The night I got married, the power on the entire block went out. A truck plowed into an electric pole five minutes before we began the ceremony. From his seat in the groom’s house, which was the building closest to the street, my husband-to-be heard a loud sound. “It’s over,” the venue manager said, after checking the fuse box.
He was wrong, of course, but we didn’t know that then.
Before my wedding, I did not think of myself as a typical bride. My mother had died in my early twenties, and I knew my biological father would not attend. After David, my now husband, asked me to marry him on a windy ocean side cliff, I was too shy to announce it. I did not realize you should call family to let them know in advance. I took our engagement and the planning of our wedding like I’d taken so many things in my past: on my own, self-sufficient. I was a planner, a list-maker. In this way, I thought I could separate myself. I think now I did not feel I could measure myself against a world of tulle and pearl. Deep down, I was certain I did not deserve it. I did not grow up in a household that encouraged such things. We were closed, our bodies secrets even to ourselves. I was used to living in the dark.
This might have been what drew me first to Jonas Seaman’s work. The muted, emotional light in his photographs spoke to me. And to the moody seaside town where David proposed, Bodega Bay. “It’s where Hitchcock filmed The Birds!” I’d explain, as if horror films and weddings were a paired set. The Secret Gardens venue nestled beside the docks, drew me into its hidden, flower-filled space.
I knew from the beginning I would not be able to do a lot of the legwork at the wedding because, along with everything, I have an autoimmune disease. I needed to carefully save (we planned a year and a half in advance) in order to hire a very supportive team. There were many times I sat in bed, crying over my laptop. “Why did we plan a destination wedding?” I said. “It’ll be good,” David told me. “It’ll work out,” he said.
Two close friends, who had known me since I was a snotty, goth teenager and whom I had always seen as honorary parents, stepped in to help me plan. When I mentioned we were doing alternative florals, Gayle, my honorary mother, bought so many fake flowers they filled her living room and den. It took fifteen proposed place settings before I gave up and let her mother me. Her husband, also named David, joked that he could walk me down the aisle if my dad didn’t attend. In the end, I wanted them both by my side. I wanted my closest friends, my chosen parents, to give me away.
Music is important to David and me. Even after the power went out, it was all I really worried about. I remember our very talented wedding coordinator, Tricia Rodgers, approaching me five minutes before the ceremony. Her voice was calm. “The power has gone out,” she said. I took a few deep breaths. Everyone jumped in at once. “It’ll be okay,” Christina, my maid of honor, said. “Don’t worry,” my honorary dad said. “Everyone just be quiet for a moment,” I snapped, “I need to gather my thoughts.”
“The music,” I said, “What about the procession?”
We played the processional on a small, battery-operated hand speaker, my honorary sister sitting in a chair at the back of the hushed crowd.
We decided to make a wedding mix in advance, which we included on cassettes styled as place cards for the guests, because who doesn’t miss the days of hand-made mixtapes?
We are both drawn to geometry, to a structure behind the chaos, and our centerpieces, aisle decorations, and printed materials reflect this fascination.
We both value handmade work, so we purchased everything—from our wedding rings to our clothing—from independent and online maker artists. Everyone who hears I ordered my dress online asks me if I am crazy. Probably, I tell them, a little.
We decided on a first look because we wanted to spend as much time with our guests as possible. I wanted time to drink champagne from our pressed-flower flutes. I wanted to hug each and every one of our seventy guests. Jonas had worked out our entire timeline with us, minute by minute. In between cocktail hour and the first course, we snuck away to take photos on the cold, turbulent beach. We rode in a rental with Jonas and Mary, lost in our own daze, which you can see if you look closely at those photos, our hands held fast, our eyes wide and bright.
As night approached, the venue grew dark, lit only by the candles on the tables. We danced our first dance at dusk, the time of the fireflies. It was hard to remember how difficult the past year had been. “Ladies and Gentlemen,” a woman announced at the opening to our song, “we are floating in space.” I like to think of David and me this way, floating toward one another among the stars that are not stars, but masses of active energy and process, their light traveling to us from a long distance, appearing to be new and yet so old. Who knew magic things can happen even in the deepest dark?