I'm forty-one; this is my third marriage. I've already asked my friends and family to watch me marry twice (once in the Bingo Barn at my dad's clubhouse, and once in Lake Tahoe), and asking folks to do the whole thing a third time felt intolerable, despite my "third time's a charm" optimism). I'd already made my "forever promise" to this man on a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, and he and I had been a family for what felt like a long time. When we decided to make our partnership into a legal marriage, we wondered, "Will this be a wedding? A renewal of vows? What do we call this thing?"
|Chappaquiddick Island, Mytoi Garden|
I used to be organized, very careful, and thrifty, and my initial plan was to recreate that afternoon at Mytoi, but with different scenery. I have a passion for photography, and although we do go back to Mytoi to enjoy it once in a while, we're already got a lot of pictures there, and if I economized by wearing the same dress in the same location, I would end up with the same pictures, too. After much thinking, and balancing plans for the wedding with plans for the honeymoon in Paris, we decided it would be a good idea to do our eloping closer to home. We could take pictures in our beloved town, have dinner at our favorite restaurant, and things would be Simple! What could be better?
|Japanese bridge at Mytoi Garden, Chappaquiddick|
It turns out I'm not as organized and careful as I used to be.
The "elopement" turned into the "Crazy Wedding Thing" as soon as I took The Dress out of the flimsy plastic dry cleaning bag in which it had been stored with the other "random long garments" in the Closet Under the Stairs. We'd had a great discussion with Ashley O'Dell, who agreed to photograph us on this "elopement," and after seeing her portfolio of glorious fine art photography that just happens to focus on people getting married, the Perfection Demon that sits on my right shoulder said, "The Dress is good, but you can't do your own hair and makeup this time around. This is ART. And besides, it took you 2 hours to do your hair and makeup for Mytoi, and if we're going to take pictures running down the Salem streets, playing in the comic book store, getting dressed in Teh Finery, driving to the castle, and then traveling back to the 62 Restaurant and Wine Bar, there's going to be NO TIME."
See how sly that was? Sometime during discussions about eloping, I'd booked a castle. Here in Massachusetts, there's a medieval castle on the coast between Salem and Gloucester. We eventually agreed that it would be ridiculous to do the Crazy Wedding Thing anywhere else, especially with the platinum-grade photographer helping us. (I blame the dress, but really, the elopement went off the rails the moment I hired Ashley. "Game over, man. Game over!")
Rewind to December (before I let the dress out of the bag, and all hell broke loose). Although it may seem like an unnecessary digression from story about the simple plan with the dress and the shoes, I must explain that my passion for art photography is not simple, and has led me purchase 3 very large photographic prints from Kirsty Mitchell, 1 of which, the "Ghost Swift," is featured on her landing page; please go see it. These 3 photographs dominate my art collection so much so that I've designed my sitting room and my office to accommodate them. In the past five years, instead of making art, I've been collecting art, and my feelings about this are complicated. So.
While planning "the elopement," somewhere in the back of my head, the shackled creative soul broke its chains! It said, "My little event will be so simple to plan, that I will CLEARLY have the time and energy to design and construct my own Alice in Wonderland-themed paper craft bridal bouquet!" Full of vim, vigor, inspiration, and hubris, I plundered the local art stores. I engaged "tech support" to debug my scanner (long-suffering partner, love you honey). I spent hours scanning pages from my copy of Alice in Wonderland and used a YouTube video to learn how to fold origami roses. The video is 26 minutes long, and it took me an entire hour to fold my first rose. Somehow, this rang no alarm bells.
Focused and happy to be creating anything again, I worked on the prototype roses for weeks, using regular printer paper, to see how the Alice in Wonderland text roses would look. I soon decided that as cool as the text/graphic roses technically were, when I assembled them into a spheroid bouquet (to mimic the currently popular "hand-tied bouquet" look) the roses didn't really look like roses. The "bouquet" was going to look like a big wad of newsprint. My spirits sank. I furiously brainstormed. I would make some red roses, for verisimilitude. My spirits lifted. I went shopping for red paper. And shopping. No one stocks red paper. I could get "salmon" and "hot pink" but not red. I found red wrapping paper, and I did a victory dance in the parking lot of the Hallmark Paper Store, but the red wrapping paper lost its color wherever I creased it, and it didn't turn out well. Cancel victory dance. Cue sad violin music.
