Special Reports

Take a look behind the scenes as Chrissy Popadics prepares for her wedding day

Statesman photographer Katherine Jones and I spent the day with Chrissy Popadics Saturday as she prepared for her wedding to Boise State football star Ian Johnson.

We were there when she received her first of several coatings of hairspray.

We were there as she put on her wedding dress and coped with the crisis of a late limo.

And we were there as Chrissy and Ian said “I do” and left the Cathedral of the Rockies as Mr. and Mrs. Johnson for their small reception at a local golf course.

Here’s some of what we saw during the day:

10 a.m.: Hairstyling at Caliente

By the time I arrived, Chrissy’s hair is already piled high on her head and her mother, Barbara Popadics, is getting ready to get in the chair.

“You look like a brown-haired Cinderella,” says Courtney Birchfield, 31, Chrissy’s cousin and matron of honor.

"I'm so happy," says Chrissy to Ronni Kelly, the stylist responsible for the Cinderella hair. "I never imagined it could look this beautiful."

Chrissy was a junior bridesmaid at Courtney’s wedding seven years ago and tells her cousin how that wedding shaped dreams of her own that will happen later today.

Chrissy, munching on a granola bar and sipping a diet Mountain Dew, wanders between the hair stations where her bridesmaids (and cousins) got their hair poufed and sprayed and transformed into fairy tale perfect.

It’s still hours before the wedding, and everyone is relaxed.

There is laughter as Chrissy shows off the back of her sweatshirt with “Little Bride” written across the back in sparkly letters.

She jokes with her mom, laughing and trying to get her to pose for a photo. Her mom’s rule: “No pictures of me before makeup.”

Mother and daughter plan to spend the day together, getting their hair and makeup done before pictures, the big ceremony and the intimate reception they have planned.

Chrissy seems remarkably calm for a bride as she dispenses advise and instructs the stylists on how she'd like her bridesmaids' hair done.

“My mom’s advice to you when you walk down the aisle is to smile big because you’ve got such a great big smile,” she tells Kara Popadics, 18, another cousin who has flown in from New Jersey to be one of eight bridesmaids.

There are tender moments, too.

“I’ve been up since 6 this morning,” says Chrissy. “I woke up with my mom standing over me crying.”

Her mom explains how Chrissy has always been an early riser and when she was little, she used to jump on her mom’s bed, tell her it was time to get up and manually open her mother’s eyes.

“I remembered that this morning and it made me cry,” says Barbara.

The only real sign that Chrissy has nerves at all come when she describes a dream she had last night.

“Everyone keeps telling me that the ceremony will fly by,” says Chrissy. “In my dream, it was literally a second.”

In that dream, the reception that followed was at a muddy Western Idaho State Fair.

Barbara says that Chrissy has been plenty stressed out with all the planning leading up to this day, but, for the time being, she's put her nerves on hold.

But then, Chrissy is used to taking on a lot of responsibility. During the school year, she served as cheer captain, worked at the Texas Roadhouse, coached cheerleaders at Borah High School and worked on all the details of today.

"I don't want today to be over," says Chrissy after another round of the hairspray designed to keep that Cinderella do going all day long. "I want it to last a week."

Noon: The mall for makeup

After getting her dark brown hair piled high on her head, Chrissy, her mom and her matron of honor (cousin Courtney Birchfield) head to MAC at Macy’s in the mall for makeup.

The trio enter the mall sporting their wedding formal hairstyles atop the shorts and sandals that show off their new pedicures.

The atmosphere at the MAC is less laid back than at the salon. There are other brides getting fake eyelashes, mascara and lipstick while Chrissy and her party wait their turn.

There’s a minor snag, the morning’s first, as they wait for a makeup artist who is running behind.

Luckily, the makeup station is next to the shoe store, which lets Chrissy vent a little nervous energy trying on shoes (she’s the same size as the display shoes).

On goes a pair of light blue wedges, followed by super-pointed black heels that remind Barbara of the Wicked Witch of the West.

