There was no rice. No confetti. No limo, doves, cake, or tiny toddlers throwing rose petals at our feet. There wasn’t even a white dress. Despite all of this, there was a wedding.
We arrived at the courthouse and immediately began waiting. Waiting for forms, waiting for pens to fill the forms out, and finally waiting in line to turn the forms in to one of the extremely bored looking public servants. On the forms we detailed all of our pertinent information; name, address, blood type, prior names (“Honey, I don’t think you have to put down ‘King of all that is Beer!’”).
Each couple in line had their own way of waiting. Some leaned on the grimy velveteen ropes, the nap long since rubbed off by the nervous hands of the nearly wed. A few held hands and whispered softly to each other. I imagined them making promises … “forever,” “eternity,” “someday we’ll do this for real!” Or, more likely, “How much is this going to cost again? Oh, $27? That’s not bad!” As we inched forward, one couple at a time, my soon-to-be husband began to look fairly apprehensive.
It started with the tie. The horrible, awful,
Next came the swaying. I imagined I was on the honeymoon we weren’t actually going to be taking. A cruise ship rocking back and forth on the gentle waves of the
The other couples stared. They actually gawked. I blushed and kicked his shin, which caused him to obligingly raise one hand up in a sort of “I’m OK” salute without being forced to actually lift his head above midline. I thought briefly about trying to find a paper bag, handy for hyperventilation as well as any lingering nausea issues, but discarded the idea after a quick review of a little mental list I liked to think of as: “Things I Will Not Have To Endure On My Wedding Day.” Directly after “Answering Future Father-in-Law’s Question About Whether They’re Real” was “Having To Fetch Barf Bag.”
As the couple directly in front of us went into the small room where the civil ceremonies took place, I broke one of my own rules and asked a question to which I was not sure I wanted to know the answer. “Hey honey, are you OK? Do you still want to do this?” He wiped away a curtain of sweat that would have been appropriate had he been, say, a roofer standing in a vat of tar in Miami in July, instead of a mild mannered scientist sitting quietly with his head between his legs in an air conditioned building in November, steadied his hands, tightened his wayward tie, and said “Absolutely! Why would you think I was having doubts?” And so, in the interest of eternal bliss and never having to find someone to go to the movies with again, we entered The Marriage Room.
We walked into a small room that was decorated in a style I dubbed “The Land That Color Forgot.” In my mind I wondered fleetingly whether beige was supposed to be calming, but quickly discarded that thought in favor of the certain knowledge that some government worker found four-hundred gallons of beige paint on sale in 1978 and thus the room would remain colorless, humorless, and passionless until every last drop was gone.
The woman who would perform the ceremony walked in, and to my horror, she was carrying two enormous ceramic figurines of a bride and groom “for the pictures.” One was Mickey Mouse wearing a tuxedo, and the other was Minnie Mouse in a traditional wedding gown the likes of which I had not seen on a single woman waiting in the interminable line. I had a sudden urge to ask if there was a Minnie in Chuck Taylor low tops and a red dress, but at the risk of robbing the occasion of whatever dignity it had left, I kept my mouth shut.
The woman explained all the rules and procedures to us. “You have to answer verbally! No head nods! No shoulder shrugs!” “I’m going read the vows. Face each other! Don’t face me, you’re not marrying me!” “Try to smile, but it’s OK to cry!” “Don’t forget to stand far enough apart so that we’ll be able to see Mickey and Minnie in the pictures!!”
The “ceremony” was brief. In fact, the waiting in line and the pre-ceremony warnings were both longer than the vow exchange and Disney photo extravaganza. She left the room to allow us a “private moment,” a moment we spent trying to decide whether or not to steal Mickey and Minnie as a keepsake of the momentous occasion.
The next day, nestled in bed, a lifetime of marital bliss stretched tantalizingly in front of us, we stared at our outstretched hands, now adorned with matching gold bands. I asked my new husband, “Um, should we tell people about this?” “Yes,” he said, “Of course we should, but who first? How do we tell our families that we got married and that, not only weren’t they invited, but we didn’t even consider them until after the fact?”
Our first decision as husband and wife was to procrastinate. To lie by omission. We would revel in our love, roll around in the secret knowledge of our union, dive headfirst into the shared delusion that we could get away with the world’s most poorly executed secret wedding.
Weeks went by. The pressure mounted and finally I called my parents and told them, “Guess what? I got married! Yeah….uh-huh…um...yeah, today! It IS exciting!” And that is how a little white lie became my wedding anniversary.