The Wedding Planner
The alarm went off at five-thirty, as it did every morning. Faith Ferguson opened an eye, saw the time, turned off the alarm with a graceful hand, and a minute later, rolled out of bed, ready to start the rituals of her day. She was a consummately disciplined person. At forty-two, she had the body of a twenty-year-old. Ballet exercises in the morning six days a week kept her in shape. She got up, brushed her teeth, combed her shoulder-length blond hair, and wound it into a tight knot, and looked like a ballerina as she put on her black leotard and pink ballet shoes. She was wide-awake by the time she called her ballet teacher on her computer. They smiled and wished each other good morning, and started the same exercise routine she did every day. She had a highly disciplined life. Teacher and student did not converse as they went through the familiar exercises.
They finished their work together promptly at seven a.m., wished each other a good day, ended the connection, and Faith headed for the shower. It was a dark blustery January morning, and she had a busy day ahead. January was one of her busiest times of year. She was one of the most sought-after wedding planners in New York. People often came to her to plan their weddings right after the holidays.
She had appointments with three new clients this week, all referred by satisfied previous clients. Some had seen interviews she’d given or read her books. She had published three successful books. They were the bibles for anyone about to get married. Her first was a coffee-table book, full of photographs of the most beautiful weddings she’d done, and packed with helpful hints about how to achieve the same effects as in the photos. Except, of course, that couldn’t be done, not without her help and expertise. The second book was a wedding planner, detailing how to keep everything on track in the months before a wedding. It was the gift everyone gave to a newly engaged woman. The third book was filled with background on all the traditions that related to weddings, the etiquette, the things you had to know to plan a wedding, from seating to formal titles, what was proper and what wasn’t. Her book rivaled Amy Vanderbilt’s and Emily Post’s. She had a definitive, friendly, accessible style, while being definite about what was correct etiquette and what wasn’t. Another must-have for any bride.
Faith had never been married herself, although she had come close twice. She was young the first time, and it had been a devastating experience. She was a junior editor at Vogue, given a wide range of assignments, from beauty to parties covered by the magazine. Her upbringing in New York City in a genteel home with well brought up, aristocratic parents made her well suited to assisting the editors she worked for in covering socialites’ parties and events, and even occasionally weddings. Her grandparents on both sides were of equally distinguished origins and blue blood.
On one of the shoots she’d been on, to photograph a very important young bride, she had met Patrick Brock, a handsome young photographer. She was twenty-five, Patrick was a year older, and they had hit it off immediately. They dated for almost a year before he proposed. Their engagement had been a whirlwind. Faith, her twin sister, Hope, and their mother, Marianne, had planned her wedding. They had bought a beautiful, delicately embroidered French lace dress at Bergdorf’s bridal department. She felt like a fairy princess in it, and even more so when she tried on the veil, made of delicate French tulle that floated like a mist over her face. Everything was in order for the wedding at the Metropolitan Club. Her parents had divorced when she was ten, and her father was coming from Europe with his German wife, a baroness, to attend the wedding and give her away. Her parents had remained on cordial terms. Her sister was going to be the maid of honor, and six friends from college at Georgetown in Washington, D.C., were bridesmaids. Hope was a very successful model then, had done shoots with Patrick, and liked him. Her parents and grandparents approved of the marriage. He came from a respectable family in Boston and had talent, and good manners. Faith was crazy about him.
Everything had gone according to plan until a week before the wedding when her fiancé showed up at the apartment she shared with her twin, and dissolved in tears in her arms as soon as he came through the door. It took him an hour to explain that he had had some earlier “forays” which he had thought were only experimental but turned out to be a lot more than that. He explained that he had just realized that he was gay, and had fallen in love with a Russian ballet dancer. There had been no sign of any doubts about Patrick’s sexuality. He said he couldn’t marry her. He loved her as a friend, but he had had the growing suspicion that he couldn’t live up to what would be expected of him in marriage, and he needed to be free to explore the relationship with the Russian dancer, with whom he admitted he was deeply in love. His own family was shocked beyond belief when he told them, as was Faith’s.
What happened afterward was a blur of tears, despair, and humiliation. Formal announcements were hastily printed and sent out, canceling the wedding. She had taken two weeks off from work to hide, and was still a shambles when she went back. Her twin, Hope, had nursed her as though after an accident or an illness. Faith was shattered by the shock.
She had never seen Patrick again. He had left New York and moved to London with the dancer. She had heard that their relationship was passionate but didn’t last long, but he was sure of his sexuality by then. He had eventually come back to New York, and mercifully their paths had never crossed.
In one of the ironies of life, six months after the aborted wedding, she had been assigned to exclusively cover weddings for the magazine because she did it so well. It had taken her years to get over the blow of being nearly jilted at the altar. Her father couldn’t understand why she was so upset. He told her it was a blessing to have found out before they married, rather than years later. Her mother and sister fully understood how traumatized she was, and how covering weddings for Vogue was like aversion therapy for her, or a form of inoculation. Something hardened in Faith as she went from wedding to wedding and wrote the descriptions in rhapsodic terms, after directing the photographer to get all the shots they wanted for the magazine. She felt numb for a year. Her mother had packed away the wedding dress. The whole experience was a sensitive subject for a long time.
It was nearly ten years later when she considered trying it again. William Tyler was a strong, interesting man, an architect. She admired his work. She had left the magazine and set up her business as a wedding planner by then. After covering dozens or hundreds of weddings for Vogue, it was what she knew best. She had learned her lessons well.
At first, William had seemed like the perfect partner. He was as disciplined and precise about his work as she was about hers. Then shadows began to creep in as he started to tell her what to do and what to wear, what to say, and what not to discuss. He lived in an apartment he had designed in Chelsea. She and Hope each had their own apartments by then. Faith was living in SoHo and Hope had moved uptown. William didn’t like her friends and had none of his own. He told her precisely how he wanted their wedding to be and where. He had a strong aesthetic sense, and the only opinions he respected were his own.
After being engaged for two months, she felt as if she were suffocating, that he was trying to strip her of her identity and redesign her to his own specifications, like a building he was buying to remodel. She felt as though she had been gutted. He was constantly tearing her down. She returned the ring to him and fled. She was older and wiser, and wondered how she could have made such a grave mistake again. She felt free and light as soon as she got away from him.
She had no regrets this time about the failed engagement. He never understood what went wrong. He had controlled every move she made, and wanted to control her every thought. She recovered more quickly the second time, since she was the one who had left. The legacy William left was that she was convinced that marriage wasn’t for her. Weddings were her job, even her career, but they were no longer her dream. She could create an exquisite wedding for anyone who came to her for help, but the thought of a wedding of her own filled her with dread. William had cured her of ever wanting to be a bride, forever.
Six months later, her twin sister, Hope, had announced that she was getting married, and all Faith could feel was pity for her. Hope had had a lively, liberated life as a model, and insisted that she had found her soulmate in Angus Stewart.