My mom gives me $100 to cover my wedding expenses. I make a lacy yellow mini-dress and pull my straight hair back with a yellow ribbon. We choose a silver wedding ring that says in Hebrew, “He is my beloved and I am his.” Vic’s mother Virginia complains when we don’t invite her extended family, but Vic and I want our day to be intimate and homemade.
We hoped for a golden outdoor ritual in the forest owned by our friends Evelyn and Richard, but the fog is so thick that our twenty guests get lost on their way to the rural hilltop in upstate NY. When cold drizzle turns to rain, we retreat to a wood-paneled living room, overheated with anticipation.
Virginia brings a case of champagne and a box of long stemmed glasses, fearing we’ll drink moonshine out of Ball canning jars if she doesn’t take charge. I cover a flimsy table with a lace tablecloth and arrange the food in ceramic bowls and on wooden boards—homemade breads, nuts and dried fruit, cheeses, nut butters, and grapes.
Our mothers would prefer a long white dress with at least the pretense of virginity. They long to hear church vows and the wedding march, but they surrender to our happiness anyway.
After the last guest arrives, our bearded friend Joe plays a jazzy riff on his flute. My brother Jim walks me to the fireplace where Vic waits with open hands and a nervous grin. I look up at Vic with trusting eyes as he reaches out for my hand. We stand in a closed triangle with the befuddled Unitarian minister who leads us through our short ritual and simple vows. We end by reading our favorite love poem by Walter Benton. Our mother’s sniffles punctuate the stanzas.
…I need love more than ever now…I need your love,
I need love more than hope or money, wisdom or a drink
Because slow negative death withers the world—and only yes
can turn the tide
Because love has your face and body…and your hands are tender
And your mouth is sweet—and God has made no other eyes like yours.
While Vic and I hold each other and seal the day with our kiss, a friend who stood behind me slowly slumps to the floor in a slow motion faint.
We decide her swoon is an omen that our vows have taken like a lifetime vaccine, so everyone drinks champagne and dances to the Temptations. When the food table collapses and bowls slide toward the floor, we pick them up and keep right on dancing. Today, everything is a good omen.
Vic and I know something about the uncertainties of marriage. His father deserted when he was a baby and mine died when I was a teenager. We know that everyone and everything we count on will be swept away in time, but today we look the other way, toward each other, toward love and our future. How could anyone commit to marriage otherwise?
As the party winds down, I lean into Vic’s shoulder and receive a kiss on the bridge of my nose. My body says, “Protect me.” His body says, “I will.”