Story of Trip 1
Home Up Story of Trip 2


The Story of
Rick and Marla's Wedding

Chapter One - Courtship


Introduction - Story written by Rick Archer

On Sunday, September 26, 2004, I had the pleasure of marrying Marla aboard the Rhapsody.  However, as my lovely bride put it afterwards, the crazy things that happened definitely made this an "Oops Wedding". 

As the pictures show, the good news, is that Marla and I did manage to get married that day.  However, it wasn't easy.  You simply cannot begin to imagine all the things that went wrong until you read this story. 

August 2001 - Marla and Rick Meet

Did you know that Marla and Rick actually connected on an SSQQ Cruise?  It's true.

Back in August 2001, I organized a cruise trip that took 101 passengers aboard the Carnival Celebration. 

Marla was one of 101 passengers with the SSQQ Cruise group.  Although I barely knew Marla, I had been tracking her for several months.  Marla had been in several of my dance classes.  Through observation, I could see she was smart, pretty, and had a quick wit. I also noticed she had a smart mouth, but then so did I.  We often teased each other in class.

That effortless teasing was an indication to me that we had a rapport.  I thought that she was interested in me.  However, every time I probed to see if my instincts were correct, I hit a brick wall. 

It seems Marla had a long-time boyfriend outside the studio. She said they had been going together for six years.  I never met the guy for a simple reason - he never came to the studio.  That fact reinforced my hunch that this relationship was shaky.   I was simultaneously annoyed and intrigued.  Marla was always talking double, but acting single.  Was she available or wasn't she?

Although I organized and promoted the 2001 Cruise, I let a travel agency handle the bookings.  One day in April 2001, I almost fell off my chair when the travel agent said someone named 'Marla Gorzynski' had signed up for the cruise by herself.  I must have asked that travel agent six times.... 'are you sure she signed up alone?' 

Since then, my curiosity had grown accordingly.  Why would Marla go on a dance cruise by herself?  I continued to watch her from a respectful distance with the assumption that I would find the time to talk to her on the cruise.

But then life is never easy, is it?  Two weeks before the cruise, Marla called me on the phone.  Was I available to give her and her boyfriend a private dance lesson in Salsa?   I was crushed.  That sucked all the oxygen out of my body. 

Despite my dismay, I finally collected myself enough to ask a couple of questions.  Marla explained she was going with her boyfriend to Miami the weekend before our upcoming cruise.  She wanted to go Salsa dancing in Miami and he had agreed to the lesson.

That didn't sound like a dead relationship to me.  Not only was the man completely in the picture, I could tell from her voice that she had no idea I was interested in her.  On the one hand I was glad that my probing had been surgical enough to avoid showing my hand, but that was small consolation for feeling spurned.... by someone who didn't even know I was interested.

Heart-broken, I referred Marla to another instructor.  I had no intention of getting my feelings hurt even more than they already were.  I guess I had been wrong all along.  The heart is a lonely hunter.  Sometimes we see hope where there is none.

My Bad Mood

After the phone call, I wrestled with the bad news about Marla's boyfriend.  I was surprised at just how disappointed I was.  I had not realized my crush had grown this deep.

For the past eight months, I had been in a pretty dark mood.  I was fighting depression and anger from a failed ten-year marriage.

On Christmas Eve 2000, my wife had walked out the door in the middle of an argument.  An hour later she returned and said she wanted a divorce.  And what was this argument about?  Earlier in the day, my wife had asked me to reset the lock on the studio door, but I hadn't heard her.  We had just gotten a phone call at home that the studio door was unlocked.  Now one of us would have to drive over and lock it.  That started the blame game.

At first glance, this incident doesn't seem serious enough to cause a divorce, but I suppose it was a case of the straw that broke the camel's back.  To be honest, I did not see this moment coming.  Nevertheless, I quickly agreed to the divorce.  I had only been sticking around because I felt obligated to keep my marital vows.  Now that my wife had opened this door, I wasn't going to hesitate.  Five months later, our divorce was final.

In the meantime, I had developed a scorched earth attitude.  I would date if I felt like it, but I would never get serious again. I was pretty sure about that. Considering this was my second failed marriage, maybe I should read the writing on the wall.  Obviously I wasn't very good husband material, so why even bother trying?

Strangers in the Night

On the first night of the August Cruise, I read in the ship's schedule of activities that there was a "Singles Dance" in the Disco.  For lack of anything better to do, I decided to go.  Unbeknownst to me, Marla's roommate Sherry had seen the same notice and wanted to go as well.  Sherry begged Marla to go along with her for company.

At midnight, I showed up for the “Singles Dance” in the Disco.  I stopped in the doorway to scan for people I knew.  To my surprise, in the other entrance across the room, there was Marla.  It looked to me like she had taken one look at the place and was ready to turn around.

My eyes lit up.  This was my chance.  Maybe there was hope after all.

