And…Here Comes the Bride!

But backing up just a bit…

A wedding aboard the SS Jeremiah O’Brien, a US Liberty Ship docked by Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, is the stuff of dreams. Planning and executing such an event is a joyous nightmare!

When I offer to come to San Francisco for two months to help Jenny and Kennen prepare, I have no idea what that means, but am elated when they agree. I float on a bubble of happy anticipation as I comb Craigslist for a place to stay. Lodging secured, I pack, say goodbye to Minnesota, and the adventure begins.


SS Jeremiah O’Brien, US Liberty Ship from World War II

My first assignment after settling in is a visit to the site with Jenny to assess décor possibilities.

The massive, gray ship docked near Fisherman’s Wharf basks like a giant whale in the Bay. It houses a maritime museum but is otherwise very much the same as it was during its working life. A narrow gangway leads from the pier to the deck. The stairs shake and lurch as we begin our ascent. Far below the churning sea is visible in the spaces between the treads. My stomach lets me know how unhappy it is to be put to this test so early in the game.


Location of ceremony and dance

Once on deck, Jenny takes the lead pointing out a raised platform where the ceremony and dancing will take place.  The Bay unfolds before us, and the city skyline is jagged on the horizon behind. There isn’t much I’ll need to do to improve upon the setting. We take some measurements and photos, then head downstairs to the dining room.

The ship’s galley has all the ambiance of a Legion Hall. I begin mouthing Hail Mary’s while hyperventilating. Breathe, Sherry, breathe. It’s great advice, but the space isn’t speaking to me. Actually, that’s not true. The room is sticking it’s tongue out and laughing in my face! Every self-doubt I’ve ever had rises up to taunt me. “I have two months!” is the only consoling thought I can muster, while wondering if two years would be enough.


Ship’s galley where dinner will be served

I’ve always admired designers who can step into a space and, with wild gestures, eyes glazed, seeing what isn’t there, wax eloquent as they announce ‘the vision.’ My eyes glaze, but it’s not with a vision.

Days pass, but finally an idea whispers to me. That’s all I need, just one thread of possibility to hook into. Then a torrent of  inspiration pours forth. I’ve been given a budget. I scour Berkeley on foot for items that will give form to the intangible images in my head. When I’m not roaming the streets, I search online, sourcing tulle, lights, and ribbon, in quantities that make my heart fibrillate. I run through the plan with Jenny and Kennen and get the green light. All systems go. Gulp.

The following weeks are a blur of Ted Talks. Assembly line workers possess a high tolerance for repetition and monotony. My vision for adorning the space requires hours of tedious crafting.  I’m not fond of crafts, but I’m hopelessly fond of my youngest daughter. So, tuned in to Ted, I while away the hours making centerpieces.



The bouquets come together at the rate of about one every four hours. Two a day is my limit, and some days I only manage one. But they’re finally complete and it’s time to begin the chair back decor. I make a sketch for approval before beginning the second mind-numbing craft. By this time, Ted nauseates me. I graduate to Dr. Who. It takes 42 episodes to complete 87 ribbon swags. Thank you, Dr. Who.

P1040553Saint Melody, my landlady, notices my deteriorating condition and calls in the troops. A group of her friends gather to assist, and fingers fly. The lone male in attendance keeps us hydrated with green apple martinis. Bless him! When they leave the last project is under control. I have two days to spare.

It feels like I’ve been handed a get-out-of-jail-free card! Those two days are spacious and free, but my nights are filled with stressful dreams. The pieces are ready but the puzzle isn’t assembled. That has to happen in the four-hour window of time we’ve been granted access to the ship the day before the wedding.

While I’m behind the scenes doing my thing, Jenny and Kennen are multi-tasking robots. They interview caterers, party outfitters, DJ’s, photographers, liquor suppliers, day-of wedding managers, clean-up crews, and interface with the ship event coordinator. They taste-test food and create signature drinks. A week before the wedding, Jenny flies to New York for a four-day business trip. Kennen finalizes the flow-chart that will ensure everything gets done, creates a seating chart for guests, and that’s just the bit I am privy to. I’m sure I don’t know the half of it. My respect for their teamwork and the ability to keep it all together without melt-downs is immense.

D-day arrives. Everything is at the ship, waiting for me. I’m terrified.  One by one my help arrives. I outline the plan and I am blown away by the cooperation, focus, and determined energy harnessed for those four hours. They accomplish the impossible. What a team!







Time’s up. We stand back and survey the transformation.  Even the cranky old codgers whose job it is to care for the ship day-to-day, appear dazzled.


I stop holding my breath. That night I sleep like the dead.

The next morning dawns a perfect San Francisco day. The bride is in her suite with her bridesmaids, the hair and makeup artist, the photographer, and me. Breakfast arrives, a delectable array of fruit, quiches, croissants, and coffee.


There’s music and happy chatter as each of us is transformed into our better self.


