Beth had started planning her wedding when she was in kindergarten, and by age 20 she had written out a complete list of what she wanted.
Engagement — on Valentine’s Day with a marquise diamond ring
Dress — a strapless satin and chiffon gown with a fingertip veil
Ceremony — a candlelight wedding at St. Anne’s Church in early June
Reception — at the Hyatt with cocktails in the garden, sit-down dinner and red velvet wedding cake
Color scheme — dusty rose (my favorite color) for the bridesmaid dresses, candles and table linens
Flowers — multi-colored dahlias for the altar and table centerpieces and a white calla lily bouquet
Music — a violin quartet in the church, classical guitar at cocktail hour and a DJ at the reception
Honeymoon — two weeks in the south of France
Whenever she started seeing someone regularly, Beth took out her wedding list and went over it in case it needed revising. But she never changed a thing because it always seemed just right. Unfortunately, she could never say the same for the guys she dated.
Justin was sweet, but he had absolutely no ambition and didn’t earn much money. Greg was a go-getter with a real future, but he spent a lot of time at the office. Scott just wouldn’t give up smoking, and Matthew was too big a sports fan. Tyler had an awful lot of tattoos, and Alex had an ex-wife and two sons who stayed with him every other weekend.
Shortly after her 30th birthday, Beth put her wedding list in the bottom drawer of her desk. The way her love life was turning out, she didn’t expect to need it any time soon.
Beth and Justin stayed friends after they broke up, and a few years later she was invited to his candlelight wedding at St. Anne’s Church.
Scott married her ex-roommate the following year and Beth was a member of the wedding party, clad in a bridesmaid dress of dusty rose.
Beth came across a Facebook photo of Greg and his bride, a runway model who wore a strapless gown of satin and chiffon.
Matthew became a sports agent and married one of his co-workers in a June ceremony at the Hyatt.
Tyler joined the Parish Council of the local Presbyterian church, helped select the new assistant pastor, and married her two years later.
Beth learned through the grapevine about Alex’s marriage to a widow with three young children.
The day Beth turned 40, she took out her wedding list and read it over several times. Then she decided to celebrate her birthday by flying to Nice and touring the south of France. When Valentine’s Day came around, she bought a marquise diamond ring from a vintage shop. In the spring, she took a local gardening class and started to raise dahlias and calla lilies. That summer, a teacher named Kevin Clark advertised violin lessons and Beth signed up.
Kevin turned out to be divorced and had two daughters, a five-year-old grandson, and a warm smile. Beth barely noticed his daily cigar, and she was charmed by the network of half-notes and G-clefs tattooed along his arms. He was patient, kind, smart, and funny, and Beth’s new favorite color was the greenish-gray of his eyes.
One autumn evening Beth brought Kevin a red-velvet cake she had baked, and when her violin lesson was finished, they shared it over a bottle of wine. He invited her out for coffee. The following week they went to a concert, and a few days later they took his grandson to a basketball game.
Within weeks, Beth knew she was in love with Kevin. Every night she prayed that none of her flaws would keep him from loving her back.
Kevin proposed six weeks after Valentine’s Day and Beth was so overjoyed that she cried. It was only when he asked what kind of a wedding she wanted that Beth recalled the 22-year-old list in her desk drawer.
Later that night, she took out the creased, discolored sheet of paper, read it, and laughed out loud.
Beth flipped over the paper. It took less than a minute for her to write a new list.
Engagement — short and sweet
Dress — the one Kevin likes best
Ceremony — whenever the kids can get here
Honeymoon — as often as possible
Wish, a former newspaper reporter and grant writer/manager, now writes print and online features and essays. She lives in Manasquan.