We've got a super-sized Manzo'd finale, which can only mean one thing: it's officially wedding time. After basically two seasons of build-up (remember in the very first episode when Lauren modeled wedding dresses for Glamour?), the moment has finally arrived. But first, we have the final countdown to the nuptials between Lauren and Vito.
7 Days Before the Wedding
We're a week away and Jacqueline is taking Caroline to the spa. A typical spa day could get intense with Jacqueline - the last time she had some "me time" on camera, she got a neck lift and tummy tuck. So, Caroline is more than relieved that this time it's a simple mani/pedi. As they're getting pampered, Caroline catches Jac up on everything she's missed: Chris writing his children's book, Albie not knowing what to do about Brittany, the whole nine yards. Meanwhile, back at the house the Manzo boys are having a similar conversation. Also, the new zen Albie has apparently taken up painting...Chris presses his brother about what's going on with Brittany and Albie admits that he doesn't know. They've gotten in a few arguments lately and he's not so sure he'll be inviting her to the wedding.
6 Days Before the Wedding
To distract himself from his relationship problems, Albie meets with an old friend from law school who is billed as "James, Albie's lawyer," which I for some reason found hilarious. The reason for the meeting, however, is less amusing. Albie made the deal with the cannabis grower in Denver to test his plant yield product out on their plants and everything is ready to ship. Before he sends the test samples away to Colorado, Albie wants to make sure his bases are covered legally. His lawyer friend explains that although cannabis is now legal in Colorado, it's still a crime to be participating in the operation from New Jersey, where pot is still criminalized. If Albie really gets into the pot business, he could end up facing criminal charges and possible jail time. Just like that, the golden boy's business plans go up in a cloud of smoke. The next day, Albie informs Caroline of his crumbling aspirations. While she's probably relieved her oldest is no longer getting into the pot industry, Caroline gives him a pep talk urging him to look for the next opportunity. There are plenty of plants in the world that need to be doubled in size!
4 Days Before the Wedding
Princess Lauren meets her bridesman Greg for her last brunch as a single woman. After vowing that after the wedding, she'll eat whatever she wants, get fat and get a bowl cut, conversation turns to Albie and his Brittany problems. Apparently the oldest Manzo has been texting Greg incessantly about the drama over whether she's coming to the wedding or not. Lauren insists this is a problem Al's had with every one of his girlfriends, and thinks he doesn't want to be with her and will find any reason he can to break up. From her perspective, Albie simply likes to play the victim.
3 Days Before the Wedding
To try to put the drama to rest, Albie invites his life coach Amber over for a house call. Apparently, a life coach is kind of like a therapist except much younger and much less qualified to be doling out advice. (Seriously, Amber, how old are you anyway? Because you look 20.) Albie explains that with all these bumps in the road in his business, if Brittany is looking for a major commitment, he'll have to let her find that with someone else. In his interview, he admits that it's pretty clear at this point that Lauren and Chris are both doing better than he is, which is a hard pill to swallow as an oldest child who's used to winning all the trophies. After an entire session being virtually silent, Amber the life coach finally pipes up and advises Albie to tell Brittany he doesn't know what he wants. I could've given that advice for the same price. I'm officially starting a new career as an unqualified life coach in New Jersey to keep Amber from monopolizing the market.
2 Days Before the Wedding
Caroline's making a scrapbook for Lauren documenting the day she got engaged up to the day of her wedding. While Albie is praising her work ethic, Christopher shows up with a surprise package. Sitting his mom and brother down at the kitchen table, Chris opens the envelope to reveal the cover artwork for Oliver Brightside: You Don't Want that Penny. This is an exceptionally proud moment for Caroline, who tears up as she sees her youngest child's dream turning into a reality before her eyes. Even though it's like pulling to teeth to get Christopher to call himself an author, the children's book comes out in March 2016.
1 Day Before the Wedding
It's the night before the wedding and preparation is in full swing at the Manzo house as Lauren and her bridesmaids set up the hair and makeup stations and fill balloons with glitter confetti. Greg arrives to admire (a.k.a. get aroused by) Lauren's wedding dress hanging in the foyer. The bride-to-be informs him that the final headcount for the next day is 390, and Greg immediately asks Albie if that number includes Brittany. The wedding is less than a day away and Albie still doesn't know whether or not he's bringing her, but tries to change the subject back to Lauren. Chris presses his brother to just text her one answer or the other and Caroline steps in to defend her oldest. When Christopher balks that she's telling him not to interrogate Albie, Caroline snaps and starts turning the line of questioning around on him, peppering him with why he's not bringing a date and why he's alone. Ouch, mom. Low blow. She shuts down the talk by saying if Brittany's there, she's there. If she's not, she's not. End of story.
(Note: if you need to stretch, get up and take a walk, now's the time since this is technically the end of Episode 9...)
The morning of the wedding arrives all too soon and there are still a million things to do. Lauren's instituted a 10 a.m. call time for this 4 p.m. event, so you'd think there would be plenty of time, right? Wrong. Caroline doesn't even have time to get emotional over anything, it's her job to make sure Lauren and the entire bridal party get ready and out the door on time. A little after noon, Albie and Chris head over to Vito's house, which is much, much calmer than Casa de Manzo. As Vito Sr. opens a bottle of Cristal he's been saving for one of his sons' weddings, Albie explains in his interview that after all their time as college roommates, he never envisioned Vito becoming his brother-in-law. Vito Sr. gives a sweet toast to the beginning of Vito's marriage and...the Cristal has gone sour.
