Lorelai’s first instinct upon waking up at 8:00 the next morning was to curse the day. For the first time in almost two months, she woke up alone. Then she remembered why she was alone and the sun streaming through the windows no longer felt like torture; instead it was a warm bath. Luke wasn’t there because they were getting married today.
As she stuffed crackers into her mouth, she thought back to last night. Her father’s toast, and the sincere agreement on her mother’s face, had brought happy tears to her eyes. While that was not a difficult feat as of late, feeling good about her parents was a foreign, but welcome, state. Even more touching was Luke’s reaction. He was usually a quiet man, but last night he was speechless and humble, drinking it all in from beside or behind her, keeping her close in case he lost his composure.
The speeches had continued, of course. Luke’s sister yammered on embarrassingly, talking more about TJ than Luke, for nearly 15 minutes. April gave a heartwarming toast that exposed Luke’s soft underbelly. They all knew it was there, of course, but there was something very moving about seeing Luke through his daughter’s eyes that left half of the guests sniffling. Miss Patty spoke eloquently for the town, telling anecdotes of the couple’s intense friendship and making Lorelai cry even more. She needed no reminders of the years of support and love and protection that Luke had shown her, but when Patty’s stories revealed that she had reciprocated all along, helping him in the diner, defending him when the town wanted to lynch Jess, working with him to do things for others, that was when Lorelai felt the full impact of how real and undeniable and inevitable her partnership with Luke was.
But she did not expect today to be entirely full of roses and lollipops. After all, Emily Gilmore was in charge. She knew that today she would be forced to bend this way and that to the iron will of her mother, but it was a small price to pay and this new Lorelai Gilmore was ready for it. She had her eye on the prize: Luke. She didn’t care if she wore a tiara or a veil or a giant flower pot on her head, as long as she was Mrs. Danes by the time the sun went down.
Mrs. Danes. Lorelai Danes . She said it out loud, “Lorelai Danes.” She liked the sound of that. It was the first time she gave changing her name any serious consideration. Was it the name? Was ‘Danes’ that much better than ‘Hayden’ or ‘Medina’? Or was it that she wanted to share a name with her child? No, that wasn’t it. She couldn’t share with both Rory and Baby Danes at the same time. No, she wanted to share a name with Luke and she wanted to have a connection with his family, his parents. How easily that decision was made…
She stretched and rolled out of bed, ready to be pampered and powdered whether she wanted to be or not, and anxious to get through the day until she would get to see Luke.
Luke’s morning began hours earlier than Lorelai’s, but with a similar disorientation. Alone and in his apartment, for a few seconds he was terrified that the last two months had been a dream. Then he heard Jess snoring from April’s bed and it all came back to him.
He allowed himself a minute to think about the pain of what he’d almost lost, what he thought he’d lost. A year ago he was merely surviving between April’s visits. Like a struggling family living paycheck to paycheck, he felt almost good when she was there, then he would slowly slide downhill, nearly hitting bottom, until he saw her again. She was the only reason he got up in the morning. Today, however, April was icing on the cake of life. By the time the sun dipped behind the trees in Stars Hollow tonight, he would have everything he wanted short of his parents being there to share it with him. He had so much that it almost wasn’t fair.
Luke knew that he wasn’t supposed to work today, but there was nothing else to do and it was a welcome distraction, so he went down to the diner to help Caesar with the breakfast rush. At 7:30 he make breakfast for the girls, his girls. He boxed up pancakes, waffles, and a few other favorites. He even stuck a can of whipped cream in the box before sending it to the house with Jess for Lorelai and the bridesmaids. Then at 11:00 they closed up the diner for the day and Luke was left wondering what to do for the next five hours. He was antsy and ready to get the show going. How was he going to get through five hours of waiting?
The smell of coffee made her a little queasy, but hunger overpowered it as she wandered downstairs in search of pop tarts. Just as she stepped onto the landing, she heard the front door close and a sweet smell reached her nose. By the time she reached the kitchen it was everywhere -- chocolate chip pancakes.
