May 28, 2020
26 years ago today was my wedding day. I imagine my one and only wedding. I’ve always believed it was more about the marriage than the wedding day; but I’ll admit, I got caught up in the day. Of course with my Depression era parents; I did so extremely frugally.
My wedding dress cost $20. I went to the end of the year Gunne Sax/Jessica McClintock warehouse where all dresses were $20 to clear the warehouse for the next season. I couldn’t decide so I got two dresses… $20 each. I found shoes made from the same white brocade fabric as the dress for $10. There was a hair piece comb with a bow from the same fabric… $1. So my bridal investment was $51. I found bridesmaid dresses made from the same brocade fabric in pink… $10 each. And flat shoes made from same pink fabric… $10 each. Being an older bride, I knew that relationships change an awful lot through life. So I chose my sister as Maid of Honor; as I knew she would always be my sister and I figured, in my life. And I asked my childhood friend… thus I bought two dresses and two pairs of shoes… $40 investment. My total bridal and bridal party attire was $91. Oh maybe $93 because I bought tulle netting to add to the bow to make my veil.
Our wedding was at our home church; where we had met. We held the reception in the fellowship hall. I did not want friends to have to “work” the wedding reception, so we found a caterer. Clearly the caterer and I did not see eye-to-eye. I wanted in invite lots of people and knew how to throw a party on a dime. As the caterer offered passed appetizer options, I inquired why we couldn’t just get the big back of tortilla chips from CostCo and a jug of Salsa. The caterer was horrified and said, “My dear, it’s a WEDDING! Not a Football Tailgate party!” Alrighty then. This might have been one of many signs I was out of my element.
What I do remember of the day… so many people who loved us and endured the big production. The multiple friends with musical talent who offered their gifts to make our wedding so special. The acapella group from UC Berkeley where my spouse worked and offered them free rehearsal space… they arranged a special song for us which was our Recessional. “Sweet Reunion”. I know we were supposed to leave the church… but at the end of the aisle at the back of the church; Bill and I turned back toward the front, and listened to the entire song from that choir, before leaving the church so all the pews could empty. We then stood out under the glorious trees on the front lawn of the church, and had an old-fashioned receiving line as people walked from the church to the fellowship hall for our reception. I believe that was one of my favorite parts of the day. Because we truly had a moment with each treasured guest. So many people loved us… individually… and jointly. We had over 200 guests. It was important to receive each one… they were our gift that day. Later we went to my home state of Iowa and had another reception in the style my Mother wished… at a state park, with ham sandwiches, a keg of beer, and a real wedding cake, since we did not do that on our wedding day.
In defiance of the tradition of the era to put on wedding invitations “no children allowed”; I added on our invitations, “Children Welcome!” We hired childcare staff from the church to be available in the church nursery… during the reception children were welcome to be in the nursery or have their parents bring them into the party. Bill and I went into the nursery to have a special private Mickey and Minnie Mouse toast with just the children. I remember the eyes of the children as they looked at us and at me in my dress. Many of the children touched my dress like it was magic. My $20 dress… was transformed into something of a fairy tale. One of my favorite photos shows me holding my Goddaughter.
A lot of things didn’t go right on my wedding day. The marriage had it’s own hurdles, which in my older years I recognize is normal. I have a broader perspective of relationships and what it takes to have two individuals journey together; and nurture each other individually and jointly.
What my husband and I dreamed of on that day was the opportunity to build a family; in a way that neither of us had known. That dream was successful! So even though in society view, our marriage was not successful; I can say it was a huge success… more so than the wedding day.
We were married in 1994. In 2013 our divorce was final, even though we still were committed as a family and celebrated milestones and events and Sunday meals and jointly participated in our family. A month after our divorce, Bill was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Eight months later in 2014, Bill died. I was by his side throughout the cancer treatments and as he took his last breath. The last day of his life, he was in the Intensive Care Unit, and could not speak. But, oh my, he could write! We had a notebook and all day he wrote messages that to this day I treasure. At sunset, the night of his death, a beloved friend was with just he and I in the hospital room. He kept writing out scriptures he wanted to hear… kind of like “Name That Tune”. As the scriptures requests continued, I realized most were ones we had on our wedding day as part of our service.
In the evening hours, the night of his death, he wrote out our wedding vows in that notebook. Those vows were real… and had endured. This part stays with me:
"You will be the best for me,
I will be the best for you,
We will be best friends."
And then Bill wrote, "you are the best; and were the best for me."
I know from many experiences in my life, there are many levels to all that we do. Life is not full of rainbows and unicorns. But if we truly open ourselves up to the power and depth of love; that includes the sweetness and the pain. All parts of love, even the painful parts, provide a meaningful life. In the end, there is nothing we can take with us, but the love we have given and received.
My marriage was one of the most life giving and life teaching experiences and relationships of my life. Good grief… when we finally signed divorce papers, we went out to coffee and cried and hugged and thanked each other. I give thanks for my marriage, for my family, for my former husband. I’ve pulled out the Wedding Album and am doing my annual remembrance. I toast you this night, dear Bill. You know the regrets I have/had. Even more, I left nothing left unsaid; and you know the joy and gratitude and love I have. Happy Wedding Day Anniversary… to my best friend. We were the best for each other… and our greatest joint legacy is our precious children. The are the best of both of us; and keep our love alive.
I believe in Love! I believe in Marriage!
for better or worse…
in sickness and health...
until divorce happens, we remain in relationship...
and death do us part <3