The Wedding Ceremony

Cleveland Aquarium, Ohio

All of the planning and organizing came to this moment, when Anna walked out of the shark tunnel and revealed why everyone was really brought together in Cleveland. Here is the story leading up to the ceremony from the bride’s point of view…

The girls and I (except Casey who couldn’t make it and Katy who was flying in all the way from Missouri the next day) drove down to Cleveland the day before. It was a fun road trip, which ended with mani/pedis and a soak in the hotel hot tub. I was confident I would be too nervous to sleep and would not get much rest that night. On the contrary, I was the first of us to fall asleep, watching something on TV, with a face mask on.

The morning brought with it some very intense nerves. We packed everything up, Ashley and I went to Panera for breakfast (the most palatable sounding thing to my butterflies), and Mary and Crystal went to pick up Katy at the airport. I’m pretty sure there were several times during that “morning of” breakfast conversation where I would say “oh my gosh. I’m getting MARRIED. Oh my GOSH!” and Ashley would pat me on the hand and say “It’s ok…it’s OK, Anna!” when I had to take deep breaths because of the nerves.

Next was hair and makeup, where I got to put on my “mermaid princess disguise”.

Then as soon as we got to the aquarium, I got into the “hiding room” to get my dress on. The photographers and videographers were already there. Somehow, as SOON as I pulled my dress up over my… delicate areas… there were cameras in the room. It’s like they could smell that everything was covered… enough… and it was time to start snapping pics. They got copious amounts of great pictures, and also some where I look like the queen of planet resting grouch face – let me tell you – the nerves will do that to you. Wedding anxiety is for real. Especially when it is a delicately planned surprise that you more than anyone else could screw up. I should’ve packed vodka.

In the hiding room, there were several heart attack moments for me. One, was when someone told me that Adam (Alex’s brother) and his wife were there in the lobby, in full view of the only exit to the hiding room (this later turned out to be only a similar looking couple, since after the wedding, we found out that Adam never actually entered the aquarium until he was with Alex, but that doesn’t alleviate the feeling of being trapped at that moment).  The second heart attack moment was a call from the groom, in which I was informed of two very serious issues:

#1 – The preacher was lost

#2 – The groom had left his vest and tie in Michigan

That was the most intense phone call of my life.

 The issues got sorted out though when we decided to send some bridesmaids on a search mission for the preacher and I tried my best to convince the groom that it would be perfectly fine if he wore his outfit without the vest and tie and I believed that with all my heart. Besides, what else were we going to do? Of course, I was completely underestimating my then-future husband…the one who conceived this devious plan with me and helped pull it off in the first place especially with the influence of the groomsmen that were with him!

When the aquarium closed to the public, Shauna, Katy and I hustled from the hiding room to the shark tube. Once inside, we stood in the spot we had planned, so we couldn’t be seen from either entrance or the front of the tank where the families were going to be. Here, our officiant made his entrance and I breathed a sigh of relief. While the four of us were waiting, and I was FREAKING (worried that something would get blown before the time was right and/or I would mess up my entrance/music timing), Mark sensed my unease and offered me a mint. It turned out to be the MOST INTENSE ALTOID I’ve ever had, but it did the job well and I felt a little more grounded after that. I then got to witness at the far end, a scant view of my dad, talking to Mike, the one who was handing him a letter I had written for that exact moment. I watched his face. He seemed confused, but then his eyes lit up, and he looked into the tube, saw me, and cracked a HUGE smile. He was smiling the rest of the night. He was so excited, it was hard to keep him in tempo with me on our walk in, but we finally got our groove. Just as we turned the corner and came into view, it was like time slowed down, and everything went muffled. I was expecting some shock and awe, a gasp, a shout, something, but everything was perfectly still for what felt like ten minutes. Then I heard Dave say, “Why are you asking me!?”

I hugged my mom. She cried. (No surprise – sorry, mom!) And then I found Alex standing in the very spot where we would be married, and the world clicked into motion again, at least for a minute. When we started saying our vows… everything became blurry and distorted… I couldn’t look at him while saying mine because I was trying desperately to just keep it together and not start bawling (out of happiness, I assure you). Then, as if some magic aquarium fairy had waved her wand, we were pretty much married.