Accommodations, Cruising, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

Bridal Dinner in the Normandie


It was over.  The Vow Renewal Ceremony I’d been planning for so long was now in the review mirror.  With that behind me I set out to enjoy the rest of our cruise, beginning with dinner in The Normandie.

The Normandie

Dining on the Celebrity Edge was fun.  With four complimentary dining rooms to choose from, rather than the usual one, you had variety, but what you gained in variety, you missed out on personalized service.

The Normandie was touted as the cream of the crop with a French twist.  I can’t think of a single thing that was wrong, besides the anonymity of it all.  We showed up and they had the usual flurry of figuring out our beverage plans.  The menu was divided into the three sections the other menus had.  I don’t remember being wowed by any of the offerings, nor do I have a clue what I actually ate.

Except for dessert.  I do remember dessert! The Aisle to Isle package offered a small cake for the bride and groom, but I had them upsize it to include plenty for everyone.  Like many wedding cakes it was more beautiful than it was delicious.  Fondant makes for pretty cakes, but is there anyone who actually likes to eat it?

The Company

While I might not have a lot to say about the restaurant, the company could not have been better.  I sat there at that table feeling like the luckiest girl in the world.  I feel that way often, but rarely with so many reasons.

We were on an amazing ship, headed to incredible destinations, with the best of friends.  We were celebrating a wonderful 25 year marriage and had pledged to continue to keep the promises we had made so long ago.  I am married to the handsomest man in the world and he loves me, in spite of all my flaws.  And did I mention what great friends I have.

Just as I can’t remember exactly what I ate this evening, I can’t recall exactly what we talked about around the table, but I know it was seasoned with a lot of laughter.  The picture of us all gathered around that table will forever stay in my mind.  The actual photos we took don’t do the evening much justice, but I’m adding them so you can enjoy them.

Turning in for the Night

There’s one more picture to show you before we move on to the next day.  Cruise ship towel animals might not seem like a big deal to you, but among the many cards spread about the room, explaining what things were, what was complimentary and what we’d have to pay for, one card explained why Celebrity no longer entertains their passengers with towel animals.

I’ve written cards and letters like that before.  When we were forcing technology down people’s throats, we used to start all the letters with, “To serve you better…”  Only we didn’t care whether it served anybody better or not.  It was just what we said.  The letters should have said, “Hey, we’ve found yet another way to cut corners, but there’s no way we’re going to pass any savings on to you, so get ready for this new thing we’ve dreamed up.”

Celebrity’s note about the towel animals began with “In order to preserve the planet…”  That’s the new phrase they came up with that everyone seems to buy into.  The towel animals were cute, but it did just sort of become yet one more schitick, and it had lost its luster.  If we had kids, towel animals might be more interesting, but I really didn’t need a new version on my bed every time I returned to the room.

However, with the absence of nightly towel animals and being made aware of Celebrity’s desire to save the planet, we were quite appreciative that they broke their own rules and gave us a couple of swans that evening.

And that’s where I’ll leave you.  We’ll be up early the next morning for Florence, so be sure to come back next week.


Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

With a Little Help From My Friends


Enjoy the slide show, it is formatted for your phone, because according to statistics, that’s where most of you are reading this blog.  The images show you how perfect the setting was, how much fun we were having and how well we all cleaned up.

More Vow Renewal Tidbits

Each of my friends contributed to the ceremony, by reading a verse from the beautiful cards I had made for them.  They kept their card as a souvenir and the cards we read our vows from are in my scrapbook of the day.

Viktoriya read Psalms 37:3-9, which includes my life verse: 

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
    when they carry out their wicked schemes.

 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
    do not fret—it leads only to evil.
 For those who are evil will be destroyed,
    but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

My friend Melanie read from 1 Corinthians 13, which is known as the love chapter:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,  does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.

Jim read one of Bill’s favorite verses about marriage, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.  For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.  Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?  And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.

A Highlight of the Day

Then my beloved friend Deborah raised her beautiful voice and sang the special song we’d crafted for the day, and she sang it a Capella.  The music was the romantic song most famously sung by Celine Dion, “If I  Fell in Love.”  It was the song Bill and I danced our First Dance to, at our wedding reception.  However, the words were mine and the voice was Deb’s.

