Wedding(s) of Us

how old were you when you married dad

Wedding(s) of Us

So, my youngest turns to me asking, "How old were you when you married Dad, Mom?"

As with most people my age, I am sure, the reply involved some mental math. I am at that age requiring my fingers and loose mnemonics to arrive at the appropriate number. A few years ago, how old would have eased out of my gray matter onto my lips. Math skills, at this age, wasn't the only issue. My husband and I had actually several ceremonies during the years prior to the actual wedding.

As a flower child, in the age of the hippie, counting myself as such still humbly proud, we eschewed such rituals as ringing emptily in creped routine. At the college graduation, my graduating class had to be threatened with NO diploma if even the cuffs of scuffed jeans slipped below the robe. The sight of our esteemed professors in all that colored regalia prompted gales of laughter sternly silenced. We also believed that the marriage of the heart before whatever deity we harked to, carried way more weight than a piece of paper; especially with the divorce rate so high. Really truly happy marriages had gone the way of black and white sitcoms. Memories of weddings lingered wistfully from a more bygone age.

So, the simple answer after the flimsy math, was 27 yrs. I turned 28 that following June.

On a rainy Saturday morning, THE wedding took place in a Baptist church because, agnostic here, didn't want just a civil ceremony. A church wedding possessed more of the romantic overtones I found I somehow desired- once my spouse and I decided to do the deed. The Baptist minister had married a former nun of the Roman Catholic faith. Their iconoclasm satisfied our individuality. The version of the marriage ceremony came from the Presbyterian prayer book. My Catholic father attended. My Protestant mother boycotted. We were hypocrites. She couldn't be bothered with the nuances we had so carefully explored and employed. Joe, who had once been married, had decided that my first openly declared foray into matrimony should be something memorable. Since I was a total novice in this area, being so feminist right up to the bra burning, I had only ever seen weddings rarely on television. The closest I had come was my mother's unfortunate one, foisted upon us her offspring, to her second husband; another catholic that she needed a dispensation to marry in the church even though it took place in an offshoot chapel because she would not convert. Matrimony signaled long lives together blessed with lasting love. Oh yeah?

I wore a ecru cream suit. The lacy Cinderella meringues I disdained. A waste of money to spend so much for something worn once. My maid of honor donated her borrowed communion veil, at her traditional Italian mother's suggestion for the something borrowed part of that sentimental phrase. Thus, I had something borrowed and something blue.
Something old and something new. My husband claimed he was the old being technically "used" and I was the new. Blue, he wore handsomely. A blue scarf completed my suit ensemble. Ironically, this wedding was the very first I had been included in, let alone, actually witnessed.

Joe, my husband to be, soul mate, best friend, darling insisted this wedding, our wedding, be all it could be for me. As it was, we winged almost all of it. I toyed with wearing my long hippie hair down like my husband liked it. The addition of the veil that very morning, changed the style. Worn down with that particular veil missed the mark; so I tied the long hair into a chic bun. Suddenly, I had style. Someone, I don't remember who, brought up bouquets? Being a novel novice, I furrowed my brow, pondering? Joe, always,romantic with the rain, kept to his goal that my first and openly declared only wedding fulfill all the possible potential likely to be conceived, ever, was like "Yeah". What kind of flowers did I favor? Blue roses, I declared. Who knew HE could be so romantic? Off to the nearest open local florist from the yellow pages and back he comes beaming proudly with two blue and white bouquets. And two boutonnieres! I had to be told what they were. Me, with a BA in Liberal Arts. To be fair, I had to be told at one point how to pronounce resume. Who says you can't learn something new. The bouquets were for me and my maid of honor; the boutonnieres for the groom, and his best man.

With the practical and traditional marriage rite from the Presbyterian book, he and I spoke our vows deleting obey; then adding mutual respect and friendship. The love we swore foreordained forever.

Did we want music? Again, the novice in me paused. Like well, what choices do we have if choices there are. So, my darling and I mulled over which of the myriad songs that had so captured us and our love during all the years we were before, during, since; how we were. It would have been a concert in itself. We narrowed the choice to Annie's Song by John Denver or Anne Murray's You Needed Me. I wasn't sure I could make it through the second. It was that personal. This ceremony was becoming more and more public. Did we want someone to sing? No, the organ would suffice. I was adamant. Joe wanted to know if I was sure. Remember, this is the only one. Yes! Prescient, too, it turned out.

On that rainy Saturday, we all gathered at the little church in the middle of the city.

My only wedding was both ecstatic and unnerving. I didn't know I could be so emotional. I watched dear Joe cry, stumbling over words during his emotion choked recitation. I had to ask the minister to stop asking me to "repeat after me". Me? Never at a loss for words. Who knew you had to deal with tears and a nose that was running along with the tears. With the bouquets, no one had thought of a hankie. No bride cried on the movie screen; the only tears came from the mother of the bride. Perhaps, that was the raison d'etre for all the dressy flounces. As the strains of Annie's song wafted through the Gothic halls, I bemoaned its length. Relief poured over me, when I realized I had been merciful to my self by keeping it instrumental. The wedding march was OK, thank God. No emotional strains and strings here to hang ones self with. That second verse of Annie's Song, held my husband and I in stasis; since we knew the words and they echoed in our souls. Another round of unexpected waterworks from the wedding party including my father. Minutes ticked while we gathered our selves together. "Do you take this woman to be your wife"?; Joe said "rife". Getting his simple gold ring over the one knuckle on his ring finger required manual labor. His graceful gentle hands had a few bumps or is the term humps.

We got through it. Forever. Even the rice. I yearned for the one ceremony where it was just Joe and I and God in the broken down ruins of a church in West Virginia. No one save us listened to our vows. No one caught the catches as we flubbed this or that line or word. No organs of earthly origin wreaked havoc in our souls. My father would never have needed to berate me for his being missed in the boutonniere department. Who knew? The boutonnieres were more than an afterthought; they were a postscript. The florist gave them gratis to my husband when he found out that the bouquets were for his wedding. My dear Dad had a point that he missed the boutonniere. Had I looked at the pictures? Its absence was noticeable. Guests didn't exclaim how they never knew I could be so publicly emotional!

At the simple but friendly reception held in the basement pub of a local brewery, Joe covered all the bases, music, food cake and celebrating.

My father, who had braved my mother's censure and wrath, flirted freely with all and sundry women dancing, holding court. That made my husband and I smile for decades afterwards. Dad was the life of the party. He liked this redhead. He loved that Italian girl with her long black hair. He didn't miss a dance with one of them. The reception for THE wedding went well. I danced with Joe. Joe, who eschewed dancing cause he said he had no rhythm, but that was not the case totally. I even danced with my father.

So, Joe made my only wedding fabulous. Officially, I was 27 when I married Joe that March. I had married him years before on a walk somewhere. Again, in churchly ruins in West Virginia, we pledged each our troth. We have lasted for decades as we knew we would.

When someone asks how long we were married, neither of us could say a time from that March day solely. We would modify our response, civilly, from this year or that one. That date was never just the only date. Turns out, it was more than a piece of paper. Being married is more than the ceremony. We did justice to all those vows. We managed to keep the respect and friendship through all the ups and downs that come with life for two strong willed, independent people. Love walked with us as we chose daily, continuously, to walk together this life with its myriads twists, turns, bumps, bruises, thorns, brambles, bushes and bouquets.


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