We got our wedding album made this summer, finally. Heather of One Love Photo and I slaved over the album for, well, a year if I’m being honest (cobbler’s children have no shoes, and all that), and then I surprised David with it for our second anniversary in August. The album is beautiful (Couture Book, flat printed on textured paper, one picture per page, unbelievably simple, looks like an art book) and looking it over with David on a foggy boozy evening this summer was wonderful. But it’s been a busy few months, and I hadn’t gotten a chance to show it to friends and loved ones until recently.
Then this weekend, one of my theatre-conservatory-friends from college was staying with us, and we ended up staying up late going through the album. As we flipped through, I got to answer questions about the day, and our loved ones, “Oh! You don’t know we got ready together?” “Yes, that’s Caron’s son,” and be jointly overwhelmed by the beauty of the photographs (again). But what I hadn’t expected to realize, is the way our wedding created a shared experience. Our wedding was a communal foundation for our marriage, in a day and age where our lives and relationships tend to be very isolated and private. When my friend asked me, “Where is that picture you gave me of the two of us dancing together?” And I said, “Here it is! It’s one of the most beautiful shots from the wedding, I think,” I saw a look of happiness steal over him. And when he asked me if there were pictures of the communal blessing, “his favorite part,” and I showed him the pictures of him tearing up during our last dance, I realized that we had done what we’d set out to do, all those years ago when we started planning. Our wedding had created a moment of celebration, and a communal foundation for the ongoing enterprise that is marriage.
As we’ve started working on the Wedding Graduates Return posts at APW, and as I’ve looked at our album, I’ve done a lot of thinking about what I have to say about our wedding, and our marriage, two years later. Was it worth it? Yes. Did it somehow shape our marriage? Somehow, it did. And has our marriage been a different entity than our five years partnership before marriage? Perhaps most surprisingly, yes.
While I wrote a lot about what our wedding day felt like, shortly after the fact, revisiting it now it feels like this picture looks. Our wedding was this shining, raw, emotional moment, where we had the people we love most around us, and we made huge promises. It’s strange how the little details really fade away over time, and what I’m left with is the feeling of the sweat dripping down my legs at the ceremony (a shocking rarity in Bay Area summers), how my dress felt, sharing food and floating on a bubble of joy in our Yichud, the rich chocolate cake covered with dahlias, and the sheer love of all those people in the same room having a marvelous time. What I’m still, more than two years later, trying to wrap my head around is how that day subtly shaped and altered our day to day reality, and our relationship.
On our honeymoon I started realizing all the really great things about it—we’re on a team now, a literal team. We support each others’ endeavors, we encourage each other, we support each other financially. Ah ha! I realized. Now we are two! This is awesome. As two we should be able to be much braver, much more adventurous, right? We’ll be able to hold each other accountable. Imagine all the stuff we’ll be able to get done! Fabulous. So I started making a list in my head of “Now-We-Are-Two exciting projects to consider in the next three-ish years.” I was excited.
And I was right. That, right there, was how our married life would be different than the previous five years of our relationship. We’ve always been an overly-ambitious duo, since way before we were a duo. Back in high school, when we were only-slightly-friendly competitors, David and I were known as those-kids-who-wanted-to-take-over-the-world (particularly notable in an impoverished public high school). When we were platonic friends in New York, running a theatre company together, we were known as the-duo-that-made-things-happen-from-scratch-with-no-money. And when we finally got together, I remember David looking at me, visibly relaxed, and saying, “Now that we don’t have to spend energy going on those horrible dates anymore, maybe we can finally Get Some Stuff Done.” And we did.
But that was just a prologue to what happened when we actually got married. Something about the conscious act of committing to a life together, which began with the very conscious act of planning a wedding that reflecting our values, and not What We Were Told Must Be Done, served as some sort of rocket fuel. If I was going to build a life with another person, my thinking went, I wasn’t just going to sit back and take what was handed to me. I was going to go after my dreams with the voracity usually reserved to finding chocolate and steak while on my period. I was going to hunt my dreams down, and mother-f*cking slay them. I had faith that I would be extra equipped to do this, now that I had a partner to help balance the books, help me organize my to-do lists, not take my anxiety filled “nos” for an answer, and give me a hug when I just couldn’t take it anymore.
And so I wrote lists of goals, worked myself to the bone, occasionally had horrible stress-induced panic attacks, and Did It. I quit my job, I wrote a book, I traveled, I swung from a trapeze, I drank tea in Turkey (as I vowed I would at Mighty Summit last year). And David attacked his own projects: finishing law school, co-chairing a criminal trial, writing appeals, finding a job with flexible hours, traveling a ton. And I have the feeling we’ve only just gotten started.
It’s hard to spell out how that hot burning fire of Ambition Squared feels like an effect of our hazy, joy filled wedding day. But it does. Foundations of love and support, a sense of home to come back to, is what keeps the world turning (at least for me).
As for the shocking lack of positive marriage related media that I lamented in that original Reclaiming Wife post, well, I think collectively, we’ve worked to fill that void (and I’m just getting started here, too). I said:
As soon as I came home from my honeymoon, I started looking around. Married blogs! Married media! I was going to find all the media that discussed exciting married projects! Ambition squared! Whheeeeee! And then slowly, very slowly, I felt the air letting out of my balloon. Where was this marriage discussion? I didn’t want to talk about nesting and buying pillows. I mean, I already had pillows. I didn’t want to talk about cooking organic food. I don’t really cook. (There. I said it. David cooks.) I didn’t want to talk about having a baby. Or I didn’t want to talk about *me* having a baby right now, though your baby is adorable.
And this weekend, as we tipsily debated the differences in the New York City and San Francisco art scenes, and watched gender bending send-ups of Broadway Camp at a Gay Country Western Ball, I thought to myself, “Well shit. If society at large had bothered to mention that married life could be attending drag country western performances with your husband and debating art, pushing each other to do more than you dared, and having adventures together, it would have sounded decidedly more interesting / less terrifying. Why do people tell you it’s all about slow misery and pillow buying?”
So my Wedding Graduate Returns message would be: sure, marriage isn’t easy. But life isn’t easy either. And if you play your cards right, that thoughtful life together that you start creating together on your wedding day becomes an ongoing project. Our community lifting us up on our wedding day has made us stronger, more able to create things, to reach out to the world. And because of that, I count it as one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I am profoundly grateful.
But it’s also just a deeply personal day, and a private joy. And that, too, is enough.
Photos: Personal for A Practical Wedding