Rory was pulling containers out of a box and opening them up on the table. April was getting plates out of the cupboard. Emily, who had probably arrived somewhere near the crack of dawn, was pouring coffee for Rory and herself. When she saw Lorelai, she poured tea, which had been steeping in a pot on the counter, into two cups as well. She distributed the cups casually, handing one of the cups of tea to April, such that nobody but Lorelai even noticed that she wasn’t given coffee. She had to hand it to her mother.
Reaching the bottom of the box, Rory found folded piece of ledger paper with Lorelai’s name on it and handed it to her mother.
“I can only guess who this is from,” she said, smiling.
“George Clooney, I assume” Lorelai responded, fanning her face in fake southern belle style. She opened the note and smiled.
“Meet me at 5ish in the square. I’ll be the one with the goofy grin, leaning in to kiss you.
She held it to her chest and sighed, then picked up the whipped cream and covered her pancakes with it. Morning greetings and smiles surrounded the otherwise silent table as they each dug in to some of Luke’s best work.
After breakfast, Lorelai headed to the shower while Emily’s crew of masseurs and beauticians moved furniture and set up in the living room. Rory went to Babette’s to shower so there would still be some hot water for April. By 9:00, Sookie had arrived and the relaxing and primping began. Massages for all, followed by manicures, pedicures, and facials. I should really let my mother plan my weddings more often , Lorelai thought. Emily had even arranged for a lunch of delicious finger sandwiches and salads to be delivered to both the house and the diner.
At noon, the pangs of deprivation drove Lorelai to her cell phone, but before she could dial, Rory took it away and hid it. Not even the patented Gilmore pout could get her to return it.
“No! You’ll see him at 5:00,” Rory insisted. “We are not tempting fate this time.”
Lorelai reluctantly agreed. No tempting fate. But a note was within ‘the rules’, right? She scribbled something on a piece of Betty Boop stationery, stuffed it into an envelope, and handed it to Rory with a pout and a “Pleeease?” Rory rolled her eyes, then texted Jess to come get the note while Lorelai stared at the one she had gotten this morning and pictured Luke in his darkest suit, a white rose and blue orchid pinned to his chest, smiling at her from beside the chuppah.
Ohmygod, when did my imagination get so cheesy? She thought. Must be the hormones . She tried to shake it off, but hell, this was her wedding day. Wasn’t she allowed to be sappy?
The day did not progress perfectly. Sookie ran back to the Dragonfly Inn twice -- once to solve a strawberry shortage problem (luckily Jackson had plenty of blueberries to fill the void). She had returned only to have to turn around and go back after someone discovered that when Sookie had tripped, sending the blueberries flying, some of them had landed on the cake. The sash on April’s dress ripped when Paul Anka tugged on it, mistaking it for one of the few toys he actually likes, but Miss Celine was able to repair it. Emily went back and forth from the house to the square, putting out fires (one time it literally was a small fire when someone knocked over a lit candle. Why the candle was lit in the middle of the day nobody could answer) and yelling at staff.
Lorelai neither saw nor heard about any of this. From her perspective, the day was perfect and nobody gave her any reason to think otherwise.
Everything in the diner was clean. There were no chores to do. He didn’t need to get ready for at least another four hours. He was anxious to get the show started and he was bored. He tried to read, but after reading the same paragraph four times and still not knowing what it said, he gave up.
Through the windows of the diner he could see at least two dozen people milling around the square. Two people were attaching fabric and flowers (daisies and roses) to the chuppah. Four were setting up chairs. Table cloths were starting to cover tables and lights were being strung. He could see Emily demonstrating the proper way to fold a napkin for three terrified young servers.
The scene brought an unwelcome memory to the surface -- a time several years ago when the town came together in the square to celebrate an engagement. Little girls in miniature wedding dresses running around, lavender candles, lanterns hanging from the trees, heart-shaped cookies, and Hello Kitty everywhere.
“There’s nothing like a wedding to screw up a family … Who do you invite? Who sits where? Open bar, yes or no? Aunty Junie doesn’t eat chicken. Uncle Momo is off his meds… someone’s getting drunk, someone’s sleeping with someone else’s wife, and someone’s chicken kiev is landing on the cake.”
