Real Bride Blogger: What If It Rains?

Guest Post by Real Bride Blogger Sandee McGlaun

One of the questions that pops into my bride’s head in the middle of the night and pins me to the bed with worry: what if it rains?

venuestairsOur venue does have an indoor area, and we have a loose rain plan in place. But so much of the appeal of the Rooftop is in the vistas of the town below and the surrounding mountains, the prospect of watching sunset fall over it all. And I confess, there is more than a little appeal in the drama of descending the curved ”glass” staircase in a beautiful gown, which will be all but impossible in a downpour.

I got a little sneak peek into the “what if it rains?’ scenario with my bridal portraits. I elected to have portraits taken ahead of the wedding in part to ensure that if it did rain on our wedding day, I’d still have some good photos of me in my gown in those dramatic rooftop spaces. What I didn’t count on: that I would wake up the morning of the bridal portrait shoot to the gentle patter of rain on the roof. And that it would keep raining. And then rain some more.

Of course, bridal portraits, unlike a wedding, can be rescheduled, right? Well, yes. But that’s not as simple as it sounds. My dress fitting had been arranged specifically to accommodate portrait day, and I’d also been scrambling to make sure I had all accessories (shoes, jewelry) selected and in place. None of those elements had to be reworked, but everything else did. Arranging the first bridal portrait session required pulling together a significant number of puzzle pieces: coordinating the availability of the venue (we had to find a night there wasn’t another event on the roof) and my photographer, along with same-day appointments for makeup and for hair, plus arranging for a small bouquet to be delivered by the florist. I’d had my nails done a couple of days before, and most importantly, I’d also asked two of my girlfriends, D.B, and Shannon, to come and help. They both have roles in the wedding, and they both happily agreed. We were all really looking forward to sharing what I hoped would be a special evening.

By 1 pm on the day of the session—we were aiming for a sunset shoot—I got a text from my photographer, noting the rain, and asking what I wanted to do. If we didn’t reschedule, we’d have to change locations. My hair and makeup appointments started at 3:30, so I had to call it by 2 pm. The problem was, I couldn’t call it until I knew whether there was another date when I could get all the pieces put back together again. I’d started weeks ahead, arranging the first shoot. This time, I had an hour.

Thus began a flurry of emails, calls, and texts. If we moved it to X day, could the hairstylist fit me in? What night is the venue free? What was the forecast for those nights? It was too late to cancel the bouquet, but if I kept it in the fridge and didn’t put the shoot off too many days, it might last. Okay, let me check back with the photographer again. Should we just give up and change the venue?

By the time I talked to my makeup artist, the stress overwhelmed me. I had a minor meltdown and burst into tears.

Despite the rain and all the anxiety it caused, I did manage to get everything moved to the following Friday. The weather was perfect, and the shoot went beautifully. My one regret: girlfriends D.B. and Shannon had prior commitments, so they couldn’t be part of the evening. My friend and wonderful trainer Sondy came to help, and we had lots of fun. Still, I missed having the other gals there, too, and I later wondered at the wisdom of privileging the pursuit of an ideal (the perfect portrait) over sharing meaningful moments (making memories) with people you love.


The experience gave me some valuable perspective on the question, “What if it rains?” For the bridal portraits, the rain meant my girlfriends couldn’t be present and couldn’t share my joy, and that was deeply disappointing. But if it rains on our wedding day, there won’t be any rescheduling. We’re still going to get married. Our family and friends will still be there, and we’ll still celebrate the occasion surrounded by people we love. If it rains, it rains. It’s still going to be a beautiful day.

And brooding clouds or stunning sunset, the happy smiles that light up every picture will make it seem like the sun was there all along, beaming high and bright.

About Sandee:

Sandee McGlaun chronicles the adventures of marrying at mid-life on her blog, 40-Something First Time Bride. She directs the Writing Center and teaches at Roanoke College in Salem. When not writing, teaching, or planning her wedding, she enjoys puttering in the craft room, hiking through the woods, and checking out the local music scene with fiancé Steve. She likes to dispel stereotypes and thus looks forward to becoming a married crazy cat lady.