When you fell in love / It was for forever / A fairy-tale kind of love

In a restless world / Like this is / Love is ended before it’s begun / And too many moonlight kisses / Seem to cool in the warmth of the sun

When you gave your hearts / It was so completely / The two hearts became as one

And the moment when you felt that / Magic, wonder, awe/ Is when you fell in love / Always

When you fell in love / It was for forever / A fairy-tale kind of love / Oh, the fairy-tale it never ends

In a restless world / Like this is / Your love began and never ended / And your many moonlight kisses / Are just warmed by the light of the sun

When you gave your hearts / It was so completely / The two hearts became as one

And the moment when you felt that / Magic, wonder, awe / Is when you fell in love / When you fell in love / When you fell in love always

The Reception

To the photographer’s chagrin, the reception did not offer up all the photo opportunities she hoped for.  There was no cake, because I insisted the included cake be served as dessert at dinner.  There was no garter or other silly traditions.  There was champagne, but not as much as I had ordered.  (See, I knew they weren’t getting all the details right!)  They delivered the champagne at dinner, but that wasn’t my plan.

What the photographer might not have known was that I didn’t want her at all.  Bill abhors the whole idea of professional photography on a cruise ship.  You might think this is odd for a professional photographer, but he’s sees it as just another gimmick to pull more money out of his pocket.   I anticipated him having a meltdown over the cost of the photos and I was right, but that’s for another post.

For now, I’ll just invite you to the Normandie for dinner.  We’ll go there together next week.

Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

Absolutely Perfect Ceremony


In life, some things are worth it and this was.  Did it cost more than it should have? Certainly!  Had it been more trouble than we imagined?  Absolutely?  I could criticize all the ooops and frustrations for days, but in the end, we had a perfect vow renewal ceremony.

Our Vow Renewal Ceremony

There was no spot on that ship that could have been more perfect for our ceremony than the balcony of Eden.  Bill and I entered the space through a set of double door and were greeted by a most beautiful sight.  The weather was perfect, the ocean was royal blue, the sky was turquoise and in a beautiful sunny spot, our friends waited for us.  Joy radiated off every person there, but none more so than the bride and groom.

We hugged, giggled, took photos with our phones, had photos made by the professional photographer, gave everyone their cue cards and in no time at all, the officiant was there.  Ranee, the event coordinator, lined the others up for the ceremony and Bill and I were placed at the edge of the balcony space.  Pachelbel’s Canon in D rang out, just as it did on our wedding day and the ceremony began.

The officiant was Eddy, the cruise director.  He was a jolly sort of fellow, always rousing up the crowds and to tell the truth, I was a little afraid he would jolly up my ceremony.  I had taken the original Episcopal wedding ceremony script and altered it to fit a vow renewal.  I wanted solid commitment, not silly jokes.  I also worried that he was not clergy and hoped he’d pull off the prayers in a way that would be relate-able, whether he believed them or not.

Once again, I worried for nothing.  The ceremony was lovely.  Eddie did an admirable job working his way through the fairly lengthy ceremony I’d pulled together, with true solemnity.  He even had tears in his eyes at a few points and at the end, he said it was probably the most heart-felt ceremony he had done.  He also said he could tell a lot of intent and devotion went into it.

Since this is my blog and most of my readers are my friends, I am going to indulge myself and share our declarations of intent with you, because they tell the whole story.

Eddie: Jane, 25 years ago, at the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in Dallas. TX, the Reverend William R. Bryant asked you, “Will you have this man to be your husband; to live together in the covenant of marriage? Will you love him, comfort him, honor him and keep him, in sickness and in health; and forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?” On that day you said, “I will.” Have you, in fact, done these things?

Jane: Yes, I have done these things.  We have lived together after God’s ordinance in the Holy Estate of Matrimony in Texas, in the cities of Garland, Dallas, Plano Wylie and Heath, and in the state of California in the cities of Los Osos and Pismo Beach.  Together we have traveled much of the world.  At other times he traveled from away from me, but even then my heart was his.  I have loved him deeply, every day, though some days were difficult.  I have comforted him through sorrows, sickness and loss.  I have honored him at every opportunity in private and public.  In sickness and in health, I have stood by him.  I have gladly forsaken all others, for no one could be as dear to me as he is.  After all these years, he is still the handsomest man I have ever seen.  Twenty-five years ago I was in love with him and dared to commit my life to him.  Today I can say, through it all, that affection has grown into an evergreen love which cannot be extinguished.

