Kimberly & E. Baltimore Wedding at Westminster Hall

We’re back, and it’s 2011! Wowie! I’ve got news to share with you, and reflecting on what’s next for APW, but I wanted to start that conversation next week. This week, we decided, was all about the newly engaged. The WIC calls today Matrimony Monday (because their alliteration department needs to hire new monkeys with typewriters) because 40% of people get engaged between Thanksgiving and New Years. But, when I joked about Matrimony Monday last year, I found out that 40% of APW-ers also get engaged over the holidays. So this week? It’s all about you.

We’re kicking off the new year with Kimberly, who hands down has the best one sentence quote I have ever read in a wedding graduate post ever. Now. I know what I should be saying about Kimberly. I should be saying how much I love international wedding graduates (I do), how gorgeous she is (it’s true), how much I love getting to feature diverse weddings (it’s not just skinny white girls getting married), and church weddings (because I love me some church). But when it comes right down to it, here is why I love Kimberly so much I want to kiss her: she said about her wedding zen, “I honestly just gave it up to Jesus. I mean, WWJD, anyway? He wouldn’t stress about anyone handing out some program fans, I’ll bet you that much.” And how can I not LOVE a girl who says that? So lets hear it for 2011… the year of giving it up – to God/Jesus/The Universe/Whatever Will Be (Will Be). And with that, I give you Kimberly.

I’m a wedding graduate. And a fraud. Let me explain.

My husband and I have been married for one year, two months and two days. Our wedding was two months and two days ago. I’ve been a newlywed and a wedding undergraduate planning a wedding for the past year without telling anyone about the former. And let me tell you, it’s been a pain in the hoo-ha.

Truth be told, we brought it on ourselves. We met in 2001 and got together on a whirlwind trip to Dublin in 2006. We did long-distance for a couple of years, and then decided to put all of our eggs in one basket and move in together — although things were complicated a bit by the fact that he’s from one country, I’m from another country, and we decided to move to a third. Still, things were just humming along, and in the summer of 2009 we decided to start making some plans to get married. And then, you know, life happened. Just a few short weeks later, due to immigration issues, we were married. As in, to-the-chapel-with-some- borrowed-witnesses, grab-a-bottle-of-champers-on-the-way-home married.

I was really pleased a few months ago when a post on APW spurned comments from people who had gotten married earlier than planned because of visas/immigration reasons, and discussed how they chose to tell their families/not tell their families/have weddings/not have weddings. For us, the wedding was the way to go (although like Wedding Graduate Marchelle, it ended up being three separate occasions: the legal ceremony, the traditional wedding, and the cocktail party in E’s home country of Ireland). But, let me reiterate, it’s been effing hard. Trying to plan a wedding is stressful enough, and we were also trying to navigate our first year as a married couple. I’d been fighting against myself, fighting against gender roles, fighting against the shoulds and shouldn’ts of weddings and of marriage.

I’m learning though. And we’re learning. In fact, when my head is about to explode (as it gets), that’s what I say to myself. We’re learning — not just how to be there for each other, which we’ve been learning for a while, but also how to be accountable for (and to) someone other than ourselves.

Even after we were married (the first time), we were still 100% all for The Wedding — it was never even a question! We’d each met each other’s families but our families had never met, and we had always looked forward to getting all of the people we loved in one room, at one time, in order to celebrate such a fantastic occasion. Everyone came in, everyone celebrated with us, everyone spent the guts of four days socializing, catching up, drinking, dancing, playing music, and drinking some more. To witness the difference between the night one Welcome Dinner and the night four whoever-was-left-in-town dinner, to see people hugging and making plans to meet again after just a few days in each other’s presence, to see all of this happening around us and because of us was uh-mazing.

