+ wedding story +

Mr. + Mrs. Wilfredo Rivera Jr. | 11.11.11
"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." Yeah, it's a Dr. Seuss quote, but it's also the most perfect representation of my feelings about our wedding day. Everyone warned me ahead of time. It's going to fly by, Danielle. You're not even going to know it happened. You'll be lucky if you can remember it at all when it's over. True, truer and truest. I want to have it back because it really was too short.

On Wednesday night, I couldn't sleep. Wil and I were both off from work on Thursday, so we decided to have a glass of wine with dinner and stay up late watching Mad Men. Normally, this series of events would've knocked me out (the wine and laying in bed part, not Mad Men), but normally, I'm not getting married in less than 48 hours. 

From the moment we turned off the television at midnight to the minute I finally gave up and got out of bed to start my day (it was 3:14am), I tossed and turned. I wasn't nervous. There wasn't a single moment leading up to our ceremony when I can say I was nervous; I was anxious. Excited. Happy. Restless. Those are the feelings I was having. And those are the feelings that kept me up all night. I finally gave up trying to sleep and made myself some coffee. Wil and I are both early risers, so I wasn't alone in the living room for too long. Around 5:00am, he came out to join me and with that, we started our day. 

I did some massive food shopping the week leading up to the wedding because I knew we'd have a bunch of company. I also wanted Wil to have his pick of anything in the world for his last breakfast with me as boyfriend and girlfriend (he chose coconut pancakes, in case you were wondering). While we were waiting for our guests to arrive, we popped a bottle of champagne, poured ourselves some mimosas and celebrated the last moments of silence we'd have until Saturday morning. And then the girls showed up.

To save on New York City hotel costs, I told my bridesmaids they could crash at my place Thursday and Friday night. We had to be up at stupid o'clock in the morning to get ready on Friday, so it made sense to me. And my ladies really appreciated it. As soon as the girls began making themselves at home, my man left the premises.

My Maid of Honor, two bridesmaids (the third was taking the bus in from Boston) and I spent the rest of the afternoon acting the fool and getting prepared for the following day's festivities. The dresses were hung, the minibar was prepared (thanks, Nessie), the shoes were unpacked and the coffee pot was set. Eventually, we made our way into Manhattan for a nail appointment, followed by the church rehearsal.

Our manicures were pretty uneventful except for the fact that my nail lady talked me out of clipping mine off completely. See, Wil was talking to me while I was shaving earlier in the day and I somehow managed to shave off a nail. My ring finger nail. My LEFT ring finger nail. I was just going to roll with it and cut the rest down, but my chick made me a new one using silk. I gave her a $20 tip for clearing up that little problem for me. Oh, and in case you were wondering, the nail color I went with was BBF Boy Best Friend by Essie.

After we left the salon, we crowded into a Crumbs Bake Shop and picked up a birthday cupcake for me to share with my girls the following morning. From there, we jumped in a cab and made our way over to Wil's parents' house. And let me tell you...it was a zoo over there! There were so many people packed into their little apartment and everyone was running around like a crazy person. It didn't matter though. We were all in good spirits-laughing and hugging and kissing. It's quite possible that we all held hands during the short walk over to the church.

The rehearsal itself was pretty quick and painless, well, at least for me it was. I know that the little ones' parents were very concerned that they were unable to make it down the aisle without running or screaming or throwing a temper tantrum, but I didn't mind too much. In fact, I think everyone was encouraging the bad behavior because it was just too cute.

After we organized the stuff we had brought over to the church and said our goodbyes to Father Larry, we headed over to Havana Central for dinner. I didn't think that the rehearsal dinner was going to be that big of a deal for me, but it was. Everyone who was there was important to us both as individuals and as a couple. We had parents, grandparents, cousins, sisters, brothers, best friends, aunts and uncles all gathered together to celebrate with us the night before we became man and wife. I teared up when I stepped back and looked at everyone eating and drinking in our honor.

I also got rather emotional when my mom read her speech at the end of dinner. It was hard for me to look at her while she was talking. As soon as I would make eye contact with her, the tears would start to fall. I spent those five minutes looking down at my dress and fidgeting with Wil's fingers. It was just easier that way. It helped that my dress was pretty and I like Wil's fingers.

Wil's uncle gave a speech as well, one that ended in us singing happy birthday to his wife, Vanessa, and me! I was really not expecting to get any recognition for my birthday, especially not on the day before it. Mommy bought me a carrot cake (my favorite) and it ended up being the only slice of cake I ate all weekend. Soon after the cake was cut, I said goodbye to my boyfriend and headed home with my girlfriends.

