Anna & Will


*Anna, Coordinator Of A Teacher Credentialing Program & Will, English Teacher*

Anna & Will | A Practical Wedding

My three-year wedding anniversary last week made me think a lot about memory and history—how big events like our weddings shape (or don’t shape) our lives, and how their memory intertwines with our present. So this week, in a whole bunch of ways, we’re exploring the idea of history. First up Anna talks beautifully about remembering her wedding, echoing exactly how I felt a week after our wedding on our honeymoon, sobbing about moving away from exactly how it felt.Anna & Will | A Practical Wedding

Remembering my wedding day is like trying to look for too long into a very bright light. It’s been nearly a year since that day, a year filled with adventures—I started my first “real job,” and we bought our first home just two months ago. Everything else from a year ago feels a bit dim with all that’s happened since then. But the day I married Will still dazzles.

Anna & Will | A Practical Wedding

Soon after getting married, I saw a show about how the brain works that described how remembering something can actually change the biochemical signature of the original memory. I became reluctant to remember the wedding after that—I wished I could capture the experiences of the day and etch them into glass so that they would never change in the biochemical signatures of my brain cells. Even looking at pictures made me worry that the images I saw through my eyes of our wedding would fade in comparison. One thing that’s nice about pictures, though, is that they can help you remember things that would otherwise fade, and allow you to experience a different perspective on things that can enrich your own.

Anna & Will | A Practical Wedding

The best part of the wedding day itself was how I felt once things got going. In the morning I was rattled and overwhelmed, impatient for the event itself. I was wearing a hokey “bride” shirt that my sister had given me, and I was irritated by how it made everyone smile knowingly and console my impatience with reassurances that everything would be fine. I knew everything was going to be fine! I just wanted it all to get going! (This could be a cautionary tale about afternoon weddings, but it’s not.) The thing I wanted was to have my dress on, make-up done, hair out of my face. I wanted to see my fiancé as my fiancé for the last time—for our “first look.” When I finally saw Will waiting for me, and I flew into his arms, I felt, irrationally, like I’d finally arrived at our wedding. Forgive me for the Star-Trek-speak, but it was like there was a configuration of the time-space continuum where I needed to be, and in my dress with Will was it. I didn’t care much about what happened between that moment and the ceremony. Sign the Ketubah with the rabbi? Sure, ok. Doing family photographs on the hotel lawn? Fine! As long as I got to stand next to Will, I felt like I was where I needed to be.

Anna & Will | A Practical Wedding

We had worked hard on the vision of the whole day, wanting it to reflect us and our relationship, and to have meaning. Will is an avid fly-fisherman, and I’m happiest when I’m birdwatching, so we melded our two passions by making “rivers” the theme of the celebration. Tables in the reception were named after rivers that were important in our lives, and we even found fish-shaped vases for flowers. The ceremony, though, that was the most meaning-filled part from the planning side of things, and in preparing it, we were preparing ourselves for the meaning of the experience.

Anna & Will | A Practical Wedding

I had crafted the ceremony carefully with Will’s input, working hard to incorporate seriousness and joy in a healthy balance. Striking that balance was important to me. My mom died of ovarian cancer seven years ago, and I felt strongly about including her, and her absence, in our wedding. I’ve been to weddings of brides who lost their mothers where that loss is never mentioned, and while I respect each bride for however she wants to experience her own wedding, that kind of omission was not for me. In the final month of my mom’s life, my dad and sisters and I were able to be with her to help her (with the support of Hospice) to die, and we were able to talk with her about what it would mean for our lives. She made it clear that she never wanted us to wallow in grief, or to focus on her death rather than on her life. It was therefore very important to me to include my mom in just the right way—it made it a more honest experience for me. After a long search, I chose a poem (“From Blossoms” by Li Young Lee) and asked my dad if he’d read it. I was gratified when he agreed, and when he said that he thought it was a lovely way to honor Mom.

These are a few lines from the poem that most resonated for me:

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

Those words were the perfect thing to express how I wanted to honor the absence of my mom while also keeping the joy of the day intact.

Anna & Will | A Practical Wedding

In envisioning the ceremony, I expected that the poem would make me teary, but I imagined that, just as with other moments in my life when I felt sad about missing my mom, that I’d fight back the tears and move on. Not so. That’s my most vivid memory of the wedding—how my emotions were completely uninhibited. Talk about having an honest experience, I had no control over my feelings—it was like being drunk on emotion. When my dad read the poem, I was very sad, and I wasn’t holding anything back. I wasn’t able to be done with being sad until the feeling was done with me. There was no fighting back tears or gracefully dabbing at my eyes—and in the pictures, you can see it. Looking at the pictures of my crying then make me cry now. I look sad. And I was. Joy soon followed, and then I was smiling again, just as I’d hoped.