When I liberated The Dress from the wimpy plastic, I found a magnificent snag across the front panel. The dress is a smoke colored silk chiffon with sequin- and crystal-accented lace applique, and in order to repair it, I would have to find a swath of "smoke-colored silk chiffon" and engage a sewing expert to replace the entire front panel of the dress, which of course is ridiculous. Because I was busy torturing myself over the various paper craft bouquet challenges, I didn't check the dress in any rigorous sense until mid-April, and there was no reasonable plan for repairing The Dress in three weeks' time.
With mounting panic, I fled to the craft store. In order to preserve my plan, I decided that I would instantaneously become a fashion designer, and fix the dress myself! I searched the craft store with the focus of a starving primate fishing an ant hill. I found feather butterflies meant for silk floral arrangements (too garish), molds for pressing butterflies out of Sculpey polymer clay (too heavy), and a kit for embossing butterflies on paper (I got nothing). With a hysterical cry of relief, I fell upon Martha Stewart's cellophane butterfly scrapbook accents! I bought every package in the store and hung the mistreated chiffon dress over the back of a door in my quietly supportive fiancee's den. The look on his face as he chauffeured me around to various art stores was utter loyalty and sweet, but misplaced faith in my creative powers. Buoyed by his faith, I boldly stuck dozens of adhesive butterflies to The Dress. For a fleeting champagne moment, it seemed as though I would not be naked for the Crazy Wedding Thing! Hallelujah.
Alas and alack, The Dress Does Not Fit.
I realize that I have gained a few pounds since Mytoi.
I also realize that I have gone slightly mad.
Since when am I a woman who waits until 3 weeks before her wedding to try on her dress? I'm the Queen of Paranoid! I'm the person who bought four (4) pairs of shoes for Chappaquiddick in case I broke a heel or felt like switching the style. I take a week to paint a room in a house because I mask every square inch of non-paintable surface with blue tape and brown paper!! I have backup plans for my backup plans!!! However, somehow, in the last year, I've become the woman who will ask a chef to make a nine-course meal, without needing to know what's on the menu. "Surprise me." What? I have NEVER liked surprises.
In the last week of April, with my Crazy Wedding Thing approaching like a freight train full of judgmental bridesmaids, I showed up at a local bridal boutique, dropped to me knees and begged for help. I said I'd take anything that fit my body and wasn't an off-putting color (fuchsia, teal, orange). They pitied me and in a whirlwind 30-minute barrage of muli-colored taffeta, fringe, lace, sequins, and velvet, sold me an actual white wedding gown, which surprised the crap out of me. It needed cleaning, repairing, and altering, but yes, they could do that for me. The owner of the shop said, "We don't like saying no" and each and every one of them acted as though nut-ball, fortyish brides crash in 2 weeks before their weddings ALL THE DANG TIME. The ladies of Bella Sera Bridal and Lorraine Roy were like calmly-smiling, spiky-heeled, frosty-haired, flashy-jewelry-matching-handbag superheroes. (No capes!)
Plan decimated. Back in December, when my partner popped the question (a champagne colored diamond, bended knee, the special exhibits gallery at the Peabody Essex Museum), we planned a small, simple, private elopement. He would wear a white jacket and black trousers (The James Bond Special). I would wear my smoke-colored chiffon dress, do my own styling. We'd take photographs somewhere pretty, have dinner in Boston, eat Curly Cakes for dessert. I'd make my own bouquet. It would all be very quirky and arty and homemade, and awesome.
Here's how the Crazy Wedding Thing actually went down.
1. We hire awesome, creative, non-traditional super-ninja photographer Ashley O'Dell. Allow original plans to deteriorate in favor of all kinds of crazy ideas, to take advantage of rock star photography skills.
