Because APW is nothing if not a giant devil’s advocate argument, since I posted about my (very) un-married 20’s yesterday, today seemed the perfect day to post about Ashlyn’s wedding at 20. When Ashlyn sent me her wedding graduate post, I was immediately grateful. She writes, eloquently, about the pressures she faced for getting married that young and what she learned from that. I get a lot of emails from people who are getting married in their very early 20’s and are not sure if it’s the right thing to do, and I never know what to say. Getting married young is like everything else – sometimes it’s the right thing to do and sometimes it’s not, and you know deep down what the answer is for you. It wouldn’t have been right for me, but my mom got married at 23 and has been happily married for 35 years. It clearly was the right thing for Ashlyn, and I’m proud to have her here, being brave, sharing her wisdom.
I am 20 years old. Miles is 25. Neither of us has graduated with our bachelors degree yet. But a month and a half ago, we got married in the Columbia, South Carolina LDS temple. It was never my plan to get married this young, but honestly, after our third date or so, I knew that we would be getting married in the summer of 2010. As so many said to us “When you know, you know.” And I think we did. You know those people who you place in memories that happened way before you ever knew them, because it seems like you’ve always known them? Miles wasn’t like that. I had never met anyone like him. I knew what life had been without him, and what it was with him, and they were completely different. It sounds trite, but he was what made me whole. He was my fresh start. He made me brave. So we fell in love. So we got engaged.
Unfortunately, the engagement went quickly from what I thought was going to be a blissful period of planning and of Miles and I strengthening our relationship, to a time of extreme stress. I changed my major from Printmaking to Biology; it turned out that planning a wedding on a budget was actually made to seem impossible; Miles and I (especially me, I am 20), began to face something I would call akin to discouragement from many of those around us. People didn’t understand why we couldn’t live together first, date longer, see the world. Getting married felt right to us. We are both religious, and honestly, we are both commitment minded people. The constant criticism started getting to me, though. It made me second guess myself; it made me second guess my ability to have a happy, strong, healthy marriage. And so the engagement got more stressful with my on and off cold feet, and my frustration with the feeling that people don’t think that marriage is a good thing anymore. I had started reading APW, and the story where Meg told a friend she was getting married, and the friend says “Oh, I don’t believe in marriage” like it’s some sort of thing that doesn’t exist, that really stuck with me. I think we’ve hit a point in our culture where marriage is out of style. Though I don’t think getting married at 20 was ever in style.
We were engaged for 9 months, and we got through it. Looking back on it, I wish I had just decided not to care what anyone thought. I think it would have been a much happier time. But, I feel like Miles and I are stronger for the fights that we had and the very strong opinions that we faced. I think if we really hadn’t wanted to get married, in the first few months of being engaged, we would have called the whole thing off. But we knew it was worth it.
Looking back on it, the planning wasn’t important, what people said wasn’t important, the fact that a lot of people chose not to come wasn’t important.
What was important was walking out of the temple on May 21, at 4:32 in the afternoon, holding Miles hand, married. What was important was that we did things the way that we wanted them to be done, and that on May 22, at 6:30 in the evening, so many of the people that we love came to celebrate and affirm the decision that we had made.
So here is my advice for anyone getting married:
Don’t let little things define the bigger meaning: When I started planning our wedding and reception, I felt like if I had the perfect dress, and hair, and centerpieces, and whatever else, then that would mean I would have a perfect marriage. Which sounds nuts, but deep down, I think that’s why there is so much pressure to make everything perfect. Everyone wants to start out… perfectly. I soon realized that our wedding/reception was never going to be perfect, because I really suck at planning. And I made peace with that, and with all the “flaws” of our reception.
Our chairs were the $1.40 ones that turned out to be those plastic ones. But when I pulled up when everything was done, guess what? I couldn’t even tell. All of those tiny details, like what you sat on, or whether your cups were from the grocery store, or the fact that your mom wrapped half the silverware in the wrong twine, they don’t matter. At all. Our wedding and our marriage have nothing to do with chairs. Or plastic forks.
Haters are gonna hate: There will be people who don’t agree with you getting married. I swear, they will just pop up with their opinions. Do not listen to them. You know inside of yourself why you decided to do this. That is all that matters. If people don’t want to celebrate with you, they will miss out on an opportunity to be apart of something bigger than themselves. So big, I am just begin to grasp it.
I don’t even know how to describe this part: Another thing that stuck with me that Meg wrote about was how transcendent getting married was. I remember not understanding what she meant. I am so thankful that eventually I got to. I hope some day that every single person understands that. I have never felt so much love, for me, from me, all around me. For every one person that was discouraging, there were ten people that only wanted to support us.
My dad spent the entire day before the wedding, and the entire day of the reception setting up the lights that I had demanded; my brother and his fiancee helped string the lights; family from out of town set up the tables and the centerpieces; Miles’ mom altered my wedding dress; a friend baked the cake; our dear friend who did all of the flowers also became our photographer’s assistant. I could literally go on for a couple of hours describing the generosity, the incredible help and support that we received from so many people around us. That love was a thousand times over any of the strife we had felt. That day that you get married, that day that you make an unshakeable bond and share it with those around you, take the time to feel it. As we drove away from the reception for the hour and a half drive back to our home, I burst into tears, and I couldn’t stop crying for almost the entire ride home. The wonderful hugeness of it all hit me.
Our wedding and our reception and even our marriage, they were and they are not perfect. But they are so much better than perfection. They’re real. I get to forge my true character with another being who I am only beginning to understand. We got to become a part of bigger family, and at the same time, make our own tiny unit, where we learn and we laugh and we fight.
I guess what I am trying to say is, it’s worth it. Every second.
Photos by Jessica Colvin who is (get this) a student at Georgia State