The moment I realized Marla was beginning to edge away, I acted swiftly.  I moved directly across the room to ask her to dance.  I won't say I sprinted, but I didn't waste any time either. 

Marla smiled when she saw me.  To my delight, she accepted my offer to dance.  However, before we danced, Marla had a favor to ask.  Would I mind keeping her room key for her?  She didn't have a purse or a pocket, so she
asked me to put it in my pocket instead

I smiled and said sure.  Although I realized the gesture had no deeper meaning, at least she trusted me.  That was a good start. 

On the other hand, you might say that giving me that key did have some very powerful symbolism.  I never had to bother giving her back that key.  That was the night we fell in love.

Marla and I
have never been apart since. 

After dancing for a while, I asked if I could buy her a margarita.  She smiled and said sure.  At the bar in the Disco, we talked for a quite a while. 

Marla's roommate Sherry came over to check on us.  I danced with Sherry for one song, but I could barely wait to make a beeline back to Marla.  Thank goodness she was waiting for me patiently.

Unbeknownst to me, Marla was enjoying our conversation, but at the same time she felt guilty about monopolizing my attention since she knew I belonged to "The Group".  Marla is used to putting other people's needs ahead of her own.  However, Marla had decided it was her turn.  After all, she had learned something two very interesting things about me. 

One, she discovered she was enjoying talking to me.

Two, for the first time, she had learned that I was single.  This was news to her.  She thought I was married.  Tonight Marla was seeing me in a completely different way. 

When I returned to Marla, I asked her to dance again. 

After we danced, it was time for our second round of conversation.  This time I was ready to get down to business.  And what do you suppose we talked about?  Take a guess.

We talked about Marla's boyfriend.  I had been speculating about him for six months.  It was time to figure out why my instincts had been so strong about Marla even though she never gave me the slightest encouragement. 

I was not at all surprised to discover the relationship was on the rocks.  Marla admitted she had been going through the motions for a long time.  I simply nodded as I listened, but inside waves of relief came over me.   

After a while, the Disco began to clear out and her roommate had gone off somewhere.  I asked Marla if she wanted another margarita.  She nodded yes.  When we received our drinks, I asked her if we could go out on the deck where it would be easier to talk. 

Marla smiled and said yes.  So we took our margaritas and found two lounge chairs to sit in.  It was about 2 am. 

Let me tell you something.  Moonlight and Margaritas are a strong recipe for romance.  However, when you throw in a distant hurricane, now you have a really potent mix.

There was indeed a hurricane in the distance.  The ship was far enough away to avoid any danger, but the storm was close enough to create a strong ocean breeze.  The waves were high and we could hear them splashing against the ship.  Up in the sky we could see ominous storm clouds.  Thanks to the powerful breeze, they moved swiftly across the sky, allowing the moon to dart in and out of the clouds.  That distant storm added a marvelous intensity to the evening.  All night long we watched the moon play hide and seek.  There was magic in the air.  Be it the South Pacific or the Caribbean, this was definitely some enchanted evening.

Marla and I literally talked about everything under the stars till sunrise.  This was the night we
fell in love.  We have never been apart since.

Getting Married Aboard the Rhapsody

Marla and I took a slow but steady path to the altar.  We spent the first year in our separate homes, but we were practically never apart.  In September 2002, one year after we met, Marla and I moved in together.  We got engaged in May 2003.  One month after that, in June 2003, Marla sold her house.  Now it was time to make it official. 

Originally we thought we would get married in Rocky Mountain National Park at the remarkable Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado.  The Stanley Hotel held significance for both of us because it is the place where I first made the decision to ask Marla to marry me.  Unbeknownst to me, at the wishing well, Marla had made the same wish. 

Although I was ridiculously clumsy, two days later I popped the question.  Fortunately I did not need to be eloquent.  I found out we had been thinking the same thing.  It was time.

The Stanley Hotel would have been a great place for a wedding.  This place is so awesome and so creepy.  Did you know the Stanley is the place that gave Stephen King got his idea to write "The Shining"?!   Plus who can resist a wedding with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop?

a scouting trip to the Stanley Hotel one year later in May 2004 showed us just how impractical the idea was.  Uh oh.  Now what? 

Disappointed that the Stanley Hotel idea wasn't going to work, we went back to the drawing board.  It was time to think of another plan.

That’s when we decided to get married on our upcoming September 2004 SSQQ Rhapsody Cruise. What a great idea!   Why didn't we think of that first?  Getting married on a cruise ship seemed like the perfect way to complete the Circle of our relationship. 

However, there was one big problem.  That cruise was just four months down the road!
  We better move fast.  Marla checked with the Cruise Line.  Fortunately, there was space available for a wedding on board.  All we had to do was have our guests come to the ship about four hours before the cruise started. 

We would get married in the afternoon and start our trip immediately after.    

