Next thing on our to-do list was to hire a wedding planner. So, we drove, in a spraying rain, 30 miles south to Springfield to interview a brand-new one named Rhonda. Her fledlging business was called Calligraphy and Caterpillars, her website featured a lot of pink and swirly fonts, and her rates were so cheap we wondered if we could actually expect Rhonda to do anything?
Even before meeting Rhonda, Anna and I were already at something of an impasse. Anna’s notions of the big day, which I suspected were really Anna’s mom’s notions, suggested we must have a wedding planner. But, we’d already crossed-off all the other wedding planners in the Pioneer Valley for being too expensive or already booked. Rhonda was last on our list. The problem was that our meeting had forced us to go on considering nothing.
We met Rhonda at Starbucks. I was surprised by how she did and did not fit my mental expectation that she’d look like the infamous figure skater Tanya Harding. Rhonda’s hair was similarly blonde, but she was soft where Harding was hard. She was pleasant-looking, approachable, abundant. Through most of our meeting she chewed her purple fingernails.
“The idea with Calligraphy and Caterpillars,” Rhonda said between swigs of her decaf latte, “is that it’s your wedding and I can do totally whatever you want.”
Through our meeting Rhonda offered few ideas but was open to anything. Her enthusiasm for wedding planning, she confided, was because she hated her day job as a para-legal. Her purple eyeliner was smudged by rain. She’d gone whole-hog into wedding planning when last fall she was married for a third time. To tell us this embarrassed her. She laughed and added, “The first one though, I was so young it could hardly count.” Then, she laughed some more. Then, she straightened up, placed a fingernail to her teeth and polished it off.
Rhonda told us the main thing she wanted to do was not pitch herself as someone who would help plan our wedding, per say, but simply to get a feel for us, because it wasn’t her big day, it was our big day, and the whole thing, ceremony and reception, before and after, could be totally whatever we wanted. She clarified by repeating herself. She wanted to understand our couple’s mojo, to sniff at its musk.
She repeated the word “aesthetics” a few times as if emphasizing a wedding planner talking point, as if the advice she’d read on becoming a wedding planner had conveyed the importance of saying the word. By about the tenth time she said it, it occurred to me Rhonda could be a wonderful con-artist. But, I also knew she wasn’t. The human condition could barely permit a con as good as Rhonda’s would be if it were one. For Rhonda to be a con-artist, the world would have to be a completely different place than anyone figured.
In about 45 minutes we had a better feel for each other, which brought us to a difficult make-or-break moment. Anna and I stewed over what to do next. Should we hire Rhonda on the spot? Should we wait a few days? Was one of us thinking one thing and the other thinking something different?
We said we’d be in touch. We looked across at Rhonda, who had become increasingly silent as we had entered this last phase of getting a feel for each other. If I had to guess, if the feel I had gotten for Rhonda was accurate, then it was apparent Rhonda was beginning to equate the outcome of our meeting with a reflection on herself in her new life as a wedding planner. With that in mind, it started actually to seem incumbent on us to sign-on with Calligraphy and Caterpillars. Maybe this was the con…
Again, Anna said we’d be in touch; said it more soothingly this time.
We got up to leave, the three of us, at which point Rhonda took what turned out to be the wrong path around the small table where we’d been sitting. This misstep set her course through a coffee consumer’s labyrinth. It meant she had also to walk around a large display full of travel mugs and instant brew. While Anna and I hedged toward the main corridor, a move that required us to retreat briefly before advancing, Rhonda sorted herself more or less as the crow flies, between and nearly through the other customers, big hip around big hip, her round body in a sea of round tables.
When she reached the door she stood and visibly considered her options. She could wait for us where we were stuck sort-of gawking at her, or she could leave immediately. She could attempt a final deal-sealing farewell, or she could disappear. Either would’ve been fine. She lingered. She seemed to move in each direction.
Anna and I caught up and shook her hand again, felt at once bad to have maybe caused her awkwardness, realized that in causing it we were witnessing why we maybe shouldn’t hire Rhonda.
Outside, still raining.
As we stepped out, Rhonda pulled a bright purple folder from her shoulder bag and held it out to Anna. She said she nearly forgot, and whether we hired her or didn’t, she wanted Anna to have the information. In the moment it took Anna to accept the folder, it was already covered in darker purple splotches. Rhonda turned again to say she’d made sure to choose a purple folder because Anna had mentioned over the phone that purple was one of our wedding colors. In the car, when Anna opened it, we found it was meticulously highlighted, with a small key for understanding the strategy of highlighting deployed, along with handwritten marginalia in swooping pen strokes that approximated her website’s calligraphy.
Even though her references would all three say “Rhonda? Is a wedding planner?” the next day when I contacted them, what else could we do but call her that same afternoon and hire her?