“It’s not biologically possible to mate for life. Animals don’t mate for life. Well, ducks do, but who the hell cares what ducks do.”
He had been talking out of his ass and he knew so at the time. He was jealous and he knew that at the time, too.
“The minute you say ‘I do’, you’re sticking yourself in a tiny little box for the rest of your life.”
He laughed at the memory and how badly he wanted to be in that tiny little box with Lorelai.
“I guess if you find that one person… marriage can be alright.”
But just finding them wasn’t enough. His idle mind wandered to the last time he thought he was going to marry Lorelai Gilmore and he couldn’t stop it.
“Two months? That’s a hell of a long time to go without telling me!”
“It’s all happening so fast.”
“If it’s all happening too fast, we could just postpone.”
The memory stabbed at his heart and made him suck in a breath. And it invited other memories.
“Lately I’ve been feeling like it’s just not going to happen.”
“No, Lorelai, of course it’s going to happen.”
“But do you really want it to?”
“I love you and I’m going to marry you and at our wedding, we are having lobster.”
Yet he let four months go by, and when she begged, he said no. Stab.
“It’s really hard to get married. Believe me. I should know. I mean seriously, because Lane is married and next thing it’ll be my daughter and then my granddaughter, but not me. I’m not getting married. No, it ain’t for me. It’s not in the cards...”
Stab stab stab.
“We don’t have to figure all this out now, do we?”
“Yes we do, because we’ve been waiting and waiting and putting it off and I don’t want to put it off anymore.”
“But right now?”
“Yes, now is the right time. It’s the best time because it’s NOW.”
He winced at the memory and a lump formed in his throat.
“We can’t just take off and get married!”
“Why not, Luke?! Don’t you love me?!”
So much regret. He let himself feel it. He needed to feel it, to remember the pain so that he would never make such a mistake again.
“There is no us. There’s you and there’s me. It’s over.”
“I’m not waiting. It’s now or never.”
“I can’t just jump like this.”
“...I have to go.”
He was standing there, arms across his chest, chin tilted downward, mired in painful memories, when the bells rang. Jackson walked in, garment bag over one shoulder, to find a frowning Luke staring at a place in the street outside the diner -- a place where two years ago his life fell apart. The same place where two months ago it came back together. He put an arm around Luke’s shoulder.
“It’s really happening today, buddy,” he said, as if he had read Luke’s mind. Before Luke could respond, Jess walked in and handed him an envelope with his name on it. He removed a piece of silly stationery, unfolded it, and saw a note written in Lorelai’s sloppy script.
“5ish under the chuppah. I’ll be the one standing still.
And he smiled. Then he turned to Jackson and Jess, grateful for their presence.
“Are you guys here to keep me from getting bored?” he asked.
“That’s the plan,” Jackson answered. “Ed can’t make it until three, but --” Just then the bells jingled again and Richard Gilmore walked in, a line of attendants behind him, each carrying something. Along with the men’s boutonnieres came trays of sandwiches and salads followed by three cases of what looked like beer. He had also brought a valet to press suits, polish shoes, and help when it came time to dress.
Within 10 minutes, the beer was in the fridge, the valet was set up in the apartment upstairs, the other attendants had disappeared, and the men were chatting jovially, eating lunch and drinking some freakishly good (or so Luke thought) imported beer.
“I have to say that I’m addicted to the stuff now,” Richard admitted. “On our last trip to Europe I found myself sampling beer in every city, much to Emily’s chagrin. I picked up what we’re drinking today in Dusseldorf.”
And so they spent the afternoon playing cards and telling stories about Luke, Lorelai, and Rory, Stars Hollow, and marriage. Even Jess joined in, teasing Luke about lost opportunities. When the Bracebridge dinner came up, they all ganged up on Jackson, reminding him of his drunken tummy bongos. Before they knew it, the time had come to get dressed for the ceremony.
When the photographer arrived at the Gilmore (soon to be Danes) residence, Lorelai was frantic. Emily found her flying around her bedroom in her robe, hair and makeup (except for the finishing touches to be documented by the photographer) done, practically in tears.
“Where is it?” she mumbled over and over.
“Lorelai, what are you looking for?”
