An Emotional Rehearsal Dinner

The Camels are officially home from the honeymoon and it was a romantic and spectacular time that we will not soon forget. Right now I am overwhelmed with all the photos I took over those two weeks, and I’m still debating how much or how little detail I’d like to include in my recaps, but I will be sure to get back with you guys soon with our experiences on Malta, Gozo, and then in the city of Paris.

Until then, I feel that I need to backtrack a little and talk about our rehearsal dinner. What is usually a rather uneventful wedding tradition was made complicated by the first meeting of my mother and stepmother in addition to some sour post-divorce emotions on Mr. Camel’s side of the family. You can read more about my concerns and pre-wedding emotions in the post “Healing the Past: Family Drama and the Wedding.”

In this case, I think a picture will speak a thousand words, and so I present to you the first photograph of me (as an adult) with my mom and dad who divorced in 1997:


Red-faced from tears, completely and utterly overwhelmed with some of the most intense emotions I have felt in my life—and yet here it is. This might seem trivial to some of you, but for me this was a massive closure for a deep emotional wound. I had been dreading this night, secretly squirreling away my anxiety for weeks leading up to this moment, and suddenly for it to all be over, and not only over but to have gone so well, so perfectly—it was beyond what I could ever have hoped or dreamed.

I felt the need to write about this because people are always talking about the emotions you will feel (or not feel) on your wedding day. No one talks about the rehearsal dinner, which in our case was a big deal not just because of the drama, but because all out-of-town family (and close family friends) were invited to attend. It was overwhelming. I felt torn in 20 different directions. Some of the photos in this post I don’t even remember being taken. I felt like I was drunk but I had only consumed maybe two drinks the entire night; it was a dazed, bumbling feeling, clumsily making my way through snippets of dozens of conversations. I drifted around the room as if in a dream, a lifetime of accumulated family and friends standing before me. You might notice something rather important missing from these photos. Where is Mr. C? Where is the man of the hour? One of my biggest regrets is that we were constantly apart the entire night. There were just too many people to meet and greet, and eventually I felt my anxiety was swallowing me whole. It was too much, so I retreated to a large booth packed with my bridesmaids. I had them lock me in the center of the booth and for a moment the world stopped spinning. I felt safe there.

We ordered our food. I had a roasted turkey sandwich with avocado and a side of sweet potato fries—one of my favorite meals from this particular pub, but I could barely eat when it arrived. I distinctly remember my bridesmaids ordering me Hemingways, my favorite cocktail made with rum, grapefruit and lime juice, simple sugar, and maraschino liqueur. The drinks calmed my nerves, but I knew I would eventually have to face the crowds again. At some point Mr. C sat down with me and had his dinner as well. This is around the time when things started to become very intense for me. I watched as my mom introduced herself first to my stepsister. My stepsister is the most energetic, bubbly, extroverted person I know and she hit it off with my mom. My mom seemed to actually be enjoying the conversation. She seemed happy. She was making such a huge effort and you have no idea how proud I was of her in that moment. I felt like I was in The Twilight Zone. Was this real life? Was this happening?

Again, I realize this sounds trivial for many readers, but you have to understand that for most of my life, my step family has been a source of pain and evil for my mother. They were not to be discussed. My mom would make me feel like the scum of the earth each time I visited them in California. Thus, for most of my life I have had two very separate families on different sides of the country. These families did not meet. They did not interact. Neither existed in the world of the other. And there I was witnessing the largest barrier in my life crashing down, like the Berlin Wall being torn apart, sweet freedom and release rushing in from the other side.

