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"You sure about this?"
Libby wasn't sure which "this" her dad meant. Getting married at all, getting married to Glen, or not having one of the lavish weddings for which Happily Inc was known. In any case, the answer was, "Yes."
She was far too practical to want a big ceremony or, God forbid, a ridiculous theme wedding. She'd decided to use the money for a down payment on a house, instead. Unlike her older sisters, she and Glen wouldn't start married life in a rundown apartment. They'd start in a rundown house which they could fix up, then sell in a few years at a tidy profit.
So Dad opened the door, and together they stepped into the air-conditioned courthouse, with her mother and Glen following close behind. She hadn't invited any of her siblings, and Glen was an only child, thank God. He'd told his parents they didn't need to make the trip from Portland for such a small ceremony.
The cool air was a relief after the heat outside. She'd swapped her trademark dark suit for a white one to mark the occasion. Off-white—after all, they'd been living together since college. The big shoulder pads made her look powerful, she thought, a real take-charge 80s woman. Glen had surprised her with a bouquet. She couldn't bring herself to be annoyed with him for wasting the money when he'd remembered that orange roses were her favorite.
She reached for his hand and squeezed it surreptitiously. Her heart warmed when he squeezed back. Her partner. Her love.
"Saunders?" the court clerk called from the doorway of the judge's office.
"That's us," Gene said, drawing Libby forward.
Saunders would be her last name starting today! She'd thought about keeping her maiden name or hyphenating, but she'd decided to go the traditional route so no one would look at their children funny. Libby Saunders. Mrs. Elizabeth Saunders. Mr. and Mrs. Gene and Elizabeth Saunders.
"Mike!" Dad called as he stepped into the judge's chambers. Dad knew all the bigwigs in town on a first-name basis. Libby hoped she'd be able to say the same one day, but she didn't have the personality for schmoozing.
"Frank, what are you doing here?"
Dad put his arm around her shoulders. "Daughter #4 is getting married, and she decided to save me a bundle by coming to you. And no, she's not knocked up."
A furious blush heated Libby's face.
"Frank, stop, you're embarrassing her." Mom smoothed the front of her yellow dress. She was a little soft around the middle, but that was to be expected after seven children. Still, she looked fresh and pretty. "Leave the poor girl alone, today of all days."
"Yes, dear," Dad replied with a wink.
What did the wink mean? That he planned to continue to tease Libby, as usual? He had always seemed to delight in her discomfort, from the time she was a little girl. She knew he loved her, but he just didn't relate to her more conservative ways. No matter. Gene got her. She could put up with anything with Gene at her side.
"So how do you want to do this?" the judge asked. "Standard vows, or did you write your own?"
"Traditional," Gene said.
"Except leave out 'obey,'" Libby added. "I won't make a promise I don't intend to keep."
"You want me to ask him to obey you?" the judge said.
She laughed politely, although it didn't sound like a terrible idea.
The judge stepped around to the front of his desk and began to speak from memory. "We're here today to witness the union of Glen Saunders and Libby Dineen. Glen and Libby have committed to joining their lives from this day forward. May your love create a soft place to fall for you both, and may you come together during the hard times life inevitably brings, so that your bond strengthens with each trial.
"Do you, Glen, take Libby to be your wife? Do you promise to love her, honor her, and cherish her all the days of your life?"
Glen gazed into her eyes as he firmly said, "I do."
Libby's heart skipped, and when it was her turn, she said, "I do," too.
"This ring is a symbol of my love and devotion." Glen slipped the plain gold band onto her fourth finger.
"This ring is a symbol of my love and devotion," Libby repeated.
"By the power vested in me by the great state of California, I now pronounce you man and wife. Glen, you may kiss the bride, and Libby, you may kiss the groom."
With a smile so wide that she felt her face might split, Libby Saunders kissed her husband. Her husband!
In 1954, Happily Inc wasn't the bustling small town that it is today. Back then, it wasn't even called Happily Inc. It was Santo Elias, named after the mountains to the north (which were named for the patron saint of sleep). 1954 was years before young Franklin Dineen would have the brilliant idea to rebrand the town as a wedding destination, years before the birth of seven daughters would motivate him to concoct the fairy tale that saved the town from extinction.
Santo Elias was little more than a speck on the map, but it had the sweetest little white chapel on the banks of the Rio de Suenos, and that was where Frank waited, uncharacteristically nervous. His bride was late, which was not unusual, but today of all days, he had hoped she would be on time.
He heard a noise at the back of the chapel . . . and there she was! Adeline, his Adeline. Seven years younger than him and ten times smarter. And she had agreed to hitch her star to his.
She glided toward him on her father's arm. Her figure was va-va-voom in a white dress that swished around her legs without touching the floor. Tonight, he would finally get to see what was under those clothes. They'd gotten close a couple times in the back seat of his Buick, but she always managed to come to her senses in time to stop him.
Don't think about that now, he cautioned himself.
When Adeline reached him, he realized that her hands were trembling something fierce. Her dad did the whole handing-over bit, and then Frank took the bouquet from her, passed it to her best friend, and gripped her hands gently in his. "Changed your mind?"
"No," she whispered. "Just nervous. Everyone's looking at me."
"That's because you're prettier than Doris Day."
She blushed just a little, but he could tell she was pleased. Doris Day was her favorite actress. She'd even bleached her hair to look more like her.
Together, they turned toward the minister. Seemed like it was just the blink of an eye later when Frank found himself saying, "I, Franklin Rodrick Dineen, take you, Adeline Elizabeth Knowlton, to be my lawful wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live."
When Adeline said the words back to him, her voice growing more confident as she went on, he felt all choked up. He didn't know how he got so lucky, but he was determined to be worthy of her.
"You may now kiss the bride," the minister said.
And so Frank did.
Have you always dreamed of a theme wedding? Then Weddings in a Box is the venue for you. Weddings in a Box offers a set menu of themes, everything from cowboy weddings to princess weddings to gladiator weddings. Yes, you can arrive at the altar in a palanquin, carried on the shoulders of four muscular young men in togas!
Adventurous brides and grooms should consider planning an outdoors wedding at Honeymoon Falls, about five miles northeast of Happily Inc. If you don't mind getting a little wet, you can even get married in the intimate space behind the waterfall, though only you, the officiant, and two witnesses will fit. For larger wedding parties, there's a deck up top with a stunning view of the town.
If traditional is more your style, you'll love the Chapel on the Green, a small, white historic church that sits right on the banks of the Rio de los Sueños in the middle of Chapel Park. No cars allowed in the park, but you'll enjoy heading out in a "Just Married" horse-drawn carriage.