Meanwhile, Chrissy talks about Britney Spear’s new perfume and how it smells.

All this is interrupted by continuous cell phone calls from various members of the bridal party as everyone tries to figure out the schedule as the ceremony itself draws closer and the plans made over the last few months begin to play out.

Chrissy does a few discreet stretches during the wait before getting a mini-neck massage from Courtney.

“This is what the maid of honor is for,” says Chrissy.

2 p.m.: More wedding prep at Chrissy’s mom’s house

Chrissy crowds into the spacious master bathroom at her mother’s house with six of her bridesmaids, including Ian’s little sister Kaila Johnson, 17, as they take care with their final touches of hair and makeup before they dress.

Chrissy’s mother, Barbara Popadics, steps into the bathroom with something old Chrissy will have with her for the ceremony. Barbara Popadics pulls out a tiny Bible that her father, Lt. Donald Squier, carried with him during World War II. Barbara Popadics carried it with her during her wedding. Now, she presents it to her daughter.

“It’s special,” she tells her daughter.

Barbara Popadics also has her mother’s rings for Chrissy to carry during the ceremony. Both of Barbara Popadics’ parents are no longer alive, making the mementos even more precious.

The air in the bathroom is thick with hairspray. Chrissy is fixing her sister-in-law’s hair and helping another bridesmaid finish up as well.“I’m getting nervous," she says, pausing to force in a few deep breaths.

The bridesmaids have changed their shorts and tank tops for strapless, cornflower blue gowns as Chrissy gets ready to put on her own white, sequined dress.

3 p.m.: The hitch in getting hitched

It takes four bridesmaids plus Chrissy’s mom to get her into her dress.

They lift the Cinderella-style dress over her head while Chrissy protects her makeup with her hand.

Chrissy peaks out from the dress and notices how great her mom looks.

“Mom, you look gorgeous,” she says.

“No, you look gorgeous,” her mom replies. “Is that really my daughter?”

Chrissy puts on the final touch: Fantasy perfume by Britney Spears.

Then the wedding hits a snag. The limo that is supposed to carry the 10-member bridal party to Kathryn Albertson Park for pictures isn’t big enough.

Then Chrissy’s veil tears a little as she struggles to put it in her hair.

There’s a bit of chaos at the house as one bridesmaid mends the veil and others grab their cell phones to try to find alternative transportation.

At one point, I find myself giving directions to the company that’s promised to save the day.

4:30 p.m.: Getting to the church (almost) on time

I make it to the church ahead of the bridal party so I can snag a seat.

The church is hushed, about two-thirds full, when Pastor Steve Tollefson announces the bride is running a little bit behind.

The crowd, composed of the couple’s family and what looks to be several football players, laughs, becomes chatty, then suddenly quiets back down when they realize the bride has arrived.

Ian is visible first through the glass in the doors at the back of the church. The music changes and the wedding party begins their march to the front of the church.

Finally, Chrissy comes down the aisle on the arm of her father.

Tollefson begins the wedding, saying a prayer asking for the end of prejudice and giving the couple sound advise about love and life after the ceremony.

“I challenge you to give to each other, nurture each other.”

“You give each other your hands in marriage. Look at these hands. These are the hands of your best friend. These are the hands that will work alongside yours. The are the hands that will wipe the tears from your eyes in joy and sadness.”

Then the couple jumps the broom, a African tradition that signifies the couple is jumping into a new life and that the old is being swept away.

And then, Tollefson says those words we’ve been expecting for the last half hour: “It is my joy to present you with Mr. and Mrs. Ian Johnson.”

5:30 p.m.: After the ceremony

Ian Johnson and Chrissy Popadics are now officially married.

After hundreds of guests exit the church, Ian and Chrissy come out to bubbles and cheering before getting into a stretch limo.

As they drive away, Ian kisses Chrissy and says, "Let's play ball."

This is the part in the story where we write: “And they lived happily ever after.”

It’s the appropriate end, afterall, to a wedding that followed a fairy tale proposal.

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