something I'd only wear one day of my life. "Um, well, I'd like to keep it under three, if we could. For the right dress, I'd spend more, but I'd like to see what there is in that range. I don't think I really have a style in mind, just something that looks nice."

Sandra looked at me like I was going to be her toughest appointment ever. After all, little girls were supposed to grow up dreaming about their wedding day; I should have already had a picture of my perfect dress in my head. But I was clueless. I wasn't a girly girl, and the only formal dresses I had in my closet were ones I had to buy to accompany Sid for Penguins' events—and Natalie had helped me pick them all out, as the guru. She never led me astray.

"Well, that's not a lot of help. Why don't you tell me about the wedding? Does the groom have any opinions?"

Laughing, I told her, "He'd like low cut. It's a formal wedding though, so definitely a full-length gown, and something respectable."

"How do you feel about a ball gown?"

"Um, I don't know. Nothing too poofy. I don't want to look like a marshmallow or anything. It's a summer wedding, so maybe not something too heavy."

She nodded. "Okay, so now I have something to work with. I'm thinking something fitted and flowy, not big and 'poofy.' Why don't you go in the back, and I'll pull some dresses for you."

I took her up on her suggestion. First, I helped myself to a glass of the chilled Champagne. It was weird, because I started to feel nervous. Sandra brought five dresses to me, and she and another lady helped me into the first one. I thought it was funny that I was standing in my strapless bra and panties in front of these strangers, but it wasn't awkward because they were so used to it. Soon, I was in the first white gown, the back secured in clamps so the dress looked fitted to my body.

Sandra ran down all the details. "We've got here a halter-top, satin gown with a ruched bodice, with a little bit of a train on it. What do you think, Noelle?"

Even though I didn't really like the dress, I felt myself getting all choked up. Now that I was in a dress, a wedding dress, the whole situation felt so... real. I was getting married. I couldn't help myself; I started to tear up.

"Oh, honey, are you okay?"

"Yeah," I eked out. "Do you have a...." Before I could finish my question, the assistant was handing me tissues. "Thank you." I dabbed at the wetness on my cheeks.

"Do you want to show this to your friends and family?" she asked.

"Sure." I picked up the front of the dress and walked out of the back to wear everyone was sitting and waiting for me. The younger half of the group immediately scrunched up their faces; the older half were gentler with their opinions. My mom's eyes were a little wet, because she was getting emotional like I was. It was a touching moment for us, but we all decided that it wasn't my wedding dress, so I headed back to try on another.

We went through all of the dresses that Sandra had picked out for me, and none of them were "it." We tried five more, and those ones didn't feel right either. Everyone was starting to get restless. There were murmurs among them that we should call it quits and try again another day, and that might have been a good idea. I, too, was starting to get discouraged and was on my third glass of Champagne when Sandra decided to call over another consultant for help.

"Let me see if I can find something," Fiona said, whisking away for the racks of dresses.

I asked Sandra, "Do girls usually pick something out the first time they try on dresses? Or does it usually take this much time?"

She checked her watch; we were going on to our third hour. "Every woman is different. It's your wedding day, so you want the perfect dress. Sometimes it just takes a little longer to find it." I wondered if her diplomatic answer was recited just because I was marrying Sidney Crosby, and she wanted the commission.

Fiona came back fifteen minutes later. "Now, this is a little different than what you've been trying on, so maybe you will like this better. It's satin and strapless, with a subtle sweetheart neckline so you'll have just a little bit of cleavage. Church cleavage, we call it in the business. The fitted bodice has crystal beading, sequins, and rhinestones, with some beading in the ruching and in the skirt. Semi-cathedral train. The skirt has more body than the more flowing dresses you've tried on, but it's not that big and is definitely suitable for a summer wedding."

I stepped into the dress and allowed Fiona and Sandra to lace up the back, watching in the full-length mirror. As they tied up the back, I saw as the dress molded to my shape. I could tell, as soon as I was in it, that I loved it. It wasn't what I had thought I wanted, because I didn't think I was a fan of sparkly embellishments, trains, or a flared skirt, but I truly loved it.

"I think you look phenomenal in this," Sandra said, smoothing out the skirt and spying my reaction in the mirror. "Absolutely stunning."

"Mmhmm," Fiona echoed, smiling and proud of herself for picking it. "What do you think, hun?"

"I...." The words wouldn't pass my lips; I couldn't speak because I was so overwhelmed.

They handed me more tissues. "Now, you don't want to go out there and show them this all red-eyed, do you?"

"No," I sighed, my voice quaking. I wiped my eyes and took a few deep breaths to calm myself down.

"All right. Let's go out there and show 'em."

I pushed my shoulders back and threw my curly hair over my shoulders. I felt like a bride as I walked out into the room in front of my selected group of friends. They were so quiet as they watched me coming, but they were all smiling at me. Natalie grinned and nodded, which was always the sign she gave when she approved of something. My mom and grandma started crying. Trina was beaming. She was the first to speak. "Sidney is going to love it, Noelle. You look beautiful."