“My necklace. I have to find my necklace!”
“But I brought you my diamond necklace and earrings to wear, Lorelai,” Emily said, trying to calm her down. “They’ll look beautiful with your dress.”
As she searched through her jewelry box for the 20th time, Lorelai said, “I know, mother, and I appreciate it. I’ll wear the earrings. They’ll be my ‘something borrowed’, but I need this necklace. I know it’s not diamonds and you think it’s silly and cheap... But it’s my ‘something blue’ and it means a lot to me… It’s just a little thing that Luke gave me, but... It’s kind of… it’s a symbol of our reconciliation. I can’t… I can’t not wear it.” It looked to Emily like Lorelai was about to have a total breakdown. When she looked on the verge of hyperventilating, Emily decided to call in reinforcements. She went downstairs and yelled for Rory.
“What’s going on, Mom?” Rory asked in a calm and soothing voice.
“I can’t find my necklace. The one that Luke gave me at your party?” Lorelai really was about to hyperventilate, but she wouldn’t even slow down.
“Mom, mom…” Rory tried to get her attention. “MOM!” Finally, Lorelai stopped and looked at Rory, tears threatening to spill. “You got it out last night and put it on the sink so that you wouldn’t forget it, remember?” Rory went into the bathroom and retrieved the necklace.
“Ohmygodohmygod,” Lorelai said. Her knees buckled, forcing her to sit down on her bed.
“Just take a few deep breaths and calm down.”
“I’m okay,” Lorelai said, her breathing starting returning to normal. “I’m okay. I’m okay.”
Rory took the necklace from her and put it around her neck. She started to work the clasp, then froze. “Um… Mom?... Why don’t we wait to put this on and have the photographer get a shot of it, hmm? Grandma can put it on you, okay?”
When Lorelai reluctantly agreed, Rory quickly left the room, hiding her horrified face from her mother and clenching the necklace with its broken clasp in her fist. She ran downstairs to call Jess.
It was a long twenty minutes of the photographer stalling for time by setting up every shot imaginable: Lorelai putting the finishing touches on her makeup and hair, Rory helping Lorelai zip up her dress, All of the girls in the bedroom, pretending to primp. Lorelai thought that if she had to look at herself in the mirror anymore, she was going to puke. She wanted to finish this sappy stuff and get to the really, really sappy business of marrying her true love. A knock on the door prompted Rory to let out a breath of relief.
Liz walked in, carrying a box of what looked like tools. “Okay, where’s the damage?” she asked.
“Damage?” Lorelai asked, panic just under the surface.
Rory produced the necklace and handed it to Liz saying, “It’s the clasp. It’s broken.”
Lorelai gasped loudly and sharply, but Liz put up a hand, “No worries! It’ll take me two minutes to fix it.”
“Oh mygod,” Lorelai said, hugging her. “You saved my wedding! You’re the best sister-in-law!”
“Well, it’s only fair,” Liz noted. “You saved mine.”
The photographer did indeed get a beautiful shot of Emily putting Luke’s necklace on her daughter. Emily and Lorelai had yet another surreal moment when mother told daughter that she made a beautiful bride. And then it was time. Lorelai, Emily, Sookie, Rory, April, Paul Anka, and four bouquets piled into two horse-drawn carriages to take them from the house to the square.
All he felt was peace. Peace, as Paul Anka, too scared of the flowers to walk down the aisle, settled at his feet. Peace, as he watched Ed escort Buddy and Maisy to their seats and Jackson did the same for Emily. Peace, as he watched Martha, really too young for flower girl duty, toddle down the aisle to her father. Peace, as he watched his beautiful daughter walk toward him, smiling. Peace as Sookie, then Rory followed. By the time Richard and Lorelai came into view, he was so calm that he couldn’t imagine a more satisfying feeling, but there it was. Although his heart began to beat more quickly, he was calm. Bits of the last 11 years played in his head, but this time they don’t make him sad.
“Like this guy who asked me out…”
“But you’re not going.”
“No… I’m not… going.”
“So what, I said you look good. We’re not in 5th grade.”
“Let’s not spruce this particular spot.”
