Today is my two year wedding anniversary with my husband. I started today at 6:30 to care for our five month old labrador puppy who is the original creature of habit in our home. The puppy bladder and tummy send a message to his brain, the brain makes him whimper, and I wake instantly with a maternal instinct that still surprises me. I crawled out of bed, threw on clothes and followed the pup out into the yard, my hair disheveled, pillow imprint still on my face, and a serious lack of caffeine in my system.
Since today is our anniversary I started thinking about how I started our wedding day. I was staying at a hotel to be “traditional” for the night before our wedding, and it was strange to wake up without the normal responsibility of my dogs. I have spent my entire adult life waking up and taking some combination of my dogs outside so to be at a hotel without them is a strange feeling.
I know I woke much earlier than I needed to, out of excitment and nerves. I was not nervous about vowing to love and honor someone for the rest of my life, which I remember being a good sign. The nerves were about my dress, my hair, makeup, the weather, my dogs being in the care of someone other than me, and in general everything going off without a hitch.
As we approached our wedding day I was often told that the day would flash past me in a blur, that it would go too quickly. They were right! Now I look back on the events of the day and wish I had written a bridal journal. The first part of the day was consumed by going to the salon for hair and makeup, coming back to the room, having a quick sandwich, sneaking cigarettes in the hotel parking lot, my friends shielding my already attached veil from smoke or sparks, and nobody giving me the “you shouldn’t smoke” look, since it was “my day” and they did not want a Bridezilla emerging from lack of nicotine! I remember the slight flicker of a headache, popping both advil and tylenol, and praying that a headache would not ruin this, the most special day of my life.
Our ceremony and reception were across the parking lot from the hotel, so there was no getting into a limo, no worries about transportation, only a quick walk. We traipsed across the parking lot, grateful that on July 31 we were experiencing a cold snap with a high of only 70. I had my four best friends with me, hair and makeup impeccable, our arms laden with new dresses in their plastic bags and totes full of accessories and “bridal emergency” items.
Our venue was Walter Payton’s Roundhouse, a restaurant, brewery and banquet facility that screamed “us” from every corner. Walter Payton had a role in turning the historic railroad roundhouse into a restaurant, brewery and banquet facility. Our ceremony would take place on the gazebo in the center of the roundhouse, surrounded by flowers, friends and family, as well as an outdoor bar where a few strangers watched the wedding. I assume they were strangers, although they could have been guests that I did not know who just didn’t want to leave the bar area, quite a possiblity in our circle!
Almost everything went off without a hitch. There were a few mistakes, like the fuschia rose that I was supposed to lay on an empty chair in memory of my mother. The florist forgot the flower so there was a scramble of groomsmen to get the missing flower. The replacment was red and did not match the navy and fuschia color scheme, but it was the gesture, not the color of the flower, that made the moment special.
There was the ugly carpet runner that I had not known about or I would have purchased a white wedding runner, and the heel that I got stuck on the way down the aisle. I tripped up the steps of the gazebo and was sent into a fit of giggles that I had a hard time getting under control. There was the minor argument I had with the wedding coordinator and DJ about wanting to change things up and be introduced in the middle of the cocktail hour since photos took just half the expected time, although the bridesmaids and my new husband whisked me off for a smoke and a drink and gave me their usual “relax” commentary.
Aside from these very minor things, the day was perfect, and everything I had dreamt of my entire life. Everyone looked great, from the bridesmaids in their navy chiffon dresses, my step-daughters in their hot pink chiffon, with fuschia flowers tying it all together. The men wore kilts and looked so handsome they took my breath away, from my husband to my step-son. Although we missed my Mom and my husband’s Dad, we had my Dad, my step-mom, my younger brother and my husband’s Mom, sister, neice, and brother-in law to share our day. Our bagpipe player was perfect and everything that we hoped for and helped make our ceremony very unique and memorable.
The bakery had created a perfect cake from my amateur drawings, and our cake was hot pink with a winding road and a motorcycle cake topper, homage to our song God Bless The Broken Road and our love of riding. Our very simple centerpieces, a large hot pink gerbera daisy in a Pier One hurricane vase with blue rocks in the base looked simple and pretty. I had obsessed about centerpieces, looking at thousands of photos and options, finding out multiple times that my selected flowers would not be available or were way out of my budget, and finally decided to go simple.
I have no idea how our cocktail hour turned out, but the food for the reception was just as delicious as the day we tasted it. The food had been the deciding factor on our venue and we had rave reviews from our friends and family that it was among the best wedding food they had consumed. The DJ did a good job of accomodating our requests, from our Chicago Bulls style entrancte, the special dances, and in general keeping everyone dancing and having fun.
The best part of the night was being able to marry the love of my life, my best friend, the man who is supportive of everything I do or dream of doing, who makes me feel safe, warm, loved, and happy. The second best part of the night was seeing all of our friends and family together, especially those who are usually located in other parts of the country. Our photographer dubbed us “a blast” as we hammed it up for photos, both the formal ones early in the day, down to the Braveheart Moment the men in kilts provided after a few too many cocktails.
Before long it was midnight and time for the party to end. Most of the wedding party headed back out to the gazebo where we had wed, which had since been transitioned to a venue for an 80s cover band. We thought about joining them, since after all, we had lived together for two years prior to our wedding night, but aching feet, the itchy crinoline of my dress and the sweat soaked wool of my husband’s kilt sent us back to our bridal suite.
The next morning I remember the funny moment when we realized that in all of our planning we had forgotton to bring a second outfit for my husband to wear home. I had slept in one of his fire department t-shirts the night before, as I always do when I am away from home for the night, so he wore that inside out with his kilt and shoes, getting some funny glances as we walked through the hotel lobby to my car.
Marriage has been somewhat of a pleasant surprise to me. Although I had lived with someone else for ten years I had never been married before. My husband and I lived together for two years before our wedding, and I honestly thought that nothing would change. I suppose it is impossible to determine if the changes we have gone through are just from the passing of time or if it really is different being wed. I have always been of the opinion that a couple did not have to be legally married to be committed, to be in love, to spend the rest of their lives together. Good relationships come from love, not a legal document or public ceremony. But there are legal benefits that make me relax, things that really impact the “for worse” or “in sickness” part of our vows.
Sure, there have been struggles, arguments, and compromise. Just last month we had what I like to think of as our most productive argument ever, resulting in some positive changes and a greater feeling of harmony than I have ever felt, even in our early “new” days when we first realized we were in love. We have learned so many lessons in communicating and arguing and how to do it productively rather than with negativity. Just the other day in the middle of a minor argument when I was getting ready to go to the pool, I pulled off my engagement ring with somewhat of a dramatic flair, realized how it must have looked and how bad that might make him feel, and told him “I’m not taking this off for dramatic effect, I am taking it off because I am going swimming at the public pool and don’t want to lose it. I am never so mad at you that I would take my rings off”. We started giggling at that, silly argument forgotten, and he came to the pool with me.
Through it all I think I chose well when I said “yes” to my husband’s request for a date in December 2006. I chose well when I said “yes” to his invitation to move in with him and his children. And I chose well when I said “yes” to his early morning proposal, at 6 am on Christmas morning in 2008, both of us in our PJs, uncaffeinated, morning breath, hair disheveled, pillow impressions still on our faces just the same way that we start each of our days. My wish on this second anniversary is that we start our mornings this way for the next fifty or sixty years, although I still deep down wish it was a little later than 6 a.m.