2. I hire 2 stylists from Peacock Alley. I do a test run to see if 10 pounds of super-straight hair can be attractively scaffolded with 90 million hairpins and a gallon of hairspray, and if makeup can appear totally natural and yet make me look 20 years old (yes). The day before the wedding, I ask a third stylist for a mani-pedi with clear polish just so my feet aren't callused and gross on my wedding night; she talks me into a gel French manicure ("Lasts 2 weeks! You must have a French manicure for your wedding, duh!").
3. I try to make a bridal bouquet for 4 months. I fail miserably. I waltz into Flowers by Darlene the week before the wedding, do a lot of pointing and inarticulate gesturing. Florist nods and nods and nods, and says "No problem" in a businesslike fashion. Husband picks up arrangements while I am getting hair scaffolded and face enameled to look "natural and young". I do not see the flowers, including the bridal bouquet, until the morning of the wedding. The bouquet is turbo-girly and not at all chic or stylish, and I love it to pieces. Each sweet stephanotis bloom is stuck through the middle with a pearl stick-pin.
|Bridal bouquet at back, right.|
4. Husband-to-be picks up Curly Cakes the day before, and manages to scrounge from the messy basement 2 tiers of a clear glass tea cake display, and stacks it next to the tea service, and presents boiling water at the exact right time. We have dessert at 11:30 in the morning, before we're dressed. Who says the wedding cake must wait until after dinner? We can arrange the pictures in whatever order we prefer! The cupcakes are peanut butter, double chocolate, red velvet, vanilla, and lard lard lard.
5. The day of the wedding, "getting ready" photos are not of us getting dressed, as is the usual. Instead, we sit in the salon with the huge Kirsty Mitchell prints and systematically tear pages out of 3 ancient encyclopedias that are falling apart anyway, while Ashley click click clicks the shutter. The pages include full color plates of butterflies and moths. We lug the pages in a big paper bag to the wedding site. If you want to know what we did with them, you'll have to wait a few weeks for the wedding photos.
6. In casual clothes, we run around downtown Salem, taking pictures in the streets, and in husband's favorite store (comics and games). He is the Dungeon Master for a regular game that occurs in the basement of the comic book shop every Wednesday evening. Though we are well known as a geeky/nerdy couple, the store employees are surprised to see us. "It's your wedding day?" they say. "And you're taking pictures ... here?" YES WE ARE! Dr. Who, and Totoro, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yes we are.
|1 of 2 table arrangements.|
8. We have a little picnic in a white limousine on the drive to Hammond Castle, where we meet up with a justice of the peace with the appropriate name of Robert Whynott. Whynott (accompanied by his Shih Tzu dog pal) is a last-minute stand-in for the original justice, who called to cancel at the last minute. With similar last-minuteness, our use of the castle and its grounds was confirmed only a week before the wedding, because the castle has been shuttered all winter. We had every intention of crashing the castle come what may, as there is no Plan B, but thankfully, there is no need for drastic measures. We've been watching the weather, praying for partly-cloudy (the best picture-taking light), and luckily the weekend of rain stops just long enough for my gown to stay dry for the day. We step out of the limousine and into the castle as if blessed. Our every move is photographed by lithe super-ninja Ashley, who is a constantly moving hurricane of shutter clicking and lens changes. The marriage ceremony takes place in the candle-lit great hall of the medieval castle, on the stone steps, drenched in the particulate light streaming in from 2 high-arched doors leading to a misty courtyard. Actual mist is swirling in from the sea as if on cue, making the castle even more dramatic and beautiful than it is in the sunlight.
