A few years ago, two remarried people in the middle of their lives, neither having lasted as long as 10 years in a happy marriage before, decided to celebrate their aluminum anniversary with a vow renewal ceremony in Mexico.
The ‘groom’ was beaming on the beach, the ocean breeze licking at his sandy linen pants. The ‘bride’ wore white, and carried a bouquet of orange and fuchsia roses.
A regal-looking man blessed the couple as they stood surrounded by their adult children, promising to continue loving each other for many years more.
It was brief, it was intimate, and up until the moment the event itself began, it had been an absolute and complicated nightmare to plan. From confusion regarding package inclusions to the storm that threatened to ruin everything, little things went wrong everywhere.
I would know. That couple was my parents. I was there - one of the six people present on the beach that day - breathing a sigh of relief that the vow renewal fiasco was finally over.
But there was one other person there who was not part of the family, not quite part of the ceremony, but a calming presence, who managed to continue smiling throughout the event. Up until a week ago, she and my mother had never met but they had been communicating for months leading up to The Big Day. Her name was Lizette, and she was the resort’s event coordinator.
Although my parents’ romantic occasion wasn’t the only one taking place that day, as far as Lizette would have us know, ours was the only one that mattered.
Looking back, this woman did not get to acquaint herself with the best version of my family that week. My mother, normally a very sweet woman, had gone insane with wedding fever - keep in mind, this wasn’t even a wedding. She had become obsessed with the need for everything to be perfect, and it was making her unbearable. My siblings (ok, and I) weren’t helping, being difficult in the selfish and oblivious way only adult children can.
Lizette had to deal with every problem that came our way, and she did deal - with a patient sort of pleasantry that only comes from doing this kind of thing day in and day out. Nothing fazed her, and nothing was too big or too small for her to handle.
With Valentines Day around the corner and my inbox filling up with romantic getaway packages and menus and deals, I found myself thinking of Lizette this week.
She couldn’t know what it meant to my mother, being able to celebrate with her husband and kids the momentous anniversary of a successfully blended family. She couldn’t know how important it was to all of us for the day to turn out as well as it did. But she didn’t really need to know. To her, it was just another day at work. It was her job to act as though seeing to our family’s every whim and concern was an absolute pleasure. And she did it well, with a smile, before heading off to oversee the next romantic (infinitely important) event.
And the next one, and the next one.
My parents’ vow renewal is remembered as a fond (no, really) memory. But heaven knows how many of these events Lizette - and countless romantic event professionals just like her - have had to suffer though. Imagine not having an emotional investment in something as important as a marriage, but having to clock in every morning and empathize with the people that do. I don’t know that I could do it. Just thinking about February 14th gives me a toothache, but for people like Lizette, it’s the biggest day of their entire year.
So tomorrow, whether you’re sharing various chocolate-covered delicacies with the partner of your choice, or (in my case) slumming it at home with ramen, Netflix and your cats, be sure to take a moment and think about the real-life cupids of the world.
You know the ones. Maybe you're even one of them.
They’re the members of the romantic travel industry. The ones who really know romance. The champions of candlelit, beachside, sunset-view dinners. The flower bringers. The people who personally pick all the cilantro out of your ceviche-for-two because your date can’t stand the taste of it.
They’re the tour operators who design that perfect getaway package. The ones who find you the best gondola ride/couples cooking class/hotel room with a view in the city.
They’re the travel agents who make sure you have the honeymoon suite, and don’t get annoyed when you confirm for the third time (well, not to your face). Instead, they get you upgraded to an ocean view, and have champagne ready in the room when you arrive.
They’re the event coordinators who promise your proposal will be perfect - and make sure you never know that the ring was originally placed in the wrong couple’s chocolate dessert.
They’re the maids who put that congratulations banner on your hotel room door, and fold your towels in the shape of swans.
They’re the resort workers, up at 4 a.m. to sprinkle (and then re-sprinkle) rose petals around the location of your outdoor wedding/vow renewal/proposal/romantic brunch that just had to take place at sunrise.
They’re the romance-makers. The private sunset bubble bath massage bookers.
They care as much as you do about whether the rain will affect your evening garden picnic for two, and they don’t mind holding umbrellas over your heads to keep you dry while you eat.
So here’s to the lovemakers, those romantic travel professionals standing by in the background of your perfect evening, making sure everything goes smoothly, and doing a great job with that silly little thing called love.