There were all the obvious things that one realizes on their wedding day — for example, I realized that it was my wedding day and that my life would likely change in perceptible and imperceptible ways — but there were less obvious realizations, as well. Some of which had occurred to me before, others that were completely new to me. Below are a few that came to mind.
Nothing can truly prepare you for the overwhelming mixture of emotions…
You feel as you vow to honor and love a single individual for the rest of your life — not your preconceived notions of what your wedding day will entail, not the thousand-and-one wedding blogs, not your parents or the wedding planner or your friends or the movies. The experience is completely subjective (as the experience of falling in love is subjective, or as the experience of gazing at a work of art conjures different emotions in different people). Words fall short of describing it and film cannot capture the sensations that explode in your chest and throat and head and heart as the celebrate pronounces you husband and wife, or wife and wife, or husband and husband.
Time does not stand still when you’re up on that stage.
The sun continues its relentless path across the sky, and the thump-thump-thump of your heart in your chest continues to mark time in a manner you may or may not have experienced in deep meditation, or while tripping on any number of psychedelic substances. You are both completely in the moment and somehow experiencing it from the outside. All your thoughts become louder in your ears and every second feels like a short eternity. Then, time speeds up and you have to remember to step back and appreciate everyone and everything that surrounds you. So you say to yourself, in your head, “thank you,” over and over again. You thank the person who is holding your hand for becoming your husband or wife, and you thank the ground beneath your feet for supporting you. Gratitude has and likely always will bring you back into the present moment — and the present moment is important, because it’s your wedding day and you’re highly aware that soon it will be nothing more than a memory that you two cherish until you’re old, grey, wrinkly, and senile.
During the ceremony, there are dozens of pairs of eyes upon you.
The eyes of your partner’s mother and father; the eyes of your mother and father; the eyes of the dog sitting with his head on his paws at the end of the aisle; and the eyes of the people you felt obliged to invite (even though you haven’t hung out with them in months), because they played an important role in your formative years, and because you know you would not be who you are without them—but none of those eyes matter, in that moment, because your eyes are fixed on the eyes of the person that you are marrying. Her eyes, in my case, hazel and endlessly fascinating. They contained multitudes, and I was certain that they were communicating something important to me, as my eyes were whispering to her, ‘I love you. I’ve got you. Every one of these vows is true.’
You are no longer “going to get married,” or “planning to get married.”
You are simply married, you realize. Holy shit, you’re fucking married.
As you sway back and forth to a song that came on when you first confessed your love for each other…
It occurs to you that you no longer have to use the slightly arrogant and awkward French terms, “fiancé,” or “fiancée,” because the woman or man you are dancing with in the middle of a crowd of people is your husband or wife, and you get to call her “my wife,” or him “my husband,” as he or she gets to call you whatever the hell they want.
All the friends you thought you had, you have.
They are there for you. They have traveled from across the seas, or from across the country, to join you and your friends and family on your wedding day. The loneliness you have felt at times is real and undeniable, as the experience of existing is often one of deep solitude. But while you dance amongst friends — some of whom are only there in spirit, as they have passed away before your wedding day — you feel nothing but a deep sense of connection to the community that has raised and shaped you, and the loneliness you have carried with you for most of your life subsides as your people embrace you with hugs and congratulations.
You will never hook up with another person other than your partner again…
Unless, by some set of circumstances that you cannot imagine, you two decide to become swingers; and so, that skill set— that of flirting and of pursuing a love interest — must now be applied to one person and one person only. This is something you have known since the moment you two became engaged, but it hits you on a level that is well beyond words or jokes about “one vagina forever,” and the panic that strikes your heart is soon replaced with a deep sense of relief. You have truly found your person, you realize. But the chase is not over. You must pursue her and continue to pursue her until death do you part—and the thought of this, the thought of finding new ways to flirt and impress your beloved, excites you in ways that are both physical and definitely something else.
There are several type of people in this world, and you are now the happily married type.
The one who gets to wear a ring on his finger and who is not afraid to express his love for his wife with pride and openness. Jokes about your “ball and chain” and jokes about “it’s not too late to run” strike you as off-color and outmoded. You feel sorry for people who are living that hackneyed trope — the story of the nagging wife, or the lazy husband — as you feel sorry for people who have gone through the motions of marrying without taking the time to realize that a wedding ceremony is nothing more than a symbolic act in which you display to your friends and family the things that you have already expressed to your lover with your eyes, ears, tongue and time. Your love for your person is cocky, and you like it that way. Because you and her get to write your own story, as you have written the stories that have led you to that place and time.
All the things you thought would be important to you on your wedding day are less important than you thought they would be.
The weather is what it is and your fear of running out of alcohol was unsubstantiated, as it’s now three in the morning and the bar is still stocked for all of you to drink until the sun comes up. You have taken what you’ve wanted from the tradition of marriage and have left the rest for those who are hung up on some ill-conceived idea of perfection. Your new husband or wife wants to skinny dip in the hot tub with those who are still awake and partying, and you are ready to go to bed. So you say to him or her, “I love you, darling,” and he or she presses their face into yours for a good night kiss. You always thought the two of you would go to bed together — in fact, you thought that not consummating your marriage on your wedding day could bad luck — but now, the day is coming to a close and your partner seems so happy to be laughing and talking with your friends from overseas. She or he could be upset with you for wanting to go to bed, as you could be upset with him or her for wanting to stay up, but why be upset about anything? “Good night,” you say to everyone, and you go to bed and she or he crawls in beside you a few hours later. You consummate your marriage in your own way. And you’re lucky, you realize, and you’ve always been lucky. Today has been one of the best days of your entire life.