9. Rewind again. In April and May there is a prenuptial agreement. It looks like this: lawyers lawyers lawyers lawyers lawyers. Grumbling, sighing, lawyers, lawyers, lawyers. I like my lawyer, so it's not all bad. This is not a negative thing; it's like the making of a last will and testament, you don't want to need that either, but you have it, just in case. We are doing every loving thing we can think of, even the scary things. At the end of April, I write the wedding ceremony myself, borrowing traditional parts where needed. The entire text is represented here, and when I read my part in the great hall, I cry a lot (the modern miracle of waterproof mascara protects me from gothy black tears). If you have wishes you were with us at the Crazy Wedding Thing, you can read the words and look at the pictures later, and if I've done my job here, it'll be almost as good as being with us in the mist and candlelight:
Official Crazy Wedding Thing Ceremony
We are here today to unite Joy and Scott in marriage. They come together today, not because they have recently discovered one another, and fallen in love, and want to start a family - but because they have been in love for many years already, and over the years, they have grown together, learned difficult, wonderful, lessons together, and built a family together. The poem, “Union,” by Robert Fulghum best expresses why we are here today to solemnize the union of Scott and Joy, a full four years after they stood alone on a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island and promised to be partners forever.
You have known each other from the first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment.
At some point, you decided to marry. From that moment of YES to this moment of YES, indeed, you have been making promises and agreements in an informal way.
All those conversations that were held riding in a car or over a meal or during long walks - all those sentences that began with ‘When we’re married’ and continued with ‘I will and you will and we will’- those late night talks that included ‘someday’ and ‘somehow’ and ‘maybe’- and all those promises that are unspoken matters of the heart.
All these common things, and more, are the real process of a wedding.
The symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, ‘You know all those things we’ve promised and hoped and dreamed - well, I meant it all, every word.’
Look at one another and remember this moment in time.
Before this moment you have been many things to one another- acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, and even teacher, for you have learned much from one another in these last few years.
Now you shall say a few words that take you across a threshold of life, and things will never quite be the same between you. For after these vows, you shall say to the world, this - is my husband, this - is my wife.
In their life together so far, Joy and Scott have built a family and a loving home in Salem, traveled to small towns and big cities, visited art museums, attended festivals and gatherings, walked the Blue Hills and circled Walden Pond, watched fireworks, cooked meals at home, enjoyed works of culinary art in fine restaurants, played games, watched movies, told each other stories and jokes, exchanged gifts and favors, listened to each other’s heartache, and cheered each other’s triumphs at work and at home. They have stretched, and grown, and built a foundation of mutual trust they can use as a launch pad or a resting place, depending on the day. In their years together, Joy and Scott have learned many things about how to make a lasting partnership, well described in “The Art of a Good Marriage” by Wilfred Arlan Peterson.
Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens.
A good marriage must be created.
In marriage the little things are the big things.
It is never being too old to hold hands.
It is remembering to say "I love you" at least once a day.
It is never going to sleep angry.
It is at no time taking the other for granted; the courtship should not end with the honeymoon, it should continue through all the years.
It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.
It is standing together facing the world.
It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family.
It is doing things for each other, not in the attitude of duty or sacrifice,
but in the spirit of joy.
It is speaking words of appreciation
and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is not looking for perfection in each other.
It is cultivating flexibility, patience, understanding and a sense of humour.
It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.
It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow.
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.
It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal, dependence is mutual and the obligation is reciprocal.
It is not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner
VOWS, led by OFFICIANT
I , Scott, take you, Joy, to be my lawful wedded wife. I offer you my solemn vow to be your faithful, loving partner and friend in sickness and in health, in good times and bad, in joy and in sorrow. I promise to love you, to support you, to trust and respect you. I give you my hand, my heart, and my love, from this day forward for as long as we both shall live.RINGS, OFFICIANT
I , Joy, take you, Scott, to be my lawful wedded husband. I offer you my solemn vow to be your faithful, loving partner and friend in sickness and in health, in good times and bad, in joy and in sorrow. I promise to love you, to support you, to trust and respect you. I give you my hand, my heart, and my love, from this day forward for as long as we both shall live.
From the earliest times, the circle has been a symbol of completeness, a symbol of committed love. An unbroken and never ending circle symbolizes a commitment of love that is also never ending. I hope that you both will be reminded of the commitment to love each other, which you have made here today.