Wedding Day!  September 26, 2004

The lovely Bridesmaids

Marissa is Marla's daughter.  Sam is Rick's daughter
Today they became sisters!

Tom Easley and Mike Fagan, my Best Men.  I was "Best Man"
at their weddings too.  All three of us have something in common -
we each met our lovely wives at the legendary SSQQ wedding factory.

Marla's brother Larry and Neil flew in for the wedding.

My mother Mary and Lynn, my favorite aunt in the world!

As you can see, I passed inspection. 
I liked Marla's brothers from the very moment I met them. 
We had an immediate rapport that has never wavered since.

Getting married on the ship turned out to be
the "perfect touch" for a great wedding!


The Infamous Bachelorette Party

Four months didn't give us a lot of time to put a wedding together.  Everyone flew into action.

Marla’s best friend Mara Rivas quickly suggested a Girl’s Night Out Bachelorette Party for Marla.  Mara is a born hostess.  Putting this party together was right down her alley.

Mara is a lovely woman, very graceful and outgoing.  I like Mara a lot.  I would like Mara even more if she would just do one simple thing: get a new first name!!

Mara Marla.  Mara Marla.  Say them both.  Unfortunately, 'Mara' is easier for me to say.  I have to add an extra flip of the tongue to get that "L" sound in there.  Sometimes when I talk too fast, I slur my words.  I am ashamed to admit that on several occasions I romantically told my fiancée, “I love you so much, Mara!”

Marla tried to be understanding, but I don't blame her for letting it bug her. 

It didn't help any that I am not the only one who gets it wrong!  I can't tell you how many people thought I was marrying 'Mara', not 'Marla'.  Ask Mara sometime how many times she was congratulated at the studio for the "Engagement" by well-meaning people who got Mara and Marla confused.

Truth be told, a good sitcom writer would have a field day writing an episode on the never-ending series of innocent flubs caused by the similarity of the two names.  Fortunately for everyone, both ladies were patient with the tongue-twisting mistakes. 

However, I quickly learned it was not okay for me to make the same mistake over and over again.  Marla made it clear that she held Rick to a much higher standard.  Every time I called Marla "Mara", Marla would smile and say,
“Add the L or go to hell.”  Trust me, that little ditty did the trick.  I learned that was one mistake that would land me in hot water fast.

Marla Gets Drunk

Due to Mara’s exquisite organizational skills, she lined up a veritable army of well-wishers for the evening including Marla’s beautiful 21-year old daughter Marissa.  Are you starting to notice all the names that start with “M”? 

That was the standing joke.  If your name didn’t start with 'M', you were the exception.  Along for the ride that evening was an entire galaxy of ‘M’s: Marlies, Martha, Mara, Marla, Marissa, Marta, Melanie, plus 16 more women whose name started with some other letter. 

After dinner at Mara’s house, this army of hot-blooded women hit La Bare's, home to Houston's hottest male strippers.  Their main objective was to knock Marla for a loop. They succeeded royally.

Marla was hit with one tequila shot after another. Marla resisted for a while, but at some point gave in.  Slam Bam, Marla was drunk as a skunk.  Then came the obligatory lap dance.  Marla cleverly didn't bother to tell me this part of the story until AFTER the wedding. As a result Marla got off easy. 

Frankly, I was jealous.  My own Bachelor Party was a bit tamer - breakfast at 59 Diner with my basketball friends.  No lap dance from the waitress, that I can assure you.

After an hour of drunken excess and titillating lewdness, the girls left the male strip club and headed over to
Wild West with one final objective in mind: get Marla even drunker.

At this point, you might enjoy scanning the pictures.  The pictures at the top feature Marla with a polite smile.  As the evening wore on, Marla is laughing hysterically.  Mara and Company succeeded royally. 

Once they got to Wild West, Marla was startled to see men swarming around her daughter Marissa like mosquitoes in a swamp. Men were everywhere. Forgetting her daughter was old enough to take care of herself, Marla acted like a mother bear and shushed each potential suitor away. “I’m her mother and she’s too young for you!” 

Marissa embarrasses easily anyway, so you can assume she was in constant pain all evening long with her over-protective mother’s antics.

At Wild West, Marla danced, Marla drank, Marla talked, Marla chased men away from her daughter, fielded a few passes directed her way as well, and generally teetered just barely on the edge of losing control completely.  Finally it was time for Designated Driver Marissa to take her mom home and put her to bed.

Fortunately there was time for
one more embarrassment.  As Marissa guided Marla to the car, Marla spotted a policeman eying her suspiciously.  Marla blurted out, “You can’t arrest me, Officer, my daughter’s driving!!”

Noticing the policeman didn’t look at all amused, Marissa hushed her up, “Mom, he can still get you for public intoxication!  Now be quiet and behave!” 

Marissa dropped her mother off around 1 am. Marla immediately came and got me to look at all her presents. I gasped. The entire living room looked like an advertisement for Victoria’s Secret.  I have never seen so much lingerie in my entire life.  

