Traditional, ours was not

2 11 2007

I’ve been inspired by a Swistle post yet again. I don’t want to say that I’m copying her, “copying” is so… harsh. However, I am. Copying her. I’m totally taking her idea (how her wedding went down) and writing my own. Plus, it’s an opportunity to talk about one of my happiest memories, so why not?

Jeff and I started talking about marriage after just a few months of dating. We didn’t actually get married until we’d been dating for about a year and a half. At the time, I’d just finished school, and he was stationed in Belgium. So I hopped on a flight to Brussels and for the next two months, we lived (kind of illegally, shhh…) in his barracks room, on the third floor of a building full of single military men. They were men. Men who were single. Do I even have to describe to you the state of each floor’s bathroom (yeah, nobody had their own bathroom; there was a bathroom with 4 toilet stalls and 4 shower stalls for the whole floor to share)? Ohh, the things I did for love…

Anyway. We spent a month like that, in his little tiny room, sneaking me into the bathroom and pretending I was just visiting. Someone put Jeff into contact with a German woman (who was kind of like a travel agent, I guess) who arranged train tickets, lodging and a meeting with an officiate who could perform the ceremony for us. It would take place in Denmark, since that happens to be one place that the ceremony and the documents that go along with it are simple and are recognized by the U.S. We would only be staying for three days, and then it’d be back to the barracks for us.

We hadn’t originally intended to do things this way. When we first started talking about getting married, we just automatically began planning your typical smallish wedding in a church, with like, bridesmaids, and flowers, and a reception, and all that good wedding-ey stuff. However, we were doing this while Jeff was in Belgium, and I was in the States, finishing up school. So Jeff was pretty much removed from the entire process of planning. At one point, he came home on leave, and I guess was just overwhelmed with the reality of the whole thing. And he decided that it wasn’t the right time. He wanted to wait until he got back and it was something we could do together and when we had more time. And I was okay with it.

I was okay with it because, though I didn’t know it until I started planning it, that kind of wedding was not what I wanted. A wedding, to me, is whatever the couple wants it to be in order for them to feel joined as one. And what I was planning felt like it was for everyone else. I didn’t want a big fancy thousands-of-dollars dress, I didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars on food, I didn’t want all the fuss. It’s not me, and it’s not Jeff. As cheesy as it sounds, I just plain wanted to be with him. Not millions of miles away from him. With him, wherever he was. And we were going about it the wrong way.

So we put all things wedding-related on hold for the time being. He came home again on leave about 6 months later, a few weeks after I’d finished school… school, which had previously been the one big thing that was tying me to the place so many miles away from him. The nearly four weeks that he was home were great, but just like every other visit, ended in a painful goodbye. Only this one in particular was especially difficult, probably due in large part to the fact that there was no real reason that I needed to stay in Erie anymore. It’s not like I had gotten a job yet, or even had any real prospects for one.

And then a few weeks later, we decided we were just going to do it. Jeff bought me a plane ticket, and two months after he left, so did I. The plan was that as soon as possible after I got there, we’d get hitched somewhere, just the two of us. And that’s exactly what we did.

We left for Denmark on a Thursday evening, and spent all night in a sleeper car on a train through Germany. We got to Fredericia, Denmark, early the next morning. We got off the train, checked our map, and figured that the Kommune (pretty much the equivalent of a municipal building) couldn’t be that far away, and so we walked there. Dragging our suitcases behind us. Over mostly cobblestone streets. It turned out that not “that far away” was nearly three miles. It felt like 17 more than that.

We met up with the man who would perform the ceremony, and he was very, very nice. His English was very good, but with his thick accent, almost impossible to understand. After discussing the plan for the ceremony, he gave us directions to our hotel, and suggested that this time, we take a cab, which he called for us. We got to our hotel only to find out 1, that our room wasn’t ready yet, we’d have to wait approximately two hours till the previous occupants checked out and it was cleaned, and 2, that it was, while really nice (to this day, one of three of the nicest hotels I’ve stayed at), more of a place where people stayed while attending business conferences (the travel agent could have enlightened us to this fact…). The concierge informed us that the one conference currently going on would be ending later that day, and that when it did, all the guests would be leaving. All the guests. As well as the staff. For the remainder of the weekend, we would be the hotel’s only occupants. And that meant their kitchen wouldn’t be preparing food for us, and that they were going to leave the door nearest our room unlocked so we could come and go, but they were going to lock the rest of the place up, as there would be no one else there for about a day or so.

We chose to look at this little “situation” as very romantic.

