I’ve never been the kind of girl who spent her days dreaming of the perfect wedding. I dreamt of the perfect mate, and of all of the wonderful stuff that came ever-after, but the wedding, to me, was not important. Even as a teenager, writing stories where I could write literally anything I wanted into existence, I always skipped right past the wedding scene.
Not because I’m against weddings. No, not at all. Weddings have the potential to be beautiful, magical, wondrous occasions, and I am thrilled and honored whenever I’m asked to celebrate the love between two people I care about.
But for me, the perfect wedding was small. Really small. Just me-and-you small, and nothing fancy. On that, we agreed.
So our day went a little like this.
It was June 17, 2015. Our nine-year anniversary. Truthfully, we were both stressed—not about our impending nuptials, but because we’d just lost out on what we felt was our dream home. We were days away from being temporarily homeless. Nothing felt like it was going right.
And yet, we were surer about getting married than anything else. It had been a long time coming. We’d talked about getting married as early as a month into dating. We were just kids then, but we knew.
It was a Wednesday. We were nervous. The sun was shining, the sky was blue. We stopped by city hall first, the one in East Lyme. We filled out the paperwork. It felt silly and scary all at the same time. We kept thinking we were going to mess something up.
When we didn’t, we felt relieved, shared some nervous laughter, and went to the beach.
We pulled up to Hole-In-The-Wall in Niantic, Conn., the one where we’d been so many times before, where we celebrated anniversaries, and where we’d gotten engaged. We weren’t dressed properly—we hadn’t wanted our families to know we were up to anything when we left that morning—and we ducked into the changing rooms to swap clothes.
Then we emerged, all giggly and nervous, you in a crisp button-up and khakis, me in a glittering dress. We’d seen each other before; I made you tell me I looked okay in my dress. (Is this okay? Are you sure? No, really, are you sure I look okay?) No superstitions here. Then we waited for the justice of the peace to show up; we hadn’t met him yet, but he had a great name (Ernest) and he was kind and reassuring. When he pulled up in his car, we officially introduced ourselves, then motioned to the beach. Shall we?
On the beach, we felt the sand beneath our toes, and we tried not to laugh while we read our vows. They were the kind of vows thousands of other couples have probably read to each other, and they were lovely, but they were not our vows.
Our vows are the ones we say to each other every day in the big and little ways we show each other we care. You say your vows every time you let me peacefully sleep during a long car ride. Or when you look at me and unexpectedly tell me I’m beautiful. Or when you pretend that you’re full and give me the last bite of the dessert. Or when you help me with deep breathing when I’m overwhelmed. Or when you embrace me when I’m feeling sad.
I hope you know I say my vows every time I rub the back of your head to lull you to sleep. Or when I squeeze your knee while you’re driving. Or when I reach for your hand when we’re walking together. Or when I make a fool of myself just to make you laugh. Or when I erupt into laughter because you’re the funniest person I know.
We grin through the vows, and through everything, really. We’d probably giggle doing anything that feels as serious as this, because we’re not, you and I. We would rather be laughing over just about anything than be caught taking ourselves too seriously. So it’s fitting that even our short ceremony is filled with lots of laughter and smiling. And it’s okay that we feel a little silly during it, because there’s this moment, too, right in the middle—maybe as we’re exchanging rings, though I can’t exactly remember now—where we look at each other and it’s all so real. We’re doing this. We’re getting married.
And then we’re husband and wife, and we kiss, and it feels weird to do it in front of someone else, so we laugh through that, too. And we know this much: we wouldn’t have it any other way—just you, me, the beach, and laughter.