My favorite was the tiger woman outfit (see picture on the right). I immediately suggested to Marla to try it on.  “Nope, too tired, going to bed.”  She was asleep the moment her head hit the pillow.  So much for my Tarzan and Jane fantasy.

When Marla had come that night, she had dropped over a dozen boxes full of lingerie right in the middle of the living room floor.  Although she later stacked them neatly, those boxes stayed in the same spot.  Much to my dismay, Marla never even glanced at them.  Every night as I would walk through the living room, I imagined that one nightgown after another was laughing at me.  Each box would whisper, "Don't you wish Marla would try us on?"  I would frown and walk faster.

For the next four months,
Marla barely had time to eat, much less try on all that exciting lingerieSure enough, on the day of the wedding, it was all still there in the boxes.  For that matter, none of it came with us on the cruise either.  Imagine my disappointment.  

And when we returned from our honeymoon, guess what was the first thing I saw when I came home?  Yup, still there and still laughing at me.  I suppose there are women out there who like to wear lingerie, but my wife is not one of them.  I learned this the hard way.

The Three M's: Mara, Marla, Marlies

Girl's Night Out


More of the Merry Troublemakers

Marta is loading Marla up

Judging by her expression, I would say Marla was long gone before she even
left Mara's house... and she still had La Bares and Wild West on the agenda!


One Damn Problem After Another

Marla and I were excited by our decision to get married on board the ship.  We soon discovered we weren’t the only ones who liked the idea; everyone complimented us on our great idea! 

Unfortunately, we soon discovered the popularity of our decision had inadvertently created a real problem - the ship would only allow us 30 guests!  Ten of those spots would go to our immediate family.  But we had 120 people who wanted to come on the trip!  How do you tactfully explain to 100 guests that they can come on our honeymoon cruise, but they aren't invited to the wedding?  

Marla immediately began to agonize how to deal with the limited invitation list.  This would turn out to be the least of our headaches.  

After the infamous Bachelorette Party, our lives heated up to a blistering pace.  The Girl’s Night Out was probably the only moment of comic relief in the four months leading up to the cruise and the wedding day.  From the point, our story reads like “Alice in Wonderland” for its absurdity.

We had not originally planned on sailing on the Rhapsody in September 2004.  In the previous year, Marla and I had taken 150 people on a July 4th Cruise aboard the Carnival Jubilee.  That was a big trip!  It held the record for most passengers for seven years until the Bahamas 2010 trip broke the barrier.

So naturally when it came time to plan a summer cruise for 2004, Marla and I went with Carnival again.  To our dismay, there was a universal rebellion among the passengers from the year before.  No one was signing up for our 2004 Carnival Cruise. 

As with many embarrassing situations, no one wanted to explain to our faces what the problem was. Marla and I were absolutely perplexed.  150 one year, nobody the next.  What gives?  Finally we figured it out - last year's ship had been the worst ship anyone had ever been on.  After that trip aboard the pathetic Carnival Jubilee the year before, everyone had decided they liked our cruise trips, but not enough to get back on that Carnival ship. 

They didn't care if they had to spend more money.  They wanted to go back to the Royal Caribbean Rhapsody we had sailed on in 2002.  No more crummy ships.

Once it became obvious that our July 4th Cruise scheduled aboard Carnival had no chance of making, there was not enough time to schedule another summer cruise.  So Marla decided to switch gears and book the September Rhapsody Cruise instead.  We were amazed by the instant success of this trip.  Good move.

By May, it quickly
became obvious that this cruise would be extremely successful.  Now at least that problem was solved.

Royal Romance - a Royal Pain in the Butt

After returning from the disappointing May 2004 trip to scout the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, as a potential wedding site, we decided that
a wedding on the cruise trip was exactly what we wanted.   In an odd twist, the bad luck of having the 2004 summer cruise pushed back into September had actually worked in our favor. 

So Marla got in touch with Royal Romance, an affiliate of Royal Caribbean that handles weddings aboard the ship. 

This is when Marla got her first hint that this would not be a smooth ride.  Marla was told that another wedding had already been scheduled aboard the Rhapsody for the same trip!  This group of 80 people would be using the main dance venue aboard the ship known as the “Shall We Dance” Lounge.

We were out of luck.  Marla was sick with disappointment.

I asked Marla why they couldn’t have two weddings the same day.  Heck, it's a big ship.  Why not put us in the Disco?  So Marla asked again and discovered that this was a possibility.  There was one catch. Since the venue was so much smaller, we could only have 30 guests.

30 guests!  Are you kidding me??  We agonized over this.  This meant I had friends on the SSQQ Staff I could not invite.  Marla had girl friends who had stayed with her through thick and thin that she could not invite.  I had many friends among the students at the studio past and present I could not invite. Marla had close friends at her job she could not invite.  We could have easily had a guest list of 100 people.  We could only have one-third that total.