Anna & Will | A Practical Wedding

And as much as preparing the ceremony beforehand had helped prepare us for the life experience of getting married, the reception was definitely the best part. Our favorite bluegrass band played up a storm, and our friends and family danced late into the night. When the band left, the party continued with finishing off the opened bottles of wine, dancing to iPod music on cheap speakers, and just smiling ‘til our faces hurt. Of those hours, I remember feeling simply happy—and how uncomfortable a corset gets after twelve hours.

Anna & Will | A Practical Wedding

If they could bottle the feeling of your wedding day, and you could get toasted on that high whenever you wanted, I don’t know if I would. That’s powerful stuff, and I think should be reserved for the weightiest human moments—life and death—for the specialest of special occasions—like a sort of champagne for the soul.

Anna & Will | A Practical Wedding

Will and I are planning to start trying for a baby on our first anniversary. Neither of us have ever had kids, but my guess is that we’ll be getting pretty drunk on some of that “soul champagne” when the time comes. Cheers!

Anna & Will | A Practical Wedding

The Info—Photography: Eva York / Venue: Benbow Inn / Band: The Compost Mountain Boys / Anna’s Dress: Maggie Sottero / Anna’s Veil: Vintage (originally worn by groom’s mother) / Anna’s Necklace: Designed by Anna from her mother’s sapphire jewelry / Anna’s Earrings: Anna’s earrings that belonged to her mother

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  • http://www.madeinmorningside.blogspot.com Ashleigh

    I love that last picture, you look so happy! Congratulations!

    I like your thoughts on preparing the ceremony was preparing for the meaning of the experience. We are meeting our celebrant this month and I am looking forward to starting that process. I also lost my Mum some years ago and am looking for a way to mention her without making everyone sad and am a bit worried about getting too sad myself. But you have shown that it can be moving without taking away from the joy of the day.

    Here’s to a lot more soul champagne in the coming years xox

  • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

    Star Trek references on APW is a great way to start the day.

    I loved reading about how you felt on your wedding day, and how you felt about the day after. It sounds like you had a magical experience. :)

  • carissa

    Anna,
    Beautiful thoughts on the experience of remembering your wedding. I lost my Mom three years before the wedding, and also felt strongly about including her. I lit a candle for her, and we sang one of her favorite hymns. I didn’t expect that to affect me as much as it did – I couldn’t even get through the hymn, or I knew I would burst into ugly tears. I’m so glad that we did it though. It was good to take that time to remember her.

  • jes

    I concur with your need to just get ready so you can finally be with the person you are getting married to. The waiting around before hand was so anxious. And I had a morning wedding!

    Thank you for sharing!

    • KB

      “I was irritated by how it made everyone smile knowingly and console my impatience with reassurances that everything would be fine.” YES. Can I just say that nothing irritates me more than this – my mom and one of my friends did this when we were wedding dress shopping. I would ask questions of the saleswoman and they would look at each other and smile knowingly and say, “KB, it’ll be fiiiiiine…” Uhh, I know it’ll fine, I would just like to get my question answered, thankyouverymuch.

      Rant out of the way! – I love how you describe perfectly the calm that I feel like applies to my own relationship, that no matter what happens, you’re ok as long as you feel the presence of your partner. And soul champagne!! I love it!

      • Diane

        Ha! I totally know that feeling. Our guests are almost all flying in from out of town and the people from the large downtown hotel that’s right next to our venue looked at me as if horns were coming out of my head when I asked if we needed to get an extra contract room block on top of the 20 that they do with no financial liability. Now all of a sudden every other room in the hotel is blocked off because of some volleyball tournament that weekend and won’t be available until sometime in March, a few weeks before the wedding. I haven’t been much of a pre-wedding stresser but caring that our friends and family have a convenient place to stay after flying hundreds or thousands of miles (and won’t be driving after the reception)? Not so unreasonable.

        Rant over. Totally beautiful post.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        It is one of the very wrong things about gender and weddings: Asking questions, double checking, planning carefully – things that would be considered completely smart, good consumerism in any other context are “bridezilla” when you’re a bride arranging to buy things for your wedding.

        • Anna Thaler Petersen

          ElisabethJoAnne,

          I think this is a fascinating topic that you raise–how when our roles are changing (from female-person-planning-things to bride) that people treat the same (reasonable) behavior differently. And probably it applies to pregnant ladies too. Do you think it ever applies to men?

