The Wedding Game Page 2

Heart eyes pour from me as I take in the one and only beautifully talented Mary DIY.

You know how Martha Stewart took the world by storm in the nineties? And then Chip and Joanna Gaines came along and enthralled us with shiplap and barn doors before conquering every Target in the country? Well, Mary DIY is the next trend. She rose from her humble beginnings as a Michaels employee, where she used her employee discount to try out every form of crafting there is. Since then, she has built an empire around her YouTube channel, Mary DIY.

She’s creative and talented, and I like to think—late at night, when my fingers are numb from needlepoint—that we’re best friends and frolic together in meadows of twine and lace. I know if we ever meet that we’d get along so swimmingly that we would exchange phone numbers and text each other funny crafting memes.

(I might have some saved in my phone . . . can never be too prepared.)

Despite Mary DIY being my soul sister—though she doesn’t know it—that’s not what has me turning up the TV. It’s The Wedding Game.

“We’re looking for fun, unique couples willing to put their relationship to the test while we put you through a slew of challenges to see if you and your family can create a beautiful wedding, under budget. America will vote for the winner, and the grand prize is a penthouse in the heart of Manhattan, the perfect place to start a family after the ‘I dos.’”

“Holy . . . hell,” I mutter, my heart racing, my mind swirling with ideas. “Cohen needs to apply.”

I pace the compact distance of my apartment, waiting for my brother and his fiancé to arrive, repeating my talking points over and over in my head.

This is the opportunity of a lifetime.

You can skip the courthouse wedding and actually have the wedding you’ve always dreamed of.

With my help, you can win.

You can get out of Queens, live near me, cut the commute.

You can start that family you’ve always wanted . . .

I can feel it in my bones: I was meant to see that commercial. And all the hand lettering I’ve been practicing has to have been for a reason.

I just have to convince Cohen first.

Yes, convince. Let’s just say my big brother keeps his feelings to himself, and he definitely doesn’t like attention.

But I also know his deepest desires when it comes to being a family man, getting married, and having that magical wedding that people talk about for years to come.

But because he’s in construction and his fiancé is a public school teacher here in the city, they decided to cut out the cost of a wedding and just get married in a courthouse.

Ugh, a travesty. Especially since I know that when my brother gets a shot of tequila in him, he unhinges his perpetually stiff shoulders and actually lets loose.

Knock. Knock.

My head whips to the door and anxiety washes over me like a tidal wave, drowning me in shaky breaths.

Steal yourself, woman. This is just your brother.

My brother, who deserves this more than anyone, who’d win with my help. I have no doubt that I could create a wedding that not only America would love, but one that would reflect the strong, loving relationship that my brother shares with his fiancé, Declan.

With a deep breath, I open the door to find the two most important men in my life standing on the other side.

“Hey, sis,” Cohen says, stepping up and giving me a hug and a kiss to the top of my head. “How are you?”

I squeeze him back, loving how the top of my head just reaches the bottom of his chin, which makes for the perfect hug. “Great.” I step out of his embrace and quickly wrap my arms around Declan, squeezing him just as tightly.

I can still remember the day Cohen came out to me. It was a windy, rainy day in Connecticut, on the coast where our parents would take us to vacation. The wind was so harsh that it felt like the house was going to blow away. Lightning flashed and thunder roared like a war in the sky just outside our window, and in the midst of it all, while playing two-person Uno, Cohen paused, looked up at me, and said, “Luna, I’m gay.”

I was twelve; he was sixteen.

I blinked. His eyes welled up with tears.

I set my cards down. He set his down.

I pulled him into a hug. He cried on my shoulder.

I rubbed his back. He held on to me like a lifeline.

I don’t remember most of what I rambled in response, but I do remember saying “I love you so much” over and over again until he stopped crying and pulled away, eyes puffy and red.

He told me he was too afraid to tell Mom and Dad. I told him that no matter what, I would stick by his side—I would be his rock.