We thought about it for a while and decided we could still make this work.  Since many of our friends were going on the cruise, we decided we could have an intimate (i.e. small) wedding and reception for our relatives and land-based friends early in the day. This would be followed by a larger dance reception later that night for the 120 people on the cruise.

In other words, we would have not one, but two Receptions.  We would explain our dilemma to the people we could not invite and ask them to forgive us.

Besides, this meant our courtship really would come full circle. “Met in the Disco, Married in the Disco”.  Considering how much Disco has meant to my career, it all seemed fitting.  This was actually the deciding factor.  Maybe we could make this work after all. 

So we agreed to the wedding using the smaller venue.  It looked good on paper, but little did we know what we were getting ourselves into. Nothing was easy from here on

Marla’s relationship with the Royal Romance agency was cordial but very frustrating.  Getting the details straight was a painstaking process because no particular person at Royal Romance was assigned to her project.  In other words, no one person was responsible for its “success” and “completion”, no "wedding planner".

Each time Marla called she got any one of six different people.  Whoever answered the phone was now in charge.  Did she get the same answer from each person?  Of course not.  Was anyone bound to honor an agreement made by the previous agent?  Of course not.

And there were more difficulties.  It turned out that Royal Romance is a private firm contracted to handle wedding details.  They had great difficulty coordinating the activities since they in essence were an “outside organization” that had no control over the what the ship would say. 

I don't wish to sound critical, but even the smallest decisions seemed to take forever.... and we only had four months. 
Marla would ask Royal Romance something, then RR would ask someone at the Royal Caribbean (RCCL) office.  The Royal Caribbean office would contact someone on board the Rhapsody.  Rhapsody would get back to RCCL.  RCCL would get back to Royal Romance.  RR would then relay the answer back to Marla.  Three days might pass.  Since the Rhapsody was undergoing some personnel changes at this exact time plus dodging hurricanes, there were days when no one had even filled the post to give an answer!!Ever try to bargain this way?  Glaciers move more quickly.

For example, Marla asked if she could have the flowers at her first reception moved to her second reception. A question of this magnitude took a month to answer.  Finally the word came down.  Yes, Marla could have her flowers at both venues. This incident should paint the picture quickly. 

I rolled my eyes.  I told Marla that sometimes it might be easier to simply not ask permission.  All we had to do was take the flowers and move them ourselves.  Marla preferred to get permission.  It was a Mars-Venus thing that created tension between us.

Another time we learned we were to be charged $600 for a DJ.  We patiently explained we would be bringing our own music aboard.  A week later we were told this meant we would have to pay $300 for a sound technician to set our equipment up.  We said we could set it up ourselves.  They said we had no choice.  We protested again.

After another week of haggling, they finally backed down and let us take care of our own music.  This was a good thing too.  As it turned out, we ended up playing at most 3 songs at the wedding!

Marty and Adele Raber

Neil and Ellen Weinstein

Larry and Rosalind Weinstein


Shall We Dance Lounge

Every time I think of this story, my blood starts to boil again.

Our most serious communication snafu had nothing to do with Royal Romance.  The biggest headache involved the fabled “Shall We Dance Lounge” aboard the Rhapsody. 

This gorgeous room has a beautiful circular dance floor in the very center.  There is a stage in front of the dance floor with seats surrounding it on three sides.  You have two large windows with a panoramic view of the ocean plus beautiful murals of Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers-era dancers on two walls.  Someone with exquisite taste designed this eye-catching Ballroom.  Of course Marla and I wanted our second reception here!

Royal Romance was in charge of the first reception, but they informed Marla they had nothing to do with the second reception.  Marla was told this feature needed to be handled by the Travel Agent coordinating with an RCCL travel representative.

Marla assumed this would not be a problem.  After all, Marla was the not only the bride, she was also the Travel Agent.  This gave her the advantage of dealing directly with an RCCL internal sales representative.  Unfortunately, Marla had trouble finding someone to talk to.

Back when Marla had first set up the group account with Royal Caribbean for this trip, she was supposed to be assigned a Specialist to handle our account.  Unfortunately no one had been assigned to date.  This made things tough since our SSQQ people were signing up quickly.  So Marla had to deal with whoever answered the phone to take the newest registration.  Marla quickly became frustrated because she was new to this and kept getting different answers and different advice.Whatever one agent said, the next agent contradicted.  This was the same problem she had with Royal Romance 

Marla had been bounced through four different agents until one day she got a young man named Courtne Smith on the line (yes, that is how he spells his name).  Courtne seemed bright and he was definitely very willing to help.  Courtne patiently coached her through several areas she was uncertain about.  He also answered her newcomer questions without the sarcasm Marla had experienced with the four previous agents.

