Wednesday was the day that my Mom and I had originally planned on going to Maine. But with her power still out (and with the chaos that created) she decided it would be best for her to stay at home one more day to really get everything at home taken care of, especially because they planned on staying in Maine for a week after the wedding. So then I was on my own. Dan had decided to keep the dogs with him since the UConn game was rescheduled from Thursday night to Saturday – the first plan was that I would take them because he would be at work all day and then at the game all night on Thursday. But after the National Guard got stationed in Rentschler field to requisition and then distribute supplies after Irene, the game needed to be changed. Yet one more example of Irene changing plans.
It’s not really my style to take all day to pack, get ready and then to not leave by a certain time, but I decided that it was better to take my time and make sure I didn’t forget anything. I had about a million things on at least ten different lists and it seemed like every item was paramount to the success of my wedding.
So while I was packing things in my car, the rental company was unpacking things at the fairgrounds. They thought the field was dry enough to set up the tent, but they knew that their truck would get stuck in the mud on the road. The man in charge thanked my grandfather for taking him down in the Jeep (not what I would have done) and couldn’t believe the damage… apparently Irene forgot to stop in Portland whilst on her hell-bent scheme to ruin everything in her path.
I missed the call from my Nana giving me the bad news, I was in the shower. I’m glad that I missed it, because I think it would have been a hard conversation for both of us to have. When I finally did get a hold of her, she was up at the fairgrounds in the Craft Center, directing the rental men. She wanted to know where I would like the dance floor. Too wrapped up in thinking about the fact that the wedding wouldn’t be in the field, I completely overlooked the fact that we no longer needed a dance floor… which was too bad, because I could have saved us $600.
Everything was getting moved in, and the situation was now out of my hands. I tried to picture the inside of the craft center in my head, but I had never seen it when it wasn’t loaded with vendors selling their crafts. Originally, when I booked the fairgrounds for Plan B, I had asked for the Natural Resource Center. In the summer of 2010, my Nana and I went inside and looked around and figured that the resource center was the best option, we never even bothered to look inside the craft center. However, a few months before the wedding when I called to confirm my $200 Plan B, Kathy said “you’ve got the craft center, that’s where we host events because it’s a good sized space that is close to the bathrooms.” Since I had always banked on a beautiful day, I never thought anything of that little switcheroo… until that Wednesday before the wedding.
I continued to pack my car and cross items off of my list. I had to make an unplanned trip back to Columbia to pick up the welcome bags, and the jeep was filling up quickly. I suppose it was around 3 or 4 by the time I finally left Manchester, but I was by myself with no space to stop for any more treasures, so I knew the trip would be a quick one.
Four hours later I was opening the door to the farmhouse feeling an absolute laundry list of emotions; scared that it would be over soon, hopeful that I could get back to my normal life, still disappointed and scorned about the storm and the venue change… you get the idea. Fortunately, Nana had beer on ice and a corkscrew ready. It was too late to go down to the river and scope the storm damage, and we didn’t go up to the fairgrounds either… we just sat sipping and stewing. I worried incessantly about the river and the fact that even though we had a dry spot for the wedding, we didn’t necessarily have a plan for Saturday. As of that night, Saco Bound still hadn’t opened up the river to canoes and I wasn’t sure whether or not we would be able to host the weenie roast. Things seemed pretty bleak and uncertain on Wednesday night. Thank God for the alcohol that relaxed me into a very short night’s sleep.
Thursday was a big day. My Mom, Dad, Uncle and brother were all coming up and I was finally going to scope out the situation at the River and up at the fairgrounds. I woke up at 7 and put on my “Maine Wedding attire” as Dan came to call it. It seems I had spent many working wedding weekends in Maine wearing the same pink sports bra, grey t-shirt and black Nike shorts. After a quick breakfast, we headed up to the fairgrounds for Tex’s daily walk, and to finally examine the new wedding venue.
When the doors opened and I walked in, my jaw must have dropped. It was a combination of the cement floor, tacky fluorescent lighting and swirl ceiling that got me at first. But in the long run, what really caused me to furrow my brow was the lattice paneling all over the walls. It was as if someone literally decided to vomit lattice everywhere, but not in a nice “covered with beautiful blooming roses” kind of way. My heart sunk immediately. I couldn’t tolerate it… it just reminded me too much of the Elks Club downstairs in Willimantic. I didn’t actually cry, but I was right on the brink. My mind was blank and I had no idea how I could make it pretty…
And then we went down to the River.