My mother then moved on to introduce herself to my oldest stepbrother. They were smiling, laughing. I could not tell you what they were saying. It felt like the ocean was crashing in my ears and my eyes were welling with tears. Not the tiny, soft ones, but a tidal wave of emotional sobs. I felt my oldest friend and matron of honor reach over and quietly take my hand in hers. I squeezed it so hard because I knew there was no holding back what was coming. I cried and cried. My mom stopped her conversation and asked what was wrong, but she knew. She knew how huge this was for me. I looked up through my napkin tissue and I could see Bridesmaid A was crying too. Mr. C had his arm around me. All of the anxiety, the dread of what this day and moment would be like was fleeing my chest along with a deluge of relief, happiness, and the warm feeling of a healing heart. I wish I could better describe the emotions I was feeling, their intensity, but I don’t think it can be put into words.I can’t really remember what happened after this. Eventually my mom drifted back into the pub and I composed myself. I nibbled a little on my food and shared my disbelief about what was happening with my bridesmaids. At some point I got up to use the restroom, and that is when I witnessed my mom and dad and stepmother talking (amicably, if awkwardly) to each other in front of my brother, my stepfather, and a large portion of my dad’s family. Again, it was as if life was moving in slow motion, things seemed blurred. Was I dreaming? I felt another wave of tears and emotion. I remember crying my eyes out and hugging my dad so tightly. I looked up and my boss, his wife, and their son were watching me with smiles. I couldn’t believe I was such a hot, emotional mess in front of so many people, but I couldn’t stop what was happening. That’s when the photo was taken. Then my older brother jumped in as well. I’m not sure if he was crying here or trying to be funny to mask his own emotions.


In a few moments it was over, people were drifting away. My sweet aunt (not the one pictured below) hugged me. “It’s a miracle,” she said in her soft, comforting voice. It really was.

These photos were all taken by my cousin. I’m so glad she was there to capture these moments; otherwise I would have no physical evidence to show for the evening! I am so grateful to her for capturing moments that I will cherish for a lifetime.


With my stepmother—a picture I don’t even remember being taken!


With my dear aunt (my dad’s sister) who everyone says I resemble


With my stepsister/Bridesmaid J and Matron of Honor K


With my dad and his ombre green shirt. I don’t think he knew that ombre is currently trendy!


With the step-siblings: the youngest, then my bridesmaid, and the eldest on the right end.


With my mom and stepfather

Again, sadly, there are no pictures of me with Mr. C! Oh well, what can you do. Thankfully he (being the more extroverted and social of the two of us) was out manning the field in social interactions while I was experiencing the emotional roller coaster of a lifetime.

Thinking about this night and everything it implied and all the closure it has offered my life still has me in tears. I would love to sit down and talk with my mom and see what this night meant for her too. Did it lighten her heart? Did it provide closure for her emotional wounds, so old and so deep? I’m not sure, but I know that I am so grateful that she had the heart and courage to do what she did. It meant the world to me and really made the wedding something even more grand, even more special than it already was. It truly was the joining of not two families, but four. Looking at guest photos of my stepbrothers with Mr. C’s niece, or with my coworkers dancing with my 87-year-old grandmother—there was so much joy and happiness and love there at once from all the corners of my life. That is what life is about. It’s what we work and toil and worry for, and in the end it is worth the trouble, the hardship, and the waiting. It’s so worth it. I am truly blessed.


Mrs. Camel

Athens, GA
Wedding Date:
May 2013
On Honeymoon Registries
Classifieds: June 12, 2013

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  1. Guest Icon Guest
    encore bride, Guest @ 12:58 pm

    that just made me cry! I am so happy it worked out for you.

  2. Guest Icon Guest
    Jessica, Guest @ 1:08 pm

    Girl, I just bawled such happy tears for you! :-) I knew all would work out well and so glad it did. What a beautiful, honest picture of you all! And yes – you look just like your aunt. Congrats, Mrs. Camel!

  3. Member
    jmarvellous 550 posts, Busy bee @ 1:10 pm

    What a sweet, heartfelt post. I’m actually kind of envious — I just didn’t invite anyone from my dad’s family because I couldn’t handle this kind of thing. Too much!
    (P.S. I’m not sure why, but it looks like “divorced” got autocorrected to “porced” several times in your post. :))

  4. Member
    goldstar 796 posts, Busy bee @ 1:11 pm

    I’m tearing up for you, literally. “Broken” family situations can be so hard… I’m so happy for you!

