by Sarah Erdlen
And so it begins. P and I have finally decided on a target wedding date: May of 2015. The decision wasn’t made after a long night of wine-fueled discussion, no fancy dinner, no special weekend set aside for planning. The decision came softly, my aggressively decisive leadership learning patience and his easygoing placidity moving to action. Though perhaps I should begin at the real beginning. We may not have a proposal story (nor did we want one), but what we do have is a four-year love story that has built to this particular moment in our relationship.
“Love story” is an incredibly sentimental term for the playful, silly, honest, and grounded way our relationship has progressed. It all started with a “study” date. “Study” deserves quotes, because despite the fact that I dutifully shared my notes from the review session, we both knew the notes were not the real focus of that evening. Accordingly, I went over the notes in about five minutes, then we spent the next three hours and fifty-five minutes talking and drinking too many beers, closing the bar, walking back to my door, then making out with gusto.
A couple of weeks later, I spent the night at his place, woke before him, then worriedly considered where on earth his huge, graphic tapestry would hang in our future home together. When he awoke and asked what I was thinking about, I tried to deflect, but he wouldn’t let me. So I told him. Honesty is the best policy, right? Maybe. Either way, whatever internal processing he did, thank goodness he didn’t freak out and stop calling me. So we stepped forward, knowing we were looking ahead.
Fast forward to my graduation and I’m fretting over What Comes Next in my life. I was trying to plan my future while he still had a year of undergrad left to complete and thoughts of grad school ahead. I struggled to find a full-time job, and kept looking within reasonable driving distance of some respectable graduate schools. When I finally got up the nerve to ask him what his plans were, where I should be searching, he responded that he was planning to wait until I found a full-time job then look for grad schools wherever that happened to be. Oh. Duh. We were on the same page, planning a future together.
The following winter, I visited for his birthday and we shared a long night of drinking with his roommates, then came home and shared the toilet, taking turns puking. Somewhere between the heaves, my liberated sensibilities found the time to tell him “You know I’m planning to marry you someday, right?” He knew.
Aggressively opinionated as I am, I already had Opinions about everything I thought was part of the wedding package deal. Flowers? Tulips. My bridesmaids would wear red. I mentally added to the menu each time I encountered delicious food. Candle centerpieces. Favorite jewelry selected as accessories.
We eventually moved together halfway across the country for his grad school and through my frustrated search for pastimes, a community, a time-filler, anything, I found APW.
And then. APW made me think about shit. As smart, insightful women said wise things about what marriage was all about and the point of even having a wedding and what really was part of the “package deal” and what was just an upsell, I developed entirely new Opinions. Bridesmaids? I don’t want to rank my friends! Or make them buy a dress just to match in pictures! Flowers? So expensive! The wedding is not a showcase of Sarah’s Favorite Things! Staying true to myself, I talked about my Opinions with P. Staying true to himself, P alternately thought carefully about important things and thought not at all about trivial things, and took his time before responding with opinions of his own.
Slowly, over the past year and a half, we came to certain agreements. I made clear to him that I absolutely did not need a proposal, nor did I want an engagement ring. Good, he said. I never pegged you as a diamond girl. (Point of clarification: I am, on the whole, a bright colors girl. However, I am also a sparkly things girl, and would not sniff at any sparkly gem simply for its lack of color. In case you’re planning to buy me jewelry, dear readers.) I thought about eloping, to avoid dealing with potential family drama. We considered it together, talked about truly eloping, or inviting one or two friends. We came to the decision that a community celebration made more sense for our relationship, even if we just had a keg and pizza. With my capacity for patience nearly expended, I reminded him that if we wanted a big celebration, we would need to plan for it. That people would need notice a few months ahead of time to make travel arrangements. That venues and caterers and photographers must be booked well in advance, especially if we were going to work around his school breaks. At the end of summer, we talked about his big-picture grad school agenda, replete with comp-studying and dissertation-writing. Much later—patience capacity slowly growing—I asked as we sat on the couch one night, what date are we really shooting for? Cuz we need to jump on that shit. And May 2015 it was.
It’s not a proposal story. It’s not a Big Romantic Moment. It’s another of the many big and small decisions we’ve made together, each choice adding another cord of connection to the ties that bind our lives to one another. It’s a four-year love story. So far.
And it’s a damn good one.