Today is our 23rd wedding anniversary, and we celebrated by taking our oldest out to breakfast locally, before she headed off to the library to get stuff done. She’s of the age as a senior in college that her friends are starting to get engaged and she’s already helped with one wedding… so somehow we got into reminiscing about ours.
We got married in New York City since that’s where I lived – not in Ann Arbor where I spent the first 25 years of life and where my parents were, and not in Amarillo where James was living and related to hundreds in town. We had a small wedding with about 75 people attending and we held it at midday with a lunch following.
Getting married at Christmas-time is lovely in many ways, but for me, it was also frenetic. I remember flying to have pre-Christmas with his colossal family in Texas (his grandmother was the oldest of 13 kids and almost all the descendants remained in town), then scooting to Ann Arbor for an intimate Christmas tree-side with my parents and Aunt, and finally blowing back into New York City to pull off a wedding in a couple days.
I sent friends down to the flower district to buy as many leftover poinsettias as they could stuff into taxis and they had the church blooming festively from stem to stearn. James and I stayed up late after the rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding, finalizing the seating arrangement for lunch the next day. And while James the next morning was baffling my family by running around looking for a travel iron (which we love to tease him about now and which he never used on the honeymoon), I didn’t even have enough time to get my hair dry or even do my nails.
My very formal husband-to-be looked a bit like a penguin in his mourning suit which his research told him was the proper attire for a midday wedding, and our flower girl (our oldest niece) had her shoes off and sported a haircut she had just unskillfully performed herself, but there were lovely readings and a stunning solo that left not a dry eye in the place. The minister’s wisdom for us in his sermonette was to “respect each other’s boundaries” and remember to “wear red rubber noses” – advice that has held us in good stead, as we can both be opinionated and take ourselves rather seriously. When we kissed, however, there was so much voltage that the upper east side literally had a power surge and went dark.
We had flown the photographer in from Amarillo because it was cheaper to fly him up and pay for two nights in a hotel on top of his fees than hire anyone from New York City. The photo he took of us during our wedding won the photo-of-the-year contest in Texas, and for many seasons he used it as his ad in the symphony program. It was just gorgeous: the emerald colored Thai silk bridesmaid dresses against the sea of red poinsettias, with a dashing focal point of white without a veil, holding Prince Charming’s hand. You can’t tell that I was sweating, or that the matron of honor was very pregnant. Somehow the image is charged with beauty, serenity and spirituality.
(Maybe that’s not surprising when you consider that prior to the wedding the minister had us each separately rank our priorities from a list he handed us, and then expressed enormous surprise when both of us had placed God as #1. It was the first time in all his years that a couple done that. Early on I found that to be a sad commentary on folks, but I’ve wondered since whether he should have instead been alarmed that we both put money last? Anyway, that premise of spirituality has been a very supportive and endearing thing for us to have in common, both then and all these years later.)
We signed the marriage certificate and walked two blocks to where the luncheon was held. The salmon was lovely, and the cake so delicious with its raspberry filling that it disappeared instantly and we wished we had ordered a bigger one. Our fathers gave toasts about how we are both related to losing generals, and we even had a balcony from which to throw the bouquet. We left to a flurry of tissue paper hearts thrown us in the foyer, because throwing rice or birdseed was illegal in New York City.
We flew off to three weeks on St. John’s in the Virgin Islands. I had said from the beginning that a good honeymoon was more important to me than an extravagant wedding. Later we heard about how the city buckled under that lack of power which stemmed from a couple blocks above where our wedding was, north, to where we would live. Many relatives and guests stayed on in the city to enjoy Broadway and New Year’s eve, and those that tried to leave, got caught in a winter storm that we had avoided only hours before.
I don’t think any couple knows what they’ve gotten into when they marry. But here we are after 23 years still loyal to each other, trying to respect each other’s ever-changing boundaries, and endeavoring to remember that trusty red rubber nose. We’ve got three wonderful kids, our health, and still put God first. That’s worth a lot!