Eddie:  And Jane, all these years later do you willingly and joyfully renew this commitment.

Jane: Yes, willingly and with joy I renew this commitment to my beloved.

Eddie:  Nabil, after being married for 25 years, what would you like to tell your bride?

Bill: When we first met your beauty caught my eye.  Your intelligence and intellect intrigued me.   I admired your generosity towards your friends and family. I witnessed your high morals and boundless love for God.  I waited all my life for that one special woman, and God told me it was you – and I listened.  Since we tied the knot 25 years ago we’ve been through many joys and tribulations. We made the most out of the good times, but that was the easy part.  We’ve been through many storms together and with God’s grace we managed to hang in until the storm blew over, however long it took; kudos to you for hanging in.  Thank you for doing your best to please me, thank you for being my friend and thank you for loving me. As for me, I love you and always will!

We went on to make the traditional vows Eddie had quoted in his question to me.

My dear friends also participated, but I will tell you about that next week.

Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

The Vow Renewal Excitement Builds

The Celebrity Edge Pool Deck


Eventually, we did leave our cabin on our special day at sea.  First stop was the buffet, where we found Deborah and Viktoriya.  I was a nervous wreck and absolutely nothing looked good to me, but since we planned to have champagne later on in the salon, I had to eat something.  I know I was acting weird.  Deb and Viktoriya were afraid Bill and I had a fight, but nothing could have been further from the truth.  I was just tied up in knots.

Things Begin to Come Together

My gown made it back to our cabin.  We had a meal.  The vow renewal countdown began.

While we’d been having brunch, the bed had been made and the cabin had been put in order, so I began to lay out all the paraphernalia for the ceremony, both Bill’s and mine.  Bill was antsy to get out and start enjoying the pool, so I released him, but not before I had quizzed him mercilessly to make sure he knew when he had to be back to the cabin.

Next, it was time to take my shower.  At least I didn’t have to try to do my own hair and make-up.  I was nervous as a cat.  After my shower and toiletries I sat down to read, but couldn’t comprehend anything.

Finally, I gave it up and decided to do my waiting in the salon.  I grabbed my bag of hair ornaments and jewelry and made tracks there.  The salon didn’t help, because none of the girls were there yet and the people who worked in the salon had no clue I was coming apart at the seams.  Anyone who knew me would have been able to tell, but strangers couldn’t.  I should have called one of the girls and told them I was in desperate need of hand-holding, but I knew at least one would show up soon, so I waited.

Let’s Have Some Fun

Finally, my bestie showed up with a bottle of champagne and suddenly everything was OK.   She was right on time for her 3 PM appointment, but I felt like I’d been waiting for ages.  The champagne was a perk we earned with our Concierge Class cabin.  There was a flutter of activity, because there weren’t any glasses in the salon, but that was soon remedied.

I have a suggestion for Celebrity.  You need to make drinks a little easier to obtain in the salon.  I’d planned on adding a bottle or two to the one Deb had brought along, but there was really no way for that to happen, without going to a bar, so we just made do with the bottle among the four of us.  Thankfully, Viktoriya wasn’t partaking which make the bottle go a little further.

They started on everyone else before me.  That made sense, but it left me with nothing to do and you don’t want an already nervous person not to have anything to do.  Soon, however, the champagne took effect and we were reminiscing about all the years we girls had been together.  Melanie and I had been roommates in college and I’d met Deb in my twenties, so we had a lot of reminiscing to do.

Let’s Fix the Bride

At 4 PM I climbed in the salon chair for my “bride’s hair” appointment.  It still appeared to be the very same thing the other updo girls were getting, even as it was happening.  So, if you do indeed, ever have a ceremony on a Celebrity cruise ship and you get your hair done in the salon, don’t pay extra for bride’s hair.  I’d asked for clarification seven ways from Sunday, but couldn’t get a straight answer for the extra cost.  Here’s the answer: It’s just another updo.

In the end, I loved my hair, but I felt as if Melanie actually had the most elaborate do.  She had braids!  I had wanted braids in the beginning, but after I bought my dress I felt a sleeker look was more in tune, but I was still a little jealous of Melanie’s braids.

