You guys know me. If there is anything I like, it’s Devil’s Advocate arguments. (I was an all star parliamentary debater in High School. I know you’re not surprised.) So when we decided to explore the “Why wedding?” question, you knew we were going to talk about not having a wedding (because you’re waiting). Which means that today we had to explore deciding not to wait any longer. Today’s post is about deciding to sign the paperwork at city hall and having that quickly turn into a lovely little wedding (with the big wedding yet to come). So I’m thrilled to bring you Laura, showing us how simple is sometimes exactly what we need.
*Laura, Stay-at-Home Mom & Matt, Merchandising*
It wasn’t supposed to be a wedding. We had decided on a quick, casual elopement at city hall to be followed six months later by a real wedding. That was the plan. But here in Oregon you have to wait three days after you get the marriage license before you can actually get married. Also, you have to have at least two adult witnesses. So we called a couple friends, and the whole thing snowballed into a quick, casual, lovely and meaningful wedding.
Let me back up a little; I spent years in the pre-engaged state. During this time I browsed around, found APW (thanks Meg!), bookmarked things I liked, and made lists. Oh so many lists. I thought I was totally prepared for the whole wedding thing. But my guy just wasn’t ready. He was afraid something would go wrong. He was waiting for his ducks to line up in a neat little row. But we all know how wily ducks can be, and I got tired of waiting. After many difficult, emotional conversations (more tears than laughter, but some of each) we agreed that in fact we had already made the commitment we thought marriage symbolized. We just hadn’t made it official.
Once we acknowledged that our life together had already begun (seriously, our daughter just turned eight), there were no more reasons to wait. We knew we wanted a wedding. A celebration with family and friends, yummy food, a pretty dress for me, all that jazz. But that takes time to plan, and we wanted to get the taxes and health insurance and other totally practical stuff sorted out now. So we went down to the county office of records and got a marriage license.
Then I called my best friend, D—she would be home from grad school in a couple days so could we wait until she could be there as a witness? Sure. And it turned out that her mom is a non-denominational wedding celebrant. She was available and offered to officiate for free. Yes please! We called a couple more friends, who just happened to have the day off (on a Wednesday), did we want them to join us? Totally!
We told a total of about ten people about the elopement, and to each one we said the same thing; “It’s not a real wedding, we’re just getting the paperwork out of the way. You don’t have to come, but we would totally like to see you.” They all wanted to be there, and they seemed more excited than we were. What’s so exciting about paperwork?
Then I started talking to Tami, our celebrant, about what we would say. She doesn’t have a stock ceremony that she uses, and we didn’t want to do the traditional “have and hold” thing. It just doesn’t speak to us. But we had to say something. So we went back and forth with ideas and editing; she suggested we include our daughter, I mentioned that I liked the idea of hand-fasting… and instead of just paperwork we ended up with an actual ceremony. One that represented our values and commitment.
So on Wednesday, December 21st, we met Tami, D, my dad and couple of our other friends at a local park—because our apartment is too small. We stood in a clearing surrounded by trees and some of our dearest loved ones and made our promises to each other with words that I had written. “With love and respect I entrust myself to you, body and soul, hearth and home, today and all the days of my life.” Then our daughter tied the hand-fasting knot. And then we were married! I cried, in a good way, we all hugged and then we went out for burgers and beer. And it was perfect.
A month later I am still surprised and thrilled by how great that day was. But now I am in this weird wedding limbo, planning a wedding while already married. People keep asking me why. Why have a wedding if you’re already married? Usually I say it’s so we can have a big party where I can wear a killer dress. But it’s more than that. As wonderful as our elopement was, it wasn’t the rite of passage that a wedding traditionally is. We were surprised by how excited and involved our friends wanted to be, but we shouldn’t have been. In a strange and wonderful way our elopement helped us figure out what we want our wedding to be, and much of what our marriage already is. And it takes away the pressure to have one perfect day. Because we already had one when we least expected it.
At our upcoming wedding we want to celebrate the commitment we’ve made with our community. We want to welcome their involvement and share our excitement. We want them to acknowledge and support our baby family. That’s the real meat of the wedding. The pretty dress and the big party is just gravy.
Photos by: family friends