          Anna

          • ElisabethJoanne

            I can’t think of a situation in which strangers are looking for men “zillas” the way they look for “bridezillas.” We have many tropes in which men are incompetent (changing diapers, running vacuums, etc.), and some damaging standards of “manliness” (“I don’t need to see the doctor. It’s just a sprain.”) But I can’t think of situations in which retailers are just waiting to roll their eyes at a man who triple-checks an order or asks a long series of precise questions, the way they are so quick to do (at least in my experience) with brides.

            And it’s not just people selling things. As your experience shows, sometimes it’s our own friends and family just waiting to point out you’ve become a “bridezilla.” In my experience, though, sometimes the “It’ll all work out and be lovely” comments from friends are patronizing, but sometimes they’re really helpful.

          • Jashshea

            I agree with much of this, but think it’s probably equally patronizing for men to be treated like imbeciles when they’re dealing with children or cleaning or cooking.

            While I don’t love the fact that nearly every vendor for my wedding has treated me like a potential crazy person, it has to be equally irritating for my male fiance to be outright ignored.

  • Senorita

    Losing my mom before the wedding is something that I lose more than a little sleep over. It’s reassuring to see how radiantly happy you are in every single one of your photos.

    Here’s wishing your soul an excessive amount of champagne in the future.

  • KateM

    I loved this post on the wedding day emotions. You summed up how I felt perfectly from the morning and the irritation of just wanting to be there together, to the breakdown I had during the wedding mass when my recently departed grandmother was remembered. And I love the term soul champagne! I fully intend to use it.

  • Ashley M

    Wonderful Anna! This makes me so happy!

  • Shiri

    I really appreciated this post. I keep wondering how to describe the feelings I had on my wedding day and how the good and the bad combined, or didn’t, to make that soul champagne.

    On a totally different note, I think I worked with your father.

    • Anna Thaler Petersen

      Shiri–

      Really? You worked with my dad?? Where? When?

      :)

      Anna

      • Shiri

        Now that I see your whole name I’m wondering if I know a doppelganger with a very similar family history (and I’m feeling a little creepy!)… does your dad work at Georgetown?

        • Anna Thaler Petersen

          Hi Shiri,

          No, he lives in Portland. :)

          Doppelganger! ;) (It’s ok, he’s got more than one. He’s been told that he looks like George W. Bush. He always quips back, “Yes, he’s my evil twin.”)

          Anna

          • Shiri

            Hi Anna,

            That’s unbelievable! Seriously, so much like the man I know. Well, you’d be a credit to him if you were his daughter!

            Shiri

  • Jashshea

    The picture of you crying is both heartbreaking and so, so, so life-affirming? Love-affirming? Gorgeous? Not sure what the right word is (probably all of those), but reaffirms my belief that joy and sadness are not opposites, more like parts of a whole. What a lovely tribute to your mother.

  • Zephyr

    This was simply beautiful. Reading the section about your reaction to the poem brought tears to my eyes and the picture of you crying captured so perfectly what I imagine you were feeling. But what I found the most striking is that in that picture and in all the others, there is such an absolute open honesty about your emotions that is breathtaking.

  • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

    There are so many things I love about this. For example:

    Forgive me for the Star-Trek-speak, but it was like there was a configuration of the time-space continuum where I needed to be, and in my dress with Will was it. I didn’t care much about what happened between that moment and the ceremony. Sign the Ketubah with the rabbi? Sure, ok. Doing family photographs on the hotel lawn? Fine! As long as I got to stand next to Will, I felt like I was where I needed to be.

    I know exactly what that space-time continuum configuration feels like. I still feel it. No matter what’s going on with my life, if I’m literally, or at least figuratively, standing next to him, I’m where I need to be.

    And then this part:

    If they could bottle the feeling of your wedding day, and you could get toasted on that high whenever you wanted, I don’t know if I would. That’s powerful stuff, and I think should be reserved for the weightiest human moments—life and death—for the specialest of special occasions—like a sort of champagne for the soul.

    So true.

    I love the feeling of this whole post. Wonderful.

  • Gloria

    this makes me more excited for my wedding day!! and i might steal that poem to honor a few close family members and friends that have passed on in the last few years. it’s good to remember, but not let the sadness take away from the joy of having had them in your lives. good luck on your future endeavors!

  • http://bettencourtchase.blogspot.com Helen

    Love this: “That’s powerful stuff, and I think should be reserved for the weightiest human moments—life and death—for the specialest of special occasions—like a sort of champagne for the soul.” Congrats!!!