Bridezilla Campout: A night spent sleeping on city property for the perfect wedding venue
The bridezillas were peaceful at first. So were the groomzillas, the maids-of-honor, the moms, the grandmas and, in at least one case, a man who volunteered to sleep outside the behemoth Wellington Webb municipal building so his mother's hairdresser could get the wedding date of her dreams. But it didn't stay peaceful forever.
Not in an Occupy Denver sort of way, mind you. Instead of pepper spray and cops in riot gear, there were exaggerated eye rolls and city employees with clipboards. And no tents. (Although there was one inflatable mattress.)
But let's start at the beginning. Full disclosure: I was one of those bridezillas freezing her 'zilla off for a chance at a cheap wedding venue. The city has two choice ones: the City Park Pavilion and the Washington Park Boathouse. Both are way less expensive than your average hotel ballroom and you can bring your own food and booze, which is good news for your wallet and bad news for your friend who likes to bake and owes you a favor.
There's one catch, however. The city operates on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 7 a.m. on a very specific date: today. So if you want to get married on a Saturday in June, July, August or September, you better be willing to line up the night before.
My fiancé and I arrived at the Webb building at 8 p.m. last night. We thought we'd be wicked early; the city's facilities coordinator, a very nice man who is undoubtedly having a very stressful day, had told us to get there by 3 a.m. to be safe. We decided to overachieve, however -- and it turns out we weren't the only ones. By the time we arrived, bundled in hats and mittens and toting camp chairs, there were sixteen people ahead of us.
The gathering, which for our purposes we're calling Bridezilla Campout 2011, had the friendly, we're-all-in-this-together feeling of an office picnic or a disaster that's not that disastrous. No one really wanted to be there, but we had to be, so we decided to make the best of it. Someone brought around a bowl of Halloween candy. Someone else busted out a portable game of cornhole. There was pizza-ordering, chit-chat and coffee-sharing.
Upon taking our place in line, we were approached by Stephen Partridge, an outgoing fellow who had officially designated himself the unofficial date-taker. Each time a new party arrived, he opened his red Moleskine notebook and took down their venue and date. That way, he could tell each newcomer whether someone ahead of them was planning to book that same combination -- a task that was born of his own curiosity.
Early on in the long, long night.
"I wanted to know where I stood," he said. (He was thirteenth in line.) "To stand here for fourteen hours and not know if I was going to get my date was going to drive me crazy."
September 8 seemed to be the most-wanted date. Unfortunately, it had been claimed by the second person in line, a man named Ted Shannon who'd arrived at 3:30 p.m. with a sleeping bag, an iPad and a sandwich. He was one of the few loners in the crowd; his fiancée was home, tucking his son -- a pint-sized Optimus Prime who was forced to surrender some of his trick-or-treating candy to "the Halloween ghost," a.k.a Shannon -- into bed.
"My friends think I'm nuts for sitting out all night," he said.
"But my really good friends are like, 'Yeah! Get it, Ted!'"