If wishes were fishes…
Prior to our wedding, a number of recent brides, mothers-of, and members of the bridal business told us how grateful they were (and we would be) for beautiful pictures of the day to look back on. The day goes by so quickly, they all said, and no bride or groom can be everywhere at once; photos stop time and offer a window into those “elsewhere” moments. They were right, of course. But I never expected the day to be such an intense and surreal experience I would need photos to remind me of moments I actively participated in.
Strong drink was not the issue. Our signature cocktail threw a punch, but I had only one. (For those who wondered if my enthusiastic dancing was a sign I’d imbibed too freely—nope, that’s just what happens when you set me on a dance floor and play my favorite songs.) The only things I was high on were adrenaline and love.
Take our cake cutting, for example. I distinctly recall stepping up to the cake, our planner showing us how to cut the slice, and playfully jousting with the cake-cutting implements. But while we were on our honeymoon, Steve made a comment and laughed about how, after we’d cut that first slice, he lifted a piece toward his own mouth, until he saw my look of disapproval. I didn’t remember that happening, though I had no reason to doubt that it had. When we saw our photos, there it was: Steve about to take a bite, me saying “Heeey,” him mugging an “Oops” and looking chastened, me laughing, and then us feeding each other. It’s one of my favorite sequences of photos from the whole evening, because it captures our personalities and the joy and playfulness of our interaction. The photos give me access to and allow me to relive each of those individual moments, though I (weirdly) still can’t fully recall them.
My first impulse is to say the day felt like being in the midst of a tornado, everything swirling wildly around us. A storm is destructive, though, so the metaphor isn’t entirely apt. The image does capture the buffeting emotions of my inner maelstrom. Our photographer had suggested during the rehearsal that as I descended the stairs to walk down the aisle, I pause halfway down the steps, stop for a moment and just take everything in. I’d also imagined more than once locking eyes with Steve from the stairs, seeing him see me, gazing upon this man who was about to become my husband. But when the time came, I was trying so hard not to burst into tears, so focused on keeping my composure, I couldn’t look, I forgot to pause.
If the day were a tornado, then the ceremony itself was the calm at the center of the storm. Perhaps that’s as it should be: it was the most important piece of the day. Standing there across from Steve, listening to the letters we’d written one another, looking into his eyes and promising my love, time did seem to slow down long enough for me to register and relish our vows.
Maybe a better metaphor is one of those glass-walled money booths from the old 70s television game show, where the contestant climbed in, the host flipped a switch, and paper money flew all around as the contender tried to catch as much as they could. I felt like that person inside the booth, as my dear friends, visiting family, new husband Steve, and all the moments and rituals I’d long dreamed of and planned for so carefully whirled around me. I grabbed and held on to all I could before the swirling stopped.
I was surprised by how little I could attend to the details, the culmination of all the designs and decisions the vendors and I had put so much effort into. Prior to the guests’ arrival I took a few minutes to wander around and admire the flowers and our cupcake display, but I never really had a chance to bask in the fully realized vision of the day, or watch our his-and-hers slide shows, or make it up to the photo booth during the reception, though the wedding party had some fun with the props beforehand.
We loved every minute of our day and had a wonderful time. Still, I wish I could go back and stop there on the steps, absorb the love on Steve’s face, revel in the beauty of our friends and family having gathered with us to celebrate. I wish I’d sat down on one of the benches filled with pillows to enjoy mine and my mother’s handiwork. More than anything, I wish Steve and I been able to visit personally with everyone who joined our celebration. We started making rounds after a quick bite, and we even switched the order of events so people would linger at tables for dessert. But I didn’t anticipate how everyone would scatter once the dancing began, nor how every next element—dancing with my father, tossing the bouquet, getting down with my girlfriends—would overwhelm me anew with a tumult of emotions.
Post-wedding, I thought about weddings I’d attended and realized that, unless I was in the wedding party, I rarely saw much of the bride and groom, but what that meant for us didn’t register ahead of time. Steve and I were so thrilled and thankful for the love and support of our friends and family, I wish we’d been able to express that to everyone in person. I was deeply grateful for those who sought us out—my brother grabbing me for a chasse and a chat during Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” my friends pulling me aside for a photo, all the folks who paraded to the hotel and shared a drink at the bar. Whether we spent mere moments, a few minutes, or more in their company, I hope all our guests knew how very much their presence and good wishes meant to us.
The contestants who took a chance in the money booth dreamt, no doubt, of catching every bill that flew through the air, though some always fluttered out of their reach, fell at last to the floor. They stuffed what they could catch into a fabric sack. We have our photos, our stories, and best of all, we have each other. I hold on tight to the treasures in my grasp.
All photos except Pine Room by Noah Magnifico