  5. Guest Icon Guest
    Jennifer, Guest @ 1:16 pm

    I had to stop reading this because I didn’t want to cry. I’ll finish it later when I’m by myself and can cry in peace :-) I’m so glad that everything worked out at your RD and wedding and that you were able to get the closure you needed. I’m so excited you’re back because I have been very much looking forward to reading your honeymoon and wedding recaps!

  6. Member
    lh526 318 posts, Helper bee @ 1:20 pm

    I’m so glad it went well, though I have to say shame on your mother for putting you through all of this. Their divorce was just that: THEIRS. To put you in the middle like that was pure evil and vile.

  7. campfire Member
    campfire 1045 posts, Bumble bee @ 1:39 pm


  8. Member
    amandaleaou 221 posts, Helper bee @ 1:41 pm

    Like others, I teared up reading this. You wrote about this beautifully & I am so glad things came together so perfectly for you!

  9. Member
    littlemisshostess 1040 posts, Bumble bee @ 1:46 pm

    Another Cryer! Trying To Sniffle Quietly So I Don’t Get Caught Out At work

  10. Member
    MrsF13 185 posts, Blushing bee @ 2:07 pm

    I am so so happy you and your family were able to heal some emotional wounds. I remember when you put up the post hesitant about the rehearsal dinner and I remember saying a prayer that it would go well. After crying reading this, I am so happy it did!!!

  11. Member
    LuckoftheIrish12 58 posts, Worker bee @ 2:26 pm

    I’m totally crying here. I can’t imagine everything you were feeling. :)

  12. honey Member
    honey 1684 posts, Bumble bee @ 2:50 pm

    This is one my favorite posts, ever. At one point you said you weren’t sure if words could describe the feeling & situation…I think you nailed it! This was so beautifully written, I felt like I could have been in that booth with you. So happy for you that it went the way it did, and thank you for sharing it with us!

  13. mspony Member
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 3:24 pm

    I’m so, so happy for you. Love this post.

  14. Member
    cosmo_gmr 488 posts, Helper bee @ 4:26 pm

    *Crying on my desk* So, so happy for you!!! That’s all I can say.

  15. mswaterfall Member
    Mrs. Waterfall 1403 posts, Bumble bee @ 4:34 pm

    You made me tear up so much! I’m so happy for you that it all worked out in the end. I hope this provides some much needed closure for you and your mom. Hugs!

  16. jetsetter Member
    jetsetter 535 posts, Busy bee @ 4:42 pm

    Really well-written piece, thanks so much for sharing! So glad everything worked out even better than you could imagine!

  17. bluewhale Member
    bluewhale 638 posts, Busy bee @ 7:07 pm

    I love that you don’t just write to be writing. It seems like you carefully consider each topic and even each word. This was beautiful, as are most of your posts. Thank you for sharing with us.

  18. sword Member
    sword 1029 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:45 pm

    what a blessing! What a night! So happy it went better than you could have imagined.

  19. Member
    texasaggiemom 595 posts, Busy bee @ 9:17 pm

    All of us with any connection to a step-family relationship realize how incredibly special this was. You have such a gift for putting word to your emotions – thank you for this brave and beautiful post!

  20. Member
    priyathescientist 1514 posts, Bumble bee @ 9:43 pm

    I am SO GLAD your rehearsal dinner healed this old wound! This was SUCH a great piece, Mrs. Camel!

  21. Member
    clumsylawyer 1351 posts, Bumble bee @ 11:33 pm

    This made me cry for you – thank goodness the rehearsal dinner went so well! It must have made the wedding so much less stressful for you than it would have been. Props to your family for putting everything aside – it brings me hope that Mr CL’s stepmother won’t make a scene!

