My husband and I exchanged our vows on a Tuesday morning in the living room of the house we rent. I bought my dress for less than $100 at an outlet mall, and we served cheap champagne and good bagels to the 10 guests we invited. But it wasn't because our rental house was extraordinarily beautiful or because we couldn't afford a "real" wedding. It was because we just wanted to.
We were engaged for a year before we tied the knot, but after coordinating large-scale events for work, wedding-planning in my free time sounded like a cruel joke. Finding the right guy was hard enough. Shouldn't now be the time to breathe a sigh of relief? Being the one to have to make or approve each and every decision about what was supposedly going to be one of the most important days of my life was way too much unwelcomed pressure.
Quick! What did the centerpieces of the last wedding you went to look like? I'm 28 years old. Like many people my age, I'm going to so many weddings these days that I couldn't even tell you who the bride and groom were at the last wedding I went to, much less the details the bride probably spent weeks crying over and potentially going into debt over. Before I even started looking at my options, I was already stressing over their existence and the fact that no one would probably care.
But the problem wasn't that none of the guests would care. It was that I wouldn't care. My husband wouldn't care. We couldn't justify the time, anxiety, and money it would take to put together even an intimate wedding and reception, so we opted out.
Don't cast me as an unromantic outlier, though. I understand why the bridal industry is so huge. The small details aren't just for the guests to have something nice to look at while they eat the dinner you bought them. They are captured forever in the photographs you will show your grandchildren. They represent the tastes and personalities of the couple. They allow them to start their married life in a setting they created.
I might have rebelled against the norm, but I wasn't boycotting romance.
I began the planning process under the assumption that we would follow a traditional route, but I ended up doing a lot of shrugging when faced with each stressful decision. The beach was just as beautiful as the botanical gardens. Given a choice between chicken and fish, I'll choose two slices of cake. I trip wearing a bathrobe, making a full-length wedding dress not only impractical but dangerous, and I'm not lady-like enough to rock a short one without giving everyone a show.
To guide my thoughts, I looked at our relationship and what peculiarity we could pull out of it to help develop our theme. When my then-boyfriend and I got our first apartment together a few years earlier, we had found a rug that we loved. We put that rug in our living room and began making all of our decorating decisions based on it. A lamp that complemented the colors. A painting that matched the mood it set. This rug wasn't necessarily the focal point of the room, but it was our anchor for making decisions.
Our wedding didn't have an anchor. At least not a physical one.
When we shut out all the wedding noise, what really mattered was being able to focus on one another. The only important part of that day was that my husband and I read our personalized vows to each other without distraction and fully absorbed their meaning.
The reality of this is far less beautiful and cheesy than it sounds.
Both of us hate being the center of attention. The idea of potentially hundreds of eyes watching us while we said some of the most heartfelt words we have ever spoken was more than our social anxieties could handle. I would have been worried about how much I was sweating, if I would stutter. I look ugly when I cry. Don't cry. But will people think I hate him if I don't? Are my knees buckling? I might pass out. Don't say the wrong name. When did he start talking? Shit, I missed half his vows. I do. I mean, yes. I mean, I do.
If a hundred other people would have been there to witness us get married, I probably would have been the one who missed it.
We toyed with the idea of the traditional script for the ceremony, but the basis of our relationship has been our incredible knack for communicating. And I'm a writer. We would have been removing the one component that made the ceremony ours. Composing poetically strung-together words, saturating half a page with a lifetime of love and promises, was the best way to express our love.
Whereas other people hope to create the perfect photo album to look back on decades later, our takeaway was the single printed page of both our vows we have framed in our bedroom. And an album of pictures taken by camera phones.
Getting married at home instilled a sense of comfort and security into the wedding we wouldn't have had if we had done it somewhere unfamiliar. The decorations were purchased from craft stores and still adorn our home. We even incorporated our Christmas tree into the mix since we got married during the holidays. When I "walked down the aisle," I was entering the living room, just like I had done a thousand times before, but this time it was with the knowledge that, forever, the comfort of home would include him.
After one of my closest friends pronounced us husband and wife, we all made our way to the kitchen for the champagne toast. Our kitchen had previously been and continues to be the setting for celebrating holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and more. While we may someday get a house of our own and leave this unforgettable rental, the kitchen table that held the bagels, drinks, and a few flowers to commemorate the day is the same table where our son now eats strained peas and mashed bananas, and it will move with us wherever our next celebrations take us.
I don't think my wedding day was the most important day of my life. It began my journey without my maiden name, but I had already committed myself to my husband before we said those words. I think the day we first started dating or the day he told me he loved me for the first time are just as significant, and not because of what I was wearing or a chaotically choreographed ceremony. And if I'm being completely honest, I don't love him more just because we got married. I love him more as our life progresses together, but there wasn't a magical spike on the love-o-meter proportional to the size/cost/spectacle of the wedding.
I love him more because of the little things he does and the natural vows of love he gives on a daily basis, when no one's looking, when the day on the calendar is of little concern.