Some Post-Funeral Thoughts, in No Particular Order

  • I’ve been pretty up front about the fact that my dad and I never had a great relationship. A lot of people talk about how in the face of terminal illness and death itself, they make amends or regret the past. I don’t, at least not right now–I concede that I may one day. But he could be difficult and frustrating, and we got along better when we weren’t under the same roof. That’s just how it is, and I don’t see any sense in devoting emotional energy to dwelling on other possibilities. We did exchange “I love yous” once in the midst of all this, and I did give him a hug when I left the house the last time I saw him awake a few days before he died (I’d been there the day he died, as I said, but he wasn’t awake at all). And I think for whatever our relationship may or may not have been, saying that and expressing that kind of affection did what such things are supposed to.
  • I did lose my foodie buddy.
  • I appreciate my family’s attitude towards death. Years ago, when my mom’s coworker’s son was killed in a car accident as a teenager, conversations inevitably came up in our family about things like life support, and I think those conversations then paved the way for blunt and necessary conversations now. No one avoided them and no one shut down when they happened–they were matter-of-fact, and I’m glad.
  • I was getting really aware of the reality of it lately, even in the little things. Our new siding was going up on the house while he was declining in the hospital, and I remember thinking, “He’s never going to see it.”
  • The little things do matter. Kind of. I’ve known this since my grandfather died. Those little shared moments are the things you remember and miss most. One of my favorite quotes from The Crow is, “Little things used to mean so much to Shelly. I used to think they were kind of…trivial. Believe me, nothing is trivial.”
  • It still doesn’t feel real, and my best friend, who lost her dad a few years ago, said sometimes for her it still doesn’t feel real. I know enough to know that grief is weird and there’s no “right” way to do it, but sometimes I just sit and think, “My dad is dead,” like I can’t really grasp what that means just yet or I’m trying to see how I react and if that reaction is changing. And yes, I’ll be calling my therapist. It was just luck and good timing that I met with him a week before all this, too.
  •  It’s weird to say that a death in the family and a funeral make you feel loved and supported, but…it’s hard to ignore when people show up for him but also for your family. Our friends and family kept us fed, people reached out directly to express their sympathy and ask what they could do even when the answer was, “Nothing,” or, “Take me out for drinks when this is all over,” there was a line out the door of the room where he was viewed of people coming in and talking to mostly my mom but my brother and, I too, people donated hundreds of dollars to the organization that flew him to his treatments for free, people did a round of shots with us, people stayed at the house and got food ready between viewings and made sure that everything was taken care of and tackled what they could so we didn’t have to.
  • I’ll be blunt, we thought some of my dad’s opinions of the afterlife were dumb. We used to tease him about it. He believed that when the second coming of Christ happens, the dead would need to be intact. So we respected it. He’ll have his glasses and even his cufflinks when the time comes. We also figured if his suit wasn’t arranged exactly the way he would’ve worn it in life, we’d all be haunted.
  • I couldn’t help but think about the fact that when he deployed, we were a trio at home faced with the very real possibility that it would stay that way, and if not for a few seconds and him reacting fast enough to throw a grenade out of a tank, it absolutely would have. And we’re a trio now.
  • Speaking of throwing that grenade out of the tank, the passing of time and return to, you know, our everyday lives in the 15-ish years since made it easy to forget how big a deal that actually was. Guys who were in the tank with him came to the funeral–guys who would be dead if not for him–and one of my uncles really wanted to meet them. His awards were on display in the casket and news clippings were among the pictures of him we put out. It really hit me at the burial, though. Of course, he always bragged about how he was eligible for a full military burial, but actually seeing it was another thing. His casket was draped in a flag that was presented to my mother, he got a gun salute, they played “Taps,” the whole thing, and I had a moment of, “Oh, shit, this is kind of a big deal.”
  • My mom always used to say she was gonna outlive him because she had so much stress as work she figured there was no possible way she wouldn’t go first.
  • When I looked at all the flowers around the casket and who showed up and, in some cases, how they were taking it, I thought about how my mom told me once that he used to think her side of the family didn’t really like him on account of the fact that I was, um…a surprise, as my mom likes to say. And I know he did send her siblings and their spouses a lengthy, heartfelt text after he was diagnosed. I wrote this essay once in middle school about him, which naturally turned into a whole to do because, you know, no one saw that coming, but it fit the assignment. It was about how he didn’t really care what people thought of him, for the most part, and kind of just did what he wanted to do–and yet it bothered him to think that maybe he was disliked in the family when it probably wasn’t true. And I realized probably for the first time that that’s me to a T. That’s where I get it, although I’m sure there are other factors. But I do the same thing. I present myself in a very give-no-fucks-way, and for the most part, it’s genuine. I can’t be bothered to consider outside opinions about how I dress or what I enjoy. I love that about myself, and I respected about my dad–obviously, or I wouldn’t have written about it as a pre-teen. But if I feel like someone doesn’t like me? If I think they’re an asshole or I don’t like them, by all means, I do not care, but if I do like and respect them? It bugs me. Funny how it’s probably our biggest personality similarity and I only just now figured it out.

