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Why My Wedding Was Not Like My Birthday

Today Ashley, who writes at Newly L.A., is here to talk about what changed for her after getting married, the process of building her baby family. You’ll remember Ashley from her parents Vintage Wedding in Golden Gate Park. Here she talks  about building the foundation for expanding her family one day, but I think the idea of the transformative power of marriage, the creation of family and permanence, holds true whether or not we ever plan to add people to our family. So here is Ashley, discussing why her wedding was not, in fact, like her birthday

When I imagined waking up on the morning after my wedding, I thought it would be just like waking up on the morning of my birthday – everyone mockingly asking “how does it feel?” and me answering, as expected, “same as yesterday.” Not that I didn’t think our wedding would be a totally awesome celebration; I just thought it would be more like a big party than a game changer. We had been together for five years; what could a few promises and a license have on us, right?

But it turns out, for me, getting married was most definitely not like turning a year older, and being married is definitely not like being not married. The difference is that now, we have albums.

When I was engaged, I spent a good amount of time thinking about the merger of our two extended families – you know, the usual issues of how we would split up holidays and handle family gatherings. But my thoughts never extended past my static vision of “family” where I played the role of daughter, granddaughter, niece. What I failed to wrap my head around was the fact that our wedding would also mark the transformation of my life-date into my closest family member, my emergency contact, and the face connected to mine by a horizontal line on the family tree diagram. How do you conceptualize something so hugely transformative?

With pictures.

Just before our wedding, I was looking at old family photos of my parents as newlyweds and me as a child, and I had a moment where I felt my perspective shift. I realized that my parents must have consciously preserved these memories in anticipation of sharing these albums with me when I came along, and I had a vision of me and my fiance on the other side of this scene one day, sharing our own family albums and explaining what it was like to be just married. It was a quiet, heavy realization, like an emotional handing off of responsibility. My parents had grown their family, and had collected their history in these albums, and now it was our turn, and our duty to cultivate our own family so that we would have a story to pass on when it expanded. And of course, to tell our story, we needed albums.

It was a daunting thought, taking on the responsibility of growing a new family. But after I recovered from my minor panic attack à la Carrie Bradshaw when she breaks into hives in the wedding dress shop, I was excited. Only a small part of this excitement was about having an excuse to buy a new photo album. Most of it was due to my late-in-the-game realization that my birthday hypothesis had been short-sighted. I had missed the essential point that this wedding that I had dismissed as a formality would grant me a new family member and a whole new baby family to raise, which was so much more than I ever thought the label “husband” entailed. Armed with a new perspective, I could hardly wait to see how it would feel to wake up the morning after our nuptials and be family.

Once we were married, I promptly bought an album and began my photo-printing project. At first, I felt silly. I mean, who actually prints out amateur point-and-shoot candids of seemingly unimportant events? I was sure the photo-printing people were secretly laughing at me. But as I stood at the cashier paying for my first pack of freshly printed glossies, I felt legitimate. These were for a family photo album after all, and what could be more legitimate than that?

Now, slipping the pictures into the 4×6 plastic sleeves of our album makes my heart swell with pride, and reminds me of how naive I was to think that our wedding would be just like a birthday. Before we were married, the file folders of jpegs on my laptop did the job of preserving our memories just fine. But now? Now that’s not enough. Now, we have hard-bound, paper-printed, legitimate family albums.

Because now? I’m with this guy. For good.

Wedding photo by Leonel Medrano, others by family/friends

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