She was stunning. She was always stunning, but today… He was glad to see that she didn’t wear a veil or some silly tiara to tamp down those curls. She was beautiful without all of that crap.
“You are so full of hate and loathing and I gotta say I love it.”
“People can grow and evolve together, don’t you think?”
“I guess if you can find that one person… then marriage can be alright.”
He let the memories wash over him as she slowly got closer, as her father kissed her cheek, then took his seat. As she took his hand and they stepped under the chuppah together.
“It’s a nice concept… having someone that you love or have some kind of crazy crush on bid on your basket and then share a romantic lunch. It’s a nice concept.”
“You know what? This is nice.”
“Is this really happening?”
It was really happening. It felt like a dream and he was barely aware of the audience, much less the reverend, but it was really happening. He couldn’t take his eyes off of hers, but she didn’t seem to mind. There were no tears, just smiles. He was thankful they had left the ceremony simple because he didn’t think he would have been able to think clearly enough to do or say anything elaborate. When he was supposed to repeat words, he repeated words. When he was supposed to say “I will”, he said “I will”. He was vaguely aware that Lorelai said things, too.
And when Reverend Skinner finally pronounced them married, he kissed her tenderly, putting one arm around her waist and the other on her cheek. But before they separated, he held her closer and whispered in her ear, “All in, Lorelai. I’m all in .”
And so on July 14, 2007, Luke and Lorelai were married.
The party was a typical wedding reception, but even with all of Emily’s planning, that Stars Hollow quirkiness was unavoidable. Morey took to the piano during the cocktail hour, while the wedding party posed for photos and the ceremony area was cleared to add more tables. Babette and Miss Patty joined him to serenade the crowd. Miss Patty’s famous Founder’s Day Punch was available at the bar, and twenty minutes into the party, Kirk’s megaphone -- one he had brought from home -- had to be forcibly removed from his hands. But it was still an elegant, if relatively casual, affair.
The couple were amazed over and over again at how much effort had been made to ensure that the wedding and reception matched what the bride and groom would have chosen for themselves. The inclusion of the chuppah was just the start. Their first dance as husband and wife was to Sam Phillip’s Reflecting Light , the song to which they’d had their first dance ever. Lane had looped a beautiful arrangement of Moon River to make an extra long daddy-daughter dance to give Luke enough time to dance first with Rory, then with April. Lorelai danced with her father for the first time since she was a little girl. The buffet dinner wasn’t conducive to a lobster entree, but Sookie had come up with half a dozen great appetizers that featured the crustacean and Emily had the servers reserve a tray just for Luke and Lorelai.
When it came time for the toasts, Jess delivered a poetic speech that brought Luke to tears. He told a story of a seed that was planted and germinated. Over the years the seedling had to endure drought, strong winds, and cold, but with the help of the sun and the rain, it eventually it grew into a beautiful flowering tree. Most of the guests assumed it was the story of Luke and Lorelai’s love, but some (especially Luke, Lorelai, Rory, and Liz) wondered if the tree was Jess and the sun and rain Luke and maybe others.
Following Jess was no easy task, especially without sufficient time to recover emotionally, but Rory was up to the challenge. She kept it short and sweet. First she recounted the first time that her mother expressed an interest in Luke and Rory had told her she couldn’t date him because they would break up and she and Lorelai would starve. The crowd chucked. Then she threw a bit of a curveball.
“You all know that Luke and my mom were engaged before. And most of you know that both were married to other people very briefly.” The room was quiet, almost as if Rory had asked for a moment of silence to remember the victims of a tragedy. “I brought this up not to dredge up the pain of the wedding that didn’t happen, but to explain how I knew that this time it would and how I know that this marriage will be the one to last a lifetime.”