If any bride can handle throwing together a wedding in a few months, make chocolates and cheesecakes for it, and entertain and feed out-of-town guests the morning of the wedding before her hair and makeup get done, it’s Julie. She had a packed house the morning of the wedding on Sunday, and we stopped by for a little bit for some of the breakfast she made and to see if she needed to put us to work. And she did–we got sent to the venue with a car full of food, wine, and anything else we hadn’t taken over the day before that needed to be there. So Paul and I drove over and hauled in a few boxes of things, then sat down and enjoyed more beverages. This time, I went for a raspberry chai.

Emily and Chelle had left the house around the same time we did and had some time to kill, too, so they joined us at the coffee shop for about an hour before we all parted ways again to get ready for the wedding.

When we all saw each other next, we were all prettied up, and we tackled the last-minute prep in the final hour before the wedding–Katie and I were steaming things again, this time tablecloths, and final decorations were put up. Some of us, and by that I mean me, even took the last 15 minutes to paint our nails.

And pretty much right on time, Michael and his groomsmen lined up while my father-in-law went up to a little loft area and escorted Julie down.

Katie and I were excited to watch and kind of felt more emotional than we did at our own weddings, maybe even each other. I can’t speak for her, of course, but for me, marrying Paul was just kind of the next logical step. We’d been together for several years at that point–and in fact, this summer marks nine years together, despite only two of marriage–and it was more a matter of making it official. Even watching Jacob and Katie get married, it was exciting, but they’ve been together just a smidge longer than we have, to the point that the four of us have basically been around as couples the same amount of time and there’s no real clear point marking, like, before we were dating and after. Katie was there the night I met Paul, and I’ve pretty much been around ever since. And Paul and Jacob are the two oldest, and we met at Jacob’s high-school graduation with my brother, when Julie was still in high school. Katie and I may have shown up around the same time, but we’ve pretty much watched Julie and Michael’s relationship go from the early days of dating to moving up to Erie a few years ago to now.

And, of course, there’s a difference between seeing the boys in their tuxes and seeing Julie come down the stairs in a beautiful wedding dress with her dad on her arm. I have so many mixed feelings about the wedding industry and the whole concept of marriage, but man, you can’t beat that image.

The ceremony was short and sweet, with Jacob officiating–Julie asked him to do it earlier this year and he got ordained online. We’ve been joking for months about him wearing a slutty nun Halloween costume. But him officiating was another really sweet part of it, and it didn’t hit me until he was actually having them recite vows. We’d been asked (by Jacob on behalf of the couple) to put our cellphones away, but Katie slyly filmed the whole time and I can’t blame her.

And then they were married!

Since it was a pretty small wedding with immediate family and close friends in a small coffee shop, there wasn’t really any dancing, just food and wine, but that was fine. There was a pretty simple seating arrangement and us two already married couples were together next to Julie and Michael’s table, and Katie and I took the opportunity to chant “One of us!” at Michael. He hated it, and he said so.

We had great food and homemade wine, and I think I tried a little bit of each kind they had. Michael also had a bottle of tequila he’d brought back from a recent trip to Mexico, and fearing it would be strong, the four of us did a tiny, tiny tequila toast to Michael and found that it was actually quite smooth. And we may or may not have given a tiny bit to the family’s youngest sibling, who may or may not have hated it. That’s how you can tell the seasoned drinkers–we all went, “Ooh!” after we finished it and talked about how smooth it went down and had just a slight kick to it.