Marla was in love.  She had accomplished more in this 30 minute call than she had in three weeks of dealing with the other agents.  On the spur of the moment, Marla suddenly asked Courtne to be her “Specialist”.  Courtne replied, “Sure. I will help you in any way I can.”  Marla let out a huge sigh of relief.  She had made a friend.

Over the next several months, Marla developed a terrific rapport with Courtne Smith.  He went way beyond the call of duty on more than one occasion to help Marla solve various problems as they occurred.  Being a Travel Agent means handling a million details. Courtne was incredibly patient and gentle.  On more than one occasion, it was Courtne’s humor and warmth over the phone that kept Marla from losing her sanity.  Courtne quickly became one of Marla’s heroes as he helped her negotiate the Byzantine corridors of the Travel Industry

Using the rapport Marla had with Courtne, it was a simple matter for Marla to ask him to reserve the “Shall We Dance” Lounge for our second reception.  Courtne contacted the Social Director on the Rhapsody and received permission. In early June, Marla received an email confirmation from Courtne saying our request had been approved.  We were good to go. 

Enter the Bad Guy

They always say the Western doesn't really start until the Bad Guy shows up. 

Enter Karen.

On September 1st, Marla got a phone call from a woman named Karen.  Karen introduced herself as the SSQQ Group Specialist.  Marla thought that was odd since at this point she and Courtne had been working together for over two months and already had most of the work completed. 

Marla was completely grateful to the young man who had been so instrumental in the success of the trip.  Understandably, Marla had no desire to change horses in midstream.  So Marla replied that she already had Courtne as her specialist. 

To her surprise, Karen harshly contradicted her. In a cold voice, she said that Marla was wrong. Karen said "Courtne is just an agent for sales. I am your specialist.”

This made Marla angry.  She answered, “I have been asking for months for who my specialist was.  Since RCCL had not gotten around to assigning one, Courtne was gracious enough to pick up the responsibilities and make the necessary plans.”

Things were getting ugly.  These were two women had not gotten off on the right foot.  Now in no uncertain terms, Karen replied, “Let me repeat. I am your specialist. I will be the one helping you make the arrangements for the group activities. Courtne is responsible for nothing more than booking the passengers. Now, tell me what your group requests are. I show nothing confirmed.”

Nothing was confirmed?  

Did this mean the hours of phone work and emails with Courtne down the drain?  Marla was ready to scream, but held it together as best she could.   

Marla replied, “I have confirmation by email and faxes that confirm our requests have already been approved.  In fact I even have an email showing where I changed the time of our second reception in the Shall We Dance Lounge at the request of the ship to accommodate their schedule.”

“Send me copies of each document.”  In other words, Karen was demanding that Marla prove that she wasn’t lying.  Fuming and ready to kill, Marla did send Karen her copies.

A couple days later Karen emailed Marla to explain that there had been a change in shipboard personnel on the Rhapsody.  There was a new activities director who had made some minor switches.  Yes, there was good news.  The new Rhapsody personnel had indeed confirmed each of our 3 dance classes.  There was only one small change.

The Sunday reception in the “Shall We Dance” Lounge had been moved to the Viking Crown Disco to accommodate a children’s orientation meeting.

Marla went ballistic!  She turned into a fire-breathing Bridezilla monster!  She screamed so loud the roof of our house briefly lifted from its frame.  

Thank goodness this was email.  Had it been the phone, no telling what Marla would have told this idiot.

Marla was so upset she was shaking.  So I got involved. I helped Marla craft a heartfelt response.

“Your suggestion is simply not acceptable. The Viking Crown Disco is not large enough to accommodate 120 dancers.  The use of the Shall We Dance Lounge has already been approved. 

And besides, it is the end of September. Has anyone noticed that school has started?  I imagine the number of children will not be so overwhelming that another venue can’t be found. However there is not one other venue on your entire ship suitable for a group as large as ours.  Besides, it is not just another dance class. We need this venue for our wedding reception!! 

We expect you to honor your previous commitment.”

There was no immediate response. A 1-2-3 punch of hurricanes soon descended upon RCCL headquarters in FloridaCommunication with RCCL stopped for nearly a week while they worked their way out of enormous problems. Hurricane Frances alone was so disruptive in its timing that it is said RCCL lost $15 million over that early September weekend. 

Day after day went by without an answer to our email.  Obviously our problems didn't matter much to them, but back in our home, we were sitting on pins and needles.

Marla pleaded to her friend Courtne to do something.  Courtne said his hands were tied.  Now that Karen was involved, he was no longer able to do a thing.  And, unfortunately Karen insisted in staying involved.  By some coincidence, nothing got accomplished.  Days became a Week.  One week became 10 days.  Marla was going out of her mind.  As of September 12, just two weeks before sailing, we still didn’t have an answer.

Finally Marla lost her patience.  She had waited 10 days without any answer. So she went over Karen’s head and contacted a woman named Barbara to complain about the Shall We Dance Lounge problem.  Barbara was Karen's supervisor.

