When my husband and I got engaged just a month after we started dating again, much to the shock and disapproval of our families and friends, we knew we wanted to get married in the same fashion- as soon as possible. We talked about just the two of us going to the Justice of the Peace, and about me flying to Texas and having a quickie ceremony on post, but I couldn't do it. It wasn't that I needed or wanted a big wedding, in fact I was firmly committed to the idea of not wearing a wedding dress, it was just that I wanted it to be special. I wanted our children and our families and our closest friends to be there when we pledged our undying love to each other, because even though they weren't sure our relationship was going to last, we were.
I went back and forth for weeks about where we should get married, who should and shouldn't be there, how formal/informal it should be. One night as I was throwing out options, weighing all the pros and cons, changing my mind over and over, my groom-to-be sighed and said "Babe, I don't care if we get married in blue jeans and t-shirts. I just want you to be my wife, that's all that matters to me." My silence on the other end of the phone must have alarmed him. "Uh oh. What's going on in that pretty little head of yours?" he asked. What he couldn't see was the huge grin on my face, the one that stretched from ear to ear. I was smiling because one, what he'd just said was incredibly sweet; two, I knew he was right; and three, I'd just figured out our entire wedding plan in two seconds flat.
Often times, when people see pictures from our wedding, the comment that follows is "You guys got married in jeans and t-shirts?" I think it's sad when that's the first thing someone notices. Because what I see when I look at pictures from that day is how happy and in love we are, how happy everyone is. I wouldn't have had my wedding any other way. It's not that I have anything against formal weddings. Every girl should have the opportunity to wear a beautiful wedding gown and have the church and the flowers and the tuxedos and be treated like a princess on her special day...if that's what she wants. I myself did that once when I was very, very young. Too young. I spent months planning and stressing right down to the last detail, making sure I had an absolutely picture perfect wedding. And I did. The part I didn't give much thought to was the actual marriage, which didn't last.
This was different. All I wanted was to be married to this man, my Prince Charming, my best friend, my soulmate. The wedding itself was an afterthought. We didn't even settle on an exact wedding location until two days before we got married. We had the hall (a beautiful hall, one that's often used for "real weddings") booked for the reception, the army green tablecloths ordered, the pink daisies waiting to be picked up, the hot dogs and chicken wings and baked macaroni and cheese filling everyone's refrigerators. The invitations had gone out weeks ago for the reception, asking everyone to join us after a private ceremony, one only our immediate families and a handful of friends were attending. Our vows were written and the Reverend (a friend my husband and I have known for decades) set the time, 4:00, and told us to pick a place.
So just two days before we were due to wed, once I finally decided to trust the meteorologist that the weather on March 19th would be "beautiful", we drove around downtown until we decided on a spot to say our "I Do's". We settled on the gazebo in Island Park, a tiny peninsula that stretches a mile or so across the Grand River, with the infamous Grand Ledge "Ledges" lining the shores. I joked on the way home about what a Bridezilla I was, waiting until the week of the wedding to decide where to actually have the wedding.
When the day came, I went and got my hair and make-up done. I got a manicure and a pedicure and was actually feeling quite bride-like until I put on my "wedding jeans" and t-shirt. I carried a bouquet, pink gerber daisies and field greens wrapped with raffia, and my bridesmaids, donned in their pink bridesmaid t's and pink tennies, all had pink daisies in their hands and custom made dog tags around their necks. We were laughing as we walked "down the aisle", which was actually an old bridge that we had to cross to get to the gazebo where my husband-to-be was waiting for me. The closer we got, the more nervous I became. That surprised me. This wasn't even a "real wedding". Why did I have butterflies?
"You ready, Mom?" my oldest son asked me, his arm linked through mine. My youngest, too small to walk arm-in-arm with me, had a tight grip on my other hand, and I could tell by the snickers coming from the six or so people seated on the benches in the gazebo that he was making faces at the crowd. Was I ready? This had all gone so fast. The falling in love, the engagement, the wedding planning....it all took place over the course of a few months. Was it too fast? Was I doing the right thing? And was I really having cold feet during my wedding? When does that ever even happen, outside of movies and TV?
And then I saw him, standing across the gazebo, shivering from the "cold" (it wasn't really cold, he'd just gotten too used to the Texas heat). He was looking at me like I was the most beautiful bride in the world, despite my lack of all things bridal, like a dress, a veil, fabulous shoes...and I knew. I knew what I'd known all along, which was that we were getting married for all the right reasons, and that despite the fact that not everyone else was 100% sure about what we were doing, it didn't matter. They came to support us regardless of their reservations, and that was what counted. The ceremony was short, intimate, and perfect. The reception was a blast. The honeymoon, although way too short, was amazing. And the marriage....the marriage is my dream come true. I couldn't ask for a better husband, or a better man to spend the rest of my life with.
My husband and I got married in blue jeans and t-shirts. We played 90's hip-hop during dinner, had cupcakes instead of wedding cake, and did jello shots instead of a champagne toast. The kids took full advantage of the game table and had a massive Twister tournament. The candy buffet was hugely popular. There was no tradition, no formality, no drama, and no stress. We celebrated our marriage with the people we love, and in most of the pictures, we're either cracking up or kissing. The day was everything I dreamed it would be and more. So when people ask me if it bothers me that I didn't have a "fairytale wedding", I'm not lying when I tell them "not at all". Because I'm living my happily ever after, and that's all that really matters.