Everything wrapped up pretty early, so we decided to head back to Emily and Chelle’s Airbnb a few minutes away but, like our hotel, over the New York border. Paul and I waited around awhile while everyone else was with Jacob and Emily, who had to sign the marriage certificate as witnesses, and then I guess it was somehow hard to figure out where to sign and also totally different than Katie and Jacob’s marriage certificate, so after a while, I guess they gave up.

Mostly, we hung around bullshitting all night. You still can’t get us together without some degree of swapping stories and complaints, but things have been really calm and really good for a while, which we were sure to tell Chelle so as not to scare her off. Emily had also bought a cigar from a store across from the coffee shop, so she wanted to smoke with Jacob, who almost always has cigars on-hand at special events. Paul joined, and that’s how all of us significant others ended up sitting on a dark porch in an unusually cold night while the three siblings all smoked.

Katie and I were also pretty wound up and had each other, but perhaps most of all ourselves, in tears laughing. We started calling ourselves plus Michael The In-Law Club, which somehow escalated to a very formal, British-esque organization with code names, and we thought everything we came up with was hilarious. Even Paul the next day was like, “Well, you two certainly had a good time.”

As with all late nights with good company, it was hard to pull ourselves away, and we ultimately left around 1 a.m. I kind of enjoyed all the driving through the back roads of the two states, too. It’s not like I was homesick, but it felt like home all the same, and there’s something about summer nights driving through the countryside that just feels good. I’d say nostalgic, but it’s not quite that.

I feel like time is getting away from me, like last week was an endless succession of intending to tackle certain parts of the to-do list and never getting to any of it. Things just kept coming up or taking up more time or attention than I expected or wanted.

But Saturday, we got to enjoy a wedding. Paul’s work friend Andrew and his now wife have been together about as long as we have–about eight years for us–but also like us, waited a while to get married. We started hanging out with them after our wedding but during the course of their planning, and it was enough to get us and a couple other familiar faces from their work group on the guest list. It was a tiny wedding down in West Virginia, and we had a good time, as we always do at weddings. And I was smart enough to realize a week or so prior that we were not gonna feel like driving back home, even though it’s less than an hour, so I decided the smart thing to do would be get a hotel room. It turned out that the wedding did not last as long as we expected, and therefore we were not as drunk and tired as we expected, but still, a night in a nice, big king-sized bed away from home was nice. I feel like most people need a long, far-off vacation to recharge; I just need an overnight stay in a place that’s not mine.

So I figured since I churned out a few batches of cookies for my own wedding and they turned out pretty good, I might as well offer up my services to the cousins, especially ones having small weddings where my dad’s doing almost the entire cookie table. She was hesitant to ask, since we’d just gotten done with our own wedding, and I was like, “Nah, it’s all over. Nothing left to do.” So when I had some free time, I’d throw a batch in the oven until we ended up with a few dozen of a few different types of cookies.

So, my attitude towards baking is sort of indifference. I’ll admit now that I’ve done it a couple times, I’m more confident and enjoying it a little more, but I am still definitely not the type to bake just, like, for fun. I love the finished product, though, and even though I did it for my own wedding, that felt more like another part of the planning–I wanted people to like them, sure, but it was low on my list of concerns that day. This time, though, I’d walk past the cookie table and see how things were going. And part of that was friendly(ish) competition with my dad. Since all of the cookies were made by just the two of us, with the exception of some from Eat N Park, we were each insisting we made the better cookies.

And competition part aside, the wedding did have an element of being a bride versus being a guest. It wasn’t even a matter of, say, comparing the two weddings–it was, “Ah, it’s nice to show up, eat, drink, & have a good time rather than put the whole shebang together.” And don’t get me wrong, my wedding was fun and I wasn’t particularly stressed, but it’s still a lot to do and being a guest was a nice change. And for me, at least, there’s a difference between being a wedding guest before you getting married and being a wedding guest after. Maybe by the next one, it won’t matter, but after I got engaged, I was thinking about things differently, wondering what I’d do for my own, and after, you’re well familiar with the cost and logistics.

