I have a hunch that the stamps in my passport have contributed most of my insights, and prompted most of my questions.
I have a hell of a time remembering my wedding anniversary. My husband, hereafter referred to as Ed because that is his name, mocks me for this because he is the one reminding me every year. It's probably just because I'm terrible with dates, but I've had a few people chalk it up to us not having an expected wedding.A mutual friend in New York City set me up with Ed. I was living in Orlando and interviewing for magazine jobs in the NYC. Our friend figured, hey, it'd be awesome for everyone if I moved up there and Ed and I started dating. This totally backfired because Ed moved to Orlando to live with me after a year of dating long distance.
I was nervous about the living together thing -- I'd been living alone for a number of years and I liked it so much. But then, remarkably, I liked living with Ed, too.Living alone and living with a partner -- they both have things going for them. I don't think one thing is inherently better than the other.One night, a little while after he moved in, we made a frantic drive to be at my great-grandmother's death bed. And on the drive up, Ed did his best to distract me. We agreed that we liked living together. We agreed that we didn't see us breaking up.And then we started talking about getting married.I'd always figured I wasn't likely to get married. Or that I'd wind up married somewhat later in life, maybe in my 40s (my childhood self figured I'd maybe even be a step-parent). It felt strange to be in my late 20s and considering tying myself to someone like that. But, as we'd agreed, I also didn't see myself breaking up with Ed.Marriage... actually sounded kind of logical.But I set some conditions on it. I'd consider it, definitely, and even plan for it. But I didn't want it to happen for at least a year. A year from the actual end of the year rather than that moment. I was super adamant about that point, in part because I've had a lot of partners declare they want to marry me early in our relationship before deciding I was too much trouble.After that drive, a few weeks down the road, Ed and I actually had to have a conversation that amounted to: Yes, we were serious. It hadn't just been distraction.So we were engaged. And we didn't tell anyone. I just wasn't ready to deal with telling people -- it wasn't that I was unhappy to be making plans with my partner so much as I didn't want to open it up to commentary from other people.It felt private, like it was something just for us.And when I realized that, we started talking about eloping.Planning to elope means having a giant happy secret that you actually kind of want to tell people, especially when they give you grief over living in sin with your partner. Planning to elope also means you kind of never want to tell anyone who gives you grief over living in sin with your partner. It means you anticipate the day of your marriage without juggling the planning of a wedding. It means your finances, especially if they are precarious, aren't extra burdened by trying to through an impressive party for other people.I love weddings, y'all. I really do. I love wedding dresses and cakes and receptions and tearfully happy ceremonies.
But I love that on October 5th, 2007 (I double checked the date with Ed), my partner and I went to the courthouse and got married, just the two of us and the clerk of the court. It was a small room, with a totally cheesy white arbor covered in fake flowers.The clerk of the court wore jeans and an Orange County employee T-shirt. Ed wore cargo shorts and a black T-shirt; I wore black cropped pants and a black T-shirt.Both of us still fit into our wedding clothes. But I think I got rid of the cropped pants because they were old and worn out.Honestly, the idea of trying to find a plus-size wedding gown freaked me out. The last thing I wanted was for my "special day" to be darkened by the bridal industry's insistence that fat people don't get married and die alone. That was one of the largest factors in my anti-wedding stance.The fiscal investment was another; when I started looking at average wedding costs, I really had no idea how I would pay for something like that. Nor did I have any expectation that our families would pay for it. I had a few people tell me that if Ed and I couldn't afford to get married then we weren't ready to be married -- and that just didn't make any damn sense. Marriage doesn't come with a price of admission that way.Honestly, the classism of that comment made me want to barf. And then have a wedding just so I could not invite those people.Then I found this book called "Let's Elope: The Definitive Guide to Eloping, Destination Weddings, and Other Creative Wedding Options." Yes, that's a hell of a title. And the book itself was surprisingly skimpy for all the promise on the cover -- it didn't tell me a lot of new info. But it cemented the idea that, if we were to have a ceremony, it would really be for the benefit of other people.Ed and I are not really traditional people. I like other people, a whole heck of a lot. But I didn't want to get married to other people.We'd already planned a little bit of a vacation -- we decided to combine the getting married thing and the roadtrip plan. Originally, we thought we'd drive as far as we could in, like, three days, and get married wherever we wound up. It was our own version of a destination wedding.Then I started looking at marriage licensing in other states and realized that was far more complicated than either of us wanted to deal with.Ed bought the marriage license in Orange County, Florida. A week later, we tied the knot.We had our choice of marriage certificates, from a basic scrolly model to a watercolor that included a set of Mickey ears on a Disney watertower. We didn't opt for the Disney certificate -- no Mickey Mouse marriage for us!I didn't expect to, but I still cried during the ceremony, standing in that ridiculous little room holding hands with Ed. I had to reevaluate how much I thought marriage meant. I hadn't figured it would make a big difference in our lives, in our we regarded each other.
And in the really important ways, marriage didn't change a thing about us. But it has changed our lives in other ways -- mostly for the better. When we left the courthouse, Ed and I text messaged our friends: What did you do today? Because we got married.Honestly, y'all, that was so much fun I can't even tell you. We started getting phone calls and hearing from loved ones, and it was totally joyful. People really were surprised! We drove around the Southeastern United States for 10 days. We visited friends and family and stayed in quirky little motels. We visited roadside attractions. We drove part of the Natches Trace. And when we got back, we had a party, catered by our local favorite snowcone guy. Wedding cake snow cones are the new hotness.Looking back on it, after 4 years and some months of marriage, I have no regrets. Actually, I take that back. I should have bought something awesome to wear. Because talk about a missed-out-on fashion opportunity! But other than that, our wedding was perfect for us: private and meaningful, and maybe the only thing that truly has been just for us.We'd wanted to hit the road on our roadtrip turned honeymoon, but we had to stop at a gas station before we left town.
"Yeah," I overheard Ed say to some guy at the gas pump, "That's my wife." And that's how I knew I really was married.