Véro gushed, "That's a great dress. Mon Dieu, you're gorgeous. That's it, it gets my vote."

"That's the dress," Eva agreed. "You have to buy it."

"I think so, too, guys. This is my wedding dress." I felt myself start to weep again as the realization set in. "I'm going to get married in this dress."

In all the excitement of finding the dress, I never looked at the price tag. When Fiona said she would ring it up for me, that's when I found out how much it was going to cost—and I was shocked. "Five thousand dollars?"

Sure, I knew that I could pay that price. Sid and I did a lot of extravagant things that came along with his job: we traveled to a lot of varied places, we went to parties and events, and we had privileges that came only with having money and a nice house and expensive cars. But I was from a modest background, and while it was fun to get caught up in the whirlwind of having a rich boyfriend, I never took on the mindset that I had that kind of money to spend.

"No, no, no," V interjected, reading my mind and sensing my hesitation. "Non. You're buying it. The price doesn't matter. It's practically a steal, considering how amazing you look in it."

It went against my gut reaction, but I nodded to the sales lady and letting her charge my credit card for however much it would cost. As long as I didn't think about it, I had to agree that the way the dress made me feel was worth every penny. I hoped Sidney would like it and that he would have the same response as these women. After all, that was half of the requirement in picking a dress: not only did I have to like the way I felt in it, but I wanted Sidney to look at me as I walked down the aisle toward him and be speechless.

They helped me out of the dress and scheduled my first fitting in March, three months before I was going to say "I do." It was hard to believe that my fitting was only six months away, because my wedding was only nine months away. I left the boutique feeling happy and confident since things were falling into place, but my head was still spinning because it was happening so fast and there was still so much to do in a short amount of time.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

10: Planning

"Please don't make me wear pink. Whatever you do, no pink!"

"Don't listen to her. Pink is very in right now. Carrie Underwood did pink. Hilary Duff did pink as an accent. There's nothing wrong with pink."

"Ugh, but it's pink! No self-respecting bridesmaid wants to wear pink. Who cares what those girls did anyway."

"I would wear pink."

"Of course you would."

"Fine then, what color would you wear?"

"Any color but pink!"

I listened to Taylor and Véro discuss—more like argue back and forth over—potential color schemes for the wedding. My wedding. Which I hadn't even decided on colors or themes or anything for yet. I let them continue to hash it out between themselves as I thumbed through one of the many bridal magazines V had brought over. It was actually kind of funny to witness.

"Taylor, you're being impossible. If Noelle wants you to wear pink, then it's your duty to suck it up and wear the damn dress!"

"But I'm not the only one here who is not going to like it. I know I'm not. Do you think any of the groomsmen will want to wear pink cummerbunds or vests? Um, definitely not. Guys hate pink."

"Marc looks good in pink. He would wear it. Hell, any of the guys would. They don't get a say in what they wear—they don't care anyway. They'll put on whatever you give them and deal with it."

"Ugh, V, you're saying this all just because you want to wear pink. Not your wedding. Not your decision."

Véro narrowed her eyes. "Not your decision, either, Taylor."

"Right," I interjected, finally speaking up. "It's neither of your decisions." I focused my attention back to the glossy pictures in front of me.

"So, what color then? Or colors?" Taylor asked politely. She probably just wanted to know if I was actually going to choose pink or not.

"Honestly, girls, I don't know. I look at this stuff in here," I explained, holding up the magazine, "and it all looks really nice. Like, if I went to a wedding like this, I would like it and compliment it. But none of it feels right for me."

"Well, what do you want?" Véro questioned. "What kind of feel? That could help us. You're getting married in the summer, so do you want a summery feel? You could do yellow, maybe a light green or blue?"

I sighed. "I don't know. I don't think I want something beachy. Maybe something more formal? Sophisticated. Not black tie, but simple and elegant."

At that moment, Sidney descended the stairs into the living room on his way from the bedroom to the kitchen. He nodded to the girls and greeted them with a very quiet "hey," not wanting to disturb our meeting of the minds. However, Véro was quick to suck him into it. "Sid, tell us, what kind of wedding do you want? Any color ideas?"

It was funny to see his reaction: first his face flushed, and then it turned pink. He shook his head and tried to escape into the kitchen. "No, uh uh, I'm not getting involved in this."

Taylor and Véro ridiculed and mocked him, telling him to get his ass back in the living room so he could contribute, since it was his wedding too. I just laughed. "Are you kidding? He thinks all I need to do is buy a dress, a bouquet, and get a caterer."

"What? Really?" V gasped. Even Taylor looked surprised at his naïveté, and she was a self-described ultimate tomboy. "Oh my God, Sid, get in here. We need to set you straight."

"You probably don't want to do that," I told her. "Ignorance is bliss, right? Let's not ruin this for him."

