How I Got The Wedding Of My Dreams By Calling It All Off

Photo: Mitzi Bockmann
Mitzi Bockmann wedding photos

In October 2022, after six years together, my boyfriend proposed. He did it on a boat named “Patience” off the coast of Maine.

It was beyond romantic and I was excited about our life together.

And then, the wedding planning started.

I didn’t want a wedding. I hate parties with a passion. We have six kids between us and I just wanted to take them all to the Caribbean and get married there. It would be simple and fun and everyone could really get to know each other.

My fiance wanted a wedding. He wanted our extended families to be a part of it.

Because I usually get what I want in our relationship, I decided to give him this. I knew that it would mean a lot of planning but was confident that I could handle it.

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Planning the intimate wedding of our dreams

We agreed that we would just have family and a few friends. This meant 29 family members. Add a few friends and it was up to 40. OK — manageable, right?

After much looking around, I found a boat for us to get married on. Price tag: $2,700.

I then found a cool old library for our reception. Price tag: $3,500.

After some scrambling, I found a caterer. Estimated food and bar costs: $10,000.

Rehearsal dinner at a bowling alley: $600 plus food and drink.

Two-night hotel reservations for our six kids: $10,000.

Etc, etc. Ugh. My fiance was fine with the expense. Me? Not so much.

But then, things began to get really wonky.

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Things fell apart — and so did I 

My caterer was hard to reach and really disorganized. The event planner at the library left for another job. I got a wedding dress and hated it when it arrived. My invitations had to be returned. Getting people to the wedding from Oregon and Idaho was proving tricky.

And, then, there was my family, who are always difficult at best.

My dad wasn’t sure that he would actually make it and my stepfather was bringing his new (not invited) girlfriend. My sister was being horrible about it all, which occupied a lot of my mind space.

I found myself becoming more and more overwhelmed.

I was obsessed about not being able to reach the caterer. Speaking my truth to my sister seemed to make it all worse. The details around the wedding kept on adding up – how to get everyone from the boat to the reception hall, what color linens would be best, whether we should have a photo booth and how to take care of my elderly aunt.

I was crying, often. Hours would be consumed with talking about the wedding and my frustrations. I, myself, was dreading the whole weekend because I knew that it would be incredibly stressful for control-freak me.

As time went on, I sunk deeper and deeper into despair. My body started to hurt and I stopped sleeping.

Did I mention that I was crying a lot?

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Enough was enough

One sleepless night, I decided that I had had enough. I was marrying the love of my life and I didn’t want it to be this way.

The next morning, I sat my fiance down and told him that we had to cancel the wedding. “Seriously?” he asked, as we had joked about doing it before. “Seriously,” I replied.

The rest of that day was spent calling people and telling them that the wedding had been canceled. Honestly, I think many of them were relieved. Weddings were, after all, fraught in many ways.

And then, I set about planning the wedding I had always wanted, one which involved almost no planning.

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We got hitched: the real wedding of our dreams

My mom has a house on the Chesapeake Bay. It is right on the water, had a pool and a boat and jet skis and kayaks and warm weather. It was the most special place on the planet (well, in Virginia at least).

She died about 10 years ago but my stepfather lets us use the house annually. I knew it would be the perfect place to take our kids and get hitched.

First, I asked my son to marry us. He readily agreed and set about getting ordained as a minister online. It took him all of 20 minutes to enroll and a few days to get his ‘minister’ card. It was hilarious but it was official!

I then organized getting everyone to Virginia and figured out the sleeping arrangements but that was it.

I was, for once in my life, going to let it all unfold.

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Laid back and loving it

So, on a recent Wednesday, we got in the car and drove down the Canadian fire smoke-filled eastern seaboard (it was almost dark as we drove through NYC), en route to Virginia, hoping the smoke hadn’t traveled that far South.

The kids arrived gradually, my son and his girlfriend arriving first, before everyone else and we had a lovely day by the pool, enjoying the calm before the storm. One son and his girlfriend arrived Friday morning and another mid-day.

Late Friday afternoon, my daughter and two of my fiance's sons arrived, them having picked up an RV (an extra bedroom) in Richmond after their planes landed.

I wasn’t there when they arrived but, when I did return, the first thing I saw was a suitcase lying open by the RV, clothes strewn about. I found the owner of that suitcase, my fiance's eldest son, who I had never seen relaxed, in the pool — he had jumped in minutes after they arrived.

Total body count — 11 people. All except for two of them were over 6 feet tall — the largest one measuring in at 6 foot 8.

That night was a huge party with everyone getting to know each other. We had cocktails and dinner. My fiance and I sat there and watched our kids together. “Aren’t you glad we canceled our wedding and are doing this instead?” I asked. He nodded and grinned and kissed me.