And then the party started at 6:03am!
Now, in the weeks leading up to the wedding, I was dead certain that I was going to be too excited to sleep the night before the main event. I'm pretty sure if I had had a decent night's sleep on that Wednesday, that would've been the case. We got home around 11:00pm and I was so exhausted, I barely had the energy to change into my pajamas. And so, I slept like a baby the night before I got married. And I was pleased.

I had set my alarm to go off at 6:00am Friday morning. I started my morning like any other by checking my emails from between the sheets. I thought the other girls were still sleeping (we all camped out in my room), but then I got the text message that got the day going: Aaaaahhhhh ur getting married!!! Mind you, Alexis, my bridesmaid, was "sleeping" on the other end of the room. That's when the jumping and screaming started...and it didn't really stop for the rest of the day.

My sister was the only one who didn't sleep in my bedroom. After we finished jumping on the bed, we ran into the living room and started jumping on the couch, you know, to wake Natalie up. I swear, those first fifteen minutes of the day looked straight out of a John Hughes movie! Once the homicidal glaze left my sister's eyes, she got in on the fun. I pressed the button on the coffee pot. We were in business. 

The phone started ringing off the hook pretty soon after that. My mom called to ask what we wanted for breakfast. The hair person called to find out what time we needed her to come over. The makeup person called because she was lost in my neighborhood. The photographer called because he wasn't able to grab a cab. My other bridesmaid called to let me know she was on her way to my apartment. All this happened in what seemed like minutes, but it was more like hours. Before I knew it, it was 9:00. How the hell did that happen?

I was really lucky to have my girls here with me on Friday morning because they made everything so easy for me! They fed me, they picked out music for us, they cleaned up the kitchen, they kept the vendors in check. They made it so that all I had to do was basically breathe. And provide comedic relief.

I think it was around 10:00am that I entered the cloud I stayed in for the rest of the day. While I was taking a shower, it really hit me: I'm getting married. Yeah, I cried for a few minutes, but they were happy tears. We had spent the past year preparing for this day and it was finally here! I walked out of the shower feeling empowered and elated. I was ready.

The rest of the morning was super fun! We were rocking out to the Lady Gaga station on Pandora. We popped a bottle of champagne, made mimosas and sang happy birthday to me. We did pretty things with all the girls' bouquets. I can honestly say that the entire morning was fantastic. For the first time in a LONG time, everything went right. Well, almost everything.

I had wanted to take portraits outside with my girls before leaving for church, but we ran out of time. To make up for it, I came up with the bright idea of having everyone in the room with me while I got dressed. We worked together as a team to get me dressed and got some pretty awesome photos because of it. I wasn't about to let a small detail like outdoor portraits excise me from my happy bride-wedding bubble-cloud. I just rolled with it. And then we got into the limo.

I knew that we were going to hit some traffic going into the city from the Bronx, so I scheduled the limo to pick us up an hour before mass was set to start. Even at a snail's pace, non-bride Danielle knows that an hour is more than enough time to make it into the city. Bride Danielle was having a panic attack the ENTIRE way to the church. I checked Twitter and Instagram 239485723 times and changed the radio station just as many times.

Being in that car, so close to my mom and my sister gave me anxiety, too. I couldn't look at them. It had started earlier in the day. I was stupid happy all morning, but every time I made eye contact with either of them, I started to tear up. And after I was completely dressed, pfft, forget it! It was so hard, you guys. Really, really hard.

We pulled up at the church at 1:53pm, 7 minutes before mass was supposed to start. There wasn't even enough time for the limo driver to put down the runner for me to walk on. I jumped out of the car and my sister ran behind me, carrying the train of my dress. 

I was certain that there wasn't enough time to take a particular photo before the ceremony, but we somehow squeezed it in. From then on, I didn't even feel like I was in my own body. I don't know when it happened, but everyone except my mom and my uncle left the little side room we were all gathered in. They were walking down the aisle.

I breathed, I think. I know I kissed my mom and my uncle, but still, I couldn't look at them. I stood by the door, peeked out through a crack in the window and watched my bridal party leave the foyer, two at a time. I don't know who told me to walk, I just did. I didn't even hear the music change or the doors open up, it just did. I started walking down the aisle.

I had a veil covering my face and still, I tried not to make eye contact with anyone, but Wil. I knew if I saw a crying cousin or weeping widow, I would've lost it myself. I kept my eyes on Wil. I don't know if he could see me (I should probably ask him), but I just kept looking at him. It was as if no one else was there.

When I finally got up to him, all I wanted to do was hug and kiss him. I think the priest sensed it, too, because he whispered to us that we had to wait for that part. We said our goodbyes to my family and walked up to the vestibule. The first thing I did was lean over and tell Wil he looked handsome because he did.

