It can seem ironic only in retrospect that the plans for my wedding lasted as long as the marriage itself—14 months. The night before the ceremony in August 1995, I did not know the fate of the second 14 months, but I knew the dread and tension that had crept upon me during the first, a tightness in the chest and frequency of heartburn that I thought must be the result of so much planning. Shannon Holmes, the woman who was soon to be my bride, had wanted a small wedding at first. However, with a great deal of infernal prodding from her mother over the months, Shannon came to crave a celebration of massive elaboration and ornacity, one of such lavishitude and flamboyishness that it would inspire gossip for years to come. Though hesitant at first, I supported her dream. Because I wanted to be a doting husband, it seemed like a good idea at the time. But as my writing notebooks have taught me, when I revisit my good-at-the-time ideas a few months after first forming them, some of my nuggests of inspiration turn out to be kernels of misfortune.