Today’s post is an homage to the greatest wedding I’ve ever participated in; my own. I hope that you enjoy the story of my best memory.
February 14, 2003 started like any other in our young lives. Paul and I had moved to Columbus six months before and we were becoming settled in our routines. He was working as an IT Developer and I was splitting my time between substitute teaching gigs and a stint at a women’s clothing store. Our life was far from glitzy, but as 23-year-old recent college graduates, glitz was never expected.
Paul had proposed to me a few months earlier at my Mom’s townhouse. He had gotten down on the one knee and everything. And of course, my dense self was irritated that he had blocked the door I was trying to go out of and I didn’t see the ring right away. Then he asked the biggest question of our lives. I forgot my irritation and felt like a jerk for feeling it in the first place. Of course I would marry this man. He was my best friend and the one person I knew I could count on through anything. Thus, the wedding planning began.
Everyone always says that wedding planning is hard work. What they fail to mention is that every person in your life is going to have an opinion on what you should have at your wedding, but very few are going to be willing to help financially. As young adults playing house, the spare money was very difficult to come up with. We had saved $700, but that was nowhere near enough for the wedding we, and everyone around us, were planning.
That Valentine’s morning I happened to have the day off from both jobs, so I was wasting time at my computer when he called me. I had planned such glamorous tasks as cleaning the bathrooms and the kitchen to fill the hours until he came home that evening. I had no idea what lay ahead of me.
“Hi honey,” I said when I answered. “Make it to work okay?”
“I’m not there yet,” he replied. “I just heard something on the radio that the courthouse is doing like a mass wedding because it’s Valentine’s Day. What do you think about getting married today?”
“Are you kidding?” I practically screeched into the phone. “Paul, we’re planning our wedding. I’ve picked out my dress! No, I don’t want to get married today.”
Then I hung up the phone. I was so angry at him for suggesting that we throw off all the planning we’ve been doing in order to just run down to the courthouse. How dare he? I wanted my wedding. I wanted my dress. I wanted to be the center of attention for once in my life.
I needed to talk to someone about this, but as it was still early, I didn’t want to call and wake anyone up, so I logged onto the computer to see who was online. My friend Christy was there and I told her everything that had just happened.
Me: Can you believe he called and asked that?
Christy: Yes, he loves you and wants to get married. The bottom line is, what’s important to you, the wedding or the marriage?
Those words were like a punch in the gut. Paul and I were already stressed and fighting about the wedding plans. My mom had convinced me that we should hold the wedding in my hometown instead of the town where we lived now. And, if I was truly honest, Paul, who had initiated this whole endeavor, seemed to be getting dragged along for the ride.
I sat at that computer desk for several minutes staring at nothing in particular as I processed my feelings and came up with my decision. In all honesty, it wasn’t the elopement that I had the issue with. Instead, it was the quick change. I wasn’t upset that Paul wanted to marry me that day. I wanted to marry him that day and every day, too. My issue was that it was sprung upon me with no warning. Gemini’s, typically, are supposed to be great with change, but I was strange in that regard. It took me time to warm up to ideas. Fortunately, my soon to be husband understood this about me and he picked up the phone when I called him back.
“So what time are you picking me up?” I asked him.
“What do you mean?” He sounded confused.
“Well,” I said, “It really doesn’t make sense for both of us to drive downtown today, so what time are you picking me up?”
“You want to get married today?” Paul asked, and I understood the hesitation. I was so angry at him for even suggesting it only thirty minutes earlier that this change of heart must have seemed out of place.
“Yes,” I said. “I want to be married to you, that’s the most important thing to me. Weddings are fun and exciting, but they’re also expensive and stressful. I want to do this our way, where we both get a say in what happens.”
I could hear the gratitude in Paul’s voice as he spoke. “Okay, I’ll take a half day. Be ready to go around 12:30.”
“Will do,” I said. “Love you.”
“Love you, too.”
And with those few words, the decision was made and our lives changed. I ran upstairs to get ready for the day. I mean, I knew that I wouldn’t have a wedding gown, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t look fabulous on my wedding day. I had a new white outfit that had pants and a tuxedo type top. The tails on the top came all the way down to my ankles, so it felt like a real wedding outfit with a train and all. I then twisted my long, blonde hair up into a French twist, my most sophisticated way to wear it and meticulously applied makeup. I was ready to leave by 10:00 am. Unfortunately, Paul wouldn’t be home for two and a half hours.
