Madeline & Brandon

One of the great pleasures of  taking over for Meg while she’s on maternity leave is that I get to work a little bit closer with our writing interns in her absence. And as the internship draws to a close, I’m finding myself surprised at how much their grad posts resonate with me (you’d think three years after my own wedding that they’d stop, um, making me cry). I know we say it all the time, but wedding planning really is about marriage, and fewer posts highlight why better than Madeline’s grad post. Which makes sense, because after planning multiple transatlantic celebrations all while dealing with immigration and health issues, she and Brandon aren’t just graduates of the program. They are, as she describes, much like seasoned veterans instead. Now, if you haven’t armed yourself with a tissue, please don’t say I didn’t warn you, mkay?

—Maddie for Maternity Leave

Although this is a wedding grad post, it’s hard to know where to start, looking back at the various wedding-themed events I’ve been a part of this year. In case you haven’t been reading along, I’m not a wedding grad at this point, more a wedding veteran. Brandon and I are just a couple of months from the first anniversary of our City Hall elopement. We’ve celebrated in the UK, where I’m from, in New York, where we live, and in Ohio, where Brandon’s from.

So what’s changed? Brandon and I were living together in the same apartment this time last year. I sat on the same couch, typing out my application to write for APW. There are more rings on my fingers and more laughlines round my eyes. But what else? What is the real difference between almost-married and actual-married?

A top wedding gift: The cookie mustache.

It’s easier to assess if I step back and look at other transformations. This time last year I was facing surgery and extended medical leave. I didn’t have a green card, or the funds to apply for one. Brandon was facing unemployment. In some ways, the fact that we’ve hung onto our living arrangements is far from stasis—it’s an achievement in itself. For practical reasons, we needed to get married to deal with these challenges. But the wedding celebrations, and the support of family and community, also provided a container for us to grow into older, braver versions of ourselves.

Then there are the honest-to-goodness gains. We expanded our families. I get moments of true joy every time a close friend sends a personal note to Brandon, making an effort to extend our friendship of many years to include him. And somehow I married a man who swears that he likes doing laundry. Do you hear me, APW? I may never do laundry again. I have won the marital lottery.

Would I do things differently? Not really. To this day, the fact that I didn’t look like a “regular” bride at any stage of the proceedings is both my biggest insecurity and my greatest source of pride. I occasionally catch myself regretting that I don’t have a photoshopped image of myself in white to bequeath to my imaginary grandchildren. Then again, I have a collection of unique and memorable snapshots of myself and my loved ones. And a message:

Fictional grandchildren, this post is for you. What I’d like you to know about our wedding is that we loved each other, we wanted to be together, and we made it happen with a good number of the people who mattered most, in the course of one daunting, magnificent year. There were some hard times in there, for sure. I write this from a New York City still reeling from an Act-of-God style storm we called “Sandy,” the ultimate reminder that the best-laid plans have a way of taking your expectations and drowning them under nine feet of rising seawater. But we dealt with it. We dealt with everything, because we knew that one day you’d be asking us what that was like, getting married. And we wanted to be able to tell you, truthfully, that it was badass.

Photos: Madeline’s friends and relations

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