A close friend called from college last night to tell me she was getting married to a man she knew for a month that is 25 years older than her. It came as a surprise and it was hard to formulate the right response. But listening to the blissful excitement in her voice made me discard my initial judgment. Who am I to say it wont work out, that they're not madly in love and will stay together forever? Even if they don't, at this moment in her life she's found happiness. Why take that away from anyone?..everything in life is an experience. Whatever happens, she'll learn and grow through it. But after I hung up, I couldn't stop thinking about it.
Marriage and what it represents. What my idea of marriage was as a child, versus now that I AM married. I remembered crying when I was 8 years old and my Mother told me that some day I would get married and leave home. I sobbed "no-o-o, I don't want to…I don't want to go away, please..do I have to?" Once I was eleven, I fantasized about what my husband would look like, but worried a bit about the whole sex thing. "Will we have to do IT every night?". That idea was frightening to me. Once I was seventeen, I thought the minute you got married your life was set. Basically you become a mature adult, you have life figured out, everything is taken care of. It becomes predictable and secure. I was weary of settling down too early because I wasn't too keen on losing the excitement of life. I decided that I was going to get married at age 26. then I met Eric..
And our wedding anniversary is tomorrow
and I'm not 26 yet.
I think back to the tale of our wedding, It probably wouldn't make it on TLC's "The Wedding Story". It wasn't conventional enough, but it was special and unique. We did it on our own and we did it the way we wanted. We didn’t let ourselves get too caught up in the drama that can sometimes surround the preparation that causes you to lose sight of what it's all about in the first place.
We had both just graduated college and were living together with our two closest friends in a rented house in Florida. We were working together at a Mural painting company, which didn't earn us enough money so I also did commisioned portraits and Eric worked weekends as a waiter. The rent at our house was pretty steep, but we were able to split the cost with our housemates and it was a dream to live in, with tall wooden arched ceilings,an art studio and an expansive backyard filled with orange, grapefruit and palm trees and a vegetable garden. It was from the 50's so it had it's share of leaks, cracks and fire ants. But we were happy.
When we became engaged, all our friends were surprised and somewhat impressed, Although Eric and I had been best friends for 3 years and been dating for 2 years. We were the first from all our friends to even speak of marriage. So noone had any idea how we should do it or where to start.
Eric and I flew to my home state to visit my family. My Mother assumed it would be at a Catholic church since I was raised Catholic. She said she would help me pay for it and arrange for a dance hall afterwards for the reception. When we went to visit the church deacon, He began to drill us "are you living together? Are you two sexually active? There is a compatibility exam you are required to take. Are you aware of the dresscode? The church regulations on the music? I have to see Eric's baptismal certificate! This is the procedure.."
While the deacon was talking, I felt myself sinking lower and lower into the pew seat. I felt the whole wedding slipping out of my fingers and becoming this horrendous conventional ceremony that I have to go through the motions of to please everyone else. I glanced over at Eric and I could see he was feeling the same way. This wasn't what we wanted… This wasn't what we were about. It would be fake and contrived. We wanted a celebration of our love and commitment, not this somber loveless procedure.
So we decided to have our own ceremony outside of the Catholic church, My Mother was completely understanding. I told my parents that we didn't need financial help, (times were hard then, it was after 9/11) Just their presence at our wedding.
So now we were on our own, and had no clue where to start. We worked nearly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for a month. All we could muster up was an extra 500$ dollars. We put the money on the table and had to make a decision. We could work like this for a six or seven more monthes,postponing the wedding for next year or we could have a wedding with the little money we had, and start using the money we earn afterwards to begin our life together. We opted for choice 2.
Finding a church was easier than we thought. There was a metaphysical Christian church only 2 blocks from our house. It was an amazing church filled with the most open and giving people I had ever met. It was a christian church with a blend of buddhist ideas. It wasn't dogmatic but accepting of all faiths. I had never entered a church like that before and haven't found one remotely like it since. I knew the preacher and he when he became aware of our financial situation he agreed to perform the wedding ceremony free of charge. The organ player cut his price down to only 50$. I couldn't believe it.
We didn't know where to have the reception. All the dance halls around the area had starting prices of 1,000$ and were all tacky-looking. My roommate suggested we have it at our house. The living room was Huge with lots of windows and high cielings, we had a lanai, and a lot of space in the backyard.
My closest friend was a photographer and graphic designer, she offered to photograph the entire ceremony and she created a photocollage for our wedding invitations and designed the inside. When I saw what she had created for us I nearly started to cry because it was the most beautiful image I had ever seen.. We sent out the invitations to about 60 close friends,teachers and family.
Now with the wedding only one month away, I had no dress, cake, decorations, wedding favors, entertainment, catering, flowers..nothing. I wondered how we would pull this off. But when Eric pulled me into his arms and whispered “I love you so much..”, I knew that all those little details were so unimportant and everything would work out in the end. I couldn't panic and lose perspective of what this was all about in the first place.
I went to a second-hand wedding dress shop. It was immense and there were just aisles and aisles of dresses wrapped in plastic. Most of them starting at 300$. I was ready to give up hope after two hours, but then I found it: a dress with a sleeveless creme colored corset top and flowing dress bottom...I tried it on, standing in front of the three mirrors. It fit perfect and I stared at amazement of myself in a wedding dress.
