*Elizabeth, Children’s Magazine Editor & Doug, Option Trader*
This is one of those weddings that hit me in the gut. I’m not really sure why. I certainly didn’t expect to be a teary mess by the end of the post, but there we have it. Somehow, by mixing the tangible and the intangible, Elizabeth has managed to sum up not just what a wedding is, but what a marriage is. As someone three years in, I can tell you for sure that Elizabeth has nailed it (no surprise there, as she’s the editor of an award winning children’s science magazine). This one is for all of you.
I tell people that I like inclement weather. I grew up in Syracuse, New York, the actual snowiest city in the United States, where people go days or weeks without seeing the sun. I feel most at home in a light drizzle.
So when Doug and I planned our wedding for Syracuse in the fall—we live in Chicago, but both our families are on the East Coast—I tried to prepare for the worst. We scheduled a church ceremony and indoor reception at a vineyard with the option of cocktails outdoors, if it was nice. I said that we’d plan on rain and be pleasantly surprised if there was none.
But secretly, I believed in wedding magic. At our friends’ weddings, the sun always seemed to come out. Photos looked like they belonged in travel brochures. I imagined our guests, having converged on central New York from all corners of the country, gathered outside on a cool October day. Looking out over the vineyard, they would drink in the fiery leaves, the hills, the lake. They’d see why I loved this cloudy, moody landscape.
Then suddenly the wedding was imminent. We’d booked flights for our honeymoon and made lists for our DJ. We were buried in half-assembled programs. And it was close enough for weather forecasts. Though I insisted it was useless to check long-term forecasts in Syracuse—or daily ones, for that matter—my future mother-in-law emailed me a week beforehand to report that the predicted high was 49 degrees, with rain. She followed that with a copied-and-pasted Irish blessing about the luck of the soggy bride.
A lot of people, it turned out, were familiar with this bit of wisdom. I didn’t want to be patted on the back about our wedding before the calamity had even happened, but friends and family members hurried to tell us that rain on a wedding is good luck. “So is getting pooped on by a bird,” several inexplicably added, even on our wedding day as the temperature plummeted and the rain did, after all, come down.
I thought getting crapped on sounded like a pretty clear case of bad luck, just like getting married on the one lousy day out of an otherwise clear and mild month. The sky turned an opaque, hopeless gray and the rain didn’t pause once. My bridesmaids and I had our hair done and went to lunch. Every time we ran between building and car it seemed to have gotten colder.
In a way, it was a fitting frame to the months of wedding preparation. When Doug proposed the prior November, it had been the first really wintry day in Chicago. We dug our big coats out of the back of the closest before heading to our anniversary dinner. I knew something was up when we left the restaurant and he suggested we take a walk around a nearby pond. I was using both hands to hold my skirt in place against the whipping wind when he got down on one knee.
When I reached the church, the rain clouds receded in my mind. Pushing them back were the white snapdragons waiting on the altar, my dad’s nervousness at seeing me, the beginning measures of organ music. Before I knew it we were walking back down the aisle on a wave of applause that seemed to carry us all the way into the reception.
The vineyard had a fire blazing in the fireplace and deep glasses of wine for everyone. I barely remembered my worries about the weather, except to notice that I couldn’t shake Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” from my head. You know: “It’s like raiiiiiin on your wedding day . . .” It’s also, according to Alanis, “a black fly in your Chardonnay,” so when I pulled an actual fly from my Chardonnay-Riesling blend I had to laugh. Our guests packed the dance floor all night. Like most weddings, I’d guess, it was over too fast.
The next morning, as we stood in an airport security line, Doug got a phone call from our photographer, Chris. He and his fiancée were passing back through the Syracuse area, and the weather had turned glorious. He knew we’d wanted to take photos outdoors at the vineyard. “Why don’t you throw on the tux and the dress,” he said, “and we can drive back to the vineyard and get some of those shots? No charge.”
It was a very generous offer from someone who had obviously never worn a wedding dress and thus thought the phrase “throw on” could be applied. My gown had spent the night crumpled on a couch. The thought of redoing my makeup and hair made me queasy. It was a moot point anyway, since we were about to take off our shoes, display our gels and liquids, and fly to Spain.
We thanked Chris and boarded our flight. I let myself fantasize briefly about having those sunlit photos among the grapevines. “It’s too bad,” I said to Doug. He shrugged. “That’s not what our wedding was like.”
After the honeymoon I came down with an unshakable post-wedding and post-travel virus. While I wallowed with cough suppressants and mugs of tea, the worry returned. Had people hated our wedding? Did they think upstate New York was a pit? Would our pictures be gray and sad, with no beautiful reminders to display in our living room?
Doug’s grandfather, who had been too sick from Alzheimer’s disease to travel to the wedding, passed away later that month. As wife and husband now, we flew back to the East Coast. It was another damp, chilly day when we stood at the graveside, but it was the right kind of weather this time. Someone from the Air Force played taps. Now a part of the family, I hugged cousins and uncles I’d barely had time to greet at the wedding.
We returned to Chicago and finally our photos arrived. When we sat down to view the proofs online, I was nervous. The camera, an objective third party that wouldn’t try to spare my feelings, would reveal whether our wedding had been a letdown.
I pored over the photographs for clues. There was the priest, laughing with us as we struggled to get our rings on. There were the glasses raised high to toast us. There was the dance floor, wall-to-wall with happy faces, from our college friends to Doug’s elementary-school cousins to my grandfather doing the twist.
And there we were: Doug and I, tucked under a big umbrella in the cold rain, laughing.
What is this mysterious thing we’ve agreed to, I realized, if not a shared umbrella? It says that when the days are uglier than we’ve hoped, we’ll hold close and keep each other warm. We’ll be together at the funerals and the doctor’s offices and the windy shores. Stormy days are the days that matter. The sunny ones are easy.
On the cover of our photo album, Doug has his arm around my shoulders, holding our umbrella as the rain comes down. I wouldn’t have anything else.
The Info—Photography: Christopher Morris (APW Advertiser) / Venue: Anyela’s Vineyards / Catering: The Sherwood Inn / Cakes: Biscotti Cafe / Dress: Nicole Miller / Shoes: Nina Shoes / Rings: Sea Babe Jewelry