We headed off to bed, leaving our kids to get to know each other.

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Low-key plans, memories for a lifetime

And get to know each other they did. “Hanging out until 4 a.m.” getting to know each other. “Many cans of Truly and two bottles of Tanquery” getting to know each other.

Saturday was, predictably, quiet. Most people were sleeping off hangovers and sitting by the pool was just the place to do it. At lunchtime, I made a grilled cheese feast and the Trulies started flowing again sometime around 4 p.m.

At dinner, the first discussion around our wedding began. We decided that the wedding would be on Sunday evening, details to follow.

And those details? The kids were going to handle them. Yay!

The next morning everyone woke up early and, after a quick meeting, all nine of them headed off to Walmart for supplies.

I got a call from my daughter a few hours later, authorizing an $800 Walmart credit card charge, cheap in comparison to what we had been planning to spend on our first wedding.

What followed next was pure magic.

The group had purchased Walmart flowers and decorations and the girls were carefully arranging them in Walmart vases on our big outside dinner table. The boys were sent off to clean and do various things that involved ladders and hammers.

My son, figuring he was doing a lot of heavy lifting by officiating, mostly held down a pool chair.

Having been told to show up in my mom’s somewhat palatial bathroom at 4:30, I did so and my daughter and the girlfriends were there. We laughed and put on makeup and got ready. My daughter did my hair and I put on a yellow floral dress I had purchased (just in case) on a trip to NYC.

And then it was time for the ceremony.

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Tears, smiles, music and flip-flops

My daughter took my hand and we went out the back door. A walkway goes around the side of the house and leads to the front, with a view of the bay and a beautiful porch. Lining the walkway were all of our kids. Playing on a speaker was “My Heart Will Go On,’ the theme song to "Titanic," by Celine Dion, a song that had always made me believe in love.

I burst into tears.

Waiting for me on the porch was my fiance, wearing flip-flops and shorts, tears rolling down his cheeks. I went up the stairs (like Rose at the end of "Titanic," meeting Jack again) and we got married.

The ceremony was short and sweet, with my son reading his part from his phone. We exchanged rings, said our “I dos” and everyone clapped.

After a few hugs, the line of kids parted, and there behind them was our golf cart with Truly cans tied to the back. Off we went to the pool house, cans clanking loudly as we went.

The rest of the night was beyond amazing. We took lots of pictures as the sun went down. We drank gin and tonics and had appetizers. The boys grilled steak and salmon and halibut and scallops while the girls did the side dishes in the kitchen.

We watched, in awe, our crew working together to make this happen for us.

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A family home, an impromptu vibe, and a little Walmart flare

The dinner was spectacular and, afterward, each of our kids said a little something about us as a couple. I had no idea that we meant so much to all of them and might never have known if there had been a bigger crowd. There were lots of tears and laughter and general merry-making.

At midnight, before my husband and I headed off to bed, we were told they had one more surprise and they disappeared upstairs.

A few minutes later, our nine kids, all dressed in matching strawberry short suits from Walmart, came down the stairs singing “So Long, Farewell,” from the "Sound of Music." More tears.

And then, as we drove off, the drinking games began. We don’t know what happened exactly but were told that it was a fun night, ending with a 2 a.m., half-naked frolic in the pool.

The next day was a slow one — everyone was exhausted by the night before. After lunch, a Monopoly game began and 4 hours later the game continued. We watched our kids, buying and selling Monopoly real estate like they had known each other forever. Our hearts were full.

On Tuesday, the departures began. The Idaho folks left at 6 a.m. The Vermonters around noon. There were lots of hugs and tears, acknowledgments of new family ties and promises of future meetings.

My new husband and I laughed and cried, watching our new blended family, something we had both always wanted.

A full heart and beautiful memories

The next day, after a tremendous clean-up effort, we headed north, exhausted but happy.

Every day since then I have thought about that wedding. I share anecdotes that pop into my head with my husband (my HUSBAND) about things that were said and done. I don’t have access to any pictures because the kids have something planned from their shared Google Drive but I have a few on my phone that I look at regularly. All of it warms my heart.

My first wedding was planned for next week. I know that, if it was still happening, my head would explode and my anxiety would be through the roof. I would be dreading it all, hoping that it would all work out, and looking forward to it being over.

Instead, I am here, in my little house on the coast of Maine, with memories of the wedding that brought two families together, a wedding that no one will ever forget.

For that, I am so very thankful!

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Mitzi Bockmann is an NYC-based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate who works exclusively with women to help them be all they want to be. Mitzi's bylines have appeared in The Good Men Project, MSN, PopSugar, Prevention, Huffington Post, Psych Central, among many others.