The first thing you need to know is that Dan asked me to marry him while we were brushing our teeth. We had been together for almost 10 years at that point, living together for five, and we had plenty of people despairing as to whether we would ever get around to tying the knot. We finally settled matters after flossing.
Big romantic gestures? Not our thing. We like to lie around eating ice cream straight from the container and watching "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" reruns. But then we jumped into planning mode for the wedding, a day that's supposed to be nothing but romantic moments and symbolic traditions. And even two cynics like ourselves couldn't help getting caught up in all the excitement.
When it came time to plan the ceremony, however, I started getting grouchy again. We'd nixed a church service early on because neither of us are religious, but going the plan-your-own route was fraught with problems too. Unity candles, planting trees, live music -- we kept hating idea after idea.
We are not unity-candle people. (Or sand-pouring people
. What is that even about?) We are certainly not comfortable around a string quartet. And then I started thinking (some might say over-thinking) about the most basic parts of the ceremony -- like how we would walk into my parents' garden -- and realized that the traditional father-gives-away-the-bride entrance wasn't going to work for us either.
As a feminist, I didn't love the notion of being handed over (and my father-in-law-to-be kept making jokes about needing to negotiate my price in head of cattle, which didn't help.) But there was also the fact that Dan and I already had a life together with an apartment, a car, two cats and a shared AmEx bill that we fight over every month; we had already survived high school, college and eating guinea pig on a trip to Peru. I wasn't leaving some earlier version of myself behind to become his wife.
Plus, here we were planning this day to be a celebration of us -- but if we followed "tradition," we would spend the bulk of the day sequestered from each other, until the moment I walked down the aisle.
Then, from somewhere, the idea came to me: We should scrap that plan and walk in together. Dan loved it. He had started hyperventilating as soon as I told him how much my dress would cost, and I think maybe this little tweak helped assure him that we hadn't become Stepford Wedding People. We were keeping it real. (Plus he didn't relish the groom's usual pre-ceremony role of having to meet and greet while wandering around in a nervous daze. Why shouldn't he get to stay behind the scenes as long as possible, too?)
Even more surprisingly, my dad loved it, too. He's a forward-thinking guy, but you know fathers and daughters. I was worried that deep down he might be hurt, but too easy-going to admit it. So I broached the subject carefully (and, uh, via email -- which might sound chicken, but my dad hates talking on the phone, and I knew email would give him time to process, instead of putting him on the spot.)
To my surprise, he said that he had been thinking that giving me away by himself didn't feel right; he would want, at the very least, for my mom to walk down the aisle, too. And really, when you got right down to it, my stepmom and stepdad should also be there, because they put just about as much time and energy into raising me. And then you're trying to fit five people (with me in a not-small dress and carrying a big bouquet) down a tiny little aisle, and the whole thing starts to get a little sitcom-in-sweeps week.
So my parents sat in the front row, radiating pride and joy. As my dad said, "Anyone who isn't sure whether I'm the father of the bride will just have to see me beaming and they'll know!" And Dan and I hid together at the bottom of my parents' garden, watching all of our friends and family take their seats. We were nervous. We were excited. We held hands and cracked each other up. And for two people who are so squeamish about romance and symbolism, it ended up being an incredibly sweet, and dare I say, romance-filled moment. Because we waited until Dan said the (iPod-supplied) music was at exactly the right moment -- the chorus of the Magnetic Fields "It's Only Time" -- and walked forward, hand in hand, to celebrate our shared life.
Virginia Sole-Smith is an environmental journalist whose work has appeared in
Good Housekeeping and
The New York Times. Her most recent piece for Lemondrop was about 10 Super Women Trying To Save The Planet. For more, check out virginiasolesmith.com.
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It may be hard to tell from such a small photo, but that guy is being shot by a CUPCAKE CANON. Our dreams have come true.