En route to my Mexican nuptials, I left my wedding dress on a plane.
The three-and-a-half-hour journey from New York City to Cancun started smoothly. Flight attendants were abnormally cordial and offered to hang my ivory silk chiffon knee-length dress in the plane's first class closet.
"It's roomier," the flight attendant explained. After take-off the same flight attendant snuck my fiancé and me two glasses of champagne.
"Congrats!" she whispered.
"Why are they being so nice?" I asked my fiancé.
"Because we are getting married," he said, before holding up his glass. "A toast. To us!"
Three hours later, upon our approach into the Cancun International Airport, I had a strong urge to invite all four flight attendants to our wedding.
"I think we have enough guests," my fiancé laughed. "Let's just get our rental car and go to the beach."
Halfway down the coast to Tulum, where the ceremony would take place, I silently ran through my wedding checklist. Rings? Check. Flowers? Check. DJ? Check. When I finally turned to survey the backseat for item #12 on my list — wedding dress — I let out a wail.
"Turn around!" I screamed.
On our way back to the airport my fiancé tried to reassure me that all would be ok.
"Relax!" my soon-to-be husband said. "The dress is probably at the terminal."
"It's gone!" I kept repeating. "What are our wedding photos going to look like? That dress was perfect."
While we had decided to have a "low-key" wedding and invited only 20 guests to celebrate our nuptials, planning a destination ceremony had not been stress-free. Thousands of dollars had been spent and whether 200 people or 20 were watching me walk down the aisle, looking the best I'd ever looked in my entire life was essential. But now that wasn't even a possibility because I'd lost my wedding dress.
"You're way too attached to things," he said.
"Cut the Buddha bullshit and find the dress!" I screamed.
My fiancé’s perpetual state of Zen had been one of the many reasons I'd fallen in love with him. He was like a human Xanax, but at this particular moment nothing could stop me from hyperventilating.
"I'm calling the therapist," my fiancé said, reaching for his phone.
"Which one?" Yes, I saw two.
"Take a deep breath, Addie." It was our couple's therapist from New York City. She was on speakerphone. "Remember this wedding is about the two of you and not a dress."
"I know," I said. "But —"
"No buts," the therapist hollered over me. "The man sitting next to you loves you whether you wear a wedding gown or a garbage bag!"
"I know," I whimpered.
"I'm sure you can find a dress in Cancun."
I didn't respond. The thought of looking for a wedding gown in the spring break capital of the world made me feel light-headed.
"Remember this wedding is about the two of you," the therapist said. "Not your family. Not the flowers. Not the food. You two! Enjoy yourself."
I tried to let her words sink in, but all I could think about were the months I'd spent hunting for the perfect dress. It had all been for naught.
Back at the airport, I sat on the curb next to our blue rental car and tried to stop crying.
"I'm going to the terminal," my fiancé said. "I'll be right back with the dress."
"They won't have it!" I said, sniffling.
But he walked away pretending not to hear me.
Instead of the big, blowout Cinderella wedding, I'd decided to marry my mate barefoot on a beach and have my reception at a hotel without running water. I didn't feel like a girly-girl. So why couldn't I stop crying over a dress?
I kept telling myself to breathe. You are not that girl. You are not a bridezilla! You are a reasonable 28-year-old woman.
The sound of my fiancé startled me.
I looked up from the curb where I sat. His silhouette blocked the light, thus making his facial expressions undecipherable. He looked taller than usual. Huge actually. When he reached behind his back, I thought he might whip out a muzzle and yell, "I'm calling off the wedding." But instead he held up a large garment bag. My wet eye's widened. He had found the dress.
On our way back down the coast to Tulum I pondered the reasons behind my breakdown.
"Who cares," my fiancé said when I expressed my fears. "Let's just enjoy the rest of this trip."
So I did. Between sunbathing with my two best friends, I got a massage and gossiped with my mom and sister over a mani–pedi. Just hours into our three-day wedding weekend and I had almost forgotten about the airplane debacle. My hysteria had been successfully abandoned on the highway between Cancun and Tulum.
Things might have stayed that way if our wedding planner hadn't surprised us two days later during our reception with an unexpected present in the form of flame-throwers. While we aren't a conservative couple, we also aren't hippies. That said, we politely sat in wicker chairs facing each other while two muscular men with paint slathered all over their bodies threw fire above and around us. When the men asked us to stand and hold hands, we complied — even forced a smile. But my grin quickly disappeared when I smelled something burning, looked down and realized it was my dress.
My now husband grabbed a glass of water out of his mother's mouth and threw it on my dress. Then other guests started to throw various beverages at me.
Minutes later I was standing alone in the bathroom staring down at burnt chiffon.
Breathe, Addie. Breathe!
But I was taking small, shallow breaths that were about to turn into long, hollow wails. Then I heard my husband.
"You OK in there?"
I couldn't speak because if I did I'd start to cry.
I looked in the mirror. Snap out of it! You are not that girl. This is about us not the dress.
I dried my wet face, grabbed my champagne glass, and opened the bathroom door.
"It's going to be OK," my fiancé said when our eyes met.
"I know," I said, holding up my glass. "Cheers to us and getting this dress hemmed."