"You know, dear, there just might be an expiration date on that ring."
Jim was joking with me -- well, kind of. He'd placed a sparkling surprise in the bottom of my Christmas stocking just a couple years ago, after I'd been single for (gulp) more than a half-century. And I'd finally gotten comfortable with that shiny engagement ring on my left hand.
Well, nothing like a deadline for a couple of journalists. We decided to try something simple, on our beach, with family and a few friends...
Suddenly it got less and less simple, and I started to do the unimaginable: Tradition! We actually looked at the slew of wedding to-do lists that exist and learned we were only, oh, a year or so behind. So we made our own list.
We picked a date, and made a reservation at Tortuga Inn on Anna Maria Island. Jim discovered that our date, 05-03-15, was a full moon. Major bonus! We sent out save-the-date cards, then some beautiful beachy invites, both designed by my groom.
So, the list's essentials:
I was overwhelmed, and at long last not afraid to admit it. So, with the superb help of my friend Leah Brown, a wedding planner extraordinaire in a past life, we got help on that list. Jim's caveat: He's the music man.
We met with Sean Murphy's caterer, Jenn Sayko -- another Manatee High grad adored by all. A feast began to unfold.
In swept Leah's creative, Cynthia Hoeksema, and our world will never again be without cobalt blue gems and baby blue seaglass.
The flowers? Blue bomb orchids -- the name says it all.
A somewhat significant thing was missing, however: my wedding dress. One of our best friends lectured me well into the night over a bottle or three of wine: "Joan, it all flows from the dress."
But dress shopping, much less in bridal dress shops, sends me into hiding. I began to think that cutoffs and a Cards baseball cap were my destiny. Then, with only a few weeks left, a friend reminded me of a story the Herald did on Alice Bee, a dressmaker in Sarasota.
And Alice worked miracles. In the one and only fitting, my girlfriend caught me in a gleeful moment, with a "Yes to the dress!" photo. And four days before the wedding, my best friends from Texas and California came with me to get The Dress, and I felt like a girl. A lucky girl about to finally get married.
The rest is a glorious blur. Girls' night out, with all kinds of stunts way too young for me. But boy did we try, and made it home safe! The guys went golfing, we went shopping. We made many trips to the airport for so many loved ones we never thought could make it. Girlfriends from every chapter of my life finally met each other.
A last-minute change of ministers (you were there in spirit, Uncle, on the wings of Aunt Rachel's prayer!) sent my dear Alissa to start Googling for wedding ceremonies three nights out. And Jim and I wrote our vows on May 1 -- love that deadline!
Saturday flew by with a mini-rehearsal, glorious beach sunset, Mr. Bones BBQ, laughter, love and jitters. The whole affair was home, here in Bradenton, on our beach.
And then it was Sunday. Our wedding day. And it was perfect. We stood on the beach, with Jim's Rat Pack of gents and my best-friend trio on the front line. I walked down the shell-strewn path on my brother's arm, to the surprise strains of live violins -- our dentist, Dr. Margaret, one of my music man's wedding gifts to me.
My goddaughter, hair highlighted with our wedding's cobalt blues, was our ring-bearer. Jim's daughter, beautiful as always, delivered a reading that blew us away. Our lawyer did the "I dos."
And Jim and I spoke our vows to each other: "These things I pledge before you, our friends, and our family."
After all these years, I never expected such sheer joy, looking into Jim's eyes and knowing why I'd waited. We're happy. We're our own, yet one at the same time. It truly is an amazing life change -- subtle and huge all at once, as life takes on, well, life.
Now that colloquial "in sickness and in health" gets its immediate test -- who said life was fair? It might not be, but it's a glorious blast. And my guy is at my side. My husband. Wow!!!
P.S. About that song list, created and perfected by Mr. James E. Krauter-Smith. We danced on our wedding day by sunset and sea, into the mystic moonlight and through the night, never wanting to stop. And we don't plan to!
So put on your dancing shoes and join us on Bradenton.com, where you'll find J&J's fantabulous wedding tunes attached to this column.
Joan Krauter-Smith, executive editor and newlywed, can be reached at 941-745-7070.