My wife has put together a wonderful look back at our relationship. I read it and it made me smile. Click here to see it.
Today is our wedding anniversary. A year ago today, I married the woman of my dreams. It's been a fun year. God willing, we'll have many many more anniversaries to celebrate. For right now though, it's good to just be able to look at her and tell her how much I love her.
I direct this special weekend entry to those planning a wedding, especially those who have the suffix -zilla after their name. If you're obsessing so much over the wedding that you forget to have fun, read this run-down of what really happened at our wedding.
10:00 am: I make an executive decision to go to the grocery store and get Gatorade (it was July, after all), Life Savers, and Pria bars (on wedding days, people forget to eat). This was my last act as a single man. The reason that I did it was that there was no one else available. I must say, it was routine as it gets. My mother is amazed that I got to sleep the night before. I point out that the time for being nervous was 6 months ago.
12:20 pm: After getting dressed in my tuxedo, I emerge downstairs to be with the rest of the family. My brother (and best man) notices that I'm wearing white socks with my tuxedo. Laughter abounds. To this day, I don't understand why this is such a big deal. (I'm on the Foreign Intelligence Files, apparently...) Here's the thing: I don't own a pair of dark socks.
12:30 pm: I will be getting married in a pair of socks borrowed from my brother.
1:00 pm: Official wedding photographer arrives at my house. She introduces herself, and begins snapping official pictures of my family, my groomsmen, and anyone else who happens to be around. She has the very annoying habit of telling people to move a half an inch to the right and move their head just a little... nope to far... ok... wait... back... an inch that way... no that way... OK there! As a rule, I never wish harm on anyone. There are, however, certain people that I wish would join an international humanitarian aid organization and pledge the rest of their life to doing aid work in a remote village... on another continent. Perhaps she might try here.
1:30 pm: Official bus, which my father insisted on having, leaves for the hotel where my lovely bride and her family are officially staying. It's a little odd, considering that we drove in a week ahead of time, and for the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of that week... she stayed at my house anyway. (Her parents came into town on Thursday.) We all drive out to the church together. The church is located on the outskirts of the city, miles from my hometown.
Both of us had only recently started going to an Orthodox church, and we actually arranged to have the wedding at this church by e-mail, and before we'd ever seen it. My first meeting with the priest was to set the wedding date. My mother was with me. My wife-to-be was in Atlanta. How Oedipal. I was given full discretion to pick the wedding date at the meeting, which I picked because I was ending a rotation at my job on June 30th, and was scheduled to start a new one the next day. However, I'd gotten clearance to start late on this one. July 2nd was just too crunched. July 9th it was! I picked the date for the "biggest day of my life", based entirely on avoiding scheduling conflicts with my job.
To my father's credit: The bus was a really good idea. And a good deal of fun.
2:00 pm: Arrive at church. Photographer takes the opportunity to torture the ladies as they have their pictures taken. Guests start arriving, and with nothing better to do, I start greeting them. Guests are horrified that I can see (*gasp*) my lovely bride as she does things like put on her veil. We made it a point to have a superstition free wedding. A year later, we're still married.
2:50 pm: Everyone's seated. Because my family is a) bigger and b) in town, my ushers/groomsmen have been instructed that anyone who's even slightly neutral should sit on the bride side. Everyone is confused because most of them have never been in an Orthodox church (my family is mostly Catholic, except for Uncle Baptist), and my wife's family doesn't really practice, despite being nominally Orthodox. I'm hoping that the stuff I wrote in the pamphlet makes sense. I make my way to the front of the church. At the rehearsal, my mother was incensed that the father of the bride doesn't get to walk her down the aisle. The priest put together a nifty compromise. He got to walk her in the door. We met at the back.
3:00 pm: Service begins. Initial procession of groomsmen escorting the bridesmaids, despite the fact that we had 5 groomsmen and 6 bridesmaids. We initially had my wife's brother escorting two ladies, but it made him look too much like a pimp. Not exactly the effect we were going for. Bridesmaid #6 walks in unescorted.
3:05 pm: The first piece of the service is the betrothal ceremony, in which, liturgically, we promise to each other that we're actually going to marry each other. I get to say the only two words I'm allowed to say during the service, "Yes", I'm here of my own free will, and "No," I'm not promised to any other. Actually, I wouldn't have been allowed to say anything except that in Russia, there used to be a lot of forced marriages. Liturgically, this has no bearing on anything.
3:30 pm: Service is progressing beautifully. I'm making light of a lot of the things around it, but the service itself is so moving and beautiful. The Gospel reading is the Miracle at Cana. However, my brother is about to kill me. As best man, one of his jobs (in addition to planning my bachelor party, where we toured Jacobs Field in the afternoon and watched the Indians game that night) was to hold a crown over my head for about twenty minutes while the priest said the appropriate prayers. I have the fear that it's going to drop any minute now.
3:35 pm: Our right hands are tied together. We are holding lit candles. We must now walk around a table three times. With my brother (and the maid of honor) trailing us with the crowns. Great mental picture, ain't it?