The water had all receded back to a fairly normal level and it looked decent down there. Granted, there were about ten million trees down and everything was covered in a layer of silt from where the river had risen up to, but I could still see the beauty. The weenie roast could still happen.
That was all about 30 seconds before my Grandfather tried to drive us up the very small hill into the main cookout area. The Jeep just kept slipping and tearing up the grass. He must have tried 4 times to get up this world’s smallest hill. All I could think was “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! YOU’RE TEARING UP THE GRASS!” I’m not sure what came over him… usually he is a very careful man who thinks strategically about everything. Maybe he didn’t realize how bad the tracks would look; maybe he thought it was manly to be out spinnin’ tires and kickin’ up mud. Or maybe he felt so defeated by the storm and what it had done to his land, to his granddaughter’s wedding that he just needed a win over Mother Nature and her small hill.
I can’t even remember if we got up the hill or had to go around. From the moment the first splatter of mud got kicked up, I had to hide my head and try not to cry. Suddenly the potential beauty I saw was gone, and the sheer task of cutting up all of the trees that had fallen was an obstacle that could not be overcome. We got back to the farmhouse and I went into the old living room and cried… again. Things looked terrible… I didn’t want to be in the craft center, the camp site at the river looked like a natural disaster area and my imagination was crippled by the overwhelming odds stacked against me.
Luckily at that very point, my Mom showed up.
We rode down to the craft center where I declared how terrible it was, and that I wanted the Natural Resource Center instead. I think that my Mom inspired (or enabled) the determined person inside of me who was sure she could get what she wanted by asking the right way. So we marched up to the front office and asked. Kathy informed us that the entire staff was gone for the day to another fair, and that there was no way we could know before tomorrow. But we would have to find out about which bathrooms we could use, and where our caterer could do their clambake. The man with those answers was across the street in the camping area.
It must have seemed odd to these three men (who were digging a hole to fix a water line) to see 2 cars with CT plates roll up. It was probably even stranger to them that 2 unusual women popped out with Nancy Sanborn (my Nana). I introduced myself and go right to the point, trying to be as charming as I could, without appearing like a bridezilla. Much to my delight, he said that the caterer could cook nearby and that the closest set of bathrooms was up and running. More importantly, he didn’t seem to care at all… as if he couldn’t figure out why I bothered to ask in the first place.
I wanted to get into the Natural Resource Center and start making plans, taking measurements and trying to figure out how to make the space work.
My Mom said, “Shouldn’t you wait until you get the confirmation that you can actually use it?”
My response to her was, “we WILL get it.”
Even though it had the same ugly floor, ceiling and lighting, I could see much more potential in the Resource Center. The walls were a warm pine and the American flag bunting (although not something I wanted to stay) matched the wedding colors. Ideas were flowing, and not just about the reception. If it was a nice day, we decided that we could have the ceremony outside underneath a big tree on the opposite side of the building.
A note about the tree… From the moment I decided that we could get married underneath its oversized branches, I was hit with a wave of déjà vu. I could have sworn that back at the Fryeburg Fair in 2010 Dan and I were talking about the wedding and I pointed to the Natural Resource Center and said, “There is our Plan B.” He wanted to know why it wasn’t our Plan A, citing the difference in cost and effort. So I said, “the field is beautiful, there are mountains everywhere and trees, it’s much prettier down there…” to which he replied, “There are mountains right there” and pointed towards the mountains standing behind the big tree.
Back in real time, we had returned to the farmhouse to finish up more projects. My Mom and Nana tied ribbons and tags to mason jars while I finished the ceremony programs and the scrapbooks that would be at each table. Good news poured in as we heard that Saco Bound would finally be allowing their canoes down the river again, so it seemed the weenie roast was on. Out on the porch before dinner, someone pointed out a bus driving by headed up to the fairgrounds…
“That must be them, back from the other fair” someone said, “let’s see if we can catch them!” So in witch-hunt style, my Mom piled back into the Jeep and chased down the bus to meet the decision makers up at the Fairgrounds.
Again, I tried to be charming and to-the-point (a difficult combination for me to accomplish). I asked nicely and sure enough, our lucky streak continued.
“You’re too damn young to be married” the man added after he said agreed to the switch. Not sure it was a compliment, but that’s how I was going to take it.
