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The Wedding Planner

Helping to plan her son’s wedding pointed her toward her ideal career.

Lois helps a bride with the final adjustments to her wedding gown.

Wedding guests filed into the church. I gave each bridesmaid her bouquet and reminded her to walk very slowly up the aisle. I adjusted the groomsmen’s boutonnieres. Straightened the bridal veil. Time to signal the organist. The wedding march began. Butterflies filled my stomach.

Was this my wedding? Not exactly. My husband, Terry, and I have been married for almost 40 years, but I remember our wedding like it was yesterday. These days I do my best to help make the day memorable for other young brides.

I’m a wedding-day director. I can work with a bride for a whole year–picking out fabric and color schemes, altering dresses, crafting decorations. When the big day arrives, it feels like my day, too. Sometimes I wonder how I ever could have done anything else. But I did. For years.

My first “career” was stay-at-home mom. I don’t have to tell anybody what a busy life that is. I raised three children. If I wasn’t driving a carpool, helping with homework or making arts and crafts, I was baking for the school bazaar.

Then when my youngest started school, and the older kids were getting ready to go out on their own, I realized I needed something else to do with my life. I just didn’t know what.

I filled out a job application at my bank, but I was nervous. 

“What if the boss asks me a question and I answer in baby talk?” I asked Terry. “And I don’t know if I can handle the pressure.”

Terry laughed. “You’ve been juggling a packed schedule for 18 years. I’m sure you can handle what goes on in an office.”

I wasn’t so sure, but I guessed it wouldn’t hurt to try. To my surprise, I got the job–and I didn’t slip into baby talk once during the interview. In fact, I enjoyed my new position.

 “It’s like discovering you can be a whole new person,” I told Terry after my first week on the job.

Like any job, it came with stress. But I knew the perfect way to unwind: crafts.

Both my mother and grandmother had been good with a needle and thread. Together they’d taught me to sew, knit, cross-stitch, and make rag rugs. I’d also learned how to embellish things with ribbons and do embroidery.

I spent a lot of time in the crafts store getting ideas. After a day at the bank I’d kick back in a chair with my sewing basket.

I loved to get a real project going. Like when someone in the family got married, I did the alterations and helped organize the wedding day. More often I just gave things away to my friends and coworkers.

“You were worried you couldn’t handle the job,” Terry said one evening as he watched me finishing up some embroidering on a handkerchief. I thought my supervisor might like it. “But you’ve really thrived in the professional world.”

“How do you do it?” my boss asked the next morning when I presented her with the handkerchief. She examined the tiny stitches. “It’s so much work!”

“Work? Not exactly,” I said. It was hard to explain to someone who didn’t understand, but this kind of sewing wasn’t like work at all. It was fun! More fun than my 9-to-5 job was feeling these days. Oh, I could handle the work. But when my 50th birthday hit it felt like a wake-up call.

Once again I needed to make a change. My son, Rob, was engaged and I wanted to enjoy that exciting time with him.

Sitting at my desk at the bank, I found myself thinking about the wedding. I had always told the kids: “Find something you love to do, and you’ll be happy.” The bank was no longer the place to make me happy. But where did I belong?

I handed in my resignation. I’d figure out my next step later. On my last day I packed up my desk, wondering about my next move. “Lord, help find a new place for me,” I said as I closed my office door for the last time.

“Maybe you could sell the things you make,” Terry suggested when I got home. “Start yourself a business.”

I didn’t know about that. I had once or twice hired myself out to do professional alterations. Everyone needed everything right away, and I’d have to rush through my work. Besides, sewing for money wasn’t anywhere near as satisfying as making something for someone I knew personally.

I concentrated on my son and his fiancée. With all the sewing and wedding plans to take my mind off things, I hoped I would figure out what I wanted to do with my life.

I did alterations on the bridal gown and helped Stacy, Rob’s fiancée, plan the big day. Stacy and I visited dress shops and poured over fabrics. We went to bridal boutiques and florists and bakeries. I got to know the bridesmaids, talking with them and laughing as I fitted them for their dresses.

“Just leave everything to me,” I told Stacy. “I’ll make sure everything is in place and get you where you need to go. Your only job is to have a good time.”

I had Stacy on track, but I still didn’t know what I should do with my life once the wedding was over. “God,” I said one night as I embroidered a jewelry pouch for Stacy to take on her honeymoon, “I need to know what you think is best for me.

“Please give me a sign–and be sure to turn on the light when you do. With all these wedding details to handle, I’m afraid I’ll miss it!”

A few days later Rob came for a visit and found me surrounded in fabric and thread. “I don’t know what we’d do without you,” Rob said, amazed at all the work. “I tell everyone–Mom quit her job to help plan my wedding!”

I took a pin out of my mouth. “Don’t be silly,” I said. “I didn’t leave the bank to–” I stopped short. A light switched on in my head. This didn’t have to be the last wedding I helped with. It could be the first, as a bride’s wedding-day planner. I’d found my new life!

I did 50 weddings last year alone, with Stacy’s help. I make alterations on all the dresses and embroider smaller items like hankies and travel pouches. My girls always look like angels. I schedule the wedding day to make it fun for the bride and handle any problems that crop up.

I don’t need to advertise. If a bride liked my work, she told her friends.

One day my favorite crafts store had a special item on sale–an embroidered angel. She was as pretty as my brides. The owner graciously showed me how to make the angel myself.

I embroider about 150 of them every year and I give an angel to every bride I work with. It’s my way of saying thank you, not just to them, but to the angel who nudged me into my next career.

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