Saturday, May 19, 2007

Happy Anniversary to Me

So I married this guy twenty-two years ago. It was one week after I graduated from college and six weeks before my twenty-second birthday. Yep. I got married at twenty-one. The older I get the more surprising I find that.

I don't recommend graduating and getting married within seven days of each other. In my case however it meant that (1) my mother, who had to fly across the country, would be at both ceremonies and (2) I could move from the dorms to married student housing.

Actually the dean of students was not pleased about letting me move in a week before my wedding. Only married students were supposed to be there. I knew him fairly well though and so I said, "My mom is going to be staying there with me and Hubby-to-be will be living with his parents. Really, we probably won't be able to have sex at all that week, but if we do I promise it won't be in the apartment." His response was of course embarrassment. He said, "Please stop. Just take the key. Please."

Even then I knew that I would regret never living on my own. I considered putting off the wedding for a year. He was on the five-year plan and would still be in school. I could get a studio apartment and try to live on my own. It seemed unwise though. I knew he would end up basically living with me but still paying for room and board at the college. He would not be helping me to pay my bills, and I would be irritated. Living together without being married wasn't a solution. I knew I wanted to be married to him, and I knew that I was skipping over the part of my life where I lived alone. It is not a huge deal, but it is something that I think about periodically. It is something that people who meet me are surprised to learn. It is something about myself that I find surprising.

The wedding itself was simple and beautiful. My mother had always told me that I could have a college education or a big wedding. She said it jokingly, but she meant it too. I had gone to school on scholarship and with significant contributions from her. She had sacrificed for me for four years and I couldn't ask her to help me pay for a big wedding. So I kept it as simple as possible. I paid for as much as I could myself and in the end asked her only to pay for the flowers. I told the florist I wanted a mixed-flower bouquet, something that looked like it could be a bunch of wild flowers, but that I needed to keep the price down, so only use flowers that were reasonable.

I found a lace dress in a consignment store and a seamstress who made me a satin dress to go under it. I bought plain shoes and stockings. My entire wedding outfit cost me less than $100.

Hubby's parents had had only sons. FIL was an executive at a local company (very big fish in small town) and the in-laws kept offering to pay for various things. MIL really cares about photographs, could she pay for the photographer as a present? Would she like for me to mail out the invitations? Oh no, don't worry about the postage dear. I told her about the bare-bones reception I had planned and she asked if she could have a dinner afterwards for everyone.

She did it all lovingly and graciously. The invitation to the dinner went out with the invitations to the wedding. Though of course everyone knew that they had paid for it, nothing in any of the invitations indicated that.

And she thanked me. She said she never thought she would get to help a daughter plan a wedding.

Traditionally the parents' of the groom pay for the rehearsal dinner. She asked me what I wanted, and I told her she should do what she wanted because what I wanted wasn't appropriate. She asked me to tell her and I said that with all the stress of that week I wanted something really informal. If I could do whatever I wanted I'd just bring everyone back to the house and have spaghetti. She smiled and said she understood.

Later she told me that she had reserved a banquet room at a nice but casual atmosphere restaurant. I thanked her, knowing she was trying to give me what I wanted. I was pleased because I knew she probably would have preferred something much more formal. She told everyone it was casual attire and when we got there, there was a serve-yourself pasta bar. No one understood why I nearly cried when I saw it, why I hugged her and thanked her. No one except FIL who smiled and hugged her too.

It was the best evening.

As for the wedding itself. Well, my dress was so simple that I could not imagine a veil that wouldn't over-power it. I settled on wearing a small half circle of flowers. I had one made up in silk flowers so the hair-dresser (whom MIL paid) could practice. The silk version had tiny lavender flowers. It was very pretty. On the day of the wedding the flowers showed up and the flowers for my hair had daisies and full bloom roses in it. It was huge. They put it on my head and I looked like Mother Nature from the old margarine commercial. I suggested that I just get married with nothing on my head, but you would have thought I had suggested walking down the aisle bare-chested. In the end we cut rose buds and baby's breath from the brides maids' bouquets and pinned them in my hair.

As I left the dressing room one of my friend's ran over to tell me that "my cake fell!" I glanced over and told her that it looked fine. The top was decorated wrong, but it looked okay. Later, when we went to cut the cake and we took the top layer off I realized it was too light. The caterer had dropped the original top piece on the floor. This was a styrofoam fake from one of the display cakes in the window.

After the ceremony, reception, and formal dinner, Hubby and I drove off and then quietly drove back to our apartment where all our friends were waiting for us. Some had also just graduated, others had come into town just for the wedding. The week before had been so busy that there really had been no time that we had all been able to spend together without being at a party or event. We figured it would be the last time we could all be together. We were right. We finally left them and went to our hotel sometime after midnight.

And that, my friends, was literally more than half a life-time ago.

Though this post is really about reminiscing about my own past, I also look forward. I confess, I am one of those mothers who hopes her kids get married. I want sons- and daughters-in-law, and I want grandbabies. I understand that I don't always get what I want, and that they have every right to choose not to get married and not to parent.

But I want it. I want to dance at their weddings.

And though I know I cannot demand or even expect that they choose to get married, I can and DO demand that it be legal.

You hear that world? Are you listening to me Very Red State? Because I want this, and I am not going away.


  1. And for all their yapping, a domestic partnership is not the same as marriage, with all the state and federal benefits.

  2. What a great post. I'm not sure why it made me smile so much, but it did.

    By the way, my mother also got married at 21 right after graduating from college. She insisted on waiting until August though, solely so she could live on her own for awhile. It ended up basically as you foresaw - they spent so much time together that summer that she didn't feel particularly independent. Sounds like you made a good decision to me.

  3. Congratulations!
    I loved this post and am happy that you have such good memories about your wedding!
    I too want grandchildren etc. one day :)-we will be celebrating our 17th this year.

  4. Congratulations to another May Bride!

    May your children marry and grandchildren fill your home with laughter and love.

  5. What a lovely post and here I am late once again!!

    Happy Anniversary. I love the story of your MIL helping without giving offense. Would that they could all be like that. She made it sound as if you were doing the giving and perhaps you were.

  6. Happy Anniversary. Celebrating love is the best thing since sliced bread. My partner and I celebrated 23 years in February. We may not be legally married but damn, I love her just as much today as I did back then. Funny thing is, I had a crush on her when I was in 5th grade (we played on opposing ball teams).

    Celebrate well!

  7. What a perfect wedding you had - simple and sweet and everything you wanted. Do you have any pictures to post?

  8. What a wonderful memory -- and a gentle, kind-hearted mother-in-law. Obviously, Hubby takes after her in many ways.


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