It's now 12:47 p.m. and the morning has quickly flown into the afternoon. At Lauren's instruction, Caroline's wearing a white gown to the wedding and says in her confessional that if you have a problem with it, get over it. As Lauren finally gets into her wedding dress, she talks in her interview about how good it feels to like who she sees looking back in the mirror on her wedding day. After years of watching her daughter struggle with body issues, Caroline tearfully explains that it took lots of heartache and tears for the little insecure girl to turn into the strong woman she is today, but she's finally arrived.
Ready to go, Lauren gets in a vintage Rolls Royce with her parents to drive to the church in Manhattan as Vito and seven other grown men pile into a clown car limousine. Naturally, Lauren gets hungry on the way and insists they stop at White Castle so she can order Fish Nibblers. Never mind that there's a chapel full of nearly 400 people waiting for her or that she might smell like White Castle as she walks down the aisle. With 13 minutes to go, the Manzos are still stuck in New York traffic and Lauren starts stressing. At the church, Vito's mom starts freaking out and everyone's waiting.
The church is full of RHONJ sightings - Jacqueline and Chris are in the audience while Jac's daughter Ashlee and Dina's daughter Lexi are both in the bridal party. However, I was obviously most ecstatic to see my beloved Dina strut in on the arm of Grandpa Joe, slaying in a black dress and Chanel necklace. (For any of you who aren't aware, Dina is by far one of my all-time favorite 'Wives in the Bravoverse, probably second only to Kyle Richards.)
Lauren, Caroline and Al finally arrive at the church a few minutes after 4 p.m. and it's time to get the show on the road. Lauren finally starts getting nervous and Al goes into protective dad mode as they start their walk down the aisle. In that moment, Vito doesn't see anyone but Lauren, while Caroline explains that the Italian culture is all about family, love, abundance and sharing, and she's just happy the whole family could be there to share in Lauren's moment. As part of the ceremony, Vito and Lauren place two roses on the altar of the Blessed Mother and also give roses to each other parents, though Lauren's dress is so big that she can't get off the altar. The couple exchanges vows and rings, the priest pronounces them man and wife and it's time to kiss the bride! Caroline tearfully explains via confessional that it's like she blinked once and the doctor was telling her she was having a little girl, she blinked again and that little girl is Mrs. Scalia.
The entire clan goes back to the Brownstone and it's party time! The reception is full of even more RHONJ faces, as Melissa, Joe, Kathy, Richie and Rosie all show up to help celebrate. It's crazy to see so many Housewives in the same room at once, though I'm pretty sure Dina wasn't mic'd like the rest of them were.
The festivities have Christopher rethinking his plan to never get married and he concludes that seeing Lauren so happy makes him want that same amount of happiness. However, he insists it has to come as naturally as it did for his sister and Vito, otherwise he's not forcing it. As he and Albie retreat to the bar for a moment of peace, Jacqueline corners the older Manzo and asks why Brittany isn't there. Finally, Albie says that they've broken up for good. In his interview, he explains that whenever someone close to you gets married, it's natural to start reevaluating where you are in life and feel like you should be making the same types of big life choices. However, Albie's determined to do it when he feels ready, not when everyone - or anyone - else wants him to. Sorry, Britt.
The reception kicks off with Vito and Lauren being introduced as Mr. and Mrs. Scalia for the first time to a banquet hall full of cheering family and friends. Al gets emotional during his dance with Lauren, while Vito and Denise have a nice chat during their mother-son dance. As Kathy, Jacqueline and Melissa gather in a corner to lament how old they're getting, Lauren and Vito cut the cake with Lauren explaining via confessional that even though this wedding may seem materialistic, at the heart of it she's just excited to be Vito's wife. Uh huh, sure Lauren. Whatever you say. As Caroline surveys the party, she can only think about how blessed and full her life is, saying every day she needs to pinch herself and just keep saying thank you. As the reception winds down, she shares a sweet moment with Albert as they commemorate a job well done.
The morning after the wedding, Caroline, Albert and the boys congregate around the kitchen island to rehash all the crying that went down the day before. When the parents ask the brothers who's next to walk down the aisle, Christopher explains that he's finally open to the idea of getting married and Albie says he still has to find the right fit because Brittany wasn't it. Caroline's rather proud of herself for keeping her mouth shut during round 2 of Albie and Brittany's relationship, and proud of him for making a decision based solely on how he felt. That's a step in the right direction for Albie Manzo.
Lauren and Vito arrive at the house, which seems like an odd place to want to be on your first day as husband and wife, and regale the family with tales of all the microwaveable mac and cheese Lauren ate the night before. I'm sure that's exactly how Vito imagined spending his wedding night. Caroline closes out the season by saying that the road to Lauren getting married was a crazy one, but she's excited for what's next. Whether that's grandbabies or daughters-in-law, the Manzos are one solid family that can only grow bigger and better. Thick as thieves!
Serious question: is there anyone out there who wants a Season 3?