Our wedding story, like all wedding stories, is a complicated one. It started smoothly enough: my husband and I knew we would marry from the first week we met. As fellow Capricorns, introverts, and INFJ’s, we’re annoyingly well-matched like that. During the year of our engagement, we struggled through the first year of graduate school (me), the second year of medical school (him), a bone-bending car accident (both of us), and the upheavals caused by my parents’ recent divorce and his father’s terminal illness. We often joke that our marriage was forged in the fire; no year, thankfully, has rivaled the challenges of 2000 and 2001.
When it came time to decide how to celebrate our vows, we knew that a traditional ceremony and reception were out. Our dreams and budget simply didn’t match, and I knew that if we couldn’t do a party the way we wanted, then we wouldn’t do it at all. Elopement was an easy answer. We both love to travel, and we set about planning a simple marriage, just the two of us, in Florence, Italy; we’d continue on to Venice for our honeymoon. My mother generously gave us $3000 towards our trip, and the rest we scrimped together on our own.
Three months before we were to leave, Rob’s father had a major stroke, and we both feared the worst would happen while we were in Europe. Through a flurry of faxes, emails, and letters, we managed to recoup all the money from our plane tickets and hotels. I was, by turns, mad and sad, frustrated with the universe for its terrible timing.
We decided that we still wanted an adventure, so we settled on a trip to New York City, a place neither of us had been. But for some reason that we can’t remember (hotel scheduling? residency requirements? some obscure Manhattan law?), we wouldn’t marry in New York, but instead continue on to a resort in the Bahamas for the actual ceremony. Both in the moment and in memory, our trip to New York was one of the best vacations I’ve ever experienced. We decided to spend most of our Italy money there, so we stayed for 8 nights in the fabulous, just-opened Hudson Hotel; we enjoyed a 7 course tasting menu at Babbo, visited every art museum on the Upper East Side, and even indulged in the occasional cab ride (something that, when we eventually moved to the city, would be financially taboo). We traveled home for a day to pack our wedding clothes, and my fear of flying flared; I remember thinking that our plane to the Bahamas would crash on the way and we’d never actually have the opportunity to get married.
Alas. On Friday, June 22, 2001, at 10:30 in the morning, we said our vows in a small straw hut overlooking a turquoise sea. I wore an silk, spaghetti-strapped sundress in black and white; my husband wore a Banana Republic suit with a violet shirt. My something borrowed was an antique pendant, and I didn’t even bother with something blue. There was no fancy hair, or professional makeup, and we got ready together in our hotel room. Reggie the bartender and Mabel the waitress were our witnesses, and after a few wedding pictures, we were back on the beach within the half hour. Our resort, while perfectly serviceable, was hardly fancy, but after our New York indulgences we were happy to drink cheap rum and play ping-pong.
I think about that day–and that year–often, as a reminder of how simple love can be when you let it. Over the years, we have talked about having some sort of ceremony, with an actual wedding dress and actual wedding guests, but I’m not sure if we’ll ever do it. I’m not sure that we even care. Rob and I will celebrate our twelfth wedding anniversary this year, and very few things are sweeter than my six-year-old gently touching my silk sundress in the closet, whispering, “tell me the story again, Mama.”