“About the Wedding Reception” was first published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel, August 2021. I Heart is written under the pen name, Elizabeth Rose. My husband Chris is known as “Jason” in the I Heart stories.
About the Wedding Reception…
Our wedding was nothing that I expected and more than I could have hoped for: Jason and I were married in front of close family on a Wednesday, with a small reception on Saturday. And if I had to choose one moment to sum up the week, it was the time I snuck out of our party to be alone.
It rained like a mo’ on our reception day; a thunder and lightning storm so tremendous, it could only happen in the South. Our venue was a dock house in Charleston, South Carolina, my hometown, on a small island near an old seafood restaurant weathered from hurricanes past. The vibe is laid-back and unpretentious, a quintessential Lowcountry spot. (The restaurant’s tagline is, “People either like it, or they don’t” to give you an idea.) For months I dreamed of dancing in the dock house with Jason and a blur of family and friends with the marshlands outstretched before us.
Of course, the pandemic hit, and we canceled the reception. Yet, as restrictions lifted, it seemed a small party was still in reach.
But the reception didn’t turn out like my Pinterest board.
As Jason and I pulled up with a van full of slightly buzzed best friends, the sky opened up. I zipped my raincoat, checked my makeup in the rearview mirror, and stroked my perfectly curled hair. “F*ck it,” I said, slipping on a trucker hat. I leaned over and kissed Jason on the lips. “I’ll meet y’all inside.”
Leaping over puddles and piles of oyster shells in silver sequin pants, I neared the dock house, ready to have my mind blown by the transformation. But when I entered, I saw nothing but an empty room. My heart dropped, and I wondered if I had the date wrong. Just then, thunder cracked, snapping me back to the moment, and I raced towards a private space under the restaurant where the food would be. I locked eyes with Amy, my wedding planner, and threw up my hands as if to say, What’s up?
“On top of this storm, there’s a full moon and a king tide tonight, which means we’ll get flooded out of the dock house,” she said. “Everything is set up in the other room, and guests are already having cocktails and a good time.” I blinked, processing what she just said, and only one thing came to mind: F*ck it. I thanked Amy for not telling me earlier – I couldn’t have handled the stress. “That’s why I’m here,” she said, brushing her hand in the air as if to swat a fly. “You didn’t need to know.”
In a cinderblock room with plastic lining covering halfway up the screened windows to keep the rain from blowing in, we danced our first dance, clinked our kombucha-filled champagne coups to my sister’s speech (Jason and I don’t drink anymore. You can read about it here.), and cut the poundcake I begged my mom to make. (The cake topper was a Day of the Dead couple we found in Ensenada, Mexico, a few years ago while filing paperwork to sell our sailboat.) String lights, palmetto roses, and fresh flowers softened the space, along with beaming faces of family and friends meeting each other for the first time over shucked oysters, Lowcountry Boil, and cold beer.
Then, we danced.
As 90s Rap pulsated the room, I unplugged the string lights, so the colorful strobes from the DJ booth lit the party. An hour later, sweating and searching for water, I slipped on my raincoat to take a breather and found myself heading to the dock house. Two friends were smoking near the covered entrance, and after chatting for a bit, I excused myself to go in.
As I entered, lightning brightened the room and the tin roof amplified the rain to a soothing roar. I noticed a folding chair leaning against the wall and unfolded it into the middle of the room. I turned towards the party and watched as the colorful lights bounced off the plastic-covered windows with loved ones singing inside. Then, I turned my gaze toward the open window and looked over the marsh outstretched beyond. A Southern storm is a blessing, ancestral magic, they say. How the spirits of the Lowcountry make their presence known. And at that moment, I felt them.
With a lump in my throat, I lifted my head to the sky and with my eyes closed. I inhaled the salty-sweet air, a mixture of earthy marsh, crisp rain, and the old wooden dock. Choking out a prayer only audible to me, I whispered, “Thank you, God,” as tears of gratitude trickled down my cheeks.
Here’s a look at Bowen’s Island where we held the reception.
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