"I'm getting married...", I whispered, this feeling of excitement started to truly well in my stomach for the first time. I think I was telling that 14 year old inside of me that thought she wasn’t worthy of anyone's love. I couldn't describe in words how sad,confused and afraid of life I used to be. For the first time in life I felt truly happy and in love. It's an amazing feeling
The dress was only 75$ on clearance
Eric decided not to wear the traditional wedding tuxedo, he refuses to conform that's not his thing. Our friend made him a par of hendrix-style velvet green bell-bottoms. He flipped when he saw it and decided to wear that with a flowing shirt.
We cleared out the livingroom entirely, putting all the furniture (besides two sofas to sit on) into the studio, and decorated the house with chains of daisies, vines, strings of lights and candles.The church lent us 5 long tables that we covered with satin tablecloths and put in the backyard. We planted flowers everywhere. Our friend was a DJ and he offered to provide the music. I spent two days burning official wedding soundtracks on CD’s as wedding favors, and creating original CD labels and covers.
I told my bridesmaids and maid of honor to wear anything they felt comfortable in, My only request was that it was blue. They were surprised at the freedom and relieved. The day was approaching and we still didn't have the cake or catering. We were low on money, after buying all the wine,beer and champagne we were nearly broke. All my friends said they would bring homecooked meals and dishes, making it potluck. They even donated all their plates and cutlery. It was amazing, How everyone pulled through at the last minute.
The night before the wedding I was so excited I couldn't sleep. I was also nervous. My family was sleeping in the other room, Eric was with his Best Man at a separate house. My heart was pounding so hard..Everyone was going to be there, I had friends flying in from my home state, teachers, friends..all coming together to see Eric and I say our vows. It was intense for me..So many thoughts racing at once, I couldn't collect them.
When I woke up it was sunny outside, the doorbell was ringing..My friend ran in hugging me and crying...my other friend was putting together the wedding bouquet. All Daisies with a single white rose in the center. I looked around the house and it was beautiful. My hippy wedding.. I started putting on my dress, My friends weaving Daisies into my short bleached hair.I was actually shaking.. My friends Tara and Nancy arrived, they flew in from New York. I was so happy to see them.
Then the ringbearer came to collect the bands, and I realized that my wedding band was missing! I searched everywhere..I couldn't find it. I panicked completely. My friend jokingly suggested I buy a box of cracker Jacks or get one from a gumball machine.
I told you, stuff like this only happens to me.
My Mom emerged from the other room and pulled her own wedding band off her finger "Here..this is what your father slipped on my finger 26 years ago, and we're still together to this day..I can't think of anything more meaningful than you wearing it on your wedding day"
I tried it on..and it fit perfectly.
(this was one of those moments in a movie where your eyes would start to well up)
So we arrived at the ceremony late, me running holding my dress up. My bridesmaids and maid of honor behind me. My little 7 year old sister as the flower girl in front of me the rose pedals spilling out of her basket. We all lined up.
The beginning chords of "Bittersweet symphony" started up from the organ player. (He learned the song just for our wedding) and before I knew it was walking down the aisle. When my eyes met Eric's, we both started to cry. It was like this immense release..pure happiness.. just everything at once, spilling out. The joy I felt at that moment can't be described in words.
We said our vows tearfully and when they declared us husband and wife everyone was cheering and the kiss was so intense. I can't even type this without feeling my heartbeat race and that feeling in my stomach. I know there are others out there that understand what I can’t put in words.
The reception was a success, the table was filled to the rim with every type of food you could imagine, from Sushi, to shrimp, lasagne,turkish food, spanish food, vegetarian and meat. I was overwhelmed..People were dancing, running around the backyard, laughter, drinking..
For a moment I just stopped, standing there with my champagne glass and took it all in. Realizing that what I was experiencing at that moment, was once in a lifetime. All the people I loved and cared about:::all in one room, together. A lot of the faces of my college friends and teachers I would never see again..but they were all there. Right then..for that one moment in time, to be with Eric and I and celebrate our wedding. I knew that at some point it would all be just a memory of this day..but I was there, truly there when it happened.
Afterwards when all the "adults" left, the real partying started. It lasted late into the night and it was pretty wild. My Mother had given us a night in a fancy honeymoon suite overlooking the ocean as a wedding gift. Eric and I took a cab there at 4AM and continued partying until the early morning, sitting on the beach watching the sunrise, knowing our whole life is ahead of us.
So we couldn't afford a fancy honeymoon vacation, and for our second year anniversary tomorrow we still can't. But someday we will and to be honest it doesn't matter, Because I'm so insanely happy with the little we have..I wouldn't trade the life we have together, with our financial struggles for any life in the world. Because there is nothing better than falling asleep in the arms of your bestfriend and waking up beside him in the morning. Knowing that no matter what happens in life, He'll always be by my side. the connection we have goes deeper than words, we truly love eachother and this is what life is all about.
But my seventeen year old prediction of becoming mature responsible adults when you get married..
THAT didn't happen