This essay is important to me but atrociously long! So… sorry about that. Just thought I’d forewarn you.
The wedding was Greg’s idea. When we were first dating, about a month before we knew we were pregnant and got engaged and all that, we somehow found ourselves discussing this blown-out-of-proportion-weddings culture we live in, girls’ pathetic lifelong obsessions with planning a wedding and sprinting down the aisle and our dream weddings. Me being a chronic anti-bride, I honestly had no idea what sounded ideal or even enticing to me. I was one of those strange girls who never ever fantasized about her wedding day in her youth and really had only vaguely entertained the idea of my personal wedding when I found myself attending the weddings of peers and even then it was with an air of complete apathy. But Greg said plainly, “I’ve always wanted to get married on some tropical island on a white sand beach somewhere.” I kind of sighed with the idea of something so unobtainable and never really thought about it again.
Then, about a year later we found ourselves wading through the beginning levels of planning a wedding. Quickly it became apparent that neither one of us could care any less about how it looked, where it was going to be, what anyone was going to wear or ANY of the other bullshit that accompanies the modern-traditional American nuptial festivities. When my sister and best friend all but dragged me into a bridal shop to consider bridesmaid’s dresses, the realization that this was only the beginning of being stressed out about traditions and expectations that I’d always thought were pointless, utter wastes of money. When we were finally honest with each other, Greg and I realized that neither one of us could muster any enthusiasm at all about finding a venue or inviting guests or anything we’d planned to do and maybe we were just kind of doing it because we were always told that this is what everyone wanted.
After this realization came to light, Greg sat back on our couch and pinched that place between his eyes that I’d only ever seen adults do until we had our daughter. He sighed, “I just wish we could run off and get married on some tropical beach. Just the two of us.”
I laughed, “Oh man, me too. That would be so freaking easy.”
And then as we listed the logistics (and unbelievable monetary savings) of just running off and getting married, we suddenly realized that this was exactly what we both wanted and were filled with excitement for the first time since we’d started wedding plans. Long story short, my family was excited and supportive, his parents/family was very very not. However, within a week we had found a place to stay on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, found a real, practicing minister to marry us, worked out a deal with a local professional photographer for a cheaper-than-usual wedding package, and booked a flight for late September 2008.
With hindsight being far clearer than foresight, there’s still nothing about The Day that we would change from our current perspective.
Still on East Coast time, I “slept in” until 3 a.m. when I stepped out onto our bungalow’s treetop balcony to call my mother and check in on our nine-month-old daughter. (Being away from my baby for more than a day was starting to build a sense of homesickness in my chest and I all week I longed for just a moment here and there to snuggle her and nuzzle into her soft warmth.)
When Greg was finally roused from his sleep around 7, we lazily made our way into the tiny village of Kapa’a and occupied a booth at the Ono (Hawaiian for “delicious”) Family Restaurant where we had local coffee and tropical variations of breakfast staples. (Pineapple pancake syrup is MAGIC.) We paid our tab, waited outside a tiny local florist’s until she arrived fifteen minutes late (which we’d grown used to in the laid-back nature of Kauai. Da kine.), and bought from her two miniature ginger blossoms. I later paired these with two tigerlilies and two stargazer lilies that I purchased at a Safeway on the ride home. The entire bridal bouquet cost me less than twenty dollars.
Greg was napping when my hair-and-makeup lady arrived. She was a tiny woman, no younger than 60 but with the lithe energy of a 20-year-old. She yammered cheerfully about the various weddings she had done and the celebrity disasters she had encountered in her line of work and gawked when I told her how cheaply we were renting such a fabulous riverside bungalow, all the while expertly curling and spraying my head, plastering my face with MAC waterproofs, and nestling tiny home-grown orchids and leftover tigerlilies in the firm waves in my hair. After two hours of intensive work, I emerged from my chair and gazed at myself in the mirror to find a natural-looking version of myself… only undeniably better.
The dress was far too expensive for an oceanfront wedding with no guests, but it was simply too divine to forgo. A Monroe-style halter created a tone of relaxed elegance, while the rutched bodice hugged every curve right down past my hips for a slightly-daring, sultry edge. Taffeta pushed the a-line skirt away from my legs and gently smoothed down into a subtle train, adorned with tiny beads and a few hints of lace. And finally, I was able to release my gown from its captivity in a generic hanging bag, in which it had been transported over 3,000 miles under my watchful eye for this exact moment.
