Today’s post is about what really matters. And I don’t mean that in a wedding-y way, like, “The vows mattered but the favors didn’t.” I mean that in an absolute way. It’s about love and loss. It’s about being brave enough to find your heart again. It’s about being brave enough to face how scared and sad you actually are… and moving forward anyway. And yes, it’s about what matters at a wedding, too: it’s about grinning, family, and love. Not just the love between two people, but the greater love that holds us up every day.
“I dreamed I ruined your wedding. You weren’t mad, but you were very disappointed. I’ll explain the rest after I get there. It was…complicated. ” This was the call I received from my sister the day before my wedding.
She was right. The dream was quite involved and included things like heavy machinery, an aisle runner fashioned from crushed pretzels, and hiking through the woods during a thunderstorm in.my.wedding.dress. It made her forgetting to bring my brooch bouquet the next day pale in comparison. But I’ll get to that later.
I never thought I’d get married again. I know lots of people say that, but I meant it. I was married once before. It wasn’t good; I’ll leave it at that. And it lasted way too long, but that’s how long it took for me to realize I didn’t have to remain there…that it was okay to end it. Hey, I’m a Virgo, we over-analyze everything. But even after the bad marriage, I wasn’t totally soured on the idea. Cut to a few years later and I was engaged. This time it was great. We started out as friends, had common interests, and even kept things going during a multi-year long distance stint. Then, just after we got engaged, he up and died on me.
Have you ever seen tapes of those football players hit simultaneously by two people from different directions? The ones who fly up into the air, limbs flailing like a rag doll and you’re left wondering if they’ll ever eat solid foods again? Yeah. Combine that with a sucker punch to the gut and jumping into an icy river naked, and you have a small idea of how it felt.
I crawled into a deep, dark hole. It took therapy, meds, and some very good friends to pull me back out. But even then, I didn’t date. I didn’t even think about dating. I worked. I rode my bike. I continued breathing. I deflected well-meaning friends who tried to set me up with nice guys. I immersed myself in school, work, and schoolwork. And slowly, I began to heal.
And years later, out of the blue, I met Eric. He was the shy friend of a friend who didn’t know anyone at the party except our host. I talked to him and made a point to introduce him to others. We kept gravitating back to each other. At the end of the night, I told him it was great to meet him and he should come around more often.
He showed up the next weekend. And the next. It just evolved from there and all those protective walls I built slowly crumbled away. He eventually proposed, and after he nixed my elopement proposal, we started planning our wedding. I got a dress. I searched for a site we could afford. I found APW. I bought him a ring. And then the past came crashing in on me.
Maybe buying Eric’s ring triggered it, I’m not sure. But suddenly, planning our wedding was hard. I couldn’t do anything without thoughts of my lost fiancé creeping in. I tried to push the feelings away and felt guilty for moving on. Then I tried embracing the feelings and felt guilty for not letting go of the past. I was making myself crazy.
I tried talking to friends, but nobody understood. I even emailed Meg, who assured me I wasn’t crazy and mourning for my past while planning my future was completely logical. Finally, I did what I should’ve done in the first place and talked to Eric about it. I was reminded why I love him so much…he is a wonderful, supportive man and he loves me without question. Turns out, acknowledging the feelings and talking about it with him was exactly what I needed.
So on to our wedding. We forgot things. Lots of things. The little chalkboards we made to label the dessert table? Forgotten. The cool slate pieces to label the cheese? Still MIA. The iPod playlist for the reception we obsessed over? Never played a note of it. The entire kid’s table box that disappeared? Eventually found shoved behind some other boxes under a table. And the bouquet? The bouquet a friend and I spent months collecting brooches for? The one we bled (seriously y’all, that floral wire is brutal) on and nursed sore, sticky fingers over? The brooch bouquet was the biggest, and really the only item that made much of an impact.
Instead of first look photos with my beautiful brooch bouquet, I had photos with the too-pretty-to-throw toss bouquet my sister made the night before. And you know what? The flowers and the photos were beautiful, and there were plenty others of the brooch bouquet, which made it in time for our trip down the aisle. So guess what? It didn’t make that much of an impact after all.
I remember Eric being so eager to say “I do” that he interrupted our officiant. I remember him giving me the wrong hand for his ring, and putting it on anyway. I remember hugs. Lots of them. I remember a dessert table so full of homemade cakes, cookies, and cupcakes people couldn’t decide what to eat first. I remember crying as my daughter toasted our new family. And I remember standing arm in arm with my new husband, surrounded by friends and family; and feeling overwhelmed by their love and support. I remember how quickly it seemed to end.
One second I was kissing my new husband and taking photos, the next we were saying our goodbyes and wishing we’d eaten more shrimp and grits. I remember waking up the next morning in our swanky hotel room with sore cheeks from smiling so much. And even now, it brings a smile to my face every time. I hope I can remember the lessons I learned from our wedding and apply them to our marriage. There will be mistakes, but sometimes they will work out better than the original plan ever could. And those small imperfections just make things more memorable and personal than any version of perfect ever could.