by Roberta Beach Jacobson
How could Travis and I pull off our wedding and reception when we had so little money? It was a daunting task to plan such a romantic event on a small budget, so I asked my department manager, a newlywed herself, if she had any suggestions to make our Groundhog's Day celebration a success.
Did she ever. Nan and I brainstormed and came up with cost-cutting ideas, starting with my borrowing a gown. Next she shocked me by suggesting we hold both the wedding ceremony and reception outdoors.
“Can we do that in February?” I asked, well aware how chilly Georgia could turn in the dead of winter. There was even a chance of frost.
Nan told me not to worry. Hopefully we'd be rewarded with mild temperatures graced with sunny skies. We made an efficient planning team - coming up with all sorts of thrifty possibilities as we sat together in the employee cafeteria comparing lists, our sandwiches long forgotten.
Travis wanted our ceremony to be elegantly simple and I wanted our reception to be one guests would carry around in their memories for years. I kept him updated on what Nan and I had come up with and he warmed to most of our ideas. He winced when I mentioned the outdoor setting, but I explained we'd called everywhere and the cheapest reception hall ran three-hundred
dollars, plus cleaning costs.
“What if it rains?” he asked.
“Then we'll make the best of it and skip through the puddles,” I answered.
The well manicured parks around town were large enough to accommodate our guest list, but the general public would be milling around, invading our space. Both Travis and I longed for a secluded, private, setting. It was Travis who came up with the ideal location. His Uncle Oliver, a retired army
sergeant major with a farm near Vidalia, was more than willing to let us host our special day there. He even claimed to have groundhogs burrowed under his onion fields.
On a cold January morning, I mailed out a stack of wedding invitations –colorful note cards and each envelope sealed with a comical groundhog sticker. Best I knew, Nan and I had covered every wedding day detail and there were no loose ends.
She picked up her sister's ivory wedding gown from the dry cleaners for me. I traced the glass beads with my fingers and told her the creation seemed too delicate to try on.
I couldn't help it, I stared at myself in the mirror. Maybe all brides react the same way, but I felt magically transformed. The sole alternation needed was that it be shortened several inches for me. Nan assured me she'd find somebody to take care of it.
Nan made some floral suggestions and I discussed the matter at length with Mom. Travis gave input from a man's point of view. We trimmed our wish list a few times due to costs.
The weather cooperated on our big day and I think the sun peeped out from behind the clouds just to acknowledge our ceremony. I was too nervous to wonder if local groundhogs could see their shadows.
Travis was a shaky groom. I could tell the way he squeezed my hand. Tripping and landing on my nose was my number-one fear, though not being able to repeat the vows ran a close second. Not a single unscheduled thing happened and I was relieved to hear the instruction for us to kiss.
Afterwards, our guests gathered on wooden benches set up around a pit where a huge bonfire roared. It was perfect to ward off the February chill. We sipped sparkling wine Travis's parents had provided and sampled spicy snacks Nan had brought. Later we nibbled on tea-sized chicken-and-crab sandwiches my mom had dreamed up.
Several guests told me about groundhog sightings, but when I looked exactly where they'd pointed, I never saw a thing. Anyway, I was much too absorbed in my role as hostess to go searching for any Southern relatives of Groundhog Phil.
Despite our careful planning, there was one detail we'd neglected. Guests who brought wedding presents had no place to stack them. There wasn't a spare folding table to be found. Travis' Uncle Oliver came to the rescue by opening up the back of his pick-up truck. Soon boxes sporting gold and silver bows elegantly filled the bed of his trusty truck.
Travis and I walked hand-in-hand to the fire. We stood with our backs to the flames and I tossed my bouquet of yellow tea roses high into the afternoon sky. In it went and the fire reacted with a sparkling shower of light. We hugged. We laughed. Travis and I congratulated each other with a kiss.
People told us they couldn't recall any wedding celebration quite like ours. A fire has a way of making you stare at it and that‘s what we did. We were mesmerized as the red and yellow sparks shot into the air. Who needed to spend money on a band? The fire was the best entertainment we could have arranged.
As my groom and I posed for pictures, everybody complimented us on our simple refreshments and the serene setting. Uncle Oliver regularly fed the fire with hickory wood. As we watched the logs go up in smoke, our noses were treated to a smoky sweetness and it added another dimension to our special day.
Mom and Dad, so concerned about the money issue initially, told me they were proud of the way things things turned out. No matter that many miles separate us from the groundhog capital up in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, I can't imagine a better Groundhog's Day wedding anywhere!
About the Author: Roberta Beach Jacobson writes for True Romance, True Love and True Confessions magazines. She's an American writer who makes her home in Greece. Visit her at her webpage.