Deb and Melanie headed off once they were all gussied up. Viktoriya and I had our make-up done together.  I had only teared up once and that was because there were so few of us.  I had hoped more friends and family could come along.  I understood why they weren’t there, but a part of me wished for that backyard ceremony I had originally dreamed of.

The Dream Begins

Released from the salon chair I went back to our cabin and was greeted by my very handsome groom.  He was already in his tux and he helped me get into my wedding finery.  Together we made our way to Eden for the event we’d been planning for a year.

Come back next week for all the details!


Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

A Late Start to a Big Day


Usually, when I think of cruising, I think of leisurely days spiced up with exotic activities.  That’s not at all what this cruise looked like.  We’d been at a dead run since before we left and even though we’d only made it to one of our ports of call, before this day at sea, the 10.5 hour shore excursion had taken a toll on us. 

Mr. Bill Sleeps In

Though he’d been a good sport so far, I realized I had used up a lot of my vacation-stress banking account with my husband.  He needed down time and alone time – or at least alone with me time. 

I am an early riser, regardless of when I go to bed or need to wake up.  Mr. Bill is not. On a routine day at sea, I go to the gym, stroll around the decks and perhaps check out the buffet, before I come back to see what Mr. Bill is up to.  Since this was not a routine day at sea, I opted to catch up my journal and do a little reading.  Only it turned into a lot of reading and as Bill continued to sleep soundly, I began to get nervous about the how the rest of the day would turn out.

A Nervous Bride

As I lounged around the room I began to enumerate the many things that could go wrong.

  • The meeting with the event coordinator had not gone well and I already doubted she understood all the details I wanted.
  • I turned over the beautifully hand-lettered pages with the vows, scriptures and lyrics for the ceremony to her.  What if she misplaced them or forgot them.
  • They had come,  as promised, to take my gown to be pressed, but as of yet, it had not returned to our cabin.
  • I had a list of all the appointments we girls had in the salon, so I felt confident they would happen, but what if the stranger messed up my hair that I had left long just for this event.
  • What if the make-up artists made us look like clowns.

Thankfully, Bill woke up before I was able to get too crazy, but with him awake, now I had to hide just how worried I had become.  He  decided he wanted to lounge around some more before going to the buffet for a meal.  I was desperate to escape the cabin, but cooled my heels and pretended all was well.

Not Loving the Endless Veranda

On any other cruise, much of this angst would have been resolved by going out on the balcony.  I would slide open the door and be in my own little space.  My Celebrity Concierge Class Cabin came with what they called an Endless Veranda, which is supposed to be a wonderful innovation, but in truth is really no veranda at all.

To give them their due, it does make the living quarters a little larger, but if you really enjoy your balcony, as I do, then it’s not going to cut the mustard.  The Endless Veranda is a large floor-to-ceiling window at the end of your room.  The top half can be raised with the push of a button.  However, when you push that button, the window takes a while to raise and all the while, it is making a noise to match its effort.  Definitely not a good thing to have happen while your husband is sleeping, just a few steps away, on the day of your much anticipated and very expensive vow renewal.

With a sliding glass door, I am quietly in and out before hubby even has an opportunity to be disturbed.  In lieu of my sliding glass door, they did have a sort of room separator you could use, but that raised yet another problem.  The furniture they installed next to the floor-to-ceiling window was so large, there is no way to close the separator without doing a whole lot of furniture moving.  I have been told by their local rep that they got new furniture which negates this problem, but it was a big problem on this particular day.

We did, eventually head to the buffet, but I will tell you about that next week.

Accommodations, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Falling Through the Cracks

Aboard Celebrity


Among the craziness of my first few hours on board the Celebrity Edge was a telephone chat with their Event Coordinator.  She insisted she only needed about five minutes to meet me and confirm things for my vow renewal ceremony.  That seemed fairly inadequate to me, but I thought just maybe they were that coordinated.

Bridal Hysteria

Well, to begin with, Ranee Tin wasn’t where she was supposed to be at the appointed time.  I gave it a few minutes and then let a crew member know.  The whole meeting was only supposed to last a few minutes, according to her, and my friends were waiting on me in the restaurant.

