A year ago in Nashville after running the Country Music City Half-Marathon, my best friend met a boy at a bar. Three months later they were engaged and a year later they were getting married. And everyone thought they were crazy. But over the course of the year, family and friends gaped at their relationship and anxiously awaited the wedding festivities that were going to commence in Charleston, South Carolina.
Emily’s family rented a house for the week on Wild Dunes beach on Isle of Palms. Joel’s family rented the house next door. And seven friends and I rented the other house next door. I arrived on Wednesday afternoon and my friends picked me up at the airport. As we followed the GPS directions to our rented beach house, we discovered that this house was definitely not too shabby. I guarantee it is easier to trespass the Gold Vault on Fort Knox than Ocean Point Drive where our house was located. First, in order to enter the Wild Dunes area, we had to pass through a security gate where your name must be on a guest list. The security guards had tighter control over this list than the secret service does patrolling a list for a State Dinner at the White House. Once we were finally cleared to enter the area, we drove a few miles and then came to a second gate. This time there was no security guard... this gate was passcode protected. Folks, we weren’t just staying in a gated community. We were staying in a gated-gated community and feeling fancy. After unloading the car and dragging my 45 pound suitcase up 60 stairs, my friend Brandon and I explored the amazing house jamming to some Paula Abdul (don’t judge) and took in the breathtaking views of the golf course, beach, and ocean in our backyard.
That night, Emily arranged a jewelry party at our house and friends started to slowly trickle in to socialize and sip on some wine spritzers (courtesy of Britt -- white wine and Fresca)... everyone was just excited to be together. Then we received a frantic phone call from our dear sweet precious friend Casey. Who was stuck in Detroit. Because she booked her flight to Charleston. West Virginia. Not South Carolina. I didn’t even know Charleston, West Virginia, had an airport. As Casey approached her gate in Detroit, she realized that the destination on the reader board was listed as Charleston, WV. Confused it said WV and not SC, she went to the gate agent who informed her she was indeed booked on the flight to West Virginia. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
After having to buy a new ticket, the airline wasn’t able to get her with her checked bag (which contained her bridesmaid dress) to South Carolina until the next day. But the airline did generously comp a hotel room for the night at the local Days Inn on 8 Mile... just kidding, I don’t know if it was on 8 Mile or not. But it was a Days Inn. In Detroit. On the way to the hotel, she sent me a text that said, “I hope I see you again.” She arrived at the hotel, only to discover that someone had already checked-in to her room under her name. And this story just keeps getting better.
Once the room issue had been resolved and she was “settled” into her room, there was a knock at the door with someone saying they had a delivery. She opened the door to find a lady standing there with a bottle of champagne from her husband. My first question: “The Days Inn has champagne?” No, they don’t. David, the husband, originally called the hotel thinking to get a concierge who would get her some flowers or a bottle of sparkling wine. Eminem at the front desk kindly informed him that the Days Inn did not have concierge services, but to check with the bar next door for some champagne. So David called the bar next door and they didn't have champagne either (what kind of bar doesn’t have champagne?). But, the bar told him there was a bowling alley down the street that might have some. Yes, you read that right. So, after some bribery, a bowling alley in Detroit delivered champagne to his wife at the Days Inn. That may be the weirdest, yet most awesome sentence I have even typed. Attention all boys... take notes... things like this make you a great husband and make your wife’s girlfriends fawn over you.
Back in South Carolina, two friends and myself stayed up very late trying to solve all the world’s problems, including why the toilet in our downstairs bathroom sounded like a siren every time someone flushed. The wedding rehearsal and bridal luncheon were the next morning, and then we did a little beach time that afternoon before the heading to the rehearsal dinner. The rehearsal dinner was in the backyard of the bride’s sister house, and after I learned the food was being catered from Home Team Barbecue, I firmly told everyone that there were to be no snide comments made about the amount of food I was about to put on my plate. Later that night, most of the girls had hit a wall and we had to make the rough decision: go to bed or get this party turnt up. Of course we chose the latter. Yes, the girls were the ones to bring out the Maker’s. A few hours later we returned to our house and sat around the dining room table talking about everything inappropriate under the sun until one of the husbands quickly asked, “Is this what girls do when they are together?” Yes, it is. And then he promptly went to bed.
Friday was The Big Day. A team of hair stylists and makeup artists showed up at our house the morning of the wedding to transform the bride, two moms, and bridesmaids into beautiful swans. I loved listening to the funky hair stylist describe my gaggle of friends: “You girls are classy, but sassy. I did two traditional weddings last weekend where everyone wanted boring buns, slicked backs, and bouffants. You girls are anything but boring.” Well, we are pretty fun... just ask us. It took the beauty team five hours to morph us into wedding material, but that just allowed for more mimosas and girl bonding time. Sporting my Siena Miller inspired milk-braid, we were off to the Creek Club at I’On, a stunning venue on the banks of Hobcraw Creek in Mount Pleasant.
