The Wedding

TuesdaysWithMadison-PicturesThis column was originally published as part of my “Tuesdays with Madison” series at

It was Brittany’s idea. But it took a small army to pull it off.

“I want Madison to be here for the wedding, Mom,” she told me over a year ago, soon after her engagement.

“OK,” I said, wheeling up to her spot at the breakfast table. “What are you thinking?”

And she told me her simple-sounding plan.

Get Madison from her residential school on the day of the wedding. Bring her into the bridal dressing area after Brittany had stepped into her gown. Take pictures.

“Then Madison could go back. It would be a quick visit, Mom, tightly scheduled so she shouldn’t get upset,” she said. “It would be just the two of us for some special pictures,” she told me, her eyes dancing at the thought of a professional photo of the two of them, something I’d been unable to do since they were in elementary school.

Pictures were rated the number one priority in Brittany’s grand wedding plan—above the music, above the food, above the gown. These “captured moments” trumped every other wedding element. A photo with her sister was a must in her mind.

“Ok, Britty, we’ll try to make that happen.”

And we did.

The search for a bridesmaid-like dress was an adventure as we tried to find something the same color, but with a more comfortable fit and material that would not irritate Madison’s sensitive skin.

We knew she could not wear the matching spiked-heeled shoes, so we ordered three flats of the same color that sported the signature peony, Brittany’s bridal bouquet flower and the focal design of her gown.

We made special arrangements for doing Madison’s hair and makeup, giving the stylists a short primer on autism while instructing them to keep their efforts simple and flexible.

And then there was the special bouquet. Since each of Brittany’s bridesmaids had a different white-flowered bouquet, we decided to take flowers from each to create a composite one, just for Madison. Holding it, we thought, could help keep her hands settled, redirecting her tendency to hand-flap.

We had extra help, extra meds, extra plans and extra attention to every detail as well as lots of prayers from family and friends, “Please Missy Madison, don’t have an upset.”

But if she did, we had a plan for that, too.

She arrived on time and in a good mood and was dressed and coifed in a surprising flash. We didn’t count on the mirrors, forgetting how happy she could be to just look in the mirror, giggle, and “eeee” at her reflection.

We’d also forgotten the calm that comes when someone brushes her skin (for make-up this time instead of as a therapy brush) or touches her hair.

Suddenly, she was ready. It was time for her to see her sister. I held my breath as she came into the room.

“Madison, give Mommy a kiss,” I said, hoping to ground her with our customary greeting.

Now I needed to orient her to the new situation. This time, I was winging it. How could I have ever prepared her for the scene that was about to unfold when I wasn’t prepared myself?

Brittany was stunning; Madison angelic. But it was the loving care between my daughters that sparkled the most, lighting up the room with a special moment.

Brittany was right—it had to be captured. I gave it my best shot.

“Madison, who is it?” I said pointing to Brittany.

“Burtney,” she said quietly, using her pet name for her sister.

“Go see Brittany, Madison,” I said, gently directing her to the other side of the room.

Brittany greeted her. Then Madison turned around and began to look around at the bridesmaids, the photographer, the mothers, and other friends—15 of us seemed to distract her as the photographer tried to get a good angle.

Madison started to look uneasy, a little overwhelmed.

Then Britty handed her the special bouquet.

“Madison,” she said, “What is it?”

Madison looked at Brittany and then down at the bouquet. She took her finger and gently touched a petal, and said, “It’s a flower!” in her best Barney-the-purple-dinosaur voice.

The tension was broken. We all laughed with her and relaxed. The photographer went to work.

The result: one powerful sparkling moment—its images now captured forever.

Indeed, one idea that was worth every ounce of effort and the small army it took to achieve it.

My deepest gratitude to “the army:” Pat, Becca, Cindy, Brittany, Rachel, Rennie, Renee, Beth, Mary, Lydia, Janice, Laura, Jill, Paige, Lauren, Andrea, Ashley, Sue, Amanda, Joivette, Modesta, Elizabeth, Monica, Sharon, Jennifer, Krissy, Sherise, Cathy, and the kind folks at Nordstrom and