When she showed up, she had some pieces of paper and a demeanor that said she didn’t have a clue about what was going on or what was supposed to happen at my vow renewal.  To be fair, my hysteria had been mounting before I ever got on board.

For months the planning had gone swimmingly.  The descriptions of hair appointments was rather confusing, but the ladies in the Celebrity Wedding department were swell.  I was a little freaked out that nothing could be confirmed until 10 days before I sailed, but I bought into their assurances.  The Edge was a new ship and nothing was routine about events, yet.

It was still so outside of the norm 10 days before the cruise that absolutely nothing was confirmed.  The afternoon before I left I got an email that almost sent me into convulsions.  The letter wanted me to fax them a signed form and I didn’t have a fax machine.  The letter also said without the form there would be no ceremony.  After a few minutes of complete freak out, I read back through the email which contained the letter and discovered I could actually email them the signed form, but by then I’d already had several heart attacks.

It was only at that point that I discovered when and where my ceremony would be.  It was scheduled at a location that hadn’t even been mentioned throughout the entire eight months we’d been planning the event.  At that point is was too late to fret.  The die was cast.  They still couldn’t tell me what time our salon appointments would be.

Just Long Enough to Freak Me Out

Were I to have it all to do over again, I’d fork at $275 for a “Test the Waters” package that gave you

  • Pre-inspection arrangements
  • Site inspection with wedding coordinator – Total time: 90 minutes onboard
  • 30-minute tour of the wedding and reception locations
  • 30 minute consultation regarding wedding props, site photography, set-up, and any additional questions
  • 30-minute open buffet lunch

As it was, a very casual event coordinator tried to convince me in just a few moment that she had everything under control.  It wasn’t long enough.  She was asking all kinds of questions that were already answered on the pieces of paper she’d given to me.  Her biggest concern seemed to be what would happen if they couldn’t get blue ribbon for the bouquets.  I was more worried about the logistics of the whole thing.

I was in tears and trembling when she was through with me.  I’d only just managed to get the salon appointment times out of her.  About the only thing she did that gave me a warm fuzzy was a promise to iron my gown for the ceremony.  One small worry resolved, about 15 new worries to confound me.

Everyone was waiting on me for dinner, so I made a bee-line to the Cyprus restaurant.  come back next week and I’ll let you know how good that was.


Accommodations, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Let’s Drink to It

person holding a wine glasses
Photo by on


Hi there!  I hope your holiday were wonderful.  We were discussing wi-fi packages on the Celebrity Edge before the break and now we are moving on to beverages.

Whining About Wine Packages

My husband and I are not big drinkers.  We enjoy wine and beer, particularly with dinner, and we think a Tex-Mex meal is incomplete without a margarita, but that’s about it. Here’s our problem. Paying for drinks individually on a cruise ship can get very pricey, but trying to drink enough to justify a beverage plan can turn the whole trip into a bacchanal.

Even though we are not big drinkers, a nice dinner without wine is pretty sad.  Unfortunately, wine seems to be the biggest challenge on a cruise ship.  They’ve got great deals if you drink cocktails, but bottles of wine are a different story.  At home, we’ve learned which bargain wines suit us and the tab for each bottle hovers between $8-12.  Out and about, we drink wine by the glass and each glass is about the same price as a bottle at home, but the quality ends up being a step above our usual bargains.  Bottles of wine on a cruise are very, very much more than we’d buy at home or at a restaurant and you might get a glass for $15 or so, but the chances of getting something good for that price are iffy.  Hence our love for river cruising!

I looked at the beverage options for Celeberity Cruises online and we discussed them for days.  I finally had to ask for help.  They had something called Wine by the Bottle, which let you have a package price for bottles, but they didn’t have a wine list there and the pricing was confusing.  We got on the phone with a Celebrity rep and they cleared it up.  The price of the package was based on how many bottle  you wanted, but you’d have to wait until you were on the boat to choose the actual bottles. Still, we opted to go with that.

Theoretically, the bottles were supposed to follow you around to the various restaurants and bars. If you wanted a glass from a bottle you opened somewhere else on the boat, you just told them your name and the last place you drank from the bottle. Or you could just order a new bottle from the Wine by the Bottle wine list. It actually worked quite well. In fact, we assumed we’d just have to have one bottle going at a time, but once on board we discovered Bill could get his red and I could get my white and we’d make them last over a couple of days.