In the first defiant rejection of conventional nuptial tradition, I rounded the corner to where Greg was fastening the coconut-shell buttons on his Hawaiian wedding shirt. Stopping halfway up his abdomen, he stammered for a moment before murmuring a gentle, “Wow…” and eagerly leaping across the room to zip and latch me into my dress.
It seemed we were forgetting something as we left the bungalow, but realized that it was the utter simplicity and ease of the day that was throwing off our internal wedding-preparation-gauge. Equipped with our attire and wedding bands, we loaded ourselves and all of my dress into the rented Jeep Wrangler and began the 30 minute drive to Koloa.
We wound our way through narrow village streets until we turned off onto a long, muddy driveway that took us to the parsonage. Tucked behind the Koloa Missionary Church, the house was a tiny grey building surrounded by dilapidated cars and wild roosters who were attempting to woo the chickens squawking inside a rustic pen. In our full wedding attire, we laughingly braved the mud and scrambled to the house’s front stoop. The minister was the first to the door, followed closely by a young boy and a baby scooting around in a walker. He was cheerful, answering the door in an opened Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts an introducing himself in his cool voice that sounded not at all unlike that of Tommy Chong. He agreed to lead the way to a private spot on Shipwreck Beach and sent us back to our Jeep.
However, as we were turning on the car to begin backing out of the driveway, we saw the preacher running up to us, waving his hands to get our attention. As he came closer to Greg’s window, we saw that he was carrying what appeared to be part of an animal’s skull… AND INDEED IT WAS! The minister proudly showed us the jaw of the wild boar he had most recently slaughtered and pointed toward his cart port, which had boar jaws lining the walls.
“Yeah, man. ” He said to neither of us in particular. “I’ve killed about 80 so far this year. I usually get to about a hundred or so, but yeah. That’s what I do.”
I was sort of expecting this to have some sort of relevance to our particular situation, considering it was, after all, our wedding day. I figured maybe it was some ancient Hawaiian tradition to have newlyweds rub a boar jaw for luck or something along those lines, but the pastor quickly answered that question for me.
“So yeah, man. I just wanted to let you know a little about myself. Not only am I a minister, but I hunt wild boar, too.”
And then he was gone, jogging back to his car casually as if to infer that this was a part of every wedding he performed. Greg and I looked at each other and broke into muffled hysterics at the realization that this man clearly had a touch of The Crazy.
Nevertheless, we followed him closely to a tiny beach access point where we filled out appropriate nuptial legal paperwork and met our beloved photographer. Even though we’d talked on the phone and exchanged numerous emails, the photographer was even more sparkly and jubilant than I’d ever predicted. She hugged the pastor and greeted him with familiar formalities and then gave us comfortable, laughing hugs too. Without too much hesitation, we made our way to the beachfront.
The pastor lead us down an obscured trail to a small private beach, overlooking a rough surf that gave spectacular splashes as the waves smashed against the countless rocks. It was an extraordinarily beautiful day on the island. In the three days prior, we’d quickly learned that short but massive, sudden downpours were an inevitable part of local daily life. Somehow The Day we were married we didn’t see a single dark cloud, a fact that both the pastor and the photographer remarked on.
Triumphantly, our pastor blew into an enormous conch shell, signaling to the gods the commencement of a notorious occasion. I won’t go into the explicit detail of the ceremony as I feel many of the vows and moments shared during that time are sacred and private between myself and my husband, but it was easily the most beautiful wedding ceremony I’ve ever heard. It stepped far outside the traditional vows and, instead, acknowledged and addressed us as real people with real emotions and intentions. Instead of promising our obedience [and those other outdated inferences of exchanging chattel], we promised to respect each other, build each other up, never speak ill of each other and always take time to physically touch each other (even in nonsexual circumstances). I don’t think I could have composed a more ideal wedding ceremony if I’d come up with the vows myself.
Anyway, the ceremony ended and I flung my arms around my new husband to deliver what the photographer dubbed, “the best wedding kiss I’ve ever seen in 20 years in this profession.” We gave the minister our heartfelt thanks, wished him well, and began the only wedding-related extra that I’d ever been excited about: The Trash The Dress photo shoot. Bubbly and brimming with creative ideas, the photographer giggled through our ice-cream toast (I had a Nestle Drumstick. He had a Haagen Daaz double chocolate bar.) and immediately began posing us in a series of unconventional wedding portraits. She didn’t immediately plunge us headfirst into the water or anything and she spent about an hour taking land-locked, dry portraits before we totaled our attire. As we splashed around in our wedding formals, a crowd of onlookers gathered behind our photographer, taking pictures of what must’ve appeared to be insane newlyweds frolicking in the surf. She didn’t mind, but I realized about halfway through the shoot that we were probably going to end up with an entire portfolio of us making out as we were suddenly unable to keep our hands off each other. Despite being covered in chunky, Pacific sand and soaked to the bone, we were light on our feet and disgustingly juvenile in our overzealous PDA.
