*Hannah, Marketing and Publicity Intern & David, Law Student*
I’ve been waiting for this post for two years. No joke. Two whole years. Hannah has been reading APW since back in the very early days, and when she got married, the note she sent me about her experience so closely mirrored mine it was eery. Gorgeous pictures? Check. Day full of love? Check. Feeling of being emotionally raw and overwhelmed and Oh My God Is This Right Has Anyone Ever Felt This Way Before Am I Broken? Check, check check! So for me, this post is what no one ever told me about getting married. The thing is, the raw emotion is perfect, in it’s own way, but if it hits you, it’s nice to have a voice in the back of your head telling you, “Normal, this is normal.” So, as we explore the theme of Memory this week, coming off the US’s Memorial Day, let’s start with Hannah’s wedding, explored at two years distance.
I’ve been planning on writing this post since before I got married. I’ve been reading APW since before I met David and I assumed that after reading so many Wedding Graduates and having such reasonable non-WIC expectations. Remember my parents? I was expecting to have a nice party and go on with my life. I thought I’d be able to tell you how the Wedding Zen set in and I felt the love of my family around me and I basked in it and it was amazing.
Nothing anyone said prepared me for what it felt like to get married. I felt raw and shocked, my soul felt different and weird. I was scared. I went back to the B&B and cried myself to sleep because I felt wrenched. No one told me it was going to feel like that. I’ve seen a gazillion pictures of gorgeous glowing brides and no one told me that when your dad gave a speech and you cried it wasn’t a photo op, you were REALLY CRYING and a lot of people were looking at you crying and you were actually sad. I think it’s okay to feel raw and wretched. Marriage is a big deal. It is something to be taken seriously. I felt bad about feels scared and sad and raw and wrenched. I felt really guilty.
None of which is to say that I didn’t love our wedding. I did. It was a gorgeous wedding. When David proposed I was in my ninth month of being unemployed and within weeks my dad lost his job too. Out of economic necessity and my own long-lived devotion to make stuff I crafted and my sisters crafted, and my mother and my friends crafted.
I made the cake topper because I couldn’t afford one and because I made clothespin dolls with my mum as a child; I couldn’t afford a florist so my bridesmaids and friends and I put together made the most beautiful flowers ever; I poured candles for weeks; my maid of honor and my little sister did hours of calligraphy. We didn’t have any money but we had a lot of time and we built our wedding out of nothingness. I made flowered headbands for the flower girls and tote bags for the bridesmaids; David and I hung papel-picado and bistro lights and we swept the barn and my mother and cousin made fresh blueberry chutney and sandwiches on wedding day for us all.
I heard time and time again during wedding planning that the details don’t matter and for some couples maybe they don’t but my sister’s handwriting on my place card, my brother’s band playing, my nephew carrying the ring bowl my mother made, the bridesmaid assembled flowers everywhere, the tissue paper pom-poms hanging from the rafters, the flowered combs in my hair made by my friend who drank a box of Franzia and burnt the hell out of her fingers with a hot glue gun, these things mattered. I can’t even tell you how much they mattered. They felt like a gift and I felt wrapped in the sweetness and the love and the care that had gone into them.* It was a gorgeous wedding and I felt the love. I felt the magical love we are supposed to feel but I also felt like I had been hit by a bus.
I think getting married—the leaving one family and making another—is hard for everyone but I was twenty-three when I got married and so I can only speak to what being a young bride was like. I was a very young bride. Maybe not very. But definitely young. For me a huge part of the wedding, an unexpected part of the wedding was the looking back part, the end of an era part, the “you only get one wedding goddamn it and this is it” part.
In the last two weeks leading up to the wedding I felt unbelievably guilty for feeling like this because clearly this was not an end but a beginning and honestly being twenty-three is being young, regardless of your marital status. But I cried when I turned ten because I felt my life slipping away really quickly and the wedding was a little like that. A milestone, come and gone. And I was scared. I was terrified, and I felt bad for being terrified, I was ashamed of my fear. Because I am brave, because I love David, because that is what we do. We educated women of the twenty-first century, we move, we grow, we change.
Two days before the wedding, the last night before everyone arrived from out of town, when David was out at his bachelorette party, my little sister flat ironed my hair while we watched the Golden Girls (I know, mock me) and I cried myself to sleep because the end of an era is sad, the end of childhood, is sad. Because sleeping in my childhood bedroom under a duvet cover my mother made me with furniture I had painted as a teenager and my arms around my bear, placed there by another younger sister who sweetly made my bed broke my heart.
There is something very immediate about the heartbreak of growing up, being a young bride. Something scary and new and magical about a new husband. About leaving a family where little sisters are just entering high school and everyone else is still on a family cell phone plan.
Leaving the church after the wedding David and I ran as fast as we could to the car away from all the hugging people. One of my favorite wedding photos is the one the photographer managed to catch of us midflight, running as fast as we could for the car. It felt like something real happened. Like every clichéd statement about two people becoming one flesh and leaving your father and mother and cleaving to your spouse was physically happening and it hurt. My skin felt weird and I couldn’t catch my breath. It continued to hurt for the three days we spent camping where I cried my eyes out and sobbed that I wanted to be taken home. I wanted my mother. It hurt that way for a while.
Two years later I have never had a magical moment when all of a sudden it stopped feeling weird. No moment when I realized that the magical grafting of our lives together is over and the new family was fully made. But I love David and the leaving behind of the old and the building of the new (a new that includes both of our families of origin) is exciting and challenging and wonderful.
It’s funny to look at the pictures and see how fine I look. I still danced with my sisters to the Talking Heads and smoked a Clove with David’s friends from college and felt every single huge hug. I served everyone cake and remember my baby sister’s drunken face when she gave me a sloppy kiss and told me she loved me.
The Info—Photography: Shaun Yasaki / Venue: Hannah’s Parent’s House
*I happened to have friends who teach and have summers off and a stay-at-home-mom and sisters who are still at school who could devote huge amounts of time to these things and they did. I’m also that lucky heifer who’s brother is in an awesome band and who grew up on a farm with a gorgeous barn and whose boyfriend went to undergrad with our stellar photographer.