*Danielle, Social Worker & Jon, Financial Advisor*
Today’s wedding graduate post is the perfect compliment to this morning’s post on becoming a stepparent. When Danielle walked down the aisle, she also (surprise!) was walking into parenthood and building a bigger family than just the two of them. She discusses that, and learning to negotiate boundaries with family with astonishing grace. (And now that we’ve said the deep things, can we take a moment to talk about how breathtaking she looks in that dress? Because girlfriend…. yes.)
Let me just start this by saying: I have been having a difficult time reflecting on my actual wedding day and the ten month planning process leading up to it, since five weeks, almost exactly, after that day my husband and I found out that I am pregnant. This was a surprise and one that we are still (six months later) wrapping our minds around. I have always thought, rather abstractly, that I would like to have children some day, but that day always seemed distant and far removed from my everyday choices. I have accepted the fact that having created life has permanently altered my memories of our wedding day and what was/was not significant about that day for us. If anything, it has allowed me to focus more on the relationships that are significant to me and the promises that we made to each other.
We received our wedding photos and a small clip of a wedding video just days after finding out that we would be having a baby. I remember looking at those pictures and it all seemed so distant and removed from where our lives had catapulted to in the previous forty-eight hours. Most of the “pretty details” that I worked so on are now blurred into the background of my memories.
Six months after our wedding, our relationship and our lives are completely different from what we planned. (“But in a good way,” is what I keep adding as an addendum when I try to explain this to people.) The vows that we made to each other that day seem much less theoretical. This is not some “future family” we are creating. This. Is. Real.
There are a few things that stand out to me as worth mentioning when I think about our wedding:
- Going to premarital counseling. I grew up in the Catholic Church, and while we were not married in the church I still held the belief that premarital counseling was an important step in wedding planning. Since we were married on the beach in Santa Cruz by a good friend of ours who got ordained for the event, this was not a prerequisite. However, I am so happy that we made it a priority. We met with a therapist through the Relationship Counseling Center for three or four sessions in the two months before our wedding and this opportunity allowed us to further ground ourselves in our relationship. We had spent so much time/energy/emotions planning this wedding and it was equally important to me to spend time preparing for our marriage. This is what premarital counseling allowed us to do. (It was also the much-needed push for me to set some serious boundaries with my mother prior to our wedding day.)
- People generally act the way they always act, even on your wedding day. A very old friend of mine, who is often flakey, was nowhere to be found for most of the wedding day. My mother, who struggles with being there for me emotionally, was the same way on my wedding day. My extended family who all seem to have some conflict with each other did not call a truce, even for my wedding day. I knew that this was all possible, even likely, going into that day, but it still hurt. I was, however, able to set some boundaries and still enjoy the day (thank you premarital counselor).
- Being happy on my wedding day was a choice. A few days before the wedding, I was home packing our things to get ready to head to Santa Cruz. It was then that I noticed that my grandmother’s wedding veil, which was made by her mother and worn by eight other brides in my family was not in my closet, wrapped in tissue where it had been sitting on a shelf for the past two months. Following the frantic searching, panic attacks, and crying that lasted for hours, I found out that my husband had mistakenly thrown it away at least a week prior. Obviously, this was heartbreaking for me, my husband, my grandmother, and our entire family. I was still struggling with this on our drive to Santa Cruz two days before the wedding, when in the car my now-husband asked, “Did I ruin our wedding for you? Are you going to be able to happy this weekend?” I realized that I controlled whether or not I was going to be happy. I made, what seemed at the time to be, the difficult choice of being happy. This set the tone for all that followed. Each time that something went wrong, I made a choice that I was still going to have a wonderful day. And I did. I loved Jon so much that day. I loved all of my family and Jon’s family and our friends so much. Our ceremony was beautiful and our reception was the exact kind of party I would want to go to if I was a wedding guest.
- Spending ten minutes with my dad before the wedding ceremony. My parents are divorced and my father is a man of few words. As part of my setting boundaries with my mother, I knew I would need at least ten minutes away from her, before the ceremony began. This was time for me to decompress and “get in the moment.” I asked my father if he would come and “rescue” me ten minutes before the ceremony so that I could have that space. What I didn’t count on is how much those ten minutes with my father would stand out in my memory of that day. Since I hadn’t planned on what we would do during those ten minutes, I just sat on a balcony in his hotel room with him while he had a beer and we watched guests arrive at the ceremony site on the beach below. I also practiced my wedding vows for him and we both teared up. This was a very special moment for us.
These are the things that stand out to me now. I have read and re-read our vows to myself many times since our wedding day. The meaning and significance of those words seems to have expanded almost exponentially. When I promised to be Jon’s “partner in life, in love, in parenthood, in old age, and in everything that life has in store for us” I didn’t realize how quickly I would be living up it.
I really wasn’t prepared for such shifts in our relationship after the wedding. We had been living together prior, with joint finances, and I seriously believed that we had already become a family. I viewed our ceremony and reception as a way of celebrating the commitment that we were already making to each other in our daily lives. In part, our wedding was that. And maybe the reason I see it as much more of a “turning point” now is because of the significant ways our lives have changed in the months following.
I never imagined that I would be married and having a baby at 26 years old. I didn’t know if I was ever going to have children biologically and I had only recently come around to the idea of marriage. So this is all new territory for me. Our wedding was truly one of the most special days of my life (and it is okay if I don’t know at this point if it was truly that special because it marks, in my mind, the beginning of our lives as parents). Or maybe The Wedding Day Gods somehow knew that this was how it would all unfold and they gave us those lessons and that day because they knew it was just what we needed.