After dinner we went out to North Conway to see what we could buy to brighten up the new venue. We stopped at Lowes and Walmart and the Christmas Tree Shoppe frantically searching for anything that would inspire me to have more ideas. Our plan was to spend a small fortune on plants to soften the space. With the extra money we now had from cancelling the tent, and the portable restrooms, there really was no reason to hold back. But it was September in Maine and the plants weren’t plentiful. Walmart had mums but they wouldn’t bloom by Sunday, and Lowes only had yellow, we wanted white.
Our trip was more for planning an attack shopping list on Friday than for actually shopping, so we returned to the house rather empty handed. There were still people who needed to know about the change, I wrote the following e-mail to send to our guests:
“So in case you've been living under a rock the past week, you may have heard that there was a hurricane in New England. The hurricane, along with knocking out power- caused some minor flooding... well let's be serious, it's MAJOR flooding. As of Monday, the field we were going to get married in was underwater. So when the tyrannical rental company refused to wait to deliver our tent until the road dried out, we got the terrible news that they would not set up the tent or the chairs, or any of the other things we needed. So if you ever need party rentals in Maine, I would not recommend One Stop Party Shoppe. Yes, they really spell it that way!
Anyway, long story longer, we are now moving the wedding to the Fryeburg Fairgrounds in the Natural Resource Center. Everything will still take place at the same time, just in a different space. Another difference is that there will be parking available at the Fairgrounds, so you can drive your car to the wedding if you don't want to take the shuttle. All of the shuttles will still leave from the hotels at the same time - and there is a note to remind you of that time in each of the hotels. We still hope to host the weenie roast on Saturday, but if you are not coming by canoe, you will want to drive to the farmhouse (818 Main St in Fryeburg) to get escorted down. Hint: your fuel-friendly four-wheel-drive-less vehicle will not make it!
Also, just so you are aware, the beautiful mountains and rivers I had promised all along will not be visible from inside the natural resource center... I'm doing my best to "beautify" but I guess when you get stuck going with Plan B, beauty tends to take a backseat to practicality. On that note though, feel free to wear your stilettos since sinking into the ground won’t be a concern any longer.
Looking forward to seeing you all soon... and if you find that I am intoxicated when you arrive, you can blame Irene... that nasty bitch.”
My Dad and brother had arrived and were working on a plan of their own to clean up the campsite area in time for the weenie roast. After a round of drinks – or two – we all hit the hay late Thursday night knowing that Friday would be the busiest day thus far in the scheme of wedding planning.
It seemed almost laughable that 2 days before my wedding I was sleeping in the same room as my parents and my brother. We hadn’t done that (even in Maine) for years… maybe 8! Needless to say, it’s not that great to share a room when your parents wake up at the crack of dawn and start yapping to each other. So then, I was awake too, and figured I had better get going. I suited up in my Maine Wedding Attire and had breakfast with the rest of the early risers (something is wrong with my family). At the table, Mom and I finalized our shopping lists then threw on sweatshirts before walking out in the cold (45ᵒF) morning air.
My Mom and I took off to North Conway in a mad quest to find everything we needed, and some stuff we didn’t even know we would need. My Nana was stationed at the farmhouse to make sure the men got to work down at the weenie roast site. They had been given an order by Bridezilla; to cut down some birch trees that I could tie up to the posts in the Resource Center, giving it an outdoors feel.
Over in North Conway, we stormed through Christmas Tree Shop, picking up lanterns and wreaths and tin buckets. From there we hit Walmart and bought fabric, plants and a whole mess of other things that we thought might work. But we really hit the jackpot at Home Depot! They had already marked down all of their summer plants, and we took advantage big time scooping up $5 mandevilla plants, impatients, mums, Montauk daisies, you name it. The only problem with our cache was that it filled the jeep to the max, so we couldn’t fit anything else! Our grocery shopping for the weenie roast and the mixers for the wedding would have to wait.
Lucky for me, my most helpful guests began arriving right as I got to the fairgrounds to unload my booty of plants and lanterns. We swung the doors wide open to the resource center and I started giving orders.
About 2 minutes after they had arrived, our friends Jon and Eric teamed up to break one of the lights in the resource center by throwing a football into it. I ordered them to clean it up, and to be thorough, knowing that women might be walking around in bare feet at the wedding. I guess I didn’t know that thorough for them meant a solid hour and a half sweeping and mopping. Good God!
