My first choice was a former manager’s backyard, a teetering bluff overlooking Admiralty Inlet. Unfortunately, I didn’t know you couldn’t expect people to take a ferry. I then felt an early afternoon gathering, followed by an abundant potluck dinner would be a pleasant second choice. I, however, didn’t know you couldn’t ask people to bring food. Beginning to feel the edges of conformity moving closer, I suggested a mid-morning affair, coupled with a cozy pancake breakfast. Regrettably, I didn’t know that some ideas were just plain ridiculous. In the end, we found ourselves at a suburban protestant church, complete with narthex, nave, sanctuary, and basement. It was the right size, the right price, and accessible to all.
At 2:00PM, our friend and pianist began singing Bob Franke’s Hard Love, while my sisters, my cousin from next door, and the 3 young flower girls made their way from back to front, taking staged places. In shiny pink below the knee dresses, the women anchored the platform opposite a line of black and white tuxedoed male counterparts. The singer segued from the realism of Hard Love, to a song of her own pen, one of laughter, light, and hope. Intentional juxtaposition.
Wearing a simply designed, sewn-by-mom, silk-brought-back-from-Hong Kong dress, I linked arms with my dad and paraded my way past rows of respectful guests, guests who probably really would have enjoyed stacks of pancakes, on towards the pink-dressed, black-suited people watching me. Not something to be given away, I kissed my dad and joined an already teary-eyed spouse-to-be in front of the ministers.
The mid-1980s were all about videotaping and our event, no different. Two cameras, one positioned at the back of the room and the other facing us, captured every detail. Our friend delivered the ceremony speech, telling stories of shared times and what, in his opinion, it meant to be married. In his nervousness, he forgot to ask the guests to sit down. The video shows my very skilful work of mouthing the words “sit dooowwn”, eyes widened for emphasis, with a slight directional jerking of my head toward the people. Regardless, the guests continued to stand for 20 minutes. They really deserved pancakes.
The event went on with talk of rings and vows and candle-lightings. At the end we were magically pronounced husband and wife, exiting the room while bluegrass banjos played. Our shared relief, palpable.
Church Ladies arranged the basement with flowered tables supporting coffee, tea, and punch bowls, mints, nuts, and cake. The very setup I had seen countless times growing up. A formal receiving line allowed us, flanked by our parents, to face-crackingly smile at all the attendees, making introductions, shaking hands or giving hugs. We fed each other some cake, I threw a bouquet, then a designated person drove us away to rendezvous with our car and our stuff and a honeymoon.
Getting married was the strangest thing I’ve ever done. When finally alone, I found myself repeatedly remarking, “We’re married”, incredulously pondering the before/after, the abracadabra of the day, the superficial change that changed everything. We had jumped through some hoops, hoops not entirely to my tastes but funded by my parents, answered a couple of questions, and signed a paper. Blammo.
Looking back at the pictures, we were babies. To some it may seem we jumped too soon, but we knew what we wanted. We knew fairy tales weren’t true, that nothing would be in-love easy. We wanted to be together, why not be married? We didn’t plan any exit strategies, we didn’t have anything to pre-nup. For better or worse, we became a package deal. Being a young married couple, having space and time to grow into our full adult selves together, before becoming parents, cemented the deal. We, each other, were our family, our community of 2.
I have loved being with Spouse. He smugly agrees that I am a better person because of him. The deepest emotion that I’ve ever felt before or since, was the night, while grieving a friend’s death, I worked through an overwhelming sense of loss, the chest-caving pain of letting go of Spouse. He is not mine to have or hold, to grip with fear for losing. He is mine to love, while I can. He is mine to cherish, mine to lighten, mine to lift up. That is my aim. Blessed and lucky, Spouse feels the same toward me.