I had a big white church wedding. I had the dress. I had the flowers. I had my dad walking me down the aisle. I also had a big failed marriage.
My fiancé also had a big wedding. And a different big failed marriage.
We met each other at about the time we both realized we were in dead and loveless marriages. We both kept our relationship something we could tell our spouses about, but deep down, if I’m totally honest with myself, I knew that he was the one I was supposed to be with. That was actually a very difficult realization for me.
We’d been through a lot together. He was the one who supported me when a close friend died. He helped me through work issues. After his marriage ended, he went through a major depression (don’t think that because you wanted the relationship to end that you’re not going to go through some hard emotional stuff) and I called the cops on him when I was sure he was going to commit suicide. I was so anxious about my divorce and how it was affecting my children (at that time they were nine and twelve years old) that I was on some heavy-duty anti-anxiety and sleep pills—just to make it through the day. Through it all, we supported each other. We also managed to reach out to each other during those times, even when we didn’t want to admit what we were to one another.
Today, both of us are (mostly) free of our demons and we’re happier than, well, than ever.
When we first started dating, we kept it quiet. As a mother, I didn’t want to introduce my girls to someone until I was absolutely positive. And, as we live in a fairly small town, both of our ex-spouses still live here. Not to mention that they started hanging out together in that horrible commiseration that fed their hatred.
As things were becoming more and more serious, and we were able to recognize how serious, we slowly introduced each other to our families. The girls were accepting, but kept him at a distance. His mom believed that I was the reason his marriage had ended. My parents were sure that I was rushing into things. It took a little time to get everyone used to the idea of “us.”
Then, when my fiancé and I got engaged, we kept it pretty low key. Again. We’re fairly low-key people. We told our immediate families and close friends, but we didn’t shout it from the rooftops. I wore my ring and we sort of just waited. I did tell my ex because I felt like he needed to hear it from me.
When we started to talk about the actual wedding, I was adamant that I wanted something small. We could even elope. And then I started really thinking. While I thought I didn’t really need another big white dress, or the reception, or the flowers, I did need a public ceremony. I started to see that a public declaration of our love was very important. And not just to us, but to my girls. We were going to be a family and we needed that to be publicly recognized. We are not only committing to each other, we are committing to our family. And this moment of transition, this influential moment, needed to be publicly recognized. And celebrated.
I think that traditionally when two people become engaged, the focus is on becoming partners and creating a marriage. But we are doing even more than that; we are creating our own family right from the start. The idea that, not only are we getting married, but that the addition of my fiancé begins a new unit of kin is a big idea, and it was difficult to get my head wrapped around it. I wasn’t just asking him to accept me, but to accept my children as well; he is now going to be not only my partner, but also a stepdad to my two girls. Family is a big core value for both of us. He doesn’t have kids of his own, and we won’t be able to have children together, so this is it. In our minds, beginning our marriage has become synonymous with beginning our new family. We’re not just getting married. We are making a family.
I finally understood that the actual ceremony—when we stand up in front of our family and friends to declare our commitment to each other and to our family—is integral to our core value of family. It will be the beginning of our life. For all of us. To help symbolize all of this, we chose to include only the four of us in the wedding party.
And then we needed a big, amazing party to celebrate this beginning.
So the more we talked, the more I realized that I did want (another) big white wedding. With the flowers and the reception and my dad walking me down the aisle. We’re also spending our own money—both of us felt very strongly that we should do this ourselves. And we’re building a house, a new home, in the middle of this. It’s a new beginning in many, many ways.