No Soda Package

When cruising I usually get a soda package.  I may not be a big alcohol drinker, but I need my caffeine and I don’t drink coffee.  On board, water, tea, coffee and several juices are always available to you.  You have to find a buffet or snack bar, but those are usually spread all over the place.  Sodas they treat like liquid gold.  Each rather small glass costs more than a Big Gulp back home and you also get hit with a gratuity every time.

The soda package makes that more affordable.  You pay one price per day for all the sodas you want to drink, but there’s one catch for me.  I am a devoted Diet Dr Pepper drinker and that’s just not available on a cruise.  While I will drink other sodas in a bind, they have to be diet and my least favorite is Diet Coke.  Celebrity proudly serves Coke products.  Coke Zero is OK, but no one could tell me whether that was available at all.  What’s more the soda comes out of a fountain machine and so far I have not found anyone on a cruise ship that can actually get it mixed right.

Bottom line, when I get the soda package, I pay a hefty price to get unlimited soda refills, but the soda is never the flavor I prefer to drink.  I come home with a cool thermal tumbler, but how many of those do you need.  This time I decided to go caffeine-less.  If I started having caffeine withdrawal, I reasoned, I could drink iced-tea.  As it turned out I was fine.

So with everything having to do with the cruise and the vow ceremony squared away, it was time to start packing.

ART, Cruising, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Getting the Little Details Right

Vow Pages at the Ceremony


Have you ever watched a TV show called Four Weddings?  It’s a game show where four brides are pitted against one another to win a fabulous honeymoon.  If you’ve never watched it, don’t bother.  It’s pretty snarky.  I know, because we did watch it for a while.  Most of what I got out of it was the things I absolutely didn’t want to have in my vow renewal ceremony on the Celebrity Edge.

Group Participation

There are many things I didn’t want in my ceremony.  I didn’t want any of those rituals like unity candles, sand ceremonies, jumping over the broom or crushing the wine glass.  I love traditions, but I think it is a little weird to take things out of their context and plop them in willy nilly.  What I did want was a ceremony that focused on our commitment to God in our marriage and our relationship with our friends.

Both of those purposes were served by having our friends participate in the ceremony.  Together, Bill and I chose meaningful Bible verses for our friends to read on the big day: my favorite verse from Psalms, his favorite from Ecclesiastes and the traditional love chapter from 1 Corinthians.  There were many other verses we love, so it would have been easy to find another one, but I had something special up my sleeve for my best friend.

Beautiful Music

When I met my bestie, she was going to SMU for a degree in opera.  What a voice!  One of my great joys in life is going to church with her and hearing her sing all the wonderful old hymns.  I had no intention of letting it go to waste, but I did want what she sang to be something special and unique.  I wanted to somehow pay homage to her beautiful voice, our friendship and the 25 years of marriage Bill and I have have shared.

At our wedding reception, the song for the First Dance was Celiene Dion’s “When I Fall in Love.”  It was a big hit at the time and was probably the First Dance at most of the wedding receptions that year.  I thought revisiting the song would be a nice touch for the vow renewal, but the lyrics just didn’t fit.  Yes, we fell in love all those years ago, but the song for our ceremony should celebrate the fact that we’ve traveled beyond falling in love.  Together we’d endured the storms of life and nurtured a love that truly was forever.

First, I made sure that Deb would, in fact, be willing to sing and that “When I Fall in Love” was a song she would tackle.  Since she’s classically trained, her voice is not geared for some pop music.  Dear friend that she is, she agreed to take on the task, but there were still those lyrics.  Well, I’m not a writer and a published poet for nothing.  I wrote my own lyrics, but I’m no lyricist, so I wasn’t sure whether they would fit or not.  Bless Deb’s heart, she made it work.

The Final Touch

Whether it is a TV show or a live wedding, I hate the part where a groom digs through his pockets for a wrinkled piece of paper or the bride whips notecards out of her dellecotage.I wanted something more substantial, more of a keepsake.  What’s more, I didn’t just want it for the vows.  I wanted it for my bestie, so she’d have the words I’d written in front of her.  I wanted it for the Scripture the other attendants would be reading.

