Twenty six years ago today I stood numb with anticipation and anxiety as the first notes played from a movement of Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition." (Oddly prophetic choice, now that I think about it.) My future bride was coming down the aisle. I was nervous about the wedding, but I had no doubts at all about the marriage.
Our wedding broke just about every rule of wedding etiquette. We had a justice of the peace instead of a priest or pastor. We had the ceremony and reception in my in-law's formal parlor/dining room. There was no recessional at all; we went from ceremony to everyone crowding up to congratulate us to photos with various groups. A college friend and family took all the pictures, which don't quite fill a very small wedding album. I think the guests (especially friends and several uncles on my side) helped move out the chairs and set up the tables for the luncheon. The flowers were mostly potted azaleas that ended up in my father-in-law's gardens. After the meal we all sat around in a big circle (there were about 30 people, I think) and we opened the presents, ooohed and aaahed, and passed them around for everyone to see. We hadn't had a registry or any other way for guests to know what to get us - they had to use their imagination and many of the gifts are still some of our favorite things.
Guests have said, years later, that it was one of their favorite weddings, and they had thought it very sweet. We just did whatever we felt like, and I am amazed looking back that no one told us we were "breaking the rules." No one did anything but help as we put the whole thing together and made it up as we went along.
Years later our only wedding regrets are that more of my wife's relatives could not come, and that we got married on Valentine's Day. It's hard to go out to dinner without a lot of fuss - don't try to find flowers other than roses (neither's favorite) - and people say, "Oh how sweet!" when they find out. We had just picked it as the earliest Saturday we could make it work. Nothing to do with Valentine's day - even if that WAS the same day my sweetheart started the whole thing by sending me a singing Valentinogram in highschool. Yes, we were highschool sweethearts, and just 19 and 20 in that wedding photo above.
Then our daughter was born on 2/14 and solved the Valentine's Day problem for us. We celebrate our anniversary some day later, and think of the 14th as her birthday. What a terrific anniversary present (though a delivery room isn't the best place to spend it). While my love was sleeping from the exhausting effort and the drugs, I was in a chair, with a warmed blanket over my head, holding my 30-minute-old daughter up to my face so I could warm her up and calm her down. She was so upset at the cold and the toweling off the nurses had given her.
As I fell in love with the second most important girl in my adult life, and she finally fell asleep, I couldn't help but think a lot about the most important girl in my life. The angel who still looks to me like this photo, and who, even when she's not smiling, is still my angel.
Happy birthday, dear sweet daughter, now 15. You are so smart, sassy, beautiful, and loving. I look at you and I'm breathless thinking how lucky someone is going to be when you have your own wedding. I hope you feel as free as we were to make it any way you want. There ARE no rules.
Happy anniversary, my love. 26 years ago I got my lasting good luck when I married a smart, sassy, beautiful, loving girl.