While the boys cleaned, Amy, Amanda and I got to work moving all of the tables and chairs from the craft center over to the Natural Resource Center. This was without a doubt the hardest work I had done for the wedding, and I was sweating all over the Maine Wedding Attire. In hindsight, I should have ordered the boys to do the moving, while the girls and I could have swept and mopped and had time to do about 10 other things.
Meanwhile, our birch trees still hadn’t arrived, so my Mom went down to the weenie roast site to supervise and make sure it got done. Not long after she left, my old Jeep rolled in, with what looked like a small forest tied to the roof racks.
Soon, more people began to arrive and offer their help; it was chaos! There were almost too many people and not enough tasks. Joey, Dan, Brian, Brendan, Eric and Jon were setting up tables while the girls helped me tie the trees to the posts. Then there were even more helpers! Dad and Mike and the North Windham Sanborns, Tom and Laura and Andy, My Aunt Judy... I mean literally ½ of my family and ½ of Dan’s family just showed up, ready to take orders.
The problem was I wasn’t ready to give them! For nearly two years I had been so focused on the details that I couldn’t step back and delegate to my army of helpers. Luckily, many of them had ideas of their own, and so benches got moved to our new ceremony site, the wedding paraphernalia got set up. My genius idea to add globe lights (last minute purchases that I had Brian make at Target in CT, before they left for Maine) came to fruition when we very carefully hung them up.
To say it was a remarkable amount of help and work would be an understatement. But the sun only stays in the sky for so long, so at 5:00, we closed up the building and gave orders for everyone to meet us at the base of Jockey Cap as we kicked off the festivities by taking a sunset hike.
There wasn’t much time for me to shower or get pretty (like I wanted to) so I had to use my 10 minutes wisely… I showered like a man woman and then headed to the Saco River Motor Lodge (friend headquarters for the weekend) without having plucked my eyebrows, or dried my hair or properly applied makeup, and picked up a big group to bring to Jockey Cap.
The sun was already sinking when we arrived, so instead of waiting, we just began our hike to the top. Most of the climb, we all caught up with each other as I finally had time to enjoy being with my friends. At the top we met up with some of my family, and a few other friends. The sky was clear and the sun was sinking slowly over the mountains, offering a great view and tremendous photo opportunities.
I took a deep breath (as I would many times over the course of the weekend) and tried to soak it all in: the wedding was upon us, my guests had arrived and it was finally time to enjoy it. But as all good things, the moment couldn’t last. It was getting dark and if we didn’t head down, we would be stuck in the woods, unable to see. On the way down I was so glad to hear a few people say what a good view it was, and that it was worth the hike to the top. My Brother held my 80 year old Aunt’s arm and helped guide her when it got really dark. What seemed like another rushed experience to me was hopefully a great way to see Fryeburg for the newbies.
Route 302 Tavern and Smokehouse is the only bar in Fryeburg. Literally. So I planned on having all the guests meet up there after the hike to share beers and appetizers and get in the mood to party. At first glance: they couldn’t handle us – there were simply too many people. But in the go-with-the-flow Maine spirit, the owner decided he could fit us out on the back deck, and suddenly we had our own private outdoor party. It was really quite perfect: we had the starry night sky, plenty of beer and appetizers to feed us all, and to top it all off, the live music being played inside the bar was the perfect volume to hear and sing along, but not so loud as to shut down conversation.
Some of my family still refers to that night at 302 as “Beerfest”. It was great, even if I did go scrambling from table to table trying to say hello to everyone. The best part of the night for my friends was when the bill came. The never-ending pitchers and constant trays of apps for 30 people had come to grand total of $350. My city-dwelling friends couldn’t get over it and made declarations that they would be coming to Maine all the time. The bill got split between 4 generous friends and really made the night feel a little more special to me; because they had acted as hosts – letting Dan and I soak up the good times without adding it to our wedding expense list.
Around midnight we all packed in to a few cars and headed back to our lodging. I had to go to the farmhouse with Dan to pick up the cages and my luggage, and then I dropped Dan off at Friend HQ and finally checked in to my room at the Oxford House.
After a long day rife with activity and alcohol, I thought for sure I would get to sleep in no time. But the bed I had was just too stiff, and it was just too quiet without Dan and the dogs. I finally fell asleep at 2, and woke up every half hour until 6:00 a.m. on Saturday morning.