Saturday, April 12, 2014

Reflections on a wedding, five years later

(Picture:  Mom and I on my wedding day)

We got married five years ago today, on the lawn of a recreation center in Sun City, Arizona.  It was Easter Sunday 2009, and it was utterly without pomp or circumstance.  I wasn’t in white and he wasn’t in a suit.  There were no bridesmaids or groomsmen or flower girls.  Nary a band or deejay was in sight, my dress was from Kohl's,  I think my flowers might have come from Costco, and there was no first dance or bouquet toss or any of the trappings that usually come with a wedding.  It was simply the two of us, with immediate family (minus a couple of people on his side) and a few members of my grandparents’ church.  I think we went out to dinner afterwards, probably to the Olive Garden, though I am somewhat ashamed to say that I don’t remember.  There was no honeymoon – we drove the four hours back to Loma Linda that same evening because my 4th year neurology clerkship was starting the next day.  My new mother-in-law sat in the front seat of the car, and when we got pulled over for speeding, did her best to get us out of the ticket by impressing upon the officer that we had gotten married hours earlier.  He wasn’t impressed at all, and when the day ended, we were back in CA, newly married, towing both a mother-in-law and a speeding ticket.  Auspicious beginnings, indeed.

Believe me when I say that this was not what my wedding day had looked like in my daydreams. 

We’d had much different plans in the beginning.  We’d put down a relatively hefty, non-refundable deposit on a gorgeous facility outside of Baltimore {Cloisters Castle, if anyone is interested} for a late June wedding.  We’d had bridesmaids and groomsmen lined up.  We’d plunked down some money for a pretty cake and I’d gone taste testing for the reception dinner.  I’d even purchased a dress, which was in the alterations stage.  And then it all unraveled...quite quickly.

The wedding date overlapped with the required intern orientation for my upcoming residency.  A couple of my bridesmaids had to back out (one was starting medical school overseas, another had an educational obligation that they couldn’t get out of).  I was trying to coordinate a Maryland wedding from California by myself whilst also finishing medical school and preparing for a cross-country move. Money was tight and time was even tighter.  My only grandfather was failing in both health and mind, unable to travel long distance, and it was important to me that he be a part of my wedding.  For a million reasons, the timing was just not right.  I was at the end of my rope.  When my grandmother suggested that we hold a very small ceremony in Phoenix, we mulled it over and agreed.  We called up our respective parents to let them in on the plans and let my grandmother and her wonderful church family take over from there.  They got busy and ensured that the key elements of a wedding – joy and love – were present in abundance.  They even threw in a bouquet, a pastor, a rehearsal dinner, and a lovely gentleman to take photographs of the event. 

I will not lie – even after five years, there are some times that I look back at my wedding day and feel a bit sad.  It is not that I undervalue the efforts of my grandmother and her friends who worked to put together a wedding in a two week timeframe.  I don’t undervalue that at all.  What they did for us was Christian love in its finest moment.  But really – what girl doesn’t want the “big deal,” even just a bit? I wanted the cake and the flowers and the dancing and the filet mignon and the honeymoon in Tahiti and all eyes on me as I walked down the aisle; I wanted every bit of that and sometimes I feel momentarily sad that I got none of it.  Then, I remember that our wedding day was quiet and sweet and we were surrounded by most of our family.  Everything in that moment was distilled down into just him and me.  In the end, I think that’s what truly matters.  Him and me.

 Sometimes it’s hard to remember that marriage is not about who designed your dress (or the size of said dress).  It’s not about whether you carried imported Brazilian orchids or Costco carnations down the aisle.  It’s not even about the size of the engagement ring, the pricey string quartet that serenaded your walk, the professional photographs to hang on the wall or the plane tickets to Tahiti that bankrupted your savings account.  In the end, absolutely none of that stuff matters.  The white dress will get packed away in a storage unit, the flowers will dry up and turn to dust, and airbrushed photographs on a wall do not guarantee everlasting happiness or a successful marriage.

I have come to realize over the course of five years that it’s not the trappings of a wedding that make a marriage.  Marriage is more than just one perfectly orchestrated day.  It’s about the love and commitment shared freely between the two people standing at the altar – and it doesn’t matter where the altar is, as long as you and he are there.  It’s about the promises that you speak to one another.   It’s about choosing to love one person every single day for the rest of your life - and you can do that dressed in a burlap sack holding a bouquet of dandelions.  Marriage is for better and for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, forever.

Five years ago, I made those promises to my very best friend.  It was the smartest thing I’ve ever done, and probably the best thing I will ever do in my lifetime.  And I’d like to think that our marriage is built on things more solid than satin and seed pearls.  I married someone who loves me much more than I really deserve and who always treats me with kindness and respect.  He has never underestimated me, and in fact grossly overestimates what I am capable of.  He is my rock when everything around me is quicksand, and he is my gentle place to land when I am falling.  He has carried me through some awful times that would test even the longest of marriages and he has done it with grace and patience and with a heart that is so much bigger than mine.  He's seen me in my best moments and he's seen me in the moments when I have utterly failed as a human being and somehow, he manages to love me in both of those conditions.  He’s generous and thoughtful and intelligent and handsome and just about all of the good adjectives one can imagine.  Best of all, he’s mine.

Happy anniversary, handsome man.  Thanks for making me the luckiest woman in the world, every single day.

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