Twenty years ago today, I married the person that has been my partner and soulmate for over two decades now. We met in high school and maintained a long-distance relationship through college for nearly four years. We got engaged our sophomore year, but the timing of our wedding was the subject of some negotiation. She finished college a full year ahead of me and had moved to Atlanta. Her family still lived in Florida, but my dad had been transferred by the Air Force to Italy. Since I was still in school, the only times that made sense to schedule a honeymoon was between quarters.
At first, we had wanted the traditional June wedding, but my dad’s tour got extended and we pushed the wedding back to September to coincide with his transfer from Italy to Hawaii. Some people get all the rough assignments. Especially after their eldest son leaves for college.
We decided to have the wedding in Atlanta and organized the event on our own after getting a rough budget approved by my soon-to-be father-in-law. We started planning in February, which was plenty of time to book everything we needed for a September wedding. We even had a few vendors wonder what our rush was. Nowadays there is no way to book and plan a wedding on such short notice. It seems like anything less than eighteen months is impossible. I can’t figure out what is driving that phenomenon. It’s not like more people are getting married. They just seem to be dragging out the process longer.
We were both active with the Georgia Tech Campus Center and asked the priest there to officiate. He had us reserve the Sacred Heart Church in downtown Atlanta for the ceremony itself. For the reception, we booked the penthouse ballroom of what was then the Colony Square Hotel in Midtown Atlanta. The hotel catering coordinator, who called himself Mr. Wedding, warned us that at a reception only one person can actually run the event and it isn’t either of the wedding participants. It can be either the caterer, the DJ/bandleader, or the photographer and it’s better to know who it will be ahead of time. We put Mr. Wedding in charge and he ran it great.
We wanted an elegant but relaxed event but we also had a budget to meet. At the time many things seemed extravagant to us, but by contemporary standards, we were actually fairly spartan. Since the wedding was at 10:30 am, we went with heavy hors d'oeuvres and a buffet for the meal. I hate cheesy wedding bands, so we saved the money and hired a DJ. The reception was only two miles from the church, so we opted to just have a friend drive us from the ceremony to the hotel. Today, nothing short of a stretch Hummer for the entire bridal party would do.
We also kept the bridal party small. The bridesmaids were two of my wife's college friends, her best friend from high school, and my sister. The best man was my roommate, and the other groomsmen were a former Rocky Horror player, and our respective brothers.
Videography was in its infancy, so we skipped having the wedding filmed. I still think that’s the right call. Nobody ever watches the wedding video more than once and people only care about the gaffes and mistakes. Better to remember it the way you want to, rather than constantly see how it really was.
The best budget trimming idea worked out great. My wife had a coworker who did photography on the side. We paid her to take pictures and have proofs developed. Then we used a pro-quality photo store for reprints and assembled our own wedding album and even made separate ones for each set of parents. No professional photographer would have done half as much for twice the price.
We did have a few splurges. The wedding cake had amaretto flavoring, which I have never run across since. It was delicious. I wish I had gotten to eat more of it. And I’m sure there was an ice sculpture or two somewhere. Nothing says throwing money down the drain on a wedding more metaphorically than watching it literally melt away.
The wedding ceremony itself kicked off fifteen minutes late because my grandmother’s unsanctioned family brunch ran long. Also, my mother in her Mother-Of-The-Groom hat got mistaken for a pushy bridal consultant by the church staff. The actual ceremony was beautiful. Catholic weddings run long, but it adds a level of gravitas to the occasion that I think the shorter walk-through ceremonies don’t have. The homily brought more than one tear to an eye, including the priest giving it.
When we arrived at the hotel still in full wedding regalia, the bellman addressed my new bride as “Mrs. Yellojkt,” That’s when I knew I was really, truly married.
The good thing about a morning wedding is that the reception is over before fatigue begins to set in. We did all the dances and greeted all the guests and cut the cake and did the tacky garter traditions all before 3 p.m. As a kickback to us for booking the wedding, the hotel threw in a honeymoon suite and a courtesy “get-away” limo. Since we were just coming right back to the hotel, we had no idea what to do for the hour we had the limo. Just to kill time, I had him drive us over to campus so I could check my exam results. I am such a dork.
My wife's bridesmaids hummed "Chapel of Love", which is a pretty infectious tune cootie, to her all morning as some sort of good luck gesture. The wedding blessings must have taken because twenty years, eight addresses, four cities, two dogs, and one teenage son later, everything is still going strong.