The ceremony took place in the late afternoon on the spacious lawn of the Creek Club that overlooked the sparkling creek. The bridesmaids wore a simple and classy navy, one-shoulder, knee length dress, and the groomsmen were donned in a traditional suit with sage tie. Our good friend, who was known for the day as Mr. Reverend Brandon Everett Warren, officiated the wedding and conducted the ultimate ceremony with humor and emotion. “By the power vested in me by www.getordainedonline.com, I now introduce to you...”
While the wedding party took pictures, the guests enjoyed cocktail hour with seared scallop spoons, bruschetta, stuffed mushrooms, and these deliciously sinful Southern ham biscuits with jelly. The bar ran out of the Kentucky Mule specialty drink (made of Maker’s, ginger ale, and lime) in approximately 13 minutes and that was the only catastrophe of the night. As a bridesmaid and by process of elimination, I volunteered to do the wedding toast. But I realized right before dinner that I had no clue what I was going say, so I huddled in the bridal suite and quickly scribbled out a rambling of words.
Once everyone was seated, we were served a dinner of lowcountry traditions: local greens salad, fried turkey with a southern pan gravy, Charleston shrimp & grits with Tasso gravy, brown sugar-glazed country ham, sweet potato mash, collard greens, succotash, sweet cornbread, and biscuits with honey butter. As I came back to my table, I was balancing my plate stacked with 6 inches of food and my sister’s boyfriend asked, “Why didn’t you just get two plates?” Because then I would look like a pig.
Next were the toasts. Joel’s best man gave a great tribute to Joel and then presented Emily with an ugly University of Missouri t-shirt that I hope she uses to wash her car. It was then my turn and I had a room full of Kentucky fans staring at me and trusting me to deliver an appropriate jab in response to the t-shirt. Here is the wedding toast that I was honored to give to my best friend and her husband.
For those who know Emily know how amazing she is and there really is no need to elaborate because we all know that she is one of a kind and one in a million. But for Joel’s family and friends, you need to know what a jewel Joel has found and know that he is probably the luckiest guy on earth today.
Emily and I graduated from pharmacy school together and once we graduated, we became closer and closer over the years. She has always been my rock and my travel buddy as she always had her suitcase packed for a last minute girls’ trip. We’ve invaded cities all over the US -- Chicago, LA, Fort Lauderdale, Colorado, Las Vegas, New York, Sarasota, and I can keep on going.
We have made so many unforgettable memories, and some of our trips have included running races. Emily’s sister, Catherine, is a huge runner and has managed to con all of us into running a race with her at some point in time. Running was really not Emily’s “thing,” but she agreed to run her first half-marathon in Nashville last April. In 2012. Wearing a blue and white tutu. In celebration of Kentucky’s National Championship they won only weeks earlier. So for those of you keeping count, that would be Kentucky: eight... Missouri: zero. With a large group of friends in Nashville that day, we rocked out that half-marathon. And Emily accomplished once again another goal that she had set for herself.
We all know what happened in Nashville that night and know how it ended... which is why we are all here now. But I never spent quality time with Joel until we acted like fools, again Catherine’s idea, and decided to run a 200 mile relay from LA to San Diego, while wearing a hunting camo shirt with a shot gun printed on the chest, and neon orange shorts. You really get to see the true side of a person when you are stuck with them in a van for 36 hours -- and I learned how lucky Emily was to find the perfect compliment to her in Joel.
But, seriously, Joel, I think you broke the record on how many times someone can use a porta-potty in 36 hours.
And Joel, I love you, but no song by Lionel Ritchie is ever the go-to-jam.
So everyone raise their glass to a perfect couple and to Emily who has brought so much joy and happiness to not just my life, but everyone’s life that she has entered. We love you Joel and Emily and I cannot wait to celebrate with you tonight as we watch you start your new life together. Cheers!
And then the party started. About an hour into the reception, I noticed that every single guest was outside on the deep porches of the Creek Club. But the DJ was inside playing music all by himself. Things needed to change ASAP. So we gathered a small flock to go inside and get the dance floor greasy. I convinced the DJ to delete his current playlist and mainly play rap and hip-hop from our college years... just make us feel like we are at Two Keys! I didn’t leave the dance floor for the rest of the night unless I needed a refill. By the end of the night, I was a sweaty mess and my quads hurt, but we had exploded the fun meter. And most of the guys had added ammunition to the theory that white boys cannot dance.
Of course a party isn’t a true party unless it has an after-party. Taxi vans picked up all the partiers and transported us to Reds, a popular Mount Pleasant bar on the water. Things get a little blurry here, but it was so great to be with all of my close friends. The next day was just as remarkable as the day before. All the wedding guests made their way to the beach in the backyard of our rented houses and we just continued the party. There were lots of champagne bottles popped that afternoon in celebration of a breathtaking wedding and awe-inspiring couple.
With Brandon and Jess, I capped off the night by laying on the greens of the golf course that were right at our back door... staring at the absolute clear skies, listening to the crashing waves, and making wishes with each shooting star. It was the perfect ending to a perfect perfect wedding weekend. Congratulations Emily and Joel!