Recap of Chapter 26: Upon the announcement of Haze’s engagement to Jake, a wild idea was hatched. Jake wanted to have the wedding right away, and his family was behind the idea. But Haze hesitated. Could they pull it off so fast? It didn’t take long for Haze to get swept up in his enthusiasm, which is how she found herself pounding on Sydney’s door, begging for her help to become a bride in just two weeks.

Today was the day. After a whirlwind of planning, purchasing and finalizing every detail, Haze awoke to the sound of rustling leaves blowing by her bedroom window. The sky was a brilliant blue and the sun full of golden warmth. She looked around the room, eyes landing on the wedding dress hanging from the wardrobe. Thanks to Sydney, who knew just the place to shop, the dress was found at a vintage specialty store, fit perfectly, and came complete with a romantic back story—something about a rich heiress who eloped with a penniless poet. Neither Sydney nor Haze cared whether the story was true or not. Simply having it tag-a-long made the dress more magical. It was a tea-length gown made of taupe silk with a same color raised floral design. The slip-style cut showed off Haze’s curves without being too snug or too loose. Imagine finding something from the ’20s that fit her form so beautifully! That would be her ‘something old.’ Sydney dug into the depths of her closets to find a delicate teardrop shaped hat with small netting that she’d worn to a garden party back in the day. That would be her ‘something borrowed.’ The sapphire in her engagement ring would serve as her ‘something blue.’ The ‘something new’ requirement was filled with a bolero jacket, velvet with a silk lining to ward off the evening chill. She would wear matching ballet slippers with a small cluster of pearls adorning the toe. She was given giant pearl earrings from her parents on her 21st birthday so, of course, they would be part of the ensemble. Sydney was in her element stylizing Haze into the bride she envisioned, making her every wish come true.

As she lay in bed thinking about how smoothly everything came together, she marveled at her incredible luck. First, to venture into this town to make a life, landing right next to Sydney who became way more than a friend. Sydney had become family to her and always would be. Then, to find the love of her life in Jake, whose family embraced her fully. With no family of her own, Haze took great comfort in being folded into Jake’s incredible and generous family.

As Haze counted her blessings, Sydney rang her signature ring and whisked into the house carrying a tray. “Good morning!” she sang, bringing the tray into the room and setting it on the bench at the foot of the bed. “How is the bride to be today?”

Thrilled, Haze sat up. “I brought along a few things to start off your special day!” Sydney announced. There are croissants with jam, fruit, strong coffee, of course, and Prosecco, because every special occasion should start with Prosecco, don’t you think?” She busied herself pouring small cups of coffee and tall glasses of Prosecco. She looked at Haze lovingly.

“Are you ready, dear? Are you truly ready?”

Haze glanced around the room. “I am. I really am ready. I’m all set.” She flashed a brilliant smile. “Today is my wedding day, and I want for nothing.”

So grateful for the efforts of her new family, Haze knew she couldn’t have pulled it off alone. Jessica poured energy into making sure their family home looked stunning. She knew just where to get the supplies she needed and exactly how to pull it all together. Of course, hiring Dore from Stems was a sure bet to getting the most unique and stunning flowers—from the bridal bouquet to garlands, she made everything look magical. The men strung tiny lights from every branch surrounding the decks and overhead to make a twinkling canopy.

Sydney raised her glass in a toast, just as the front door swung open to the sisters and sisters-in-law, arms laden with food, more Prosecco, makeup kits and every tool imaginable for fixing up the bride. They arrived on a wave of enthusiastic chatter.

Sydney winked at Haze. “And so it begins.”

On Haze’s wedding day, she was surrounded by the women of her new family, who generously pampered her in every way. And Sydney, who had been by her side for every important moment since she’d arrived in Evergreen. Throughout the day, they chattered amiably while they had manicures and pedicures, then they went back to Haze’s house to do their hair and makeup, tell stories and laugh. There were no matching bridesmaids’ dresses or long lines of groomsmen. Instead, the Peterson ladies concentrated on making the bride look beautiful. Being male, Crowley stayed with the men, so Haze had no obligations besides showing up to the event.

It can be risky planning an outdoor wedding in mid-November. There was always the threat of a snowstorm. A few flakes would be charming, but an all-out storm could set them scrambling. Luckily, the weather had cooperated, and today—the day of her wedding—was yet another balmy day with nothing on the radar more threatening than a light breeze.

While the women were together sharing in the bliss of pampering and sisterhood, the Peterson men had been orchestrating a transformation to the Peterson Family home. Lights were strung and trees were wrapped. The flowers were placed just so, and the outdoor furniture was rearranged to create an informal aisle and an altar. Mr. Peterson would be officiating, as was tradition. It was to be a short ceremony with guests standing or sitting at small café-style tables or on garden benches to watch. Afterward, there would be catered appetizers and a relaxed barbeque with music and dancing. It was just the sort of ceremony both Jake and Haze had wished for.

After hours of getting ready, the time finally came to begin. The ladies had left and now Haze stood alone in her wedding dress, clutching a bridal bouquet. For a brief moment, she felt anxious. She wasn’t unsure about marrying Jake. That certainly wasn’t the cause of her angst. It was more the sudden realization that she was at this jumping off place, ready to make this big life step and neither of her parents were there to send her off. They were both so supportive and loving, and now Haze felt like she was being ripped away from sharing this moment with them. She had been coping all by herself—making decisions and following through, choosing her friends and finding a wonderful man to love. She was successfully adulting without her parents and it had been going swimmingly… until this moment. Angst was building up, threatening to unnerve Haze.

The violinist began to play the wedding march. Her cue. She stepped backward, further into the shadows where she could peer between two trees. Standing at the altar was Jake looking so handsome, it took her breath away. He didn’t look nervous at all. In fact, he was smiling broadly, being nudged by his brother. His dad stood in the middle and they were so at ease and happy. Jessica stood opposite Jake, laughing and smiling. This was going to be her family—these loving people who worked so hard to make this day happen.

Haze closed her eyes and took a cleansing breath. “Here I go, Mom and Dad,” she whispered. “I’ll make you proud.” She swiped away a sentimental tear, then she stepped out from the shadows, smiling affectionately and walking confidently toward her new life.