In Praise of Girlfriends

A Shower & Spice & Everything Nice: In Praise of Girlfriends

By Real Bride Blogger Sandee McGlaun

A couple of weeks ago, I did something I’d come to think I’d never have the chance to do: I was the guest of honor at a bridal shower.

Maid-of-honor Melissa and bridesmaids D.B. and (from afar) Sherry threw me a beautiful shower, which my mom and a number of my local girlfriends attended. Melissa held it in her backyard on a sunny Saturday morning, and it was exquisite. She’d set up two tents for us and decorated with hot pink pinwheels, bright orange and blue lanterns, blooming flowers, and colorful candies. She greeted us with freshly mixed mimosas, and there was plenty of refreshing lemon water to keep us cool.  We dined on two kinds of quiche, homemade muffins, fresh fruit, and yogurt parfaits. For dessert, we had cupcakes, which Melissa had arranged and frosted in the shape of a wedding dress! shower24

D.B. prepared creative and beautiful party favors of handmade Blue Bear soaps, serums, and lip balms, placed in bags with the tag “From Sandee’s Shower to yours!”  We played several well-chosen games. I’m a crafty girl, and Melissa had set out paints and a canvas so that everyone who attended could paint a heart. And I’m a word nerd, so I loved both the bridal word search and a game where we passed around a pretty box containing descriptive couplets: whose hair was shortest, or who’d been married the longest. The box was passed to the person who fit each couplet best, and once all the clues had been drawn, the last person holding the box won the prize.

And there were presents, too. We’d chosen a theme of “Spice it up!” so the gifts ranged from exotic cooking spices, salts, and linens for the kitchen, to lingerie, massage goodies, and other items to “spice up” the boudoir.

I was utterly overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness, creativity, and generosity of my friends. But given what amazing women they are, I wasn’t surprised.

Couples’ showers are becoming more common, and I do have dear male friends, too, so perhaps it’s a little old-fashioned to have a girlfriends-only shower. But as an older bride who’s spent more of her adult years than not uncoupled and living far from blood family, I have an especially deep appreciation for my girlfriends. Over the past 20 years, more often than not it’s my girlfriends who’ve been by my side, day after day. They’re the ones who’ve given me lifts to the airport, who’ve gone out dancing with me on my birthday. Who helped me move, one more time. Who brought me soup when I got pneumonia, took my panicked 3 AM call when my house was broken into, listened to work woes and endless crazy dating stories in the days before Steve. They’re the ones who let me belt Indigo Girls’ songs in their car without setting me on the curb, who’ve laughed with me, hiked up mountains with me, talked books and drunk wine and shared s’mores and dreams around the firepit. They’ve rescued and reassured and re-energized me.

My girlfriends are my family. And for me, my bridal shower was as much a celebration of them as it was of me becoming a bride.

I’ve known a few of the wonderful women in my life for decades (mom, of course, whom I also consider a friend; and Sherry and I first palled around in the third grade…), others just a few years. And what a rich diversity of life and relationship experiences: some of my gal pals are single; some married; some in committed relationships. Some of the singles are divorced, others have never married. For those with children, their kids range anywhere from 2 to 25 years old. There are single parents; non-parents, and parents to fur kids only. It’s hard to imagine a question or conundrum I could encounter outside the realm of these women’s collective wisdom. It’s important to me to sustain my friendships even though I’m now coupled up. We all need good girlfriend time.

shower20I only cried once during the shower.  (Though to be honest, I saved myself from a second bout only by hugging my thanks instead of squeaking out the words choking me up). After the passing-the-box game, Melissa distributed pens and paper for one more activity, a storytelling game–perfect for a writer-bride!  She read off a list of words, and the guests were instructed to compose, within seven minutes, a love story that incorporated all the words. My job was to read the finished stories out loud and pick my favorite.

Theirs was no small task: the list of words included “earthquake,” “doghouse,” “fire,” and “chemistry,” among others. Let me tell you, I have some talented and funny girlfriends. One story featured two lovebirds falling for each other while building a doghouse. In another, the man had already built the house and invited his love interest to come see his peke-a-poo’s new abode. One couple met over a Bunsen burner in chemistry class. Still another tale placed me in California, where an earthquake led to romance. Several stories made it clear Steve would/should never be in the doghouse. D.B’s story, which ended with Steve saying, “Call the fire department – my baby is hot!” made me laugh out loud.

