It was a warm day, and despite my best efforts, very little seemed to be going according to plan. Everyone expected had arrived and the chairs and tables and decorations were being set up and we were rushing through a rehearsal without the musicians and 2 members of the bridal party. My bridesmaid and her husband (the musician) would arrive in another 2 hours, having driven from Dallas after playing a wedding the night before. The other member of the bridal party - the best man - would not show up. His attendance had always been an uncertainty, which had faded to a dim hope following Hurricane Katrina - his unit was stationed in New Orleans to provide disaster relief and his request for a 2 day pass was denied.
But it was ok. We got through a quick rehearsal, we went and ate the rehearsal lunch. My bridesmaids and I went to get our hair done, and again my plans didn't go well. I ended up going last and being about an hour and a half late and very frazzled. Fortunately, our clever friends and my darling husband managed to figure out how to set up the table decorations without my guidance, and the cake lady graciously left the cake and agreed to accept payment the next day when my mother was not at the site in time to give her the check.
The afternoon was boiling hot, and our wedding pictures were done in shade and hurriedly (both because of shortened time caused by my delay and because of the heat). I wish I'd managed to get more/better pictures, but alas.
I remember the dress and how rushed I felt and how warm. It did eventually cool off as the sun set, and a breeze picked up. Such a breeze in fact that our floral arrangements at the alter blew over (being dried flowers in keeping with the autumnal 'theme' and not very weighty), and our tapers for the unity candle wouldn't light. They were supposed to have been symbolically lit at the beginning of the ceremony, but we finally gave up and tried again during the point in the ceremony at which the unity candle was lit. A groomsman trying to help by shielding the candle from wind with his hand nearly got a bad burn and while we got the unity candle lit, it lasted for about 10 seconds. The preacher, my friend J, made a joke about the presence of the Spirit of God.
I remember that I didn't notice the music being off until I watched the video later. I remember the relief when we got started, and how nervous I was until that moment. Not about getting married - we'd lived together for four months by then and had surpassed what we thought was the biggest test ever after DH's depression spilled over into a suicide attempt, his family tried to separate us (blaming me for the depression), and we spent five and a half months apart from each other. After that, we knew what we wanted and it was to be together, so we were. I just didn't know if his family might show up after all, and if so, whether they'd cause a scene. (They did not appear. And five years later, that is all water under the bridge. We're fine now, and I think they believe we love each other. And I think there is regret about not being at their son's/brother's wedding).
I remember that I couldn't keep the smile off my face when I saw DH. And that I was in such a rush, I handed off my bouquet and we held hands way too early and so had to stand there holding hands while J gave the sermon. I remember the soft smile on his face and the look of relief and happiness in his eyes. I remember the commotion when I saw the groomsmen stiffen up and frantically try to subtly get someone's attention - I later found out that the Spirt of God wind had blown a tablecloth up and over a centerpiece (a glass bowl with a votive candle inside) and the tablecloth caught fire. The wedding party was the only group that could see it, but their actions caught the attention of someone in the back who resolved the issue before there was a major disaster. I still have the tablecloth somewhere, with my bouquet, veil and the leftover programs.
I remember saying 'Yes' and 'No' and 'I do' in the right places, as we solemnly agreed that we were there to be married, that there was no impediment to our legal union (unless they objected to a Canadian marrying us - but no one ever has in five years, so . . .) and that we did agree to take each other for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, etc and finally getting to say our vows, which we had written together (his were the same, save for switching the names and taking me to be his wife).
"I, EAS, take you, DH, to be my husband and partner in all things. I promise to give you all that I am and accept all that you are. I promise to laugh with you and cry with you; to share your joy and ease your burdens. I promise my constant friendship and my utmost patience. I promise to turn to you first above all others. I promise to seek all the beauty you possess and strive to realize the potential you see in me. I promise to honor you with my faithfulness, to cherish you and to respect you, and to build everyday on a foundation of love. I promise before God and those here to fulfill these vows with love and devotion as long as we both shall live."
I remember that we both bobbled them a little, getting them slightly out of order, and we both laughed. I remember the aura of love and joy, glowing golden around everything, tinging my memory of the event with light. There was a great deal of laughter that night, and smiles. I remember wearing a chicken glove on my hand as DH wore a chicken on his head and we all danced the chicken dance. I remember my step-sister catching the bouquet and skipping away with it in one hand, and $5 in the other that my BIL offered her if she could get it. I remember laughing until my sides hurt as the DH and the groomsmen serenaded me with "My Girl" and the groomsmen dressing up to perform "YMCA."
The food was amazing - my dad catered. People still ask about that brisket - he smoked it himself in the backyard, and it was divine. I remember that he added green peppers to the chicken salad and even more inexplicably to the potato salad, so I could eat neither, though I spent most of dinner visiting tables and chatting and trying not to spill barbecue sauce on myself. The cake - I may never have eaten it's equal. SO wonderfully good - chocolate with cherry filling and homemade icing that must have required about 5 pounds of confectioner's sugar.
I remember my BIL driving us to the hotel we stayed at for our 'honeymoon' and how he had a hell of a time getting back to my dad's house, after he drove off without my sister following him, and how the bridal party had decorated the car - filling it with balloons and rosepetals and covering it with inappropriate writing and tying empty Lonestar cans to the bumper.
It was a beautiful day. I remember it so fondly.
But you know what? For all the preparation and planning, for all that we felt the wedding was a hugely important day (and not just for the party - the ceremony was our focus). . . we had no real idea why. I'm only seeing it now. We made these starry eyed promises to each other, and felt a bit smug because our relationship had already been tested. We'd been together long enough and through enough that we were there for each other, not for a fancy dress and cake. We thought we knew what bad was and could get through it easily enough.
We were wrong, of course.
We didn't have the first year pains that many others seem to have. I do think that we were better prepared for early marriage. We'd lived together already and had no pie-in-the-sky expectations about our relationship or what marriage should be (I will never forget that our couples counselors looked at each other in bafflement and actually asked at the end of the first session why we were there, lol).
But we were in no way prepared for the direction our lives would take and the tragedies that lurked outside our field of vision. I'm proud that we have survived intact, that we weathered the storms together, that we didn't let each other drown. But it's only now that I can see the gravity of the promises we made and the real leap of faith we took when we made them. I'm glad that he is my husband. I'm glad to be his wife.
Five years ago, I had no idea what I was agreeing to, and five years later, I'm ok with that, and with where we are. I still love this man, even more than I did then. I'm proud to have had our son with him. I'm interested to see what comes next.
Well, what comes after lunch, anyhow.