I don't think Véro understood how anyone could not be interested in a wedding, especially if it were their own. She called for Sid again, and he reluctantly returned to the living room with a fresh sandwich in hand. He sat next to me on the couch. "Now, Sid, surely you have an opinion. It's your wedding day, too, after all. We need a color scheme."

He smiled with a very mischievous look in his hazel eyes. I knew that he wasn't very interested in any of this stuff, so he was going to start some trouble. "Black and Vegas gold?"

All three of us girls groaned at his very uncreative answer. V wasn't shy about clearly nixing the idea. "No way in hell are we doing Penguins' colors. That is so tacky!"

He laughed and shrugged. "Well, that was my idea."

I began to think aloud. "Well, maybe black would work. That's formal, right? And it's flattering, so it would look good on all the girls, right?" Véro nodded. "Would you wear black, Taylor?"

"Yeah, I would. I mean, a nice black dress. No ruffles or any shit like that."

"Taylor," Sidney reprimanded between bites of his lunch, giving her a scornful look. "Language."

She rolled her eyes but otherwise ignored his comment. I kept talking. "No ruffles. It's summer, so like, short dresses? Knee-length, maybe?" I cocked my head to the side and looked at more pictures in front of me. "Or will that be too plain?"

"You can get dresses with a sash or something, to add some color," V suggested. Then she looked at Taylor and shared a look between them. They said at the same time, "Pink," and launched into a giggle fest.

Sid glanced at me, totally confused. I laughed and shook my head. "Don't ask." Flipping through some more pages, I rambled on. "Well, maybe some weekend I can get everyone in the bridal party together, and we can go try on dresses and pick something out."

"As long as it's before school starts," Taylor said. "Most of my games are on the weekends."

"Okay, so we'll make sure it's before training camp." I groaned. "Damn, that's, like, in the next month." I couldn't believe how difficult this was going to be to plan. Once the season started—even before the preseason, when people started to move back to Pittsburgh in order to get ready for camp—it was going to be next to impossible to get everyone together. "Maybe it'll wait 'til around Christmas, when you have a break from school, Tay. You're supposed to order dresses six months in advance, so we'll still have enough time."

"When are you going to try on dresses, Noelle?" Véro asked me, getting excited. "That's, like, one of the very first things I think you should do."

"Well, I guess I should start looking whenever I get back to Pittsburgh. You know, so I have enough time to find something I want. I looked through these magazines, and I'm not sure what I like."

She explained, "Oh, don't go by the pictures. You never know if a dress is going to look good on you until you try it on. We'll go once Marc and I get back into Pittsburgh. We'll invite your mom, and maybe even Trina will want to come down, you think, Sid?" She didn't wait for him to answer. "And bring Eva, too. We'll hit up some of the boutiques and see what we can find. Picking a dress is the most important part!"

I shook my head. "Most important, right now anyway, is picking a venue. We need to find some place to hold the ceremony and then the reception, so we can get everything ordered. Flowers. Photographer. Caterer. Cake. Limos. Save-the-dates and invitations."

V tried to correct me. "You need a date first."

"No, I think we need to find out what's available and when, and then we'll pick a date from there. A year away, we'll be lucky to find something. I should make a list." I reached for paper and a pen. "Where are some good places in the city?"

"Roethlisberger had his reception at The Spirit of Pittsburgh Ballroom in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center," she suggested.

"That's a big venue. I don't think we need nearly that much space."

Sid offered some recommendations of his own. "There's Heinz Hall. Phipps Conservatory." I wrote both of those down. "I think I went to something at the Warhol Museum. We could always try there. And the Carnegie Museums, too. That's where we've had the Skates and Plates before."

I wrote everything down and flopped down on the couch. "There's so much to do. Is it supposed to feel this overwhelming?"

He put a hand on my leg. "You know, we can hire a wedding planner, and they can worry about all this. It's only gonna get more stressful once the season starts. Things'll pick up for you in the front office, I'll be traveling."

"But I want to plan it. It's my wedding, I mean, it's important to me. I just, you know, I didn't realize everything that goes into a wedding 'til now, when it's time to actually do it."

"I'll be there to help, if you need it," V said encouragingly and eagerly.

Taylor chipped in, "I don't know how much I can do, but if you need anything, you can call me."

Sid laughed. "Don't look at me. I'll get a tux, but I don't know what else I can do. Oh! I'll taste test."

I looked at him, his full, pink lips curled in a perfectly crooked smile. The stress of the wedding was going to be worth it in the end, because I was going to be married to the man I loved. The wedding was just a detail.

The next day, Sid drove me to the airport between his two-a-day workouts. It was the last visit that I was going to have made that summer to Nova Scotia, because he was going to relocate to Pittsburgh by the end of August to prep for the season. I made several appointments for wedding-related activities in the two weeks between when Sidney would join me in Pittsburgh and when training camp would be in full swing, so we could check out locations, pick a bakery to get our cake, and sample dinners for our reception menu. It was the most fun we had planning our wedding.