A lady at my church is a calligraphy artist, Lettering by Lydia, and she agreed to pen the pages for me.  When we had that conversation, Deb had not yet confirmed the lyrics would work and Bill and I were still debating the actual words of our vows.  So, along with the deadline Celebrity Cruises had tick, tick, ticking away, now I had Lydia desperately wanting me to give her the words so she could get her work done.  No pressure, right?

When Lydia agreed to pen the lyrics, verses and vows we talked about various types of papers, but In the end I chose 12X12 scrapbooking pages.  The content was penned onto a white lacy page.  Then I adhered the lacy page to dark blue papers to match the dresses of our attendants.  Finally, I decorated the pages with small paper flowers, pearl-ized ornaments and rhinestones.  They were pretty, if I do say so myself!

Just a few more plans and I can start packing!


Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Fashion Choices for the Big Day

Best Man Shopping


In the final weeks before the Anniversary Cruise, while Bill and I were still “discussing”what the service would be, I had a lot of other work to do concerning the ceremony.  Here’s what was going on.

Everyone Else’s Ceremony Garb

After I found my dress, a few weekends later we went shopping again and found Deb’s Like we did with mine, we found a downright dirty bargain!  We sent a picture of her dress and mine to the rest of the ladies and asked them to find something blue to wear on the big day.  I was trying to be a low maintenance bride.

I also told Jim that Bill would be wearing a tux.  In fact, Bill still fit into the tux he wore to the wedding 25 years ago.  I told Jim he could wear anything that he wanted to, as long as it was dark, because I knew he wasn’t big on suits.  This picture was from one of his shopping trips.  I loved it, but he ended up with a black suit.

That resolved the ceremony wardrobe issues, but there were still  things to do.

The Hair Thing

I was somewhat nervous about my hair.  I’d left it long for a year, even though I was ready to go short again, so I could have a fabulous updo.  I was anxious about a stranger on the Celebrity Edge having a go at my hair for such an important event.  I chatted about it with Loree every time I went in for my regular appointment.  At first, I thought I wanted something with braids.  She was all for adding fake braids, but no, I wanted to use my own hair.  That’s why I’d grown it.

Then I found my dress, which was very old Hollywood, and the braids were out.  So Deb and I went to Sam Moon’s where I bought a pair of gorgeous hair ornaments, not sure which would do the job.  Loree sent me to Pinterest to find my do, but I confess I am Pinterest-challenged and I don’t speak hair very well.  Loree said my choices were all over the place and she couldn’t get a read on what I actually wanted. Still she gave it a go based on what we’d discussed.

The result was gorgeous, as you can see.  It would do, but I still had not captured it exactly, which is why I wanted a trial run.  Loree is marvelous with cut and color.  I won’t let anyone else touch it, but I hadn’t been able to communicate what I wanted.  I needed to find more supporting material.

I bought a hair magazine and picked out a do or two.  I had the Pinterest old Hollywood dos on my phone.  I found pictures of what I definitely didn’t want it to look like, just to be clear.  I took along both hair ornaments and several other pictures including this one, hoping the stranger might get what I couldn’t communicate to Loree.  I just hoped I wouldn’t end up with a very expensive mess on my head.  

Deb and I in our dresses

The Dress Alteration

When I bought my dress, I filled it up a little more than I wanted to, but the only real problem was a little tightness right across the top of my thighs and support hose seemed to do the trick.  However, like any bride-to-be, I wanted to lose a little weight for the pictures.  I went on a diet and I did a lot more than lose a little weight at the top of my thighs.  I went down by at least a dress size and in some areas it was more than that.

After I had bought my dress, I tested the local alterations lady with a bunch of things I needed to have fixed.  She did an amazing job on some difficult work, so I asked her about altering my dress.  “Bring it X number of days before the ceremony,” she said.  I went home and marked off the requested days on my calendar, using my departure date, rather than my ceremony date as the target.  I added in a few extra days, for good measure.

On the appointed day I went to the shop and the tailor had a melt down.  She had formal gowns she was working on all over her shop, but she acted as if my wedding dress was some sacred cow she could not touch.  Hadn’t I asked her specifically if she did wedding gowns on my previous visit?  After some cajoling, she allowed me to try on the dress and show it to her.

