Oh Yeah? Well Guess What Happened at MY Wedding
Everyone has one of these stories. You know, the one thing that went wrong, or the many things that went wrong that either ruined the day or made it “the best story ever.” Whenever I hear them, I’m all like, “Pshh. I’ve got you beat,” even before they start. Groomsman threw up? Bride tripped? Cake had pink roses instead of red? Snowstorm of the century? Squirrel got into the congregation? Power went out? Red wine spilled on your dress? Priest smelled like gin? Yep, I’ve got you beat. I don’t even need to hear it. I win. Whenever someone questions my authority, or the possibility that anything could have been worse than their mother getting drunk and hitting on the DJ or some such ridiculousness, I utter the following sentence. I consider it my gold medal, my free pass, if you will, of horrifying wedding stories.
“Really? Was your fiance handcuffed to a table in a police holding cell three hours before your rehearsal dinner?”
Yeah, I win.
Let’s start from the beginning. We got engaged in July of 2003. It was wonderful. I was one of the lucky girls that was truly, absolutely surprised, as was my whole family. Good times in July of ’03. We set a date for August 21, 2004 – two days before my 26th birthday. Fast forward to May of 2004. I am in the throes of retarded bride syndrome, literally almost coming to tears at work about whether we should have white on red or red on white playing cards as favors.
(Side note — every bride, no matter how relaxed — which I was cause I pretty much let my mom plan everything — will have a complete, utter, insane meltdown about something she swore she’d never care about. Mine was those damn playing cards.)
Then, I lose my job in a blindsiding manner. “Hey, thanks for everything in the last four years, but be out by noon, okay? We’ll send your stuff.” Okaaaay. We’re okay. We have a severance package, we have unemployment. I shall wait to find work until after the wedding. I’m going to enjoy my summer, and plan my gorgeous, happy wedding — that almost didn’t happen.
And I did. I got to enjoy the planning stuff, cause I had nothing else going on. Kelly had just had her first baby and we spent a lovely summer in the sun, making invitations and playing with baby Isabel. It was a glorious summer — the only in my adult life I will probably ever be so carefree. We had money, we were getting married, and I didn’t have a damn thing to do other than have everyone focus on ME and what I wanted. Who wouldn’t love that?
Then, on the day that should have been the best of the year, it all would come to a screeching, crashing halt. It is Friday, the day of my rehearsal dinner. We have lots to do. We have to do laundry, get packed (not working did not help my organization/planning skills even a little) drop Ramon off at Tony’s parents, I needed to get my nails done, and we needed to get a money order for the DJ. And that’s where it all turned around.
We were banking at TCF Bank, conveniently located at the Jewel, which was conveniently located next to my nail salon. Hey, why don’t we go together, I’ll get my nails done, and Tony, you can get the money order, we’ll be home by 2:00, and can get our shit together and head to Elk Grove (40 minutes away.)
I enjoy a blissful pedicure and torturous acrylic fill, which is peppered by text messages and phone calls from Tony, who had never before gotten a money order. He’s in and out of the Jewel on his phone, asking me questions, minding his own business. I patiently explain to my lovely, soon-to-be-husband, what he needs to do and what to ask for. Oh, this is going to be so wonderful! I tell my manicurist how I’m getting married, and the whole place is abuzz with excitement for upcoming nuptials. I bask in all of this attention as I’m seated at the counter, letting my pretty French manicure dry under the lamps.
Seated at said counter, I am looking out over the parking lot of the nail salon and obviously the Jewel next door. As I’m admiring my pretty pedicure, I notice a slight commotion in the salon. I hear the employees chattering at a higher volume in Vietnamese, and don’t pay much attention (as I don’t speak Vietnamese) until I hear the word, “POLICE!”
I look up from my toes to see several police cars, lights flashing, in the parking lot. I see Tony, standing alongside one of the cops, talking. I remark to my fellow patrons, “Hey, that’s my fiance. I wonder what happened?” See, the bad luck hasn’t hit us yet — it’s not yet my first instinct to think, “Oh, fuck, this can’t be good,” whenever something out of the ordinary happens. I assume he’s witnessed a fender bender, and everyone agrees, and we watch on with a passing interest. And then, AND THEN, I see the cop push Tony’s head down on top of the car and slap the handcuffs on him.
Dead silence in V Nails. Until my “AAAAHHHHHHH,” throwing money at my girl and flying out of the place (which I didn’t go back to for three years, due to the panic attacks.) “What the hell is going on??” “Oh, so you’re the lucky girl he’s going to ‘marry,’ huh?” says the Andy Griffith of fucking Hickory Hills. Tony says something about they said he hit their car, which doesn’t make sense cause he wasn’t driving. I can’t tell, because they won’t let me talk to him and one of them said to me, “You want to be in cuffs too?” (Let me please, please take a moment to say, FUCK YOU HICKORY HILLS POLICE DEPARTMENT. Thanks.)
As it turns out, unbeknownst to him, while Tony was walking in and out of the Jewel, asking me about the money order, a crackhead was robbing the Jewel of its razorblade collection. In an amazing coincidence (of which I’ll see more of in the years to come) TCF banks had recently had a string of robberies, prompting them to place an undercover cop near their stores. In another AMAZING COINCIDENCE, the crackhead thief walked right out the in entrance right as Tony came back in for the third time. The cop, noticing this, naturally assumed Tony was in on the robbery, stepping on the sensors to allow crackhead to escape freely.