Marla poured out her soul to Barbara.  This talk magically broke the logjam.   Barbara said she was confident something could be done. Sure enough, one week later, we got the Lounge back. 

There was another curious development as well.  Courtne was promoted to the Specialist level shortly after Marla spoke to Barbara.  Marla soon received a call from Courtne. “Marla, you have permission to call whomever you wish and if I am the person you want to talk to, I have the authority to handle any concern you have.” 

In other words, Courtne was now Marla’s “official” Specialist.  
This was a pretty neat moment for Marla.  Obviously Courtne had received his promotion as the direct result of Marla's conversation with Barbara.  It made Marla feel great to help this young man receive a promotion that he richly deserved.

Sometimes in corporate america, the jerks win over the nice guys.  It felt good to see one of the nice guys win for a change.  I am sure our anger with Karen’s intransigence had put Courtne in several awkward spots, but rather than withdraw, he continued to help us the whole time.  He was right there till the very end. 

For example, when my friend George Grega had to drop off the trip just days before departure due to work problems, we had already passed our deadline for finding a replacement. Courtne extended our deadline, which allowed us to add a new passenger at the very last minute. Courtne’s patience saved us $500 in penalties and saved George all his money

Marla and Courtne made quite a team!  It was never easy, but their diligence paid off in the end.Thanks to Courtne, our Wedding Day did actually become a success.  Marla and I knew exactly who deserved the credit.  We were both very grateful. 

Marla had to go to war to secure the
Shall We Dance Lounge
for our second Wedding Reception

This facility was able to handle 120 dancers without a problem

Bill Shaw and Sharon Crawford.
Bill and Sharon were married one year later

Gay and MG Anseman

Margaret and Tom Easley

George Grega, George Sargent, and Paul Foltyn

Gary and Betty Richardson


The Pre-nup from Hell

Once the Shall We Dance Lounge hurdle was crossed a mere 10 days before sailing, Marla and I breathed a huge sigh of relief.  For some reason, we figured the coast was clear. Boy, were we wrong!

Part of the problem was that Marla’s nerves were shot.  A worrier by nature, the four-month struggle of planning a complicated wedding, remodeling the house for her relatives flying in for the wedding, doing her day-time job as a gift representative, plus handling all the details as the cruise travel agent had taken its toll.  Marla was beat.

Then came the 48-page prenuptial wedding agreement from hell.  Marla did not see the humor in this at all. In fact, she was downright angry.  I didn't blame her.  What a mess!

Marla and I had talked this over ahead of time. There were only two things that Marla and I wanted in writing.  These points were simple - we wanted our pre-marriage assets to stay our own and we wanted the freedom to spend our salaries and our pre-marriage assets as we pleased to put our daughters through college. As far as I was concerned, two or three pages would have been sufficient to accomplish this.

It didn't make me feel very good that this 48 page insult to Marla was largely my fault.  I opened the door when my
lawyer said there were several clauses that she thought should be added. I told her to use her judgment and add whatever she thought was necessary.

I have no doubt my lawyer felt she was doing her job to the best of her ability, but quite frankly I was stunned to see a 48 page document!  Even worse, I soon discovered I could not even understand what it said.  This document was so long and so complex in its wording that Marla couldn't understand it either.  She had no choice but to hire another attorney just to decipher the damn thing.  This prenuptial agreement infuriated her no end.

Furthermore, my own lawyer added excruciating stress by arguing with me when I asked that many of the clauses be deleted.  Right up to the final moment I remained so confused by the document that ultimately I was glad we had a second attorney.  I counted on Marla’s attorney to reassure me what was written was fair to all parties.  Wouldn’t it be nice if lawyers were forced to write their documents in ‘English’ instead of ‘Lawyer’?

Previous to the Pre-nup confusion, Marla had already been battle shocked.  I was a little stronger than her, but still very tense from the always-difficult task of writing my studio’s Newsletters and running the business right up to the time of the wedding and cruise

The added burden of listening to Marla's complaints about this stupid pre-nup, my inability to decipher what any of it meant, and my own lawyer's stubbornness made me want to tear out my hair.  It took 30 days of back and forth arguing with my own attorney over this document to make even barely acceptable to MarlaMarla made her point loud and clear that if she didn't love me, she would never have signed this document. 

Now as we signed the document just four days before the wedding, I joined Marla at the breaking point.  We were both barely-functioning loony tunes.

Carl and Margaux Mann

Joe Lachner and Patty Harrison


The Gods Decide to Smile

It was about this time that we actually caught a break. Actually we didn’t just catch a little break, we got unbelievably lucky!

We finished signing that disgusting pre-nup at
the law office on Wednesday, September 22, at 3:30 pm.  As we got in the car, I asked Marla what was next on the list of things to do.  She reminded me we still needed to get our marriage license.  But she thought tomorrow morning might be better since she thought the office closed at 4:30 pm. 