After what seemed like an eternity, Paul walked through the door. He darted to the bedroom for a quick shirt change and tie application. Then, we were ready to do this. We didn’t drive downtown right away, though. Instead we decided that we needed to buy rings first, so we headed to the jewelry store. We each found modest rings that were not very expensive, but were perfect for us. Paul was able to take his ring with us, but mine had to be sized and would be ready later that day. As I already had my engagement ring, I wasn’t terribly worried about not having my wedding band.
The drive to downtown was fairly quick. It was one thirty in the afternoon, that wonderful, magical time between lunch hour and rush hour when the traffic is light. Paul and I found parking quickly, which is another miracle downtown, and walked to the courthouse. Filling out the paperwork took a little bit of time, but we were eventually ready to get married. It was 2:30 pm. We walked into the Judge’s office to wait our turn to have our ceremony officiated.
“I’m sorry,” the judge’s secretary said. “These couples here are our last weddings for today.”
Paul and I were crushed. We did all of this in order to be married today. We spent our savings on wedding rings and a marriage license, and how long was an unused marriage license good for anyway? What on earth were we going to do? We had no contingency plan as it never occurred to us that we wouldn’t make it in time. We stood there for a good while staring at each other with the words what are we going to do written all over our faces.
Fortunately, the secretary saw this and took pity on us. “Okay, I know this may sound crazy, but the Big Bear grocery store in Clintonville is doing a special promotion today where they are holding weddings in the store. You may be able to get in there.”
We had our answer; the Big Bear Grocery store. We thanked the secretary and ran, well as fast as my high heels would let me run, to our car. When we made it outside, we noticed that the cloudy, overcast day had turned to a cloudy, snowy day. But, we didn’t care as we were on a mission to make it to Clintonville to become official.
We made it to Big Bear and raced into the store. The man performing the weddings was a guy named The Marryin Man. Paul and I laughed a little about this as we headed to the setup they had for the weddings. Mr. Marry Man’s assistant was incredibly nice to us as she told us that the other couples had registered, but that she would have time to squeeze us in right after the couple that was getting married at that moment. Paul and I squealed with delight. We were actually going to do it. We paid the assistant the $50 fee which included our own wedding photo and headed for the floral department to buy my bouquet.
Before we knew it, we were standing under the makeshift gazebo reciting our vows in front of the Marryin Man. My heart pounded with the thrill of it all. As we kissed for the first time as husband and wife, we noticed a bright light coming from our left side. When we turned, we were introduced to a channel 6 camera and online personality. He said they were doing a news spot about the weddings in the Big Bear that day and would we mind if he interviewed us. Of course we said yes, the excitement of being newlyweds was too much to contain and we had to share it with someone!
After our brief brush with fame, the assistant took our wedding photo and we left the store. The snow was really coming down by this time and we still needed to pick up my ring and find a place to celebrate our marriage. The drive got a little hairy at times, but we made it to the jewelry shop and picked up my ring. It all suddenly seemed so real, so I took out our paperwork while we sat in the jewelry store parking lot to admire our marriage license. Unfortunately, in all the excitement with the news crew, the Marryin Man had forgotten to sign our license. We weren’t really married yet.
We quickly made the decision to head back down to the Big Bear store to track him down and make everything official. When we got there, Paul ran inside to find the Marryin’ Man and his assistant getting ready to close shop for the day.
“Oh,” he said when Paul showed him the paperwork. “We were just saying that we had missed one today.”
“Less talky, more signy” was my new husband’s reply, or at least that’s what he tells me it was as I stayed in the car. My feet were throbbing from making mad dashes while in high heel shoes.
Once everything was signed and Paul and I were finally, legally married, we headed back North to our reception location; the Red Lobster restaurant. We decided that since we didn’t have to buy food for 200 guests, we would order whatever we wanted from the menu. It really is amazing what $700 will buy for a wedding when only two people are involved. The dinner was beautiful and delicious. We went all out with champagne and appetizers and lobster feasts. By the end, we were stuffed, happy, and oh so ready to head home to put our feet up.
Each year as we plan our wedding anniversary celebration, we question the wisdom of getting married on what is deemed the most romantic day of the year. It’s often difficult to find places to go for our anniversary dinners as most of the restaurants are booked well in advance. But after twelve years married to the man of my dreams, I’ll never regret choosing the marriage.