The photographer is a feisty French woman who is petit in size only. Her personality overlaps the room, filling it with zesty enthusiasm. I lose it when she has Jenny pose by the red wall. Her camera clicks like a machine gun as she whoops, “You’re a stallion! A stallion!” I might have chosen a different word. Goddess seems somehow appropriate. I feel the lump in my throat as emotion wells behind my eyelids.


Then it’s the first look on the mezzanine of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. I’ve never heard of the first look. These past two months have been a crash course in Wedding 101.


After that it’s full bore to show time! We catch the limo bus to the pier for more photos.P1040777 P1040786

I am adamant about the flags even though their viability is questioned at every turn. To my aesthetic, the four fifteen foot white billows  are a necessary counterpart upstairs to the tulle and lights below. Here they form a dramatic backdrop as Jenny gazes, pensive, into the distance. I wonder what she’s thinking in these last moments.P1040787

I catch a kiss, then my camera dies. It’s great timing. I can be present for the rest of the day without the glass eye of the lens between me and the unveiling of a new life. I have no doubts about this partnership. It’s stronger than a ship’s knot. Mr. and Mrs. Kennen Pflughoeft, thank you. I love you.


13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lottie Nevin
    Oct 03, 2013 @ 02:22:37

    My goodness, your daughter is beautiful, a Goddess indeed! but so are you, dear Sherry. You transformed that ship into something quite magical! I had my heart in my mouth when I first saw the pictures, I thought ‘OH NO! how the hell is she going to turn this around!’ But YOU DID! What you did was incredible, and what a stunning venue it turned out to be. I hope you all had a wonderfully happy day xx



    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Oct 03, 2013 @ 07:45:08

      It’s hard to express all the emotions that ran their course that day. All were positive, yet all different, joyous, blessed, grateful, hopeful, proud, to name a few. The venue couldn’t have been more thrilling. Even the ceremony was delightful.



  2. Diane Struble
    Oct 03, 2013 @ 05:37:22

    I am quite sure that no one outisde of Hollywood’s elite designers could have accomplished this transformation other than you. Congratulations, Sherry. Simply spectacular. And the bride and groom did an amazing job, it appears, on getting everything else done. A great way to start life together as permanent partners. My best to them.



  3. Susan Langlee
    Oct 03, 2013 @ 10:27:17

    Way to go, Mom! What a spectacular day you helped to orchestrate! I have so enjoyed following this blog/wedding saga. Hard to believe this was the same girl who babysat our boys, who were so taken by her tongue piercing!

    What are you going to do with all your spare time now?





    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Oct 03, 2013 @ 17:23:00

      It’s funny that you bring up the tongue! That was a topic of conversation in the bridal suite as everyone was being spit-polished for the day! Her maid of honor reminded her of that ‘phase’ and they had a good laugh. Jenny has always been her own person. Spare time may be a thing of the past. Joy and Kellen announced their engagement yesterday! So stay tuned…!



  4. Barb Garland
    Oct 03, 2013 @ 11:04:49

    I am always amazed by the creativity of you and your daughters, simply a lovely gift to all of us. xoxo



    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Oct 03, 2013 @ 17:28:39

      Thanks Barbara. Having Jenny and Kennen here in Bali with me for 10 days is a lovely gift to me. They are thrilled with this place and the people. Made Mangku is taking good care of them! They’re seeing everything and they have the youth and energy to do it all!



  5. sageblessings
    Oct 03, 2013 @ 11:44:37

    I can’t imagine all the feelings that you experienced and likely still are. Congratulations to you for your finished product. (Now, am I referring to your daughter or the wedding space?) I would say “all” and the space is likely the only thing not still in process. Beautiful beautiful!



    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Oct 03, 2013 @ 17:32:28

      I think I’m still flying high because Jenny and Kennen are here, sharing their honeymoon with me. It’s incredibly joyful to see them falling in love with the place and the people. As you know only too well, Bali defies description. You have to come and be with the island to understand its magic and power. Now they ‘get it!’



  6. Judi Pflughoeft
    Oct 05, 2013 @ 18:34:30

    Thank you Carol for sharing Sherry’s words. Sherry – Thank you for sharing your experience -and congratulations! You absolutely succeeded in providing a beautiful and romantic ambiance. This wedding has hands down been the most unique and enjoyable wedding we have ever been to. Stunning is the word of the day. Jenny is absolutely stunning. The decorations were stunning. The view was stunning. Perfection. ♡♥♡♥♡♥



  7. Gabriel Backlund
    Oct 09, 2013 @ 09:51:04

    Brilliant – absolutely brilliant! 🙂



    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Oct 11, 2013 @ 04:40:35

      Coming from you, actually, coming from anybody, brilliant is high praise! But coming from you it’s extra special. The decor came together, but I pulled much of my inspiration from the many pictures I’ve seen of your lovely creations. I had a full memory bank to draw upon.



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