The Beginning (And The End)

A goodbye (for now) from 2014 intern Hayley

One of the very first posts I ever read on APW was a Wedding Graduate post from someone who hesitated to post too many details about her wedding online. “Part of me doesn’t want to share my wedding with the world,” she wrote. “I think I’m afraid if I shake it too hard, the glitter will fall off.” I didn’t want to shake the glitter off our wedding, either. I wanted to super glue it down as fast as I could, to get my hands on every photo and video and to write down every thought and emotion I had that day, to keep it all ingrained in my memory forever.

I have a vivid memory from the very end of our wedding reception. The first few shuttles had already left for the first return trip to the hotel, and the DJ had played his last song. Only a handful of our closest friends remained, polishing off the champagne and cupcakes and belting out Billy Joel and Journey, oblivious to the lack of background music. The photographers were gone, and the rented video cameras had long since run out of batteries. As our friends launched into a particularly rousing chorus, I remember leaning into Nick, laughing hysterically, and having the fleeting thought, Wait! Maybe someone can record this on their phone!

And then, just as quickly, I decided it didn’t matter if it was recorded or not. The moment was passing before my eyes, and a recording wouldn’t have been adequate to capture the memory, anyway. These memories that can’t be reproduced—the dark barn with the chill of early April, the warmth of my new husband’s arms around me, the laughter of my best friends—are the ones that came to my mind when I read this beautiful New Year’s post by Rebecca Woolf last week:

I started a post about Hawaii several months ago before stopping, overwhelmed with having to sort through photos and put into words what felt so completely magical off the page. There’s a reason why perfect moments do not make for good storytelling. Some moments decide for themselves whether or not to be preserved or presented and the night before we left, after insisting that we all stop, drop, and stargaze well into the midnight hour, I got that pull in my throat… YOU WILL REMEMBER THIS ALWAYS, I SWEAR! YOU WILL REMEMBER THIS EVEN IF YOU DON’T WRITE IT DOWN.

Some perfect moments can’t be preserved. Some of the glitter just can’t be glued.

The beginning of the middle or the end of the beginning?

Back when Nick and I first started planning our wedding, I resisted anything that signified “beginnings.” I vetoed any first dance song that talked about “for the first time,” or any ceremony reading that suggested the “start of our lives together.” We had been together for almost five years, and engaged for almost three, I reasoned. The wedding felt important and symbolic, yes, but a beginning? Not quite.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of a fresh start. I cherish Sundays, preparing for a new week full of possibilities. I love waking up on New Year’s Day, with the blocks of my shiny new blank calendar like three hundred and sixty five clean slates stretching out in front of me. But our marriage, to me, didn’t feel like that. With several years of cohabitation and combined finances and packing and moving and finally settling under our belts, marriage felt like an important milestone, but not necessarily a fresh beginning. We had already experienced richer and poorer, sickness and health. We were carrying forward the lessons we’ve learned and the memories we’ve made so far. And yes, try as we might to let the past stay in the past, we’re guilty of carrying forward less pleasant memories too—just the other day, we rehashed an argument that had its roots in a decision we made over three years ago, well before the wedding. A clean slate in the relationship is a nice idea, but for me, it just doesn’t seem like a reality.

Besides, every beginning, I thought, must necessarily be followed by a middle, and then an end. At the very beginning, the hopeful end of any marriage will be when death do you part. But even if the marriage ends before that, the exact end is unpredictable. So how do you know when the middle is ending and the end beginning? In the best-case scenario, isn’t the middle (God willing) very, very long? How do you know when the beginning has ended and the middle begun?

Three months after the wedding, I wrote that it was too soon to tell whether anything really felt different now that we were married. Eight months past the wedding, I can confidently say that plenty feels different, but I still can’t really articulate most of it. I feel like we’re moving past the “newlywed” stage before I’ve even wrapped my head around what it meant to be there. But if the newlywed stage was a beginning, I’m not sure what this is that comes next. The “middle,” to me, sounds boring, monotonous. But that’s not how we feel right now—it feels like we’re on the cusp of something exciting and new. Maybe that’s the whole point of marriage—we begin, over and over and over again. Sometimes exciting and sometimes boring and never quite a clean slate, but a beginning nonetheless.

The year of the question mark

Even though we got married so early in the year, our 2014 was, decidedly, the Year of the Wedding. There were showers and a bachelorette party and finally the wedding itself. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that we didn’t take a honeymoon right away, but it felt like we stayed in our joyful wedding bubble for a long time afterwards. We took our time tying up all the loose ends, as we patiently narrowed (and narrowed and narrowed) the list of photos for our own album, and finally finished designing all our parent albums just in time for Christmas. We mailed all our thank you cards (and re-sent the twenty-two that were returned to us in the mail). We finally came to the realization that we were never going to sit down and sort through twelve hours of raw video footage, and coughed up the money to pay someone to finish putting the wedding video together for us. We even snuck away for the “honeymoon” we weren’t able to take immediately after the wedding. It wasn’t the multi-week European adventure we imagined, and in the end, it didn’t really feel like a honeymoon, even though we used all the airline miles and hotel points we had earmarked for that purpose. But it was the first real vacation Nick and I took together, or at least the first vacation that was more than twenty-four hours and not for the sole purpose of visiting family, so it was special all by itself.

And now I am wrapping up my last post as an APW intern, the last real task outstanding that’s related to the wedding. All the glitter that can be glued, has been glued, so to speak. After being engaged for so long, I thought I’d experience some post-wedding depression once the big day was over. But the day after the wedding I just felt a total sense of contentment with the way everything had turned out, and an overwhelming amount of love and gratitude for everyone who had celebrated with us. I did unexpectedly start crying as we packed up my dress (probably more due to exhaustion than anything). I had fully intended to put it up for sale, but as I packed it up and thought about how few hours I had spent in it, I just didn’t feel ready to let go of it yet—so I didn’t. It sits in a closet in Ohio, in a creepy little dress coffin, until I decide what to do. Other than that moment, though, I just felt too satisfied with the day itself to be sad that it was over.

I do miss the anticipation of knowing that, on a date in the near future, nearly everyone I loved was going to be under the same roof. With family and friends spread out across the country and beyond, I know that our wedding day was a once in a lifetime experience, and we’re so blessed to have gotten to experience being surrounded by all our people. And while I don’t miss planning the wedding, I do miss some of the structure that the timeline leading up to the big day gave to our year. If 2014 was the Year of the Wedding, 2015 is the Year of the Question Mark. Where 2014 was filled with celebrations and deadlines and certainty, 2015 is more of an open book. Is this the year we renew our lease, or the year we finally get a place we can fill with our own furniture? Should we have a few more adventures, or is this the year we buckle down financially? Are we ready for kids, or at least a puppy?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, but I’m excited to find out. And I hope we keep finding bits of glitter along the way.

Credits

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