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All That Mattered Was Love

Two weddings. Neither quite what I'd imagined.

Kimberly & Landon

From the time I was a little girl, my mom laid out how things were supposed to go. You go to college, get a degree, get married, have babies. That was the prescription for life. The get married part seemed like a good idea, but I was in no hurry.

That didn’t stop me from planning my wedding. Not in the “every last detail” kind of way, but certainly in the “who is going to be there and how do I want the day to feel” kind of way. I never spent much time picturing my dress or the flowers, but I knew exactly which of my cousins I wanted to be ushers, who my bridesmaids would be, and how the reception would go (a big, rocking dance party, btw). I knew that I wanted my dad to walk me down the aisle and my mom to cry in the front pew. And I knew that I wanted all my family and friends to be there.

It turned out that the day I got married looked almost nothing like that… and neither did my wedding day.

My husband and I like to joke that we got married twice. That’s not technically true. We got married and then had a celebration of the marriage, but whatever. Twice we stood in front of the church, said some vows, and swapped rings. We celebrate our anniversary on the day we got legally married (mostly because it is easier to remember—6/9/12), but we are also marking the “anniversary of our wedding.”

When we got engaged in January of 2012, I started planning a traditional wedding. We talked to a minister, booked a reception site, and I found a dress. Then life got in the way.

At the time, I was living in one state, my fiancé in another. The plan was for me to quit my job at the end of the summer, move to where he was, and start graduate school in the fall of 2012. The wedding would happen the in May of 2013. Then we realized that we could save almost $20,000 on my tuition if we were married before I started graduate school rather than halfway through. Practicality won out and we decided to get married early.

But we had already put down a deposit on the reception hall and bought a dress that wasn’t ready yet. So I talked to the minister again—asked if it would be okay if we got married and then had a wedding. Once he agreed (wholeheartedly I might add), we were full speed ahead for two ceremonies.

All of a sudden, I found myself planning two weddings. One was only a few weeks away, while the other was just under a year out. One was going to be simple—mostly just a legally binding ceremony—and one was going to be a more traditional wedding. One was planned quickly, via four or five phone calls while the other took months to plan, and involved a series of vendors and contracts. But I quickly realized that neither was going to look much like the vision I had of what my “Wedding” should be.

Our first ceremony was simple. We called our families, found a Saturday where everyone was free, and asked everyone to show up at the church. There was no walking down the aisle, no fancy white gown, no music. I wore a dress I bought at the mall. He wore a suit we bought for his new job. I had a bouquet made from flowers I bought at Kroger that morning (thank you APW!) and everyone at the wedding stood up front in a circle around us.

The guest list was limited to our parents, our siblings and their spouses, the minister, and the photographer (who graciously offered to shoot the ceremony for no extra cost). The entire thing took about ten minutes. Afterwards, we went back to our house and had a barbecue for our families and our closest friends (who would eventually make up our wedding party). It was perfect—and nothing like I thought it would be.

Our second ceremony was much closer to the wedding I had always pictured. We sent out close to a hundred invitations. I had a white gown. My dad walked me down the aisle. There was music and flowers and pews full of people. Afterwards we had a rocking dance party. But even that didn’t look exactly like what I had planned.

My mom wasn’t crying in the front row—I had lost her to cancer ten years before. And my cousins weren’t ushers—most of them didn’t even come. My sister was my matron of honor, but we were barely talking on my wedding day thanks to her skipping out on a bridal shower. And while a lot of our family and friends were there that day, a lot weren’t.

When I think back on both of our ceremonies, a lot of the details are blurry. I don’t remember missing all of the people who didn’t show up. I don’t remember missing the things we omitted (like a cake, the bouquet toss, and the garter toss). I didn’t even notice the details that didn’t go right—the favors not being put out, the flowers ending up on the wrong tables, the mix up with the reception order of events.

What I do remember is how both days felt. I remember the feeling of love as we celebrated our marriage in the backyard surrounded by our closest friends. I remember being totally overwhelmed when I came through the church doors at the number of people who showed up to celebrate with us. I remember my husband and his groomsmen pulling out a magic eight ball during the vows and making me laugh. I remember feeling like a little girl as I twirled with my Dad during our father daughter dance. I remember laughing at my college friends as we danced the night away. I remember feeling loved. I remember being—as Elizabeth Bennet says at the end of Pride and Prejudice—perfectly, incandescently happy.

Maybe the story of my wedding didn’t go the way I thought it would. It really couldn’t have been more different. But in the end, it didn’t matter. In the end, what mattered was that on my wedding day—on both my wedding days—I was left with the feeling I wanted. The details were different, but the essence was the same. We started our life together surrounded, both times, by the people who loved us the most. In the end, what mattered, was love.

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