So, the way it went down was my husband is standing at the counter of TCF, with EIGHT HUNDRED DOLLARS in cash on the counter, getting our money for our DJ for our wedding TOMORROW. He is grabbed from the back of the head and told, “Don’t fucking move.” Poor guy thought he was getting kidnapped or robbed. Until they slapped the cuffs on him and dragged him out of our neighborhood Jewel. Then he didn’t know what the fuck was happening, other than it was bad.
Fast forward to the parking lot, where the crackhead helpfully told police, “yeah, that guy in the jersey was helping me.” And then to me, with my pretty nails and feet, standing next to the cart corral while a police officer told me, “You know, we really don’t think he was involved, but since that guy pointed to him, we have to take him down to the station. You can follow us.” And then I watched as they shoved him in the back of the police car.
Have you ever had one of those moments where you really, honestly thought you were going to pass out? This was that moment. I literally had to hold onto the bars to keep from falling down. But then, okay, I rallied. I called his mom, who didn’t seem too concerned. It’ll be fine. I mean, he didn’t DO anything wrong, right? I’m mentally figuring this small blip into our plans, okay, we’ll be home in an hour, this’ll be funny.
And then I called my mother.
Who was in her own nail salon with my sister, enjoying getting ready. Predictably, she freaked. (Because really, who doesn’t want to hear from her daughter, hours before her rehearsal dinner, ’Tony got arrested, we might be late.” ) She competely loses her shit, which causes laid back me to say, “Well, Mom, he didn’t DO anything, it’ll be fine! ” “THEY ARREST AND LOCK UP INNOCENT PEOPLE ALL THE TIME, COURTNEY!”
Here, I start to waver. ”But, but, it’s going to be okay, right?” She’s going to call my cousin, a Chicago cop, to see what he can do, if anything. By this time, I’m at the police station. I ask the mean, mean lady at the front what’s happening. In short, she tells me they want to look at the footage from the Jewel. Sweet! That’ll prove his innocence. He’s not a thief, he just doesn’t know how to get a money order! Then she says, “But the VCR isn’t working right now. Not sure when they’ll get it fixed.”
Did you know that if you get arrested, you can be held for 72 hours before they charge you with anything? I didn’t. But please keep in mind that my wedding, which my loving family has paid multiple thousands of dollars for, is in LESS THAN 72 HOURS. In fact, we’re due in Elk Grove in about two hours, and we still have dirty laundry, a cat that needs to be housed, and empty suitcases. And my rehearsal dinner outfit needs to be pressed and ironed.
By this time, I am sitting on the steps of the courthouse, cause the receptionist was mean. My cousin calls me and asks me to explain the whole story to him. I do, and then he asks me to repeat it. When I’m finished, there’s a silence, and then, “I’m just gonna head over there.” And in a thin, needy voice, I say, “Do you think you need to?” “Yeah. I think I do. I’m already on the expressway.”
And here, folks, is where I completely lose my shit. It’s at this moment I realize this is actually happening. I may honestly not get my dream wedding that I’ve so blissfully taken for granted, I may not get my honeymoon ~ most importantly, I may not get my marriage. I talk to Kelly, who offers to come up to wait with Isabel, and I wail, “Noooo! I don’t want Isabel’s first memory of me to,” hiccup,” be,” hiccup,”at a” hiccup, “JAIL!!!!” I’ve talked to my mom and sister again, both nearly in tears, and by the time Keith gets there, I’m practically eating cigarettes whole while sitting on the front steps of the jail and my eyes are nearly swollen shut from hysteria-induced tears. He takes one look at me, while I look pathetically up and say, “Should I come with you?” and says, “No. You stay here.” Poor Keith. My aunt says that when I was around two and he was around ten, he told her, “No one is ever gonna mess with my cousin.” Little did he know how often he would have to fulfill that promise.
He walks in, and five minutes later, he walks out. “It’s fine. He’ll be out in a minute.” That’s it. Tony comes out, the officer shakes his hand, “Sorry, man,” and we’re on our way. A seemingly docile finish for our dramatic afternoon. I find out later that they were, in fact, going to hold him for the weekend but for my cousin’s vouching for him, he’d been handcuffed to the table arguing with the cops “There’s a THOUSAND DOLLARS in there. Why would I steal fucking razorblades???” and the VCR never did start working.
Previous to the whole false arrest before the wedding, I had told Tony in no uncertain terms that there was not to be alcohol consumption the day before our wedding. We got home from JAIL and promptly each slammed two beers. We weren’t packed. We still had our mean ass cat. My dress for the dinner was still crumpled. We showed up at our own rehearsal dinner 15 minutes late, with me in a dress of my sister’s and Tony still with marks on his wrists from the handcuffs. And when we walked up to the altar, Tony standing proudly, (victoriously, FREE) with his hands clasped behind his back, the pastor leaned over and said, “I hear you’ve had some practice standing like that today.”
At the wedding, the most wonderful day of my life, as it was not spent talking to my husband through bulletproof glass, the DJ played “Jailhouse Rock,” at my mother’s request and my new husband hit the floor with his hands behind his back and everyone laughed. The next day, we took the cat to my in laws, packed whatever was sort of clean, and went to Hooters. We laughed and talked about the wedding that almost didn’t happen and every amazing moment, from laughing through the vows to my tears at the end of the night, crying, “I don’t want my party to be over!!!” (Damn right I didn’t. I deserved that party after the traumatic events of the day before. Have I mentioned the Hickory Hills Police can piss off?)
And the next day, on my 26th birthday, we went to fucking Disneyworld. Yes, we absolutely did.
And had the time of our lives.