To be honest, I can't tell you much more about the ceremony. My brother and Wil's cousin both read scripture passages, I know that. Father Larry's homily-well, I really tried to pay attention, but I couldn't. I guess that's what the video is for. I just kept looking over at my groom. And holding his hand. And whispering to him. And telling him I liked him (swear).

And then we got to the part when we exchanged vows. It was like I had tunnel vision. All I could see was Wil. All I could hear was Wil. Everything, but Wil, was distorted and blurry. He spoke his vows quietly, so only I could hear them. That's just Wil's way-he's the quiet one and I'm the booming one. It's who we are. But I heard him and that's all that mattered. I know I spoke my vows loudly, mostly because it kept me from crying. Still, I saw no one, but him. The only part I heard clearly was when we got the green light to exchange a sign of affection. That kiss...was a good kiss. Like, a REALLY good kiss. Maybe not even a church-appropriate kiss. Oh, well. I'm sure Baby Jesus understood.

We had so much nervous energy after the deed was done. I cried some more when my sister read my grandfather's name during the Prayers of the Faithful and even more still when we were invited into the crowd to exchange peace with our congregation. When I saw how many people came to mass...wow. I really wasn't expecting that. Before we knew it, Father Larry dismissed mass and Wil and I ran up the aisle into the little side room I had been hiding in less than an hour before. We were married.

Our bridal party met us a few minutes later, before they had to take their places outside. A few more minutes later, Wil and I pushed open the front doors of the church and met our family and friends on the steps for the first time as man and wife. And then they all started singing happy birthday to me. Like, really? Could it get any better than that? I don't think so.

As soon as the crowd died down, we ran back inside to take a few pictures in church (we had to run because there was a wedding right after ours). After that, we made our way into the limos and drove up to Morningside Park where we had planned to take our portraits. Our OUTDOOR portraits.

Now, normally that isn't a problem, especially on a beautiful, rainless day. But it was cold that day. Really cold. So cold that half of our family members whom we had wanted to include in the portraits, opted out. It got a little chaotic at that point as we tried to take as many pictures as possible. While I didn't really let it bother me at the moment, as I write this today, I can honestly say that I made a mistake in not having a backup plan. My bad, okay. Moving on...

We got to the reception hall about 90 minutes early. That was okay for me because I was in my little bridal bubble, but everyone else was cold, hungry and thirsty. Time passed, I don't know how much and finally we were allowed to go down into the cocktail area. This is where it gets a little weird.

I knew things were going to be very exciting and busy once we made our way into the main dining hall, so I had wanted to mingle with our guests in the cocktail hours. Well, our Maitre D was not having that. He pulled me away from the party about three times. Not cool and not what I had wanted, but I let it slide. Again, bride bubble.

Fast forward to the grand entrance. How was it 7:15pm already? Anyway, I had another panic attack right before I left the bridal suite and begged my mom and an aunt to help me take off my slip, immediately! I was afraid I was going to step on it and fall during our first dance. In retrospect, that was a really good decision. Bad decision was cutting our first dance song short because I thought the guests would be bored watching us. God, I wish I could have those three minutes back and then some.

After that, my sister and Wil's brother gave speeches. Those, I came off my cloud for long enough to hear how great they were. Honestly. But it was right after that, that the Maitre D came back to hound me. He barked at me and told me that we weren't allowed to have spotlight dances during dinner. That dinner service was going to take 90 minutes, not 60 like was indicated on our timeline. Seriously, dude, I about cried. I looked that man in his face and told him not to speak to me for the rest of the night. I ran off and found my wedding planner and informed her of how he had treated me for the first hour and a half we were there and she took care of it from there. But it was too late. By the time I was finished with that knucklehead, Wil had already worked his side of the room without me. And then I got pulled away.

There was lots of pulling away the entire night. We were pulled for pictures. For hugs. For kisses. For envelopes. But for the most part, I felt that we were pulled in separate directions. If I had that night back, I would've found Wil and stuck by him for the rest of the night. People understood, I guess, but like I said before, there were MANY people I didn't even get a chance to lay eyes on during the entire reception. And I feel very badly about that. Who knows when and if we will ever have the opportunity to have the entire family again in that way? I hope it happens soon, so I can meet the rest of the people who came together to celebrate with us.

It was after that last run in with the Maitre D that I went back to floating above everything. I was there, but not. It honestly felt like I was drunk, but I hadn't had a single drink. I can't tell you who I talked to or who I took pictures with or much of anything else that happened that evening. It was like I wasn't even there. 