She paused to breathe, then smiled sweetly at Luke and Lorelai, who sat close together, listening intently. “A couple of months ago, my boyfriend of nearly three years asked me to marry him. It won’t surprise anyone who knows us that I asked my mother for advice. Actually, I begged her to tell me what my answer should be.” This brought a few chuckles and nods. “She refused to tell me what to do, but she did give me the one piece of advice that helped me the most to make a decision. She told me what she had learned in the last year. She said that she used to want to marry Luke because he was the first man she could see herself being with for the rest of her life. She could imagine them growing old together, sitting on the front porch in matching jogging suits with their children and grandchildren. But she said that was the wrong reason to get married. She said that you shouldn’t marry someone because you want to be with them. You should marry someone because you can’t imagine your life without them…” She paused for dramatic effect and to let the meaning sink in. Then she raised her glass and said, “So here’s to two people who can’t tolerate life without the other.”
After hugging Jess and Rory, Lorelai took the mic on behalf of herself and Luke. She started with her usual wisecracking, thanking the guests, especially those who had traveled, for coming without complaining about the short notice. Then she dropped all humor in favor of sincerity when she tried to thank those who had pitched in to make it happen, but words failed her.
“I… Luke and I were… overwhelmed. We knew that you were all pulling for us, but we really had no idea… We can’t thank you enough. And Mom, Dad…” She fought back tears because she desperately wanted to say what was on her mind, and she wanted to say it in front of these witnesses. “We appreciate this so much... I love you… both.” She couldn’t go on without her voice cracking, so she let that be the end.
It wasn’t an eloquent or creative speech, especially for Lorelai, but there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.
As the sun went down, the dancing resumed. Luke stayed by Lorelai’s side as they made the rounds, thanking everyone individually for coming and spending time with friends they had not seen since before their trip. The only time they could be seen apart was on the dance floor. Lorelai danced with any child who expressed an interest. Luke danced with April again and even once with Emily.
They did the other typical wedding stuff, like tossing the garter and bouquet (the look on Kirk’s face when Lulu caught it was priceless, especially since the garter was caught by Jess), then cut the cake. Sookie couldn’t decide on a cake flavor, so in the end she made five layers, each a different flavor. When they cut into the espresso flavored layer, Lorelai surprised Luke by feeding it to him gently rather than smashing it in his face, but he wasn’t so mature and she ended up with frosting on her nose. Not that she minded.
The late night partiers were just getting started when the less energetic started to leave. By 10:00, Luke and Lorelai were exhausted and bid goodbye to the remaining guests. As they said a last ‘thank you’ to the Gilmores, who were also leaving, Emily could not resist another reminder, referring to Lorelai, Luke, and April, “We’ll see you Friday for dinner, then.”
Their last goodbye was to Sookie, who said, “Now you’re sure that you don’t want to take another week, maybe go on a honeymoon?”
“Sookie, we just spent six weeks alone on a small boat together,” Lorelai reminded her. “I think we’re good.”
“Yep,” Luke added, “We just want to spend the rest of the weekend with our gi -- with our family [he smiles as he corrects himself], then get back into the routine of life.” An hour earlier he and Lorelai had decided, in a conversation that took less than a minute to complete, that they were done with the traditional wedding nonsense. They didn’t need a romantic getaway or even an evening alone. They wanted to start their normal, humdrum lives tonight, just hanging out with their girls.
“I’ll see you at the inn on Monday, Sookie.”
Four figures walked slowly down the street, past picket fences and under maple trees that would turn vibrant orange and red in a few month’s time, toward their home, the sound of Hep Alien’s last set getting softer as the distance between them and the town square grew. The two young women in front talked enthusiastically about the events of the day, laughing and plotting all sorts of things for the future. The couple who followed behind them just walked, arm-in-arm, and listened.
When they reached the house, everyone changed into comfortable clothes and the girls searched for a game to play, debating who had the advantage at each.
“You would totally beat me at Scrabble,” April insisted. “You were an English major!”
“But Scrabble also has a strategy component,” Rory countered, “and I bet you’re really good at that. Plus, you know a lot of scientific words that I bet I don’t.”
“I still think we’d be better matched at Trivial Pursuit. We could each play to our strengths. And Dad and Lorelai could play.”
“Oh, I think we’re both happy to be spectators tonight, hon,” Lorelai said from her place snuggled next to Luke in the big chair, feet resting on the ottoman. She looked at Luke. He smiled and nodded, so she continued. “But girls, before you get the game started, there’s something we’d like to tell you…”