So, the date is set for Tuesday, June 26th at 5 p.m. in Jasper National Park. The invitations have been issued. The rooms and photographer booked. Dinner plans made. The dress is being altered as I write this.
I sent Rob some pictures of me in the dress. His daughter, Mick, saw them and him looking at them and asked, “Isn’t that bad luck?” He told her that he had helped pick out her mother’s dress, and they were married twenty-five years. I told him that Will hadn’t seen me in my dress until the wedding day, and he was sick not even three years later. So much for the bad luck theory.
He asked me if I am getting excited and, truthfully, I am not quite there yet. I did most of the heavy lifting getting the wedding arrangements made when I married Will. Wedding details consumed me and it was made worse by Will’s insistence on a princess bride type thing. Because the wedding is taking place in Canada, Rob is taking care of many of the traditional bride things. He runs things by me. A bit of a role reversal which helps me understand better the lack of apparent enthusiasm men seem to have for their weddings. It is not a lack of interest but rather the fact that they are not intimately involved in much of the planning. And there is still so much here to be done. Sell the house. Wrap up things at work. Pack. Successfully cross an international border. I guess I am too mired in the details of here and now. I know the wedding will be beautiful. Rob is determined to make it so, and I trust him. The setting is gorgeous with a mountain backdrop by a river. He has previously proven himself quite the romantic, and I have no doubt the ceremony will meet or exceed standards already set.
My dress is beautiful. Ivory satin A-line with a deep v-neck and two thin straps on either side in the back. It had a very small train which I had the seamstress, Sally, remove, so now it just skims the ground slightly. I have an ivory pashmina in case it is a bit cool and white sandals that I don’t think completely match, but since they are on my feet and mostly hidden, who cares? I have been thinking about how to wear my hair and what old, borrowed, blue and new items I can wear. And flowers. A bouquet is a must. Not roses though that is as far as that thought has gone. For jewelry it will be just the necklace that Rob gave me the first time we met in person in Idaho Falls. Two interlocking hearts. One silver like the chain and one gold with a single diamond setting. I have never taken it off.
In truth the only thing about the upcoming wedding that is really on my mind is the wedding night when we are finally just us. In Arkansas we spent part of one evening dancing in front of the fireplace. Just lost in each other. I could spend forever looking in his eyes, pressed against him, wrapped tight in his arms. Music in the background. Warmed by the fire. Time spent by just we two has become the most precious thing. Whether it is romantic interludes, sweeping water out of a flooded basement or just having breakfast and talking.
Rob was talking with his sister-in-law last evening before our nightly conversation and she wondered why we weren’t going to try just living together for a time before getting married. I can understand why people would think that would be a good idea. I used to think that living together before deciding to marry was a good idea too. But Will and I lived together but with the understanding that I expected a commitment within six months. Even then I didn’t believe that living arrangements should be open ended. I did not think it wise to put distant or even vague deadlines on such an arrangement. Living together until you graduate from college or save enough money for the wedding or to buy a house. I don’t see how you can truly commit to another person if the intent is not right there from the beginning as opposed to something you work yourself up to. Research has actually proven my assumptions correct. Couples who live together for a short time with the intentions of marrying are more likely to marry and stay married than couples who live together with the intent to try out the arrangement before committing to marry. Furthermore, couples who co-habitate without a firm marriage commitment up front are less likely to marry in the first place and more likely to divorce when they do marry. I remember being mildly rebuked for our living arrangements by the priest when Will and I were planning our wedding and I hauled out these very statistics for him. I could tell he was aware of them too by his reaction, and by the fact he never mentioned our “sinfulness” again.
You can’t practice being married. How could you? Could I have practiced for the difficulties that can only be encountered in a union that is committed? The struggle with infertility that Will and I faced or the years of care-taking that preceded his death? Could Rob have been prepared for Shelley’s cancer? Her last months? And even the happier times. Or the day to day? You can live together. Split the rent and the bills. Buy furniture and a car. Take vacations and shop for groceries. Make love or just have sex. But you are still only roommates because the door is still technically open. Husband and wife. Partners forever. That is something that is achieved day to week to month to years. It goes even beyond the outer boundaries of love. It calls for a commitment up front that is really faith-based and asks that you trust the other person to love and support you, even when you are not so lovable and giving the support requires effort, if not actual hard-work.
I am looking forward to our wedding day, the rituals and the nervousness, and the romance, but it is just the first step on a longer road. A wedding is just for a day but a marriage is for a lifetime.