I had told myself the day before that I was going to step back at one point and really look at everyone enjoying themselves in our honor, but I didn't do that. I felt lost. I was in a daze. A happy daze, but still...a daze. I can't tell you who was there. I didn't get to dance with my mom or Wil's mom. I don't feel like I danced at all, but I know I did. My bustle broke on my dress, but I can't tell you how long it took me to go upstairs and change into my other dress. It's really weird, you guys, but I honestly can't tell you too much about my wedding reception. I think what happened was that dinner took too long and then we had to rush to fit in all the other stuff like the cake cutting and bouquet toss. But what do I know, I wasn't even there. It's hard for me to be even remotely articulate about it because I didn't experience it. Again, I guess I have to wait for the video.

When I finally came down from my cloud, it was over. Literally. I ran over to the DJ at what I thought was 9:30 asking for a specific song, but he couldn't play it...because we had to leave. Just like that, it was 11:00 and he started playing our exit song. It was then that I got to hug and kiss people I hadn't even known were there. It was so surreal. I mean, it was good, no, AMAZING, but I can't tell you a single thing about it other than it was the happiest day of my life...and it wasn't over yet.

Wil and I ran out of the reception hall to make our way back into Manhattan for our after party at Iguana. Everyone called us crazy for going to another party, but I'll tell you what...it was the best decision we made on the day. It was at Iguana that I had my first drink of the evening (actually, I'm lying. I did have a shot with a group of friends at the reception). I got to dance with friends I hadn't seen all evening. I got to dance with my husband. A lot. And I got drunk with him. And we stumbled onto 54th Street together after 3:00am. And we found a cab to bring us to our hotel room. And we had to ask for help to work the elevator. And we slept. And we dreamed. And we ended a good day that started apart, together.

At the end of every event, however big or small, there's always something to criticize. Well, I don't want to hold any grudges or have any negative feelings about my wedding day because in reality, the goal was achieved. However, I can't neglect to mention these few things that I wished I had done differently. I know it won't change anything, but putting these few things  out in the open will make me feel better about the poor judgement calls that were made.

1.) Don't drink mimosas while getting ready on your wedding day. I thought that mimosas would be a fun and ultra girly drink to share with my bridal party while we were getting ready for the big event. While they we're very yummy, they also made my breath really funky. Find something else to drink. 

2.) Leave for the church WAY earlier than you think you should. Everything was running on schedule for us on Friday...and then we got stuck in New York City traffic for almost an hour on the way to church. Non-bride Danielle knew that we were going to make it even though the traffic was pretty bad. Bride Danielle was almost in tears because she thought she was going to be late for mass. Give yourself more than enough time to get where you need to be...and then give yourself even MORE time, just in case.

3.) Have an outdoor AND indoor portrait location picked. While it didn't rain on our wedding day (thank God), it was brutally cold. It was so cold, that some of our family members opted-out of portraits with us, hoping to take some when we got indoors at the reception hall. Well, guess what happened...we were so excited at the reception hall that we forgot to take the pictures. Don't make that same mistake, please.

4.) Work the room with your husband. I keep thinking back to that night and getting upset with myself because Wil and I didn't work the room as a team. It ended up that he said hello to and thanked all his family members by himself, while I managed my side of the room. There were people I didn't see all night all because we didn't stick together. We were both really excited and happy and I know that people understand that, but I'm still kinda bummed that I didn't get to at least say hello to all our guests. And who knows when all those people will be gathered together again.

5.) If someone is bothering you, speak up. I knew our Maitre D was going to be a problem from the moment I walked into the reception hall. I think I would've had a much better (and clear-headed) night if I had put him in his place from the beginning. I'm really kicking myself for not having said anything about it.

6.) Step back and drink it all in. During the three minutes we spent eating dinner, I did manage to look out at the crowd gather before us and smile about everyone gathered together in our honor. I only wish that I had done the same during the dancing portion of the reception. I would've loved to actually see our grandmothers dancing together rather than having to wait to see it on the videographer's video edit, IF it even makes it there.

7.) Don't cut your first dance song. I thought that people would be bored watching Wil and I dance our first dance, so I asked the DJ to cut it down. Such a stupid move! Dance as long as you want! Your guests are there to see you and celebrate with you. Even if your first dance is 20 minutes long, they'll understand. I promise.

8.) Get a GIGANTIC card box (or just gather the envelopes yourself). We spent the whole weekend worrying about whether or not all of our gifts made it into our little gift box. While it was super cute, it was just not at all practical for the amount of gifts we received. And a few things did go missing. Please learn from our mistakes.

If you've gotten this far, thank you. I never expected to be sharing the love and passion I have for my husband in this way, but I did and the experience has been incredible. My wedding day was wonderful, it really was. I'm so blessed to have had so many loving and supportive family members and friends who helped make our dream become a reality. It truly gave me so much pleasure to be able to share this journey with you. I'm excited about what the future has in store for our little family of two. Here's to tomorrow...

To read more about our wedding, click here.
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