I always thought that when I got married again, it would be less of a fancy affair. I envisioned I’d get married on New Year’s Eve in some bustling city somewhere far enough away that only my closest family would attend. Or perhaps I’d get married quietly at some winery in California. For awhile, when the Star Trek Experience exhibit still existed in Las Vegas, I imagined getting married on the Enterprise bridge. (When they removed that exhibit in 2008, I was honestly a bit sad that I would never get to live that particular fantasy out.)
Of course, it took me a long time, and lots of grief to live, before I would even entertain the idea of getting married again. The day Mike died, I swore myself to celibacy–a living monument, if you will, to the love Mike and I shared. I even swore I’d never even change my last name from his last name. Part of grief is a resistance to change. Perhaps because change happens so quickly all at once, you find yourself wanting to hang onto the little bits of your life that you have left to try to grasp some sense of normalcy in a world that has suddenly turned 180 degrees from normal.
You couldn’t have told me then that I would change my mind about these proclamations. I would have argued with you vigorously. I would have argued with myself just as strongly. At the beginning of the journey through grief, I couldn’t see past the fog that blocked my path to entertain any ideas about the future and other people’s thoughts on the matter felt like an affront.
Not surprising, as I worked myself through the grief, I had little changes of heart. As a single woman again, I slowly let go of the habits of a life shared with Mike–little things at first, like buying a different laundry detergent. Then I picked up my own hobbies–bicycling, skiing–and I threw myself into them. After wading into the water of change, I took the plunge and did something I never thought I would do: I changed my last name back to my maiden name (for many reasons I don’t need to go into at the moment).
The last tendril of “grief belief” I held onto was my conviction that I needed to have a much more subdued wedding. I was afraid that I would compare my second wedding to the first. I wanted them to be nothing like each other so that a comparison would not even exist in my mind. Would the first wedding eclipse the second? Or would the second wedding eclipse the first? Worst yet, would my guests–those who had been at both weddings–make comparisons? Having gone through a wedding before, would I would feel odd or some kind of gloomy sense of deju vu?
I don’t know why, but I lived in fear of the answers to these questions.
When Crow and I got engaged, we started to discuss what we wanted from a wedding and it became immediately clear that he wanted to have a ceremony in front of his family and friends. He imagined more like 50-60 people; however, numbers that low are impossible with the size of my family. It was all or nothing–a wedding with friends and my multitude of extended family, or we eloped. In the end, we decided to go full-tilt wedding. And I realized that I actually wanted that too. Even though I was getting married a second time, I felt–just as I did with Mike–like I wanted to declare my love before everyone I knew. I wanted the ceremony and the celebration. Not only was I in love, but I was in love again. That seemed like such a miraculous thing, finding true love twice in my life.
In the process of planning our wedding, and moreso on the wedding day, I realized my fears about comparing one wedding to the other were unfounded. I learned that just as you can’t compare two relationships to each other, one wedding–even if the bride is the same–cannot compare to another. When done right–with both people involved in the planning–a wedding reflects the overall personality of the couple. My first wedding was emblematic of Mike and me; my second wedding, Crow and me. Each wedding stands alone in my head as separate events.
Contrary to my fears, I woke up the morning of the wedding with butterflies in my stomach but, at the same time, a sense of calm. I think I experienced the same feelings the first time I got married because one thing was for certain both times: I have always felt I’d picked the right guy.
My pre-ceremony preparations were enjoyed with the same four girls I’d chosen as my bridesmaids the first time I got married–Melissa, Diane, Angy, and Sarah–and it didn’t feel awkward like I had thought it would. There was a certain comforting constancy in the fact that the four girls I considered my closest friends at 26 were still my closest friends at 38. Though Crow and I limited ourselves to three groomsmen and three bridesmaids, I still managed to find a special job for Sarah so that she could be a part of the special day; she would read The Apache Marriage Blessing at the end of our ceremony.
It was such a beautiful day. The sun shined brightly after a week of incessant rain and floods. I was excited, not melancholy, nor did I experience the feared deju vu. The experience of marrying Crow was a new one and I had no thoughts of previous weddings or the life I’d once had on that special day with him. It was our moment together in time, completely separate from anything else, just as our future together soon would be.
I’ve wondered why I still haven’t been able to get rid of the dress from my first wedding. When I boxed up my second wedding dress, I put it in the closet next to the first. Both dresses represent a different part of my life. I’m someone who hangs onto momentos. I still have my first engagement ring/wedding band set too. Over the years, I even thought I’d do something with that first wedding band set–take the diamond and create a necklace or another ring or something. But just like with the dress, I never had the heart to follow through.
I was shocked when my happily married coworker said that she sold her dress to a consignment shop when she returned from the honeymoon. She obviously finds no attachments to these things. I wondered if there was some flaw in my personality that makes me cling to physical things like this. But I guess I’m just not ready purge myself of all momentos from my past. Maybe I never will be. I think it’s okay, though, because I do not let these items drag me back to the past. Rather, they just serve as tags of the events that constitute my life.