I drove around the first tree in the road on the way up the mountain to my daughter’s wedding and didn’t think anything of it. I’d heard of Tropical Storm Ophelia but in all the hustle and bustle of preparations, not to mention the lack of cell or wifi service everywhere we went, I hadn’t seen any news or weather reporting, other than the gloomy “What a shame about the wedding weather” text I’d ignore or respond huffily to about negative vibes. Several downed trees later, I was working to convince myself that the almighty “they” would clear the downed trees in time for the ceremony and reception.
I must have been in deep denial when I was arranging the reception centerpieces. The lights flickered on and off and then out, and I shouted for the imaginary groomsmen to stop pranking us. The resort went dark and a frantic bridesmaid arrived to announce the wedding party had been moved to the lodge bar because there was no power in the bridal suite.
The “wedding playbook,” filled with a dozen pages of beautifully-planned details, illustrations, and detailed illustrations illustrating the details, had to be tossed. This wasn’t an easy ask of my daughter, who had spent a three-year engagement during medical school planning this wedding with Pinterest boards, driving to salvage other brides’ secondhand wedding decor, and visualizing (with the pinpoint precision of the surgeon that she is) her outdoor mountainside ceremony. The outdoor part which now had to be canceled as we looked out the window at fleeting water spouts on the lake in 30-40 mph winds.
Questions flew. How would hair and makeup be done for the wedding party with no power? Where would the ceremony be held? How would the reception food be cooked with no power?
I did my best to give my daughter a Knute Rockne speech at the beginning of the day about symbolic shelter from the storm, embracing chaos, going with the flow, love prevailing over appearances; I threw a lot at the wall hoping something would stick. Internally, I told myself a lot of therapeutic work from the last three decades would pay off on this day as I tried to regulate my own emotions. I remembered from being a wedding planner in years past that the vibe of the wedding always closely aligns with the vibe between bride and mother of bride.
If I freaked out, she would freak out, and we needed to keep the freak-outs to a minimum. The venue manager was a negative, unhelpful person who did nothing but make things worse throughout the day. The wedding coordinator got stuck behind a fallen tree and couldn’t make it up the mountain. So now without a facility ally or coordinator—we were self-governed.
But we made it work. That old-fashioned depression-era “make do” attitude. Family members stopped and found electric candles because I hadn’t brought enough wax ones for a suddenly-indoor wedding. Those were later waved around in a memorable, rousing rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” because the DJ somehow hooked up his equipment to a car battery.
The moment my daughter was able to let go of the vision she’d so carefully constructed to embrace the wedding that was happening, the kind of wedding where pizza was going to be served because there was just one pizza place that had power and could make it up the mountain, a memorable candle-lit wedding-day-for-the-ages occurred.
This is a life lesson she will remember. Some things are out of our control. Different personality types accept this with different degrees of ease. There are things we have control over and things we don’t. Sometimes the pendulum is too far one way, and people think they have no control over anything. Things “happen to them” and they have to accept a sad fate as if they were born with no free will. Others waste energy trying to control situations and people they can’t possibly control. Finding balance in this area is essential. The sooner we adapt to chaos when it arrives, as difficult as that can be, the easier and more fun life will be.