Cohen was gay. I never expected it. I never envisioned having that conversation with him, but in that moment, I knew I would do whatever it took to make sure the worry etched on his brow would never stop him from having the life he deserved.

When he told our parents, I held his hand.

When they blinked a few times, I squeezed his hand tighter.

When they wrapped him up in their arms, I held on to him as he cried into my shoulder.

When they told him they would love him no matter what, I gave him a tiny “I told you so” nudge.

When he decided to move to New York City, I followed closely behind, with Farrah on my heels.

And when he introduced me to Declan, I pushed my brother to the side and welcomed the handsome Chinese American schoolteacher with a heart of pure gold right into my arms.

“How’s my favorite fifth-grade teacher?” I ask now, my mind returning to the present as I pull away from Declan.

“Good. I only had to break up one fight today during recess, so I call it a win.”

I usher them inside and shut the door. I watch as Cohen—like always—takes in my apartment, shaking his head.

“When are you going to hang pictures instead of ribbons on your wall?”

As everyone knows, Manhattan apartments aren’t very spacious, at least not the affordable ones. So when Farrah and I were looking for a place to live, all we cared about was scoring two bedrooms in a decent area. The rest we could figure out.

Which we have, but we’ve had to be creative.

Every inch of our walls is covered in shelves, dowels, and organizational storage, holding all my supplies in a decorative and stylish way. I’ve actually gained thousands of followers on Instagram for my creative storage techniques alone. Organizational hashtags are very popular.

But it drives Cohen crazy; he’s very neat and . . . plain when it comes to decorating. He and Declan are minimalists, to say the least.

“Leave my ribbons alone, unless you want me to go all the way to Queens and put glitter handprints all over your walls.”

“No crafts allowed,” Declan says, walking around me with a smile and going straight to a bouquet I’ve been working on for a bride. She sent me about a hundred acrylic flower brooches and asked me to make bouquets and boutonnieres for her vintage wedding. It’s been painstakingly hard—especially since I’m so particular about where each and every one of them is placed—but I’m almost done, thankfully. “This looks interesting.” Declan holds up the bouquet. “Still have fingers left?”

I lift my hands and wiggle my fingers at him.


Cohen heads to the kitchen, where I’ve prepared our favorite goulash dish. It’s his one request whenever he comes over.

He doesn’t turn to me to defend him when people take a second look at him and Declan. He doesn’t ask me to protest his rights with him, nor does he ever look for my help when I know he needs it. But when he makes the trek from Astoria to the Upper West Side to sit in the middle of a craft explosion for the whole night, he asks for our family’s special Italian version of hearty goulash.

He doesn’t even have to ask at this point. It’s my favorite too. Farrah is ravenous for it and usually has to fight Cohen for rights to leftovers. Farrah claims roommate privileges. Cohen slams down the sibling card. It’s an epic battle that I look forward to watching every time I hover over the pot as it cooks.

Declan glances in the pot and says, “Shocking . . . goulash again.”

“Hey.” I playfully push his shoulder. “Are you knocking an age-old recipe?”

“Age old?” Declan asks, a lift to his brow. He walks over to my sink and lifts up an empty jar of Prego. “When did jarred spaghetti sauce become age old?”

“Prego is age old, since 1981.”

“Holy crap—1981? That’s unheard of,” Declan says full of sarcasm, making us all laugh. “If you want an age-old recipe, try my grandma’s recipe for egg drop soup.” He leans down and kisses the top of my head. “But I do love your goulash, even if you don’t slave over homemade sauce.”

He winks at me, and I smile back. “One day, Declan. Also, grab that egg drop soup recipe for me.”

“It’s sacred. I don’t think Grandma will hand it over too kindly.”

“Tell her it’s for your future sister-in-law who wants to honor your side of the family as well.”

“Well, in that case, consider it done.” He gives me a side hug while Cohen walks over to the pot on the stove and takes in a deep breath.

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