To reaffirm our vows in the presence of our loved ones, to have it out that we’re husband and wife, to wear the rings, to have been encased in the experience as a whole was uh-mazing. We literally shared all of the time with our community of friends and family, and we feel that we got the best of both worlds: the small, private ceremony that legally bound us, and the more traditional celebration that allowed us to share that bond with others. For a year, we had a secret, and whenever we were stressed out about our legal status or about the wedding, we’d say to each  other, ‘We’re already married. It doesn’t matter.’ and things would be better. It was awesome, but now it’s even more awesome. Granted, it’s different for everyone, but for us, publicly declaring our commitment felt different. I don’t know why, but it did. Because now, NOW, it feels as if we’re finally free to flip that switch and look ahead.

And although I’m happy to look ahead, it feels totally appropriate to share the things that I’ve learned about the wedding process and about being newly married.

On the day of the wedding, I felt really calm — oddly enough, exactly the same way I felt the day that we legally got married. Maybe it’s because our wedding was a four-day long event and we weren’t trying to cram time with everyone into one five-hour time period, but I felt that I was able to be completely present during the day of the wedding, in the moments from the ceremony to the tour of the catacombs (yes, there were catacombs), from the last dance of the night to the after party. (To the after after party.) And because of this, the “It goes by so quickly!” thing that you hear all the time wasn’t true in our case. Everyone says to that the day flies by and to try and enjoy the moments, and DEFINITELY DO THAT, but hear me out. We had a fantastic time, but when it was over, we were ready for it to be over, and we moved on to the next thing.

For me, a non-procrastinator who has to have things done before she can relax, it was super helpful to have a no-more-stress deadline. Mine was two days before the wedding — after that, if something wasn’t done, it wasn’t getting done. And I honestly didn’t give a sh*t. And it wasn’t that kind of I-don’t-care-on-the-outside- but-I’m-stressing-out-on-the-inside. I honestly just gave it up to Jesus. I mean, WWJD, anyway? He wouldn’t stress about anyone handing out some program fans, I’ll bet you that much.

I did a lot of the planning leading up the wedding, and wanted to see through a lot of projects. (And I’m really anal about some things.) But after my no-more-stress period began, I was MORE than happy to give people things to do and let everyone help. “Anything you need,” was something I heard a LOT of over the weekend, so I took a (small) leap of faith and actually told people what I needed. And . . . items appeared without me lifting a finger. Things got done. It was magical. I was really surprised by how smoothly things went without my having to freak out about anything. And I’m a little sorry I didn’t let people help sooner. Ah well.

During wedding planning, E and I just weren’t that kind of DIT couple, lovingly folding paper products and stuffing OOT bags together over a glass of wine. Nuh-uh, didn’t happen. In our case, DIY was almost always DIM (do-it-myself). I tried to force the issue, but if it didn’t happen, I stopped pouting. If something was important to both of us, then we both did it. If it wasn’t, then I did it. And you know what? If I had forced it, then both of us would’ve been miserable.

I can’t say this enough — bring plenty of deodorant (cruelty-free, all-natural, spray-on, roll-on, whatever, just put it in your kit and reapply as needed). Just because you’re wearing a gorgeous dress doesn’t mean you won’t smell.

And . . . I wasn’t going to mention this part, but it has to be said. As a person who struggles with Missing Mother Malady, I felt her absence heavily in the days leading up to the wedding, almost more than the day itself. While I missed her physically, I also had her there, in words, in photos, and quite literally in myself. The joy that enveloped me was greater than the sorrow that often tugs at my consciousness. I grabbed E’s hand and I squeezed and I teared and I made it through. In the end, I was okay. I was better than okay. I’m loved. A lot.

It was kind of fantastic that our wedding was actually on our first anniversary. It was more than just a celebration of our coming together; it was a celebration of the fact that we hit the ground running and have already made it through an entire year. (Isn’t it funny how a period of time can feel both incredibly short and incredibly long?) I look back at the wedding itself and hope that the rest of our lives are like those four days: full of family, true friends, hospitality, laughter, great food, free-flowing beverages, hugs and dancing. Lots and lots of dancing.

Photos by: Jennifer McMenamin of Roman Grinev Photography

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