  22. camel Member
    camel 703 posts, Busy bee @ 3:55 am

    Thank you guys for the sweet, supportive comments. It truly was a very special and magical night for me and writing this allowed me the time to sit down and really sort through the emotions I experienced that night. I was s overwhelmed that weekend that even the day after the wedding, I was often in tears just thinking about what had happened. I didn’t know how to process everything that had occurred, of course not just with my family but with marrying Mr. C as well! But that was the easy and happy part of the weekend. :) But leaving for the honeymoon right after the wedding really helped.

    Anyway, thank you again and I hope that everyone else in a similar situation can have a similar amount of closure. If not, just know that the love you feel for your future spouse is what is most important, as that is the love that will build a new future, and not one fixated on the emotional wounds of the past.

  23. Member
    MaryRachel 307 posts, Helper bee @ 6:19 am

    I am so glad your rehearsal dinner was so positive! I’m terrified about how my stepmonster is going to behave at mine (and the wedding) but this post gives me hope that just maybe she can behave and not ruin yet another event for everyone.

  24. roadtrip Member
    roadtrip 803 posts, Busy bee @ 6:36 am

    So, so happy for your Mrs. C! So glad that everything worked out between your families :)

  25. mswallaby Member
    mswallaby 2070 posts, Buzzing bee @ 6:58 am

    Amazing post, and I am so, so happy for you that you’re finally able to heal such long-endured wounds. I can’t imagine how emotional your wedding weekend must’ve been. Thanks for sharing

  26. Member
    bridesmomma 476 posts, Helper bee @ 9:10 am

    Your writing style….WOW! I can so clearly feel the emotions you were feeling! I definitely have tears!

  27. Member
    Schneewittli 56 posts, Worker bee @ 2:38 pm

    This totally made me cry too! So beautifully written and I’m so so glad how this evening turned out for you.

  28. mstreasure Member
    mstreasure 1655 posts, Bumble bee @ 3:35 pm

    Oh, wow! I’m so happy for you! This was absolutely beautiful to read, and I’m sure it was even more beautiful to experience.

  29. Member
    Essa 124 posts, Blushing bee @ 8:01 am

    Tearing up. What a beautiful post. I am SO happy for you! <3

  30. mspalmtree Member
    Mrs. Palm Tree 1122 posts, Bumble bee @ 9:22 am

    A bit tardy to the party, but I’m also tearing up reading this, Mrs. C. I’m so glad your mother was able to put aside her feelings in honor of you and Mr. C. I wish nothing but the best for both of you and my fingers are crossed that this is the first of many steps to a smoother, more joined future for your families. <3

  31. Member
    corasong 289 posts, Helper bee @ 9:47 am

    This is such a beautiful post, Mrs. Camel, definitely one of the most heartfelt I’ve ever read on the bee! I’m so happy the night went well!

  32. Member
    blonde17jess 1290 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:44 am

    I’m so happy for you that things worked out so well! You’re giving me hope that my fiance’s parents (who haven’t been in a room together in over 15 years) can put that aside and behave for the weekend. What a beautiful post!

  33. Guest Icon Guest
    Fitness Journal Software, Guest @ 2:48 pm

    The emotional rehearsal effect can be moderated with a little due dilegence. You share very good information Great job Mrs..

  34. Member
    csperry2 1320 posts, Bumble bee @ 11:43 am

    I can sympathize with you in more ways that you can imagine. My family sounds very similar to yours.

  35. Member
    hellosteinberg 69 posts, Worker bee @ 1:11 pm

    Oh I completely understand. My brother got married last year and both our family and my sister in law’s family have lost parents, her mom to cancer, and our dad to alcoholism. The rehearsal dinner was when they did the video tributes to the parents. It was gut wrenching. The entire wedding was a draining emotional experience. My own wedding was much lighter, but we still had incredibly difficult family moments. I don’t think most of us are really prepared for just how much of an emotional roller-coaster the wedding experience actually is.

  36. Member
    got2bdrea 35 posts, Newbee @ 9:11 pm

    Your so sweet! I’m glad the night went great!

  37. Member
    kellis 54 posts, Worker bee @ 9:08 am

    Man,I totally teared up reading this!!

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