Once we leave behind the packed lobby and beseeching relatives, and it’s just me and Dave, I’m a very happy girl.
We wander down the streets of New Haven and soon learn that my cathedral-length veil is serious business.
It has a mind of its own and is kind of hamming it up for the camera. Instead of staying behind my head, where it seems to me veils generally ought to reside, it gets all brash and needy and starts tangling up in Dave’s legs.
My veil is an attention whore.
It’s awkward for everyone involved.
Once the veil is put back in its place – literally and figuratively – Dave and I get back to our jobs: walking around and looking at each other adoringly.
Eventually we get to a big courtyard — Yale’s Old Campus, where I partied with Meg many a night freshman year.
All those girls I forced to wear mint green show up, along with our families. We fit in some group shots in lightening speed and round out the hour with the proven Three-Prong Approach to Solid Candid Photos in mind: giggle, smile, walk. Repeat.
We head back to the hotel and board a bus that takes us to the totally non-exclusive club where we’re holding the wedding. The veil gets all demanding again (seriously, whose wedding day is it?) and I require assistance to de-board.
We set up camp in the bridal suite and the girls immediately start fretting over the veil and the skirt of my dress. All that tulle has gathered dirt and debris and possibly even some baby animals after the outdoor photo session and the bridesmaids are determined to make it perfect before my walk down the aisle.
They start out handling everything in a pretty PG manner.
But soon they’re all up in my business. They’re under my skirt, attacking every layer. Someone finds a lint roller in the bathroom baskets. The photographer says she’s never seen anything like this.
I’m initially a touch skeptical, but soon feel nothing but pride and gratitude as my best friends swirl around and below me like little cleaning nymphs. I remember all the times they’ve been there for me, through breakups and hangups and all manner of catastrophes — now, including a dirtied bridal gown. My love for them has never been so palpable or infinite.
Next up is the signing of our ketubah, the Jewish marriage contract. We get a few family members arranged in the room, and we sit, and we wait. The rabbi – the only guy required to get this show on the road – is late. I’m a little panicky and implore my mother to perhaps just “reach out” to him. She scorns my PR speak and brings in the wedding coordinator, who tells me clergy of all denominations are inevitably late, too busy answering to a higher power and all that to pay attention to the time.
Lo and behold, he soon arrives, and we sign the small but beautiful papercut document with an intimate group watching.
Two of our old friends act as our witnesses, including my dear friend Meriel, who used to eat dinner at my family’s house every Tuesday night growing up. Afterwards, we would either go to Hebrew School or, if I could convince Meriel to ditch, the mall. It’s hard to believe we’re two grown-up Jewish women now, but somehow, here we are. I’m feeling stunned and grateful for her signature and her embrace and her fierce haircut. The day is turning into a blur of joy.
After signing our lives away, Dave and I have a few moments to decompress.
And just as the severity of what we’re about to do comes to me, it’s off to the races.
Let it be known that my father, through all of this, appears elated. In person, my mother looks ravishing in her navy and black off the shoulder Bergdorf cocktail dress and I can only assume that, deep down inside, she shares my father’s joy. But the photographic evidence points to something…less than happiness. My mother and a handful of other relatives radiate not glee but confusion and disapproval. Their looks range from Extremely Low IQ to Stroke Victim to Utterly Disgusted By The Event That’s About To Take Place.
Some people just have resting angry faces or lack control of their facial muscles, my mother explains as we scroll through the pictures.
Needless to say, there are lots of photos of my dad in our wedding album.
Anyway, like I said, we’re heading into battle.
We’ve opted for a theatre-in-the-round type set up for the ceremony. We pat ourselves on the back for our untraditional approach only to later find out that the chuppah in the middle thing is actually a longstanding Sephardic Jewish tradition. We’re not Sephardic and thus decide we still get points for creativity. Besides, everyone seems to like the cozy, inclusive feel it creates.
The rabbi, who we’ve been working with for over a year, leads a lovely, moving ceremony that apparently makes Bridget’s parents beg her to marry a Jewish guy. We circle each other seven times as part of a mystical, ancient tradition. We drink wine from two silver kiddush cups – one that belonged to my great grandparents and one that Tracey got us as a wedding gift. We’re wrapped in a tallis – Jewish prayer shawl – and feel the hands of our parents on our heads as they give us their blessing.
Then it’s time to do that thing we initially tried to avoid but were coaxed into by our very wise rabbi: open our mouths.
They’re not vows exactly, just little statements of love and devotion. I’ve been working on mine in a Gmail draft stubbornly labeled “ceremony thoughts” (the word “vows” makes me kind of want to “vomit”) for upwards of five months, often with Call Me Maybe blaring on repeat in the background. Dave started and finished his the night before — and I have it on good authority he exceeded our recommended word count.
Mine are short, sugary sweet, and made Megan cry when I let her take a peek at them the Thursday night before the wedding.
I am convinced that mine are going to kick Dave’s ass. I am a writer, for God’s sakes. People pay me to do this.
Instead, Dave, speaking first, busts out a set of perfectly sappy, shockingly well-written sentences, referencing life and death and love. The crescendo comes with a hospital anecdote that revolves around an elderly patient’s UTI.
The crowd (packed full of nephrologists) goes wild.
My own reaction slowly evolves from incredulity that he actually just said that, to slight agitation at the realization that he’s upstaging me, to, finally, just giving in and laughing along with everyone else.
Of course, now that it’s my turn, the spoken promises and memories I’ve woven together seem to fall on deaf ears — they are poignant yes, but they lack references to pee. Not as fun, seems to be the audience’s consensus.
Whatever — before we know it, Dave breaks the glass and everyone’s screaming Mazel Tov and we’re booking it out of there as Eight Days a Week plays in the background.
We head straight to our yichud, a Jewish custom that ensures a married couple’s first moments together will be shielded from their elderly relatives’ piercing New York accents and that they won’t have to camp out in front of the kitchen door with the other old Jewish men in order to ensure access to the passed appetizers. No, instead we are whisked away to a private room with our own hors d’oeuvre tray.
We sit down, I shrug off my shoes, we start to process the fact that we’re going to be together forever…and then the rabbi busts in.
“Oops!” he says, averting his eyes and hurrying off the way he came.
Fortunately, we are not engaged in any inappropriate behavior, unless you count examining our new wedding rings and stuffing our faces with Mediterranean sampler appetizers.
And besides, so what if we were? We’re married now! Three years of living in sin and wearing red dresses at the wrong time have come to a rather official end and while I doubt very much that my penchant for sarcastic statements or fashion risks will be casualties of the transition, it does feel like something really wonderful and new is starting.
Next up: We make our grand entrance to a rap classic, we start to suspect we’re throwing an amazing party and someone throws up on the bus home, thus confirming our suspicions.
All photos by Elisabeth Millay.