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First Things First

By Kirsten Valle

Posted: Tuesday, Sep. 15, 2009

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Photo by Critsey Rowe

Kirsten Valle is a business reporter for the Observer. She can be reached at kvalle@charlotteobserver.com.

Read more "Getting to 'I do.'"

The engagement weekend had rushed by in a blur. I had yet to begin any actual planning, so I took the following Monday off from work. This was mostly to get a jump on figuring out the details of the big day namely, the date but partly to prolong that surreal, wonderful feeling I'd had for the past two days.

My mom picked me up early that morning. I was already jittery with excitement and anxiety. I wasn't sure exactly what this wedding-planning business entailed, and all I had to go on were horror stories from friends and family about churches booked years in advance and miles-long waiting lists for reception halls.

I'd always been careful to avoid visualizing my wedding too much before I was engaged. Sure, I'd dreamed of the day. What girl hasn't? But those dreams were fuzzy around the edges a long aisle, a frothy dress, a handsome groom. But the where and when and what type of flowers and cake never really mattered and I consider that a good thing.

That said, planning a wedding requires at least a rough vision. An outdoor party in flowering gardens? A country club event with plenty of photos on the golf course? I knew, for instance, that I wanted a summer wedding. I wanted to be in the city, and I loved the idea of making our getaway into a night dotted with stars and city lights. I wanted a careful mix of the grand, the modern, the romantic and the classic.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. My first order of business, on that first real day of my engaged life, was somewhat less dreamy: insuring the ring. This is something I've since seen on numerous wedding Web sites, but it had never occurred to me that rings don't naturally come insured. Maybe some do. Mine didn't.

This resulted in two days of nervous glances at my hand from myself, from Reese and from my parents, who often nagged me to turn the ring around, nestling the diamond in my palm, whenever I left the house. I'd let a few girlfriends try on the ring, and when one joked that she was going to run with it, I had to stop myself from grabbing her hand.

Insuring the ring wasn't too difficult. Our jeweler recommended a reputable company, and one phone call, one faxed appraisal and one hefty premium payment later, I could breathe a little easier.

Second order of business: the church. My mom and I rolled up to our church, St. Patrick's Cathedral, only to find that weddings were booked well into July 2010. My heart sank, but only for a minute.

We called St. Peter's, an old Catholic church with red brick and arched, stained-glass windows charmingly out of place in the shadow of a new skyscraper on South Tryon Street. It's more beautiful inside, too, and bigger than you'd think, with vaulted ceilings and muted colors, golds, creams and bronzes. The woman on the phone rattled off a list of available dates in June and July.

"July 10." I said it aloud a few times. I called Reese at work. I consulted with my roommate, who is getting married next June. Embarrassingly, I Googled "rainiest summer month," or something to that effect, as if I could predict whether the chance of rain that day would be greater than any other Saturday.

This is where it becomes important to decide and move on. "Let's do it," my mom said. "Let's do it," Reese said. I agreed.

On to the reception. My top choices were Founders Hall and the Wachovia Atrium. I loved their dramatic glass ceilings, the way the buildings towered over them, the sheer size of the spaces and their dance floors. I was amazed to learn both venues were wide open in July 2010.

The next step would be meeting with representatives from each to talk details the biggest, of course, being price. Until then, we had a tentative hold on the date and a church that had penciled us in until we sent in our deposit.

As the afternoon wound down, my mom and I, exhausted but triumphant, stopped by Reese's office to fill him in on our progress. He leaned in the window, and I pinched his arm. "We're getting married!" I said, and he laughed.

It felt as real as it ever had. We were getting married.

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