But the one that made me cry was a true story. Our friend Brigitte, whom I met through Steve, wrote about a “lonely professor” of “forestry, not chemistry” who had talked about his “search for someone special” while sitting by a campfire. I got about two sentences in and realized the story was about Steve, before I knew him, and I had to hand the paper to my mother to finish reading it aloud. Knowing that Steve has also cherished, and been supported by, a family of dear friends during his single-father years touches me deeply. Brigitte later polished up the story and emailed it to both of us, which made me tear up all over again.

As “his” friends and “my” friends become our friends, I look forward to celebrating our wedding with their love and laughter surrounding us. And my girlfriends don’t know it yet, but there’s going to be a special song played during the reception in honor of all their beautiful selves. Get your dancing shoes ready, ladies, because we’re going to kick up our heels, together.


Mothers, Daughters, and Wedding Dresses: A Middle-Aged Bride Shops for “the One”

Editor’s Note: Meet our new real bride blogger Sandee, who will be sharing her journey via our blog. She also blogs on her personal website, 40-Something First Time Bride, and we highly encourage you to check out more information on Sandee’s engagement process!

By Real Bride Blogger Sandee McGlaun

SandeeI’m a forty-something first-time bride, and this is my story.

I don’t mean that to sound overly dramatic, because if there’s anything I’ve discovered in taking on the identity of “bride-to-be” in middle-age, it’s that I am actively anti-drama. Life is complicated enough, and after all these many years of waiting and wondering, now that I’m finally in love, engaged, and planning to marry in September, I want all things wedding to be simple, fun, and (relatively) stress-free.

As a forty-something bride, I know what I like, and I’m clear on what traditions and trends appeal (Dad walking me down the aisle, yes) and which aren’t for me (unity sand, no thanks). With so many years to dream, though, my desire for simplicity has occasionally run smack up against those more elaborate visions I concocted over the years of what this process would look like.

For example, more than once I’ve imagined the scene of going wedding dress shopping with my mom. I’ve always been close to my mother Margaret, a retired biology teacher with an artist’s eye and a grandma’s heart. She’s still my favorite shopping companion, and I’d long envisioned an elegant and exciting day filled with white tulle and happy tears. We’d dress up, shop multiple bridal boutiques, then share a lovely lunch and a cup of tea (or glass of wine) in a cozy café, laugh, cry, and generally bond ourselves silly.

That was the fantasy.  The reality looked a bit different.


First of all, between the time my fiancé Steve and I started talking rings and he put one on my finger, I found a Nicole Miller dress I loved and bought it on eBay at half the retail price. It was the practical, smart, and simple thing to do. But I couldn’t quite let go of the dream of dress shopping with my mom. So when she came to visit some months later, we decided to head to the bridal store. Our excursion wasn’t an empty exercise: I had some concerns about the fit of the Miller dress and wanted a back-up, and even if I kept it as I hoped, I still needed accessories.

dressshopping-13We planned to hit at least two shops. At the first store, Mom and I were stopped ten feet inside the front door by an elegant 60-something woman seated at a table. Dressed in a chic black suit, she asked if we wanted to just look around or try on.

“Um, look around to see if there’s anything we want to try on?” I said, thinking logic dictated that approach.

She noted we were free to look around all we wanted, but trying on required filling out a form. Wedding gowns were to the right, bridesmaids’ dresses to the left, veils in the back.

We perused the racks and found a few contenders for a back-up dress. I wasn’t crazy about the bridesmaid styles on the racks, and nothing appealed to Mom for mother-of-the-bride. As I held up a birdcage veil to my head—frowning at its excess frou-frou—two saleswomen drifted to the back of the store to watch us. Were they trying to figure out if we were serious shoppers, or worried we might steal something?

I suspected my age and lack of apparent bride-ness was confounding them, and I was right. When Mom and I returned to the check-in table, a twenty-something blonde sat there. “Can I help you ladies?” she asked.

“Yes, we’d like to try on some things,” I replied.

She looked at me skeptically. “What kinds of ‘things’?”

