I’d wanted a small, backyard wedding. My vision included a tent and chairs set up in the green, rolling backyard of my soon-to-be-in-laws’ home, and a simple potluck supper.
As an agnostic, I preferred a non-religious officiant, and as an introvert, I wanted just close friends and family to be there to celebrate.
But as a 21-year-old who wasn’t great at digging in my heels, I conceded to thing after thing to please family, soon finding myself planning a $20,000+ wedding at a rented venue (luckily, it was at least outdoors) with full catering, an open bar, and a guest list topping 200 people.
My fiancé and I would be paying for the majority of the wedding ourselves, making it imperative to cut down expenses.
To save money wherever possible, I started crafting and making decorations at a frenzied pace. I found some little cherub garden statues that I crackle-painted for centerpieces (it was the early 2000s and I was a gothy chick – don’t judge!) I strung tiny red and white crystal beads to braid into my waist-length black hair (yep, super gothy!) And I designed wedding programs myself to print on thick, matte-finish card stock.
Just two days before the wedding, I was alone at my fiancé’s parents’ house putting the finishing touches on the program design and using their fancy color laser printer.
My mother-in-law had a heavy-duty paper cutter I was going to use to trim the programs to size. I had a huge list of wedding chores to do that day — run to the seamstress to pick up my dress, finalize the seating charts, grab 20 disposable cameras so guests could take reception photos.
I was getting frustrated that the card stock was taking so long to cut one by one, so I slipped three sheets onto the cutter and pressed down. Nope. The blade wasn’t sharp enough to slice through. With greater force I slammed the blade down through the programs. Ah ha! That did the trick.
I slid three more sheets in and slammed the blade down again. Something was wrong, but I wasn’t sure what. The blade felt like it had gone through but gotten stuck. I looked closer and felt my whole body go numb.
My left thumb, sticking too far out as my hand steadied the programs, was sliced through the center of the nail at a diagonal and blood was beginning to well up and spread out over the white paper.
I still couldn’t feel any pain, but I knew I’d probably pass out if I didn’t take care of things right away.
With barely any thought, I pushed the end of my thumb back in place with my right hand and walked to the kitchen. I grabbed a paper towel and wrapped it tightly around my thumb to keep the severed piece in place, then with the other hand I poured myself a glass of orange juice.
Somehow in my shocked brain I knew I needed to get some sugar and fluid in myself to stay conscious. The next few hours were a blur of 911 operator, ambulance, emergency room, Novocaine shots and stitches.
Turns out I had sliced completely through the bone, leaving only a small margin of muscle and skin to keep my thumb tip from falling off completely. But the doctors managed to save it!
My wedding day was accompanied by pain killers and a giant white bandage that everyone joked made me look like Fred Flintston after hitting himself with a hammer, but I hid that behind my dress for photos, and the day went on to be lovely despite the thumb.
The marriage, however, didn’t last. We were divorced just 5 short years later, and in fact I was still paying off wedding debt after we were no longer married — but my thumb is still going strong.
I was warned there was a chance it would turn black and fall off, but other than a barely visible scar that hurts when I accidentally whack it and a ridge on my thumbnail, I came through the experience unscathed.
If I learned anything, it was that I should have stayed true to my original wedding plans. I’d have never chopped off my thumb if we’d just had a potluck in the backyard.