3:45 pm: We are now husband and wife, officially. Father asks everyone to be seated and gives a small speech about the value of marriage. We are standing together at the front of the church. As he's talking, I happen to see a small bouquet of flowers on the altar that I didn't recognize. There's a sash on them... with the words "Beloved Grandmother." Apparently, they had a funeral there the day before, and no one... cleaned up.
4:00 pm: After the receiving line, we step out of the church into all of our relatives blowing bubbles at us. The photographer tells us that we came out too soon and that she didn't get it on camera. Shrugging, we walk back in and walk back out and tell everyone to just do it again and pretend.
4:20 pm: Odd that the first thing that people do after getting married is allow themselves to be pushed around by a photographer for whom this is just another paycheck. Other guests are also snapping pictures. Their pictures turn out better. Photographer calls for me to join my bride for a few pictures. She's nowhere to be seen for a moment. Great, I've been married for half an hour and I don't know where she is.
5:00 pm: Pictures are over (we think). On to the reception hall! We drive in the official bus... through the ghetto.
5:45 pm: People begin arriving. A dear friend and former co-worker comes in and I haven't seen her in a while. Despite other more pressing things, I sit down with her to get the gossip on the old work place.
6:30 pm: Dinner. My wife's dress was so tight that she couldn't get anything to go down her throat. (Make you own joke. We did.) My brother gives a heartfelt and really kind toast. My buddy Omar isn't so kind. (Apparently, people are supposed to tell embarassing stories in front of all the relatives.) Bridesmaid Courtney gives one, and then Brother-in-law Peter teaches my Anglophone family to speak Russian (Gor'ko! It means "bitter"... it's Russian for tinking your glasses. This becomes everyone's new favorite Russian word.)
7:15 pm: Introduction of the bridal party. The ladies go first. The groomsmen enter wearing Hawaiian shirts and funny hats.
7:20 pm: First dance. Meatloaf, "Heaven Can Wait" Yes, we went with a song that was older than we were, and that few people had ever heard.
7:40 pm: The dance floor is oddly empty. Imagine that. At a wedding reception. Even the YMCA can't bring people out and gets faded out half way.
8:00 pm: Meanwhile, the photographer brings us out for more "casual pictures." Remind me to print out a few aid organization brochures.
8:30 pm: In a planned tribute to my grandparents, who had celebrated their 54th anniversary two days earlier, the DJ plays "Somewhere My Love." My grandparents, sadly, are not in the building as my grandfather needed some quick medical attention. (Nothing serious.) The DJ, who was the calmest man I'd ever met said that it was no problem to simply re-play the song when they got back.
9:00 pm: Cake cutting. I had planned all along to do the traditional "stuff it in her face" and flex for the cameras move, but as I prepared to do this, my wife looked at me and said, "Please, I'm nauseous, don't shove it in my face." I relent.
9:02 pm: Cake enters my nostrils.
9:10 pm: My grandparents came back, and had the floor to themselves for the song. I'll remember a lot from that day (obviously), but that one sticks in my mind the best.
9:30 pm: My overly Caucasian friend requests and "dances" to "Play That Funky Music White Boy" by Wild Cherry. So, it'll be that sort of night.
9:45 pm: My new father-in-law gets up and says that he wants to give a toast in honor of the reproductive system. I'm not kidding.
10:00 pm: One of the little girls (5 years old) catches the bouquet. My 25-year-old buddy Omar catches the garter. Make your own joke. We all did.
10:30 pm: My buddies and I do a very loud, very off-key rendition of Barenaked Ladies, "Brian Wilson"
11:00 pm: "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" (our second Meatloaf song of the night!) Omar knocks over one of the 5-year-old girls on the dance floor. Why do they play this song at weddings?
11:30 pm: Last dance. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight", Elton John.
12:10 am: We depart the reception hall for the hotel. Along the way, we're hungry. We stop off at Arby's and get Jamocha shakes. Here's to romantic flourishes to end the day. Welcome to wedded bliss. I get lost downtown trying to get to the hotel.
The next day, we met up with my parents before heading out for the honeymoon (where we had a flat tire. Make your own joke. We did.) for bunch. My mother in a trembling voice said that there was "something that she had to tell us." This is usually followed by news that someone has cancer. As they cleaned up after the reception, they put the top layer of the cake into the back of the van. After they got home and opened the door, it fell to the ground. For a brief moment, they were worried and considered going out and getting a new cake and not saying anything. We laughed.
Tonight, we would have eaten that cake. Who in their right mind eats year old cake?
The point of all this? Today, I am more in love with my wife than ever. All those funny things that went "wrong" made the night that much better, more fun, and more memorable. We did it right before God (and got all the paperwork done), and really that's all that matters. Despite all this, we are still married.
So, if you know someone who's getting married and is a little too stressed, pass this along. It's not about getting things perfect. In fact, it's about celebrating the hundred little imperfections that go along with life. Neither one of us is perfect (except for me), and life isn't perfect, but life is very very good. When the partygoers yelled "Bitter", they wanted us to sweeten the bitterness of life with our kisses.
To my wife: The sweetest kisser of all. I love you. Happy Anniversary.