Furthermore, any trip to get the marriage license might be a waste of time.  Marla's Royal Romance ‘How to Get Married’ checklist said we needed to get a certified copy of a divorce decree in order to get a marriage license.  In addition, both attorneys agreed.  They told us where to go to get one for meI looked at the clock.  We had just enough time to either get the divorce decree or to get the marriage license.  As I thought about this dilemma, I had a very strong feeling this divorce decree wasn’t necessary.

Before I made up my mind, I first asked Marla when the carpet cleaner was coming.

‘Tomorrow morning’, she said.  I frowned.  After what the dogs had done to our carpets, I sure didn’t want to take the chance of missing this carpet guy.   So I told Marla, “Let’s take a gamble. I realize your document from Royal Romance says we need the certified copy of the divorce decree, but we don’t have time to get both it and the marriage license today. Let’s just go get the marriage license.  Maybe the decree is not a necessity.  Then if I’m wrong, we can make both trips tomorrow.” 

Marla, who is a rule-follower by nature, looked at me like I was crazy.  I stuck to my guns. Finally she agreed to give it a try.  So we drove from the Galleria to downtown.

At 4:20 pm, we walked into the marriage license department. Marla had been right about the time.  It closed at 4:30.  The place was deserted and the clerk had just gotten up to lock the door.  She took one look at us, then looked at her watch, and then frowned. I could tell she wanted to go home, but tough.  We were in the office and I was ready to argue if she crossed us.  The woman knew we wouldn’t stand for it, so finally she said, “I guess we have enough time to do this.”

She asked for our driver’s license and social security card. The next thing she said was, “Have either of you ever been married before?” 

Uh oh.  I had a sick feeling in my stomach.  But I didn’t see what good it would do to lie.  Marla and I both said “yes”.  She checked a box, but didn’t look up.

Her next question was “Is the address on your driver’s license correct?”

I could not believe my ears.  We were home free!!

We both began to grin.  We supplied the rest of the details as quickly as we could. Then she asked us to raise our right hand and solemnly swear that everything we had told her was the whole truth blah blah blah. I raised my right hand and said I had told the whole truth blah blah blah. 

Then she asked when we were getting married.  We said Sunday.  She said that was good, because if we were getting married on Saturday, we would have been too late. She reminded us that the certificate had to be obtained 72 hours in advance of the wedding.

Marla and I turned to stare at each other in stunned silence.  If we had gone to get the divorce decree today, it would have been too late to come here.  If we had waited till the morning, it would have been too late.  We had just snuck in under the wire.

The lady said, “Well, that’s it for today. That makes you my last customers!” 

Without today's good fortune, there would have been no wedding on the ship. We had barely dodged an enormous mistake.  Both of us were completely shaken at our close call.

We barely said a word as we drove home. Marla had completely overlooked that paragraph.  But when she looked again, the 72-hour clause was right there in the very first paragraph of the Royal Romance.  Marla could not understand how she had missed it.  Marla turned white as a sheet.  An asteroid missing the earth by one mile would not have upset her any more.


Just When You Think Nothing Else Can Go Wrong

Wednesday included both the Pre-Nup signing and the Marriage License miracle.  The stress was unbearable.  We were now both officially complete and total basket cases.

Thursday was errand day.  Luggage and getting a new shirt for the tux were on the agenda. 

We had just handled both errands.  Now as we headed home on Heights Boulevard, a car suddenly swerved in front of me.  That car had just made a sudden illegal left turn.  I could see the light was green for me, but that was little consolation.  There was no way I was going to avoid an accident.  I had no choice but to simply plow right into the side of the car. 

Nevertheless I hit my brakes hard.  Since
I wasn’t going particularly fast, I didn't hit the other car very hard.  Still I winced as I saw my car smash the other car’s passenger doors to smithereens.  My front end was badly scraped.  Fortunately both cars were drivable and no one was hurt.  It was just a typical fender bender. However there was one more insult to deal with – the driver had no insurance.  How did I guess? 

Now it is true Marla had lost her sanity several days ago.  However this accident made us even.  I was officially a completely and total basket case.  What else was going to go wrong!?

As I grimly endured the Texas heat waiting for the cops to show up, I nodded to the Universe. In my mind the Universe had done me a favor the day before, so now a little bad luck had to come my way.  I nodded.  This accident had evened the score.  Karma in action.

From that point on Marla and I were so mentally drained by the pressure that both of us were barely crawling toward the finish line on hands and feet.

Thankfully Friday and Saturday were fairly tame days.  Now our out-of-town relatives began to arrive. Seeing our family gave us a much-needed cheer.  Marla and I were hoping the worst was behind us.  No such luck.  

Believe it or not, this was only the calm before the storm.  The last few days had just been the warm-up act.  Things were about to get much worse

Mike and Trish Fagan

Marlies Whitmoyer and Shane Young

Next: Chapter Two: "I had an Oops Wedding!!"


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