Here's how it started:
Hilary is on an epic bicycle journey from Texas to Alaska to raise money for cancer research and support for families affected by cancer through Texas 4000. Delightfully, we have loved ones who live all along the west coast, and Hilary has been able to connect with aunts, uncles, and cousins we don't often see. One of the loved ones is Reese's brother who lives in Vancouver, a stop along Hilary's bike route, which also included a rest day. Claude, Reese's brother, invited us to come see Hilary while she was in Vancouver on her rest day. This was only feasible for us because Claude used his airline miles to buy the plane tickets, and Reese's sister Sarah agreed to monitor Reese's business while he was away.
OK...so all of that sets the stage for what happened next.
This is a little complicated....let me see if I can explain it well. Claude called us a week or so after he booked the tickets. He figured that since we were going to be in Vancouver, he was going to use the occasion of us being in town to get married to his Love, a wonderful woman named Severine, and would Reese please be his best man? The kicker was that Claude hadn't asked his Love, yet, and he wanted everything to remain a surprise. At this point, we were sworn to secrecy.
The morning after we arrived in Vancouver, Claude, Severine (the Love), Reese, and I all drove up to Queen Elizabeth Park to have brunch at the restaurant at the top of the hill. The plan was for us all to admire the view after which Reese and I would run into the restaurant while Claude and Severine stayed behind so that Claude could propose. Claude did propose. A week or two beforehand, Severine, as a new business owner, had been in a seminar about goal setting. The speaker talked about three types of goals - achievable gaols, inspirational goals, and outrageous goals. When Severine said "yes" to Claude's marriage proposal, Claude reminded Severine of the lecture and said that he had been pretty sure that her agreeing to marry him was an achievable goal. Then Claude talked about inspirational goals and how it would be an inspirational goal to go ahead and set a date right then right there for the wedding. Then he said that, if you think about it, a really outrageous goal would be if they got married the next day at 2 O'clock. At this point, Severine's head was spinning a bit....and Claude saw that he needed to kick it up a notch to seal the deal, so he gently told her that if it would help her decision of agreeing to a surprise wedding any easier, her best friend Stephanie from Montreal was inside the restaurant at that very minute ready to be her maid of honor. That took Severine's breath away.
Severine was of course in a state of shock and awe. During brunch, as all of it was beginning to sink in, she asked me to be a bridesmaid....or is it bridesmatron? Whatever the proper term is, I happily agreed.
Here's something else Claude had planned. One of their most fun and special dates a year-ish ago was going to Diner en Blanc, a flash mob type impromptu outdoor picnic where all of the participants dine together in a public space and wear all white. Claude had asked all of the wedding guests to wear white, which brings me to another point. How to invite everyone to a wedding and still have it be a surprise for the bride? Some of these details might be a little fizzy but the gist of it was that Claude and Severine planned a "housewarming" party. It's just that after the invitations went out, Claude re-contacted everyone and told them it was going to be a surprise wedding and reception instead and please don't say anything because Severine doesn't know and would everyone please wear white to the wedding? So Reese and I were more or less prepared with white attire. Reese had some classy white linen pants, white linen shirt, and a white Havana hat. He looked fly.
A surprise wedding for the bride still takes a lot of planning from the groom. Claude scheduled a mid afternoon appointment with Severine's favorite designer in Vancouver, Malene Grotrian to be outfitted with wedding attire. It was so much fun watching Severine try on outfit after outfit! After Severine picked her ensemble, we girls made our way to the nail salon for mani/pedis, compliments of the groom. This was followed by a rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, and by then it was quite late, so Reese and I went to bed.
The next morning, Claude had scheduled hair and make-up for the bride to be, and hair appointments for Stephanie and me. In the meantime, it occurs to me that the white clothes I brought to wear to the en blanc wedding might not be appropriate to wear as a bridesmaid/bridesmatron. The other two bridesmaids both had simple white knee length dresses. I didn't. The were both young and beautiful. Me? Let's just say I had a few years and the curves that go with age on the svelte, lovely ladies. Severine just so happened to have a simple white knee length dress in her closet from Diner en Blanc the year before and suggested that I try it on. Her dress was an extra small. I'm a medium on a good day and it wasn't a good day. Severine and Stephanie were pulling the dress together and zipping me up with great strength and determination. Thank goodness the dress was made of stretch fabric, but even still, I was squeezed in so tight it was like being dressed as kielbasa sausage.
Claude had even arranged for Severine's dad, who lives in Paris, to be on Skype to follow the ceremony, so that he could be a part of the grand celebration. Awww. Add a photographer, videographer, flowers, catering, cake, great friends, white clothes, and Reese and me playing and singing a duet on guitar and ukulele at the reception, and the Surprise Wedding basically went off without a hitch. (What am I forgetting?)
Oh and did I mention? I love Severine. She is my wonderful new belle soeur.
Then there's the story about how Reese and I met up with Hilary in Vancouver later that night after peeling myself out of the kielbasa dress -- another story for another day....