It was an ugly place to get married. The room was nearly bare, barring the faded forest green carpet and faux-stone pillars wrapped in horrid maroon tulle and dusty, white silk roses. There was a podium in the corner where the clerk stood, and Sean and I were placed in front of her, facing each other, hand-in-hand.
I couldn’t help but smirk when I took in my surroundings juxtaposed with the magnitude of what we were about to do.
You see, our wedding was a week earlier, over a thousand miles away in New Jersey. All the traditional Indian-wedding pomp and circumstance filled that day—drum players, a wildly decorated horse, tons of guests, an hours-long Hindu ceremony, and celebrating that went into dawn of the next day. It was everything I never wanted.
Growing up, I wasn’t a girl who dreamed of her wedding. Thousands of dollars, months of planning, extravagance and luxury at every corner—it all seemed so silly. The wedding was one day. I cared very little about the one day. It was the marriage part that consumed my thoughts. I thought about the qualities and values my husband would have, whether or not he’d be a good father, and mostly, how it would feel to be so completely loved.
So, when it came to be, deciding to marry Sean was easy. I never really had to explain myself to him; he just patiently uncovered little layers of me, piecing what was broken until it fit together once again. And as he pieced, what he made was stronger, more confident and tougher than ever before—never forcing change or altering the original, just making sure that it was less likely to break again.
This man I chose to marry, however, the one so worthy of all-consuming marriage thoughts, cared very much about that one day. The excessive guests, the pomp, and the extravagance—he wanted it all. “Tradition for the sake of tradition,” I’d scoff at him, rolling my eyes. “It’s not tradition for the sake of tradition,” he’d say back, “if I want it.” The compromises felt severe; for a small town, back-of-the-classroom girl like me, the whole thing proved too grand and overwhelming. After a lot of prayers in a language I couldn’t understand, and a few circles around a fire, we were “married.” I didn’t feel any different. The next day we flew down to our new home in Miami.
Later that week, since forces more legal than “God” did not ordain the Hindu priest who married us, we found ourselves rushing to Coral Gables District Court one evening, hoping to get in before it closed. It was raining that hot Miami rain, the kind that comes down in sheets and steams as it hits the scalding pavement. Our clothes quickly soaked as we ran to the door—he in his khakis and University of Miami polo, and me in a pink racerback tank and brown cargo shorts—but we managed to get the last ticket of the day.
After the paperwork was set, we stood before each other in that ugly room and repeated after her: “…to have and to hold, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health…” As I spoke, my eyes filled with tears and I choked back sobs. My wavering voice whispered, “…until death parts us.” Sean smiled knowingly at me, while the clerk pronounced us husband and wife.
“You got more emotional then, than at our wedding,” he said to me, squeezing my hand as we left the office. All I could do was blink away the tears. The rain had let up, and we walked out to the parking lot. I clutched Sean’s arm tightly, closed my eyes quickly, and vowed to always remember this moment.
It was an ugly place to get married, but it was the most beautiful thing to be married there.