Suspicion and disdain had not been part of my fantasy shopping excursions. “Dresses,” I said. “Bridal gowns.” I reached for the form, resisting the urge to wave my ring under her nose.

“Oh, well, it may be two o’clock now before we have a stylist available,” she said. “We have another new bride who just came in.”

“Oh,” I said, glancing at Mom, who raised her eyebrows. This young woman didn’t seem too interested in selling us a dress. We decided to grab lunch and come back. As we exited, we overheard the older woman chide the blonde.dressshopping3

There were no cozy cafes nearby, so we ended up at a chain restaurant across the street. It was startlingly awful. The foyer stank of wet table-rag. Mom’s strawberry avocado salad had no avocado. My shrimp scampi not only lacked the fresh basil that made it so appealing on the menu, but it also came with…marinara sauce? Which, of course, I ended up wearing, then promptly turned into a big grease blotch when I tried to blot it out of my top. Mom and I were still laughing about what had to have been –the worst- dining out experience we’d ever shared when we returned to the bridal shop.

This time I got the full treatment: a bride bag filled with ads, coupons, and a Skinny Cow (ouch?) snack sample, and my name written on a big heart and stuck to a dressing room door. My stylist, “Mary,” began gathering the dresses I liked on a rack, while Mom settled into one of the chairs lined up, fashion-runway style, next to the mirrors, and readied her camera.

Almost all wedding dresses look lovely on the hanger, making it seem impossible to choose. But I figured out two things fast: how a dress feels when you try it on is just as important as how it looks, and taking pictures to see how it reads in photographs can help narrow your choices.

The first dress was a bomb. Partly because it was way too big and no amount of clipping could fix that, but also because its boat-neck and cap sleeves looked matronly. Next. The second gown featured the same ivory-over-champagne illusion lace as the first, but with a v-neck and fitted empire waistline, it was more me. Mom and I both liked a trumpet-silhouette gown with floral detailing and daisy-like flowers trailing down the skirt, but I was wary of its train. Something many brides may not know: dresses with trains don’t come ready-made to bustle, so you either have to trip over the extra fabric all night, or factor the alteration into your dress budget.

The most stunning dress I tried on was a Gatsby-inspired mermaid gown with lots of beading—but it weighed something like 15 pounds. That didn’t sound fun to haul around for a four-hour reception. I also liked a simple ruched mermaid gown neither Mom nor Mary seemed wild about, but in photos, it was one of the most flattering.

dressshopping-11It was a strange day in many ways. Though I’d looked forward to shopping with Mom, I spent as much or more time in the dressing room with the stylist, joking about the upper body strength it required to wrestle women in and out of 15 pound dresses all day. I felt like a princess in the Gatsby dress, but a pudge in the shapewear, which I swear added a good ¼ to ½ inch of bulk (though it did give me bigger boobs.) Lunch was a travesty, and after just one bridal shop, Mom and I were both so exhausted, we elected to call it a day.

As far as veils went, at least, the day was a success. I’d briefly considered a cathedral veil for the flow factor, but when I put one on, it made me feel too…catholic. A birdcage veil was better suited to my age, my style, and—as my mother reminded me—my love of vintage hats.


Before we’d embarked on our shopping excursion, I’d modeled the eBay-purchased Nicole Miller dress hanging in my closet at home. When I was ready, I called to Mom, and she came up the stairs and stopped to gaze at me from the room’s doorway.

“Ohhhh,” she said, framing her face with her hands, “It’s beautiful, you look beautiful. I think I’m going to cry!”

She choked up, and I choked up, and then we hugged each other tight.

And though our shopping trip, even with all its wacky surprises, was memorable and fun, this I now understand: if we’d stopped right then and there and held that moment as close as we hugged each other, it would have been more than enough.


About Sandee:

Sandee McGlaun chronicles the adventures of marrying at mid-life on her blog She directs the Writing Center and teaches at Roanoke College in Salem. When not writing, teaching, or planning her wedding, she enjoys puttering in the craft room, hiking through the woods, and checking out the local music scene with fiancé Steve. She likes to dispel stereotypes and thus looks forward to becoming a married crazy cat lady.

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