The first clue that my twin sister, Diana, was going to become “enthusiastic”—as our father diplomatically put it—about planning her wedding came the day she told me she was engaged.
“You need to move back to DC,” she said. “There’s so much stuff to do.”
It was 2 in the morning in Italy, where I was covering the Winter Olympics as a London-based correspondent for People magazine, and I laughed; for years she’d been employing flimsy excuses to persuade me to come home to the States. But soon I was joking to friends that I was going to move to Afghanistan, where I’d been on assignment earlier in the year, because my cell phone and BlackBerry didn’t work in Kabul.
My sister hadn’t been the kind of girl to dream about her wedding. We’d talked about weddings only once—when we were eight or nine years old and just finished reading Beverly Cleary’s Sister of the Bride.
“Which one of us do you think will get married first?” my sister asked that day. I shrugged. We hadn’t discussed the subject since.
Living in another country meant there were limits to how much I could do for Diana. Still, during the eight months of her engagement, the wedding loomed large. As maid of honor, my tasks included everything from advising on which version of the wedding program sounded “warmer” to holding her veil onto her head for the photos because she insisted on having the wedding outside during gale-force winds.
In April, I made the seven-hour plane trip from London for the weekend to go dress shopping in Washington. It was two months into her engagement, and my sister had a full-blown case of what I call “wedding head”—the temporary insanity that makes intelligent, financially responsible women think, “Oh, what the heck” when adding $1,000 more to the budget for miniature roses to be threaded through every place card. (Just kidding, Dad—it was less than half that.)
I got off the plane and went straight to her first appointment at Betsy Robinson’s Bridal Collection in Baltimore. Jet-lagged, I listened to my sister—an Anthropologie and Banana Republic kind of girl whom I have never seen read Vogue—pronouncing dresses “well cut” and debating necklines with a gravity befitting C-Span.
I tried not to laugh as every shop assistant invoked Grace Kelly. Ditto when Diana described nine out of ten gowns as “romantic yet modern.” At Hannelore’s in Old Town, my sister wondered aloud if a dress had too much beading. The shop assistant said, “Well, the bride is the entertainment.”
The bride is the entertainment indeed. The e-mails arrived weekly: Photographs of my sister during her makeup trials; questions like “Do you know a good synonym for ‘immediately’?” She didn’t like “reception to follow immediately” for the invitation.
On one of my frequent trips, my sister tossed a list of two dozen hors d’oeuvres at me and sighed, “I’m only allowed five. Help!” Her fiancé had crossed out the ones he wouldn’t eat, and I circled five in about 15 minutes, making sure there was a vegetarian option. “You didn’t spend enough time,” my sister complained. “This is serious.”
The next day Diana took an hour to talk about how little time she had. When I asked what I could do to help, she sent me off in search of Champagne-colored ribbon to tie around the baskets with the yarmulkes. Magazines have paid me to write about fashion, but she told me that “Champagne” meant pale gold and not pink and that I couldn’t actually buy the ribbon—I had to bring back samples so she could choose.
That same trip, I noticed five boxes labeled sniff stacked in her apartment. “What are those?” I asked. My sister looked sheepish. She had spent months complaining that she had no time and no money, yet she had managed to find the time and money to order five boxes of designer tissues imprinted with brides and grooms.
I spent the month before her October wedding teasing her about those tissues. But as I watched her walk down the aisle and say her vows, I must have used at least half of them myself.
Former Washingtonian writer Courtney Rubin can be reached at crubin0515 <at> yahoo <dot> com.