Now that the invitations are in the mail, it really feels official: J and I are getting married in August!
This isn’t exactly “news” to our family and friends: J popped the question in January, and we’ve been planning the wedding since February. But for a variety of reasons, I never got around to announcing our engagement on-blog. At first, I didn’t want to blurt the happy news online until we’d told everyone in our families; after everyone in our inner-circle of family and friends had been informed, I was in the midst of a busier-than-usual semester when finding time to blog was difficult. On Facebook, all I had to do to notify my online friends was change my relationship status from “In a relationship” to “Engaged,” and that spurred the expected flurry of congratulations, like flashing an engagement ring at a social gathering. But here on-blog, I wanted to write something more substantial, and something more substantial kept getting pushed to the bottom of my to-do list as other priorities took precedent.
Over the years, I’ve spent so many blog-entries processing my first marriage, divorce, and its aftermath, I’ve wanted to write something equally thoughtful about the experience of being engaged, again. The first time I got engaged and planned a wedding, I remember how stressful the experience was. Even though my ex-husband and I had a small, simple wedding, we had ongoing disagreements with relatives about the details: one side of the family wanted a large, fancy wedding with a long guest-list, and the other side preferred our idea of keeping things small and simple. At the time, I remember remarking that there was a good reason why marriage was designed to last for life: that way, you’d have to go through the trauma of planning a wedding only once.
They say that second marriages are the triumph of hope over experience, but I’d say that second engagements are the triumph of experience over experience. Having already planned and been in one wedding with all the expected accoutrements (church, bridal party, long white dress, etc), this time around, J and I are no longer beholden to time-honored tradition or either set of parents. Since this is a second wedding for both of us, we’re planning and paying for it ourselves, so we get to focus on what we (rather than others) want. Now that we each have had the experience of getting married one way–me in a church with a Catholic priest, J in his living room with a Jewish justice-of-the-peace–J and I see this second time around as our chance to do things differently, as we’d like it.
So, how are we doing things differently this time? Well, we aren’t getting married in a church; we’re getting married at a Wild Animal Park. Instead of flipping a coin to decide whether to get married in my hometown (Columbus, OH) or J’s (Pittsburgh, PA), we’re getting married in San Diego: a fun summer trip for ALL of us, as if we were eloping with small entourage of family and close friends. Will I wear a white dress? Yes, but it’s knee-length and informal, bought off-the-rack and on sale. Will we have a bridal party, and will my dad walk me down the aisle? No, and no: J and I will escort one another down the aisle, and it will be just the two of us standing in front of our officiant.
And that officiant? He’s neither a Catholic priest nor a Jewish justice-of-the-peace; he’s a nondenominational Christian minister with lots of experience marrying people in unorthodox settings. How can it be, you might wonder, that a practicing Zen Buddhist manages to get married twice without ever having a Buddhist wedding? Well, as much as I respect the great vows of Buddhist practice, J’s not a Buddhist, and neither are any of our wedding guests. We’ll have a nonsectarian, moderately Christian wedding ceremony because that reflects our shared cultural background.
When I first divorced, I feared I was tainted goods: having one marriage that had failed, I was afraid that all future relationships would be similarly doomed. A second marriage is a leap of faith because it’s based on the belief that we can learn from our mistakes. Second marriages, I think, really are the triumph of experience over experience: as much as you’ve lived through the bad experience of seeing one marriage fail, you’ve gained the valuable experience of having learned things the hard way. The first time I got married, I was fresh out of college and had no idea how to live on my own in the “real world,” much less be married. Now that I’m twenty years older and that much (I hope) wiser, I have a clearer sense of what I want out of life, love, and a partner. I think this current process of planning both a wedding and a life is a great opportunity to claim these for myself.