Even though I hadn’t wanted the traditional wedding, there were still a few things that I DID want: I wanted to look pretty (meaning not a wedding dress, but a simple white dress that could be dyed later and worn to something else, if possible; I found just the dress at a department store right before I left the States); I wanted a small cake or pastry-like equivalent; and I wanted a simple bouquet.

weddingbouquet1.jpgFriday morning, we let ourselves out of our hotel, and found our way to the center of town. We walked around, exploring the cute, peaceful small town, the shops and the restaurants. We stopped by a florist and bought some flowers. Later on, we happened by a little yarn/fabric shop where I bought a length of ribbon that matched my flowers. Our final stop was at this tiny bakery, where we bought half of the most delicious cake I have ever had in my entire life- it was vanilla with a raspberry filling between the layers and white chocolate on top. So. Good. I would go back to Fredericia just to visit that bakery again.

That night, we ordered a pizza (which we ordered again the next night, since, you know, there was no one there to bring us room service). It just so happened that this trip was taken at the end of the month, just a few days before payday. And since we’d paid our travel agent for all the expenses just a couple of days before, we were almost completely broke while we were there. So the only purchases we made during this trip- the flowers, the small cake, the pizza- were thought about carefully. And you would think that would have put a damper on things, but honestly, it made everything we did do seem that much more special. We had fun sharing a bag of peanut M&Ms for lunch one day, joking about how we’d better ration them carefully, because not only were we broke, but we were staying in an EMPTY HOTEL. We could starve and die there, and NO ONE WOULD KNOW.

The next day we took a cab to the Kommune, and everyone that passed us, seeing Jeff in his black dress pants, black dress shirt, and silver tie, and me in my white dress, holding my little bouquet, gave us the biggest smiles and the warmest congratulations and well wishes… in Danish. I don’t speak it, so I’m assuming that’s what they were saying. It didn’t matter though, because they looked so happy for us, and I felt so happy.

We found someone to film our quick 5-minute ceremony, and we said I do, and we went back to our empty hotel and fed each other cake. And it was perfection. I wouldn’t change a single thing about it. This is one of only two pictures of us we have from that day, and I have absolutely no problem with that (my only problem is that I tried to make it bigger so you could see us better and it came out blurry, oops; but as for the fact that we didn’t spend thousands of dollars on a photographer? yeah, no problem with that):

wedded.jpg

518025486_7714166f69_m.jpgThe very next morning, we headed back to Belgium (where we were luckily able to score an actual apartment, thanks to the fact that we were slightly more legal now (photos of that apartment are here, since writing this post got me sidetracked for like two hours, searching for pictures)). This time we were traveling during the day, so we actually got to see some of the countryside we passed through, and it was a very relaxing and enjoyable couple of hours.

scan_renewal_cake.jpgSome of our family members were disappointed that they didn’t get to be there, and that was the main reason that we agreed to renew our vows when we got back to the States for good, about 6 months later. This one, too was a relatively quick ceremony, followed by a dessert reception prepared by my mom, my aunt, my mother-in-law, and some of her good friends, and attended by around 75 people. My mother-in-law also pretty much took care of the centerpieces for me, as well as sent out the invitations. And, of course, there was cake. But since I wasn’t even in the country at the time all the planning was going on, and I got to leave all the details up to those who were, it became kind of like a celebration that our family had planned for us, because they wanted it. Which was fine by me.

scan_renewal_belly_2.jpgOh, and we used this little get together as an opportunity to announce that we were about 12 weeks pregnant; our favors consisted of little bags (that matched the invites) inside which we’d put a mint, a Belgian chocolate we’d brought back with us, and a little bag of blue and pink jelly beans. Tied to the bag was a small baby bottle and a tag that read “We’re expecting! June, 2005.” Not tacky, I told myself, since this was our renewal and not our actual wedding (we’d been married for about four months before I got knocked up). I was actually showing already at this point, and while our immediate family members already knew, nobody else did, so I kept my belly hidden behind a shawl until after the favors had been passed out.

So in the end, Jeff and I got to do it our way, in a way that made us happy. And we have some really awesome memories of our very untraditional wedding weekend. But also, our families were satisfied that they got to share in it in some way, too. It worked for us. And I am so happy with our decision to do things the way we did.


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6 responses

2 11 2007
Swistle

This entire post was RIVETING. This was my favorite line: “I was okay with it because, though I didn’t know it until I started planning it, that kind of wedding was not what I wanted.” And then you had a little list of things that WERE what you wanted! We are like TWINS!

I love the baby announcement at the reception! Did people FLIP OUT with glee?

2 11 2007
ethans oma

I’ll post a comment later, just as soon as I find another box of tissues….

2 11 2007
Caley

Swistle: Wedding twins (or non-wedding twins, as the case may be)! Who even knew such a thing existed?

And yes, they TOTALLY flipped out. There were lots of tears. 🙂

ethans oma: It was a happy story, not a sad one!

3 11 2007
Swistle

Oh also! DID you dye the dress later?

3 11 2007
Caley

Swistle: No, but the fact that I could, should I need a dress, is enough for me.

4 11 2007
naturallymeg

Wow, that is quiet the story! I love that I’ve never heard a wedding story quiet like that before, and that it’s all yours! That’s what makes life fun right? Doing things for you and not in the whole cookie cutter fashion?

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