When we lost too much light to continue, the photographer called it a wrap and excitedly let us look at some of the photos she’d taken. (She invited us back to her home studio later that week to look at all of the proofs after being edited. She rocked my face off.) Freezing, we stripped off our sopping clothes – mine being notably heavier as sand and saltwater had collected thickly in the bodice’s rutching – behind the towel our photographer kindly held up for us and started the long drive back to our bungalow, chattering and naked except for the beach towels draped around us.
We bathed. I took a garden hose to my relatively expensive wedding gown (the rest of my extensive family would laugh out loud at the country-bumpkin-esque noion that an off-the-rack gown costing less than $600 could be considered “expensive”) and hung it over a twisted magnolia tree in the back yard. Thoroughly exhausted, we attempted to spend our first dinner as a married couple at a fancy restaurant and, when the hostess told us it would be a fifteen minute wait, we caved in and went next door to the Pizza Hut/Taco Bell combo.
Greg looked at me over his dinner of nachos and pizza and smiled, “This is the best wedding night dinner EVER. ” He winked at me and added, “In fact, I’m not sure this wedding night could become any more ideal.”
But, of course, it did.
All this happened exactly six months ago to today.
Proudly, I can say that nothing has changed between us since The Day and, except for my new last name addition and us sporting slightly more jewelry, the shift from “domestic partnerhood” to “married” was completely seamless. All the horror stories about one partner turning into some demon the other doesn’t recognize or the sex (and/or oral) suddenly disappearing or both parties getting comfortable and spending less time together or the arrival of homicidal consideration haven’t threatened us at all. I accredit this to the intimate bond we developed before the marriage (read: baby-having) in addition to cohabiting during our engagement (which I’ve always been a strong advocate for, regardless of the pregnancy situation. In fact, premarital cohabitation is something I will advocate to my daughter when she is in her engagement stages. I think it’s idiotic not to… but that’s just me.) But aside from that, we still have traces of early-relationship symptoms. We still spend every evening together and, even if we’re working on/doing separate things, we insist on being in the same room. We still make dinner together and go to bed at the same time. We still take the time to make meaningful, sensual, luxurious love (as opposed to quick, utilitarian love). We still compliment each other every day. And beyond the mushy crap, we’re still painfully honest with each other, we still have an argument every three months or so and they only last about 15 minutes, and we’ve never ever gone to bed angry or frustrated with the other.
Hooray! Healthy! Loving! Respectful! Functional!
I could resort to such cliches as “It doesn’t seem like that long” and “Time flies when you’re having fun” but, while they do apply, I think they drastically cheapen both occasions – both that Day and this day, six months later. Plus, it’s certainly not necessarily been easy what with having to raise a one-year-old, having to battle the recession, having to deal with my mental relapse, etc. But through every single rough spot, it’s become apparent that we’re going to be here, sticking around for the other and shouldering the brunt of the relationship’s weight when it’s our turn to be leaned on. And no matter which one of us is having to take on that responsibility, we’re still going to assert our feelings and opinions to the other and actively keep the stability of our marriage in tact, despite the circumstances. (From what I’ve seen, this particular habit is often discarded and results in those bitter, long-term [WASP-y] marriages where the two parties resent each other for being disrespected and emotionally stifled. We’re trying to avoid that.)
And I’m well aware that a tiny six months is absolutely nothing in comparison to actual yearly anniversaries, but still, something seems special about having made it to our first notable time-related landmark. We’re still choosing to celebrate it with a special evening for the two of us. Nothing as major as a one-year anniversary, but something special nonetheless.
I guess it’s important to us because it’s the first of many milestones and it signifies that we’re capable of maintaining something healthy and loving and real under the comfortable veil of marriage. But moreso than that, the visible strength in this strong foundation having been proven in the last couple years has given us a great sense of hope and confidence in ourselves as a couple that we can move forward and tackle goals, milestones, and inevitable obstacles together. And, frankly, I think that’s always worth celebrating.
Happy Half-Year Anniversary, lover. You’re my Prime Directive. (I loves.)