Like the stereotypical woman, I dreamed of my wedding my whole life. Ten years ago, I had my wedding and learned that the groom and the marriage were way more important than any ceremony or reception.
Our wedding date had been a point of contention and worry for me. We originally were going to marry the day before our undergrad graduation. I had already had a wedding shower at school, arranged the music of Meet Joe Black for brass quintet (I’m aware the movie is about death, but the orchestral music is gorgeous!), bought my dress from a retail shop, and had my bridesmaids dresses made. When my family vehemently opposed the wedding, including my mother’s threat to have Wole deported, and Wole’s family was not granted a visa to come for his graduation, we postponed the wedding, although I was very ready to marry him anyway.
After a year living five hours apart we finally moved together and set a date for six weeks away. We pretty much had no money to go on, so it was a simple wedding, but we made it work.
I had always wanted to marry in the recital hall at our school. We met at school and the hall was full of light with wall to wall windows, a simple wooden stage, and a beautiful pipe organ along the back wall. Sure we were getting married in August and the hall had no air conditioning, but it would be fine… The reception hall had been a harder find, but we finally reserved the small banquet hall just off of the cafeteria that was free as long as we paid for the school to cater small sandwiches and chips.
I already had the resale dress I loved, a white halter top a-line dress with beading in a rose design at the bottom, but my mother decided she didn’t like the dress I had bought myself the year before. More than likely because it had been bought without her. A friend at mom’s work had a white dress her daughter had worn to a dance that was strapless with pearl beading on the bodice and a crap load of tulle for the bottom. It would never have been my choice and made me look way bigger than I was, but since my mother was now on board with the wedding I wore it anyway.
My dad loves to bake and can be a decent cook, so I asked my dad to make me a lemon cake that we then put fake yellow flowers on to decorate. It tasted great, even if it wasn’t a fancy fondant cake. The tastings and experimenting to get ready for the wedding did not help my waist line any though…
I made fake flower bouquets for my bridesmaids and on the day of the wedding I went to the grocery store and bought a bouquet of white roses. It worked and hey, I was broke.
I no longer knew the brass musicians on campus or really had access to the arrangement I had written, so a cd recording of Meet Joe Black it was! It was unique and beautiful all the same.
The Day of the Wedding
Wole spent the night at a friends house, so it was just me and my kid cousin in the morning. We picked up bagels and drove the forty minutes to campus where my family was staying. My aunt did my hair, a friend did my make-up, and although I didn’t feel jaw dropping, I at least felt pretty. My best friend at the time cracked me up and feel guilty at the same time as she put on her dress that my matron of honor’s mom had sewed based on year old measurements. She joked that she looked like a yellow sausage, as we barely got the dress zipped. Even so I thought my three bridesmaids looked beautiful in their yellow silk floor length dresses. My best friend’s dad took our pictures as we started to walk to the recital hall and my former professor was kind enough to let us wait for the ceremony to start in her air conditioned office. We wound up waiting awhile because the best man had left the rings where he was staying. All my poor guests wilted in the hall.
When we finally began and my parents walked me down the aisle (yes, my mother insisted they both walk me), my eyes were only on Wole as the dramatic music heightened my already enhanced emotions. He was even more beautiful than usual in his all black tux and he gave me the smile I had been hoping for. The smile that said, “You take my breath away and I am so glad to be marrying you.” The short sermon was beautiful and I was impressed, as this was the first wedding my pastor friend had ever officiated. When it was my turn to say my vows, five years of struggle whelmed up inside me. Wole and I had overcome so much and there had been moments when I didn’t think we’d make it to this moment. My voice caught and my emotion was on display for everyone. That moment sums up the wedding for me. I didn’t care about any of the other details, I was just overcome with the joy of actually getting to marry this man.
At the reception, my matron of honor gave a short sweet speech about our friendship and her joy that Wole made me happy and then Wole’s groomsmen spoke…. His best man and other groomsman went on and on in an awkward description of a relationship and people that didn’t really match us at all. Wole and I exchanged strained smiles and held each other’s hands through the awkwardness and laughed over the whole thing later.
After everyone had eaten, we danced! After Wole and I’s first dance, we played West African songs, which energized at least some of our crowd. My aunt, always thinking, brought out a cd with all the dorky wedding standards that I love, including the chicken dance and the Macarena, which got almost everyone out dancing.
I look back on the wedding and okay some of my family boycotted, Wole’s family was not granted visas to come, and we had to make lots of compromises, but I won’t let that diminish the day. Wole and I were ecstatic to be joined together and in the end, what else does a wedding really need!