16 Years

Lex’s post about the couple who played the Damned at their wedding was pretty timely for me. You see, today is my 16th anniversary.

I started to talk about weddings in general in that comment thread, and as I typically do, I began to think about my wedding. There were a total of four people in attendance. Myself, my wife, a photographer, and a Lutheran pastor. What follows is how we got there and is a personal love story so click below the fold if that is what you want.

I should probably back up a bit from the wedding and start the story at the beginning.

I got invited to a party in Wrigleyville at the place of some of my college buddies. I was spending a lot of time around there on the weekends, then would drive back to Rockford for my job during the week. I had gotten dumped a few months previous to this party by a girl who I was going to ask to marry me.* After her I had been on a few dates and was doing OK. Then I met my future wife at this party.

I did the typical guy thing and flirted with her and after the party we went out and hit the bars with a few of her friends until four or five in the morning. She gave me her phone number. I still have the scrap of paper she wrote it on that night. It is one of my most cherished posessions and I carry it with me in my briefcase to and from work.

We weren’t able to “hit ’em up” with texts and email was even not readily available back then, so I had to do it the old fashioned way and call her house. She lived with her divorced mom. She was dating two or three other guys at the time. Typically I shy away from these sorts of situations, but not this time. I assaulted her full force with letters (snail mail, some of which she still has), phone calls, requests for dates, gifts, the works. I guess it was my courting version of combined arms. It worked.

I lived in Rockford in a one bedroom tiny apartment, and she lived in Lombard. Exactly one hour and ten minutes away by car. I would take the sleep hit often and try to get there on weekdays, and she would come to my place on weekends. We had a lot of fun. She told me she liked me because I was a real person – I always meant what I said. I think this is sort of a fault of mine, as I pretty much sugarcoat nothing, but she liked it and still does. A lot of our dates were at weddings. We were at the age where a lot of our friends were getting married – it was the summer of weddings. We went to nine that year together. Little did we know that this wasn’t such a bad thing – we were able to pick out things we liked and disliked about weddings.

I had a job opportunity to move to Madison. She had a career going in the Chicago area. I told her I wanted her to come with me but I also wanted her to do what was best for her. And that was true. She made the decision to come with me to Madison.

I proposed to her six months later at the Vilas Zoo here in Madison. I hid the ring in a cooler I packed for a picnic. I kept asking her if there was anything else in the cooler and she never could find the ring. I panicked and thought it might be lost, but after tearing the cooler apart I finally found the stupid thing and got down on one knee and popped the question. Time to plan the wedding.

It started smoothly enough. Most of our relatives were around Chicago and Rockford, so it was an easy choice to have this thing done in the ‘burbs. Then her side of the family started to get involved in our wedding plans to the point where my wife couldn’t plan anything. I was not involved (as Lex said in the comments of his post, it was the path of least resistance). One night after hearing all of my wife’s tales of woe (I remember this moment as though it happened two minutes ago) I looked at her sitting on the couch of our apartment and asked her if she wanted to elope to New Orleans. She looked at me for about two seconds and said yes. We threw all the wedding plans that had been done in the garbage (literally), bought two tickets for N.O. and off we went. We always wanted to go there and why not.

We were married in a small Lutheran church. We had a horse drawn carriage (not a mule). We had lunch at the Commanders Palace and we had a bottle of Dom. The Dom wasn’t worth the money, to us anyway, but at least we can say that we have had it. It was a pretty fun and amazing several days in the Big Easy. We didn’t pay for drinks anywhere.

My wife was her mom’s only child. The Mother In Law was pissed about all of this and will probably never get over it but she loves me all the same. My folks didn’t care. We came back and had a nice reception so everyone could have their moment in the sun.

A few weeks later we received a letter from the state of Louisiana. We were not married. The photographer was our witness, and he signed for us, but we needed two witnesses. We sent a $50 bribe to the carriage driver who was actually sitting outside and he signed and returned the forms for us.

Which brings me to weddings in general. Oh, how they are so lame. Everyone is doing all the wrong things for all the wrong reasons. Getting all wound up over a party/celebration that nobody will remember in two days. Half of all the marriages end up in divorce anyway. Some of the weddings I have been to have been lavish, some simple, most look stressful and miserable. I could be wrong.

Maybe I am bitter because I have two daughters and will be getting soaked financially for at least one massive wedding in the future. Just tell me where to be and when to be there.

*thanks to facebook I have reconnected with this woman, who is now morbidly obese. Thank god she dumped me.

13 thoughts on “16 Years”

  1. Happy Anniversary!

    I asked my wife to marry me in an ususual way. They were friends of mine who set me up on a blind date with the woman renting the cottage on their property. Each Halloween we always passed out Halloween candy at their house so they could go trick or treating with their children. I was going to save a candy wrapper and put the ring in it for her. Unfortunately, when we went back to her cottage after handing out candy some high school kids had egged fer hour and car. She taught at the high school so she was very upset. So thinking on my feet, I made a bet with her for $1 that I could make her smile with a piece of rock candy. With that I gave her the ring and of course she said “Yes” with a smile. I still have the dollar.

    I let her and her Mom plan our wedding. They are both very practical and I knew it wouldn’t be over done. Today we have two boys for which I am very gratful. More noise, fights, toys than girls, fewer weddings to pay for.

  2. Dan, What a lovely story. I actually lost the wedding license for my oldest daughter’s wedding – so, in a sense, the backyard, photographer & videographer, wedding dance reception for a couple hundred didn’t take – they came back that fall and got an internet certified minister to do “the real” one. It’s never the wedding, but always the marriage. So many in our families do what you did – small wedding but a reception that introduces them as a couple to the family; that public moment gives those promises weight. But I’ve never liked big weddings and having three daughters has not made that more attractive.

  3. Thanks everyone. Oddly, due to our schedules, kids school activities and other things we aren’t even celebrating until the middle of June when we can get away for a weekend. So it goes.

  4. Dan, I’ve been thinking about the stories like this one since reading your post. I’ve concluded these stories are as important to our society as any of the more political/economic/historical posts I’ve read here. It’s real life, personal and how we live. The other posts are engaging but sometimes seem like a soap opera story line.

    It makes me appreciate your story even more. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. I just got home from a three day trip spent in the Garden District, and as soon as you mentioned New Orleans and “small Lutheran church”, I got a picture of Zion in my head. Checking your link makes me smile. I rode past it in the streetcar day before yesterday. Thanks for the story – it’s really a small world. I’m still thinking about how good Frank Brigtsen’s “Shell Beach diet” was. Mmmmm. What a great place.

    All the best to you and your missus.

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