I grew up in an environment teeming with testosterone. My father and grandfather prided themselves on teaching me everything they knew about fishing, hunting, and the outdoors. I was one of “the boys” playing in puddles, wrestling, and rolling Hot Wheels and Tonka trucks through the grass. I sank into the traditional tomboy role with little hesitation and stayed there long into my teenage years. If an act or thought was remotely girly, it wasn't anything I wanted to associate with with one exception: I obsessively dreamed about my wedding day.
I routinely envisioned myself grown up in a lacy dress looking reminiscent of my mother on the day she married Dad. All my closest friends would be in matching green dresses with my best friend Abby leading the group as my maid of honor. My face would be covered with a veil, I'd be holding a bouquet of beautiful white flowers, and my father would walk me down the aisle. All of my family and friends would be there, smiling, watching me glow and glide to the end of the aisle where the groom would be looking at me like I was the only thing he could look at.
My mother knew about my secret obsession and adored feeding into it. We'd sit together and draft the guest list time and time again, accounting for each one of our family members, picturing how much more it would swell when we added the unknown groom's family. Twice, she bought me Bride Magazine. I combed over the pages of those two issues so many times the edges were worn. I'd circled my favorite elements with markers and fixed sticky notes to flag my yes/maybe dresses. To be sure that no one except my closest girlfriends would see that I was engaging in this girly behavior, I'd stow them away in my closet for safekeeping.
I made my way through high school, watched Abby get married in a beautiful ceremony, and wrapped up my master's degree still dreaming of what my own big day would look like. Near the end of my formal education I met a man online that made me feel a way that no other guy had. This was it. I knew quickly that he was the one I wanted to spend my life with, but for fear of scaring him off I didn't let him know how strongly I felt. As it turned out, I didn't need to tell him. He felt exactly the same way. However, he was across an ocean and visiting was expensive. We made the journeys back and forth to visit one another and got engaged quickly with absolutely no doubt in either of our minds. We discussed who should immigrate to which country and decided he should come to the States. The paperwork was grueling, stressful, and costly but we completed it and turned it in. Then we waited for what seemed to be an eternity.
During our wait for his visa approval my family, both extended and close, asked me all about what our wedding would look like. I explained that due to budget and time constraints we would be giving my closest family and friends three weeks notice, maybe less. We wouldn't be able to invite the entirety of my extended family and his parents wouldn't likely be able to cross the pond on such short notice. I pondered the possibilities for wedding locations and realized few would be available. We'd have to forgo the tradition of the groom not seeing the bride until she walked down the aisle. There would be no reception. My heart ached during these months as I tried to hold onto what I could from the heavily marked magazines of my childhood.
When his visa was finally approved after ten long months, my fiancé made the move to the U.S. quickly. In order to be sure his other paperwork could be done as quickly as possible, we picked a close date for the wedding. It was a Friday and I hoped it would be easier for my closest family and friends to take the time off from work, especially with only three weeks notice. As it would turn out, that wasn't the case. My brother was unable to take even a half day off from his job and my friend Abby, a staple of my wedding dream picture, also wasn't able to leave her job. Everything I'd ever wanted seemed to be getting lost in what needed to happen.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't cry a lot in the two weeks before my wedding day.
The day before the wedding I could hardly sleep. Sure, my wedding wasn't going to be huge or elaborate but the impending nuptials still gave me butterflies. The next morning I woke up and started getting things moving. My fiancé had his shoes, suit, and tie all ready to go. I double checked that my own shoes, sash, and dress were in place for later in the afternoon. My mother, father and long-time friend Tommy all drove the hour and a half journey to my home. Mom accompanied me to the hairdresser. I had decided that I couldn't trust myself with the wedding hair (or the photography) and hired others to help me. We returned home and I slipped my $160 vintage-inspired dress on over my head. Tommy, a makeup enthusiast, helped me put my bride face on. I looked in the mirror and felt more beautiful than I ever had in my life. Mom tied my sash around my waist, I strapped on my high heel shoes, and I grabbed my handmade faux flower bouquet. While my fiancé was getting ready (Mom made sure to cover his eyes while he made his way back to the bedroom to change), I came out to greet my always stone-faced Dad. I saw his eyes light up in a way I had never seen before. They even welled up with unexpected tears.
Without a doubt, the moment that lifted me the highest was the look on my fiancé's face when he saw me all put together. It was like I always pictured. He was absolutely looking at me as if I were the only person in the world. He hardly took his eyes off of me on the way to the bed and breakfast that I had booked last minute for our ceremony. Our officiant conducted a short and sweet ceremony that my mom captured for us on her phone. Before we knew it, we were married. We took some photos and headed home to eat a lasagna my mom had prepared, drink wine, and top it all off with a box-mixed chocolate cake. We put on the radio and danced in the living room. After our three wedding guests left, we enjoyed a quiet wedding night at home.
My wedding day was almost as far from my dream as it could be, but it was more perfect than I'd ever imagined. There wasn't some mystery groom at the end of the aisle filling an empty space that had been waiting to be filled. Instead, it was an event surrounding my fiancé's and my commitment to be the ultimate team for the rest of our lives.
Student loans, immigration costs, and a deadline took away my wedding dream but it also emphasized the importance of what we were doing. I didn't need all of those magazine details for us to start our life together. He didn't either. We just needed each other. I'm not writing this to belittle those that do get to have the wedding they've always dreamed of, whether in hidden magazines in the closet or Pinterest boards open for the world to see. The point is that it doesn't matter how you get to the moment when you commit to another person, just that the “why” remains ever present on your big day and beyond.