Joy, I give you this ring as a symbol of my commitment to love, honor and respect you. With this ring I thee wed.Joy and Scott, may you love, honor, and cherish each other, keeping the covenant and vows that you are making between you today. Live together in faithfulness and patience, wisdom and happiness.
Scott, I give you this ring as a symbol of my commitment to love, honor and respect you. With this ring I thee wed.
For as much as Scott and Joy have consented together in wedlock and have witnessed the same before this company and there to have given and pledged their mutual love to each other, having declared the same by the giving and receiving of rings and by the joining of hands.
Now, therefore, by the virtue of these promises made by each of you to each other and by the power conferred on me by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I now pronounce you husband and wife.
FIN, with kissing.
10. So, that was the text of the ceremony. Here's what was playing in my head during the whole thing (click "watch on YouTube" and you can hear the song).
11. The chauffeur breaks open a bottle of champagne when we are done photographically wringing every drop of gorgeousness from the castle and each other, which looks like this: photos photos photos photos, light, shadows, almost-kisses, photos, photos, photos, arches, doorways, courtyards, architecture, hands, faces, smiles, tears. In the car, we have a bottle of cassis for kir royales. We talk and talk and talk, all the way back down the coast, past beaches and dramatic rock cliffs, and lovely Victorian houses. We eat dark chocolate covered marshmallows and sea salt caramels, and pink cocktails in tiny champagne flutes.
12. We stop at the house before dinner to rescue my wedding jewelry, which I forgot to wear. My husband says it was probably better for the pictures that I didn't wear it; maybe it would have been a distraction. A sweet comforting thing to say. I put the jewelry on, and then the car puts us out at Derby Wharf, where we dance to the lively fiddle music of buskers on the lawn where, in July, we will pitch our chairs and watch the fireworks. I laugh and sink my heel between the gray boards of the wooden boardwalk, and I stumble, but we do a little swing dance and let the pins fall from my hair scaffolding into the water. It is a short walk to 62 Restaurant, where Tony Bettencourt, my favorite chef in Salem, makes us a special 9-course meal. There is house made charcuterie, snapper, sole, olives, hand-made pasta, rabbit, quail, a variety of wines, a chocolate dessert with espresso beans. Is it a delicious blur; Ashley leaved us, there's a taxi, there are flowers already wilting softly on the kitchen table, and the day is over. We crash, and fall asleep in a stupor.
Now that the Crazy Wedding Thing is done, I will admit that we spent that day in a fantasy state, where it mattered what we wore, where we went, what we said, what pictures were taken, and what we ate. I know, ultimately, that the details are only important ... as symbols. We chose to do all of those romantic, foolish, nut-ball things, and to use the symbolic language of our culture (for better or worse, it is our language), to articulate our vulnerability and our hope. Sometimes a rose is just a rose, but sometimes it's hope.
Everyone, whether or not it's their first time indulging in the symbolic madness of a wedding, is taking a risk, by saying, "I hope this person will make love with me." Not sex, or the easy-peasy "falling in love" that people do all the time, over and over again. I mean the gritty, genuine, worn out love that -- if you're lucky-- you make when you're 70 years old, and stooped and crabbed, and smelly from too many medicines, and you look at that person you've been with all these years, and despite the pain and sacrifices, and the mean things you said, and the mean things he said, you still feel like putting a pillow under his tired feet, and he still feels like bringing you a glass of water.
My hope wears fancy clothes sometimes, but it also looks like this:
hope, hope, hope ...
Author's note: including all expenses described, this wedding cost 80% less than today's average wedding, through bargain shopping, reuse of items, and scaled down choices ($20 for cupcakes, instead of a pricey cake; 4 floral arrangements totaled $250, where some upscale florists now charge up to $1000 for a bridal bouquet; and renting access to an obscure museum in Massachusetts for 2 hours of photography costs about the same as 2 hours in a very small meeting room in a nice hotel in Cambridge.)
The "reception" will be an informal BBQ in my back yard on the 4th of July.