Fifteen years. That’s how long it’s been since I was standing at the back of a hot, crowded church in a long white gown, taking as deep a breath as I could get into my lungs, listening to Kenny G playing as my maid of honor and my bridesmaid took carefully measured steps down the aisle.
I stood there, barely aware of my hand on my dad’s arm, surveying the masses of people – the church we were married in would only let us use the facility if we issued an open invitation to the entire congregation. So I faced a crowd of over 500, instead of the more intimate group of 200 or so that I wanted.
For a brief moment, I closed my eyes and wished away everyone except those who mattered to me, and then I looked around and picked out the ones I knew and loved from the crowd.
As the strains of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March began to swell, I let out a breath and began the walk down the aisle. For someone as introverted as I was at the time, all those eyes on me felt like bugs crawling over my skin, so I tuned them out and looked down until we were far enough down the aisle so I could see my fiance. As soon as I saw him, I relaxed, and all the nervousness went away.
Given the way my ADD-brain functions, more often than not I have multiple complete conversations with myself happening at once, or at least a little part of me observing what’s going on around me and providing snide commentary. So with one part of my brain, I was making sure we moved through things as at rehearsal, while the other part of my brain chattered away (me, to me: “Giving me away? Like I’m a cow or, I don’t know, a piece of luggage or something? Here, we *give* you?! I’m not property to be transferred. This stupid church with these stupid rules like “Wear a white dress because everyone is thinking about the state of your hoo-ha” and “you will NOT write your own ceremony because Jesus doesn’t like someone rewriting vows. If you write your own vows it doesn’t count”. GAH!”) Yes. Somewhere in my head at all times are varying degrees of snark. The snark was strong that day.
But the larger part of my awareness was focused on my soon-to-be-husband – because I knew that he was the only other person in that crowded room who knew what was going through my head, and why, and loved me anyway. I knew that as soon as we were safely through the ceremony, we’d be far away from all of that, and we could make our own lives according to our own needs.
So we went through the ceremony – songs, vows, candles because the church wouldn’t allow us to exchange rings (Jesus doesn’t like any jewelry, either, because Egyptians started the tradition of rings and by wearing a ring we would have aligned ourselves with an ancient religion that’s been dead for centuries instead of the more modern, pulled out of someone’s twisted brain religion practiced at that church.)
Yes. I was standing there at the alter analyzing the roots of the warped theology practiced by the man officiating while my wedding ceremony moved around me. Somedays, my brain exhausts me.
But the important things, the things that mattered to me, I managed to still all the brain-chatter for…the moment we exchanged vows, when I looked into the eyes of the man becoming-my-husband-with-those-words. The moment of our first kiss as man and wife, the kiss we’d had so much fun rehearsing. I almost laughed remembering some of those times, but even I have enough social awareness to realize that laughing while kissing my new husband just might be perceived as bizarre.
After that, everything became a blur – the ceremony wound down, we walked down the aisle to the back of the church for the receiving line that lasted for over 2 hours. I met more people than I can count – even now, someone will mention “oh yes! I was at your wedding” and I’ll look at them and smile and say “that’s right!” with no idea who they were. I was pretty firmly into self-protective mode at that point, because I really, really hate being touched by people I don’t know and all of these strangers kept shaking my hand and hugging me and the little part of my brain that was providing commentary was chattering away about the number of germs I was encountering by the second and getting increasingly more antsy for some good hand soap, and maybe a bath while I was at it.
From there, we moved to the reception hall, where we were served something I don’t remember and didn’t eat. Given the environment we were married in (and the fact that my husband and I are pretty much the antithesis of party animals) there was no dancing, no alcohol, just a meal on stage and then a few songs and somewhere in there, they called the caterer out and sang happy birthday to her and gave her a cake, which was, well, unexpected.
The tradition in that community was that the bride and groom would open the gifts in front of everyone, but my husband and I refused. For one thing, it was after 11pm. For another, it was after 11pm. We just kept repeating that every time someone told us it was time to open the gifts, and I called the girls together for the bouquet toss. My husband didn’t do a garter toss, because the pastor said the unmarried men would have inappropriate thoughts about touching something that had been on my leg. (Of course, at that point I was creeped out by all the young men at his church, and the pastor who taught them that they couldn’t help but have inappropriate thoughts because EW WHO DOES THAT?!)
Finally, finally, we were pelted with confetti and one of the young men mentioned above managed to pull back the high collar on my dress and dump an entire bag of confetti down me. Given the aforementioned inappropriate thoughts issue, I decided that whatever satisfaction he gained from that he probably desperately needed, so I resisted my natural inclination to flatten him and just kept moving.
From there, we stopped by our new apartment, which was full of people, and changed into our going-away clothes. It took forever to leave the apartment, because my baby brother – 9 at the time, and he was MY baby, was having Very Big Feelings about me leaving. That’s the only time that day that I cried, because it broke my heart to leave him.
But leave him we did, with promises to call him every day I was gone on my honeymoon, a promise I kept.
And then, finally, FINALLY, we were able to drive away to the little lakeside hotel where we spent our first night as man and wife (and of course, gentle reader, I shall draw a curtain over those tender and delightful moments! 8-))
By the next morning, it finally sunk in – I was *married*. MARRIED! I was finally married, and by vowing to belong to one man forever I was finally, ironically, free to be who I really was, with a partner by my side who knew the person I was under all the layers of upbringing. A partner that I understood, and knew who he was, a man that I respected and admired but most of all was able to trust.
And so the adventure began – our life has gone in a far, far different direction than anyone present that day would have guessed. We’ve not only become true to ourselves, but our very self-identities have changed and grown and changed again as we’ve moved through life together. But that’s the key – together. It’s always been together, with this man that I’ve loved more than half my life. We’ve been through heart-breaking things and terrifying things and things that shook us to our very cores, but we’ve been through them together.
Sometimes we’ve been back to back facing out fighting for survival, sometimes we’ve turned our backs to the world and only seen each other, sometimes we’ve strolled through life side by side. But it’s always been together, since that moment 15 years ago when we looked into each other’s eyes and vowed before God that in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, we’d stand or fall as a partnership of two.
And 15 years in, there’s still no one else I’d rather be on this journey with. 15 years in, and all I can think as I look back on these years is how excited I am to see where the next 15 years takes us – and the 15 beyond that, and however many more we’re granted. 😀