Then she said it looked fine already.  I grabbed up the inches of extra fabric in the bodice and said, “I don’t think so.” I explained that I also wanted to bustle the dress after the ceremony and needed the appropriate hooks.  She showed me the loop on the inside of the dress.  Why didn’t this lady want my money?

In the end, I had more luck with the tailor than I seemed to be having with my husband over the vows.  She charged me at least twice what I thought it should be, but it was too late to go looking for someone else.

There were other arrangements I needed to make.  We’ll talk about those next time.


To Vow or Not to Vow


When visions clash, titans fall.  I’ve shared just how tense things were around our house the year before our cruise.  When the time came to plan the actual words of the renewal ceremony, visions clashed.  It was almost as if my husband of 25 years and I no longer shared a common language.

My Vision

As I’ve said, my first vision of our vow renewal was a simple ceremony on the shore of our pond, officiated by my pastor and attended by all my friends and family.  That obviously didn’t happen.  As we planned the new and improved version of our ceremony, I hoped very much to include my husband’s preferences in the event.

“Do you want to use the standard vows or write your own?”  I asked out of courtesy, because he didn’t seem all that excited about the ceremony anyway.  When he wanted to write his own vows you could have blown me over with a feather.  “So what about the rest of the ceremony?”  A conversation ensued, wherein I suggested we use the script of the ceremony from our actual wedding with our newly minted vows plugged into the appropriate places.  He agreed in theory, but was concerned about the length of the ceremony.  I agreed that we didn’t want all the folderol of a high church Episcopal service, but told him I would put something together with blanks for his vows.

Doing My Homework

The next task was a difficult one.  On their website, Celebrity has the outline of the service, some of the specific words they normally used and blanks for you to change them to what you want.  However, this is one of those forms that you can’t just cut and paste and when you print it doesn’t actually look like the online form.  I couldn’t figure out how to edit the resulting document, either.  It was a PDF – look but don’t change.

I also found the Episcopal order of service like we had at our wedding.  It had it’s own challenges.  They have about three forms of the service on the same page, all mixed together.  You can print it out, but you have to skip around all over the place to figure it out.

I spent considerable time trying to figure out how to make the Celebrity online form mesh with the Episcopal service document.  In time, I decided to just cut and paste pieces and parts off the Episcopal service and fill them into the blanks of the Celebrity document.

All this didn’t happen over a couple of hours.  I worked on it on and off for weeks, then finally spent most of a couple of days putting it all together and writing my vows.  Then I still had to sit down with scissors and pieces of paper to put together a document that reflected what the actual service would be.

Not His Vision

Mr. Bill was not happy when I presented him with the document on which I had worked so hard.  He wanted two things right away.  Number one, an online editable version of the document.  I tried to explain just what that entailed, but he just didn’t grasp the complexity of what I’d been dealing with.  Number two, he wanted to see my vows.  I’d left them off, because I wanted his vows to come from his heart, not from mine or as a reflection of mine.


I’m not saying we were actively arguing for weeks about it.  I’m just saying we came to an impasse and it hung like a rain cloud over us for what seemed like weeks and weeks and weeks.  All the while, I was looking anxiously at the deadlines on the Celebrity wedding website and dreading ever mentioning the vows to him again in my life.

Most wives will not be surprised that, in the end, I laboriously re-typed the entire service onto a completely new document which included my vows and emailed it to him.  Was he happy then?  No!  He didn’t like the formal language of the service and out of two pages of ceremony, he pointed to one sentence I absolutely had to cut out and it just happened to be the one thing I wanted to say, even if I said nothing else.

I was flabbergasted.  Had we not agreed to use our original ceremony as the basis of the renewal ceremony?  And what on Earth could be wrong with me saying, “Yes, willingly and with joy I renew this commitment to my beloved..”


In the end, I got my ceremony, but he gave it to me begrudgingly, which sort of negated my desire to say I was doing anything “willingly and with joy.”  I suddenly envied a friend of mine down the street.  Her husband had planned a tropical vacation with vow renewal all by himself as a surprise.  I was sort of beginning to wonder whether Bill and I both would actually go on the cruise together, much less have a vow renewal ceremony.

But it’s always darkest before the dawn, right?  The cruise was merely weeks away now.  What would happen next?