It was a nice wedding. My cousin was technically already married, having done it last December because he’s in the military, so this was more the big party. I’ve said this before–I have kind of a strange attitude about marriage, particularly for a newlywed, but one of the better things about it is feeling loved by a 150 people, not just one, and really celebrating. Maybe “it’s a fun party” isn’t the best pro-marriage argument. Then again, maybe it is.

So this was a church ceremony, a gap while they took pictures, and then dinner and dancing. This is where the non-Catholic weddings always get me, because no matter how aware I am that we’re one of the only ones who have a whole big, long ceremony, I’m always surprised to go to a wedding that’s like 20 minutes late. But I appreciate a ceremony that gets to the point, and again, I say this as a bride who not only had a full Catholic mass but also paid for the choir to sing. Like I said, strange attitude.

We spent the downtime at my parents’ house, and by then, it was a Duke-less house, which was strange and sad and just not the same. I’ll talk about him more another time, but of the three dogs we had, Duke was the one I was closest to and the one whose loss stung the longest and hardest.

The rest of the evening was partying, and we stayed until the DJ stopped playing and had ourselves a good time. Paul and I dusted off our dance moves, and we’ve resolved to go back to dance classes–eventually. They were expensive, but I’ve found another nearby studio where we can pay like 10 bucks for individual lessons and I want to at least get us in there by the spring so we can look smooth for the next wedding. We ate a lot, we drank a lot, we had a good time and spent the night at my parents’ house. Brandon’s old room is now a guest room, and it’s where I spent the night before our wedding. Granted, I didn’t sleep much, but it’s a nice, cozy room, and Marriage Advantage is being able to sleep in the same bed at our parents’ houses now. I never pushed that, even though we’ve been living together for a few years. Marriage has a way of legitimizing things, for better or worse.

We’d wanted to spend the next morning in the mountains, but the weather wasn’t great for it and we kind of slept in late. So we stopped at the mall and then ate hibachi instead.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since I graduated from high school, but here we are. In the midst of wedding chaos, my friend Leah was putting together a reunion for almost a month later to the day, and I assured her we’d be there–she just might need to remind me to pay her for it. But we made it!

Catholic school have pretty small graduating classes as it is, and with the number of people who skip reunions altogether, it was a pretty small reunion with about the people you’d expect to see–we’ve kind of spread out all over the country by now, so obviously, most of it was people still in the area, with a bonus appearance from Chris, who happened to be in town for his brother’s wedding the following weekend. And people mostly mingled with people they’d been friends with anyway and in some cases are still Facebook friends with anyway, so there wasn’t a whole hell of a lot of catching up with old faces. But I did try to break away from our small table of Terra (of course) and Chris, and it was fun being the newlywed of the group. We had a nice dinner and a few stragglers went out for drinks after, but with an hour-long drive back for us, we skipped it. Which does suck, because Chris went and Paul and Chris get along really, really well.

Terra, for her part, was in this bizarre relationship limbo where she thought her boyfriend had dumped her but it turned out that he hadn’t, and it really didn’t matter in the end because she dumped him anyway when that confusion was cleared up. Pro tip: don’t say the words, “I’m done,” without being clear about what exactly “done” means. She and I thought it meant done done, but apparently, what he really meant was done with that particular fight.

And by this point, there were fighting a lot, she was unhappy and complaining to me but also making it clear to him that was how she felt, and I was sending her messages, “Here’s your daily reminder to dump him.” I’d started more subtle, advising that if it was getting that shitty maybe she should bail, and after it kept getting worse, I ditched the subtlety and just straight-up said if I were her, I’d ditch him, and I never stopped until it happened maybe a week later.

Thing is, he and I had come to blows, too, and he was a real raging dick in the process. He posted something on Facebook that she took to be a passive-aggressive dig at her/their relationship–a meme of a big book that says something like, “Trying to figure out why she’s mad Volume I,” maybe 12 hours after she’d straight up told him he was making her feel like shit. It was the latest in a back-and-forth where he’d say something kind of shitty, she’d call him on it, and he’d complain that she blamed everything on him. Zero concern for why she felt that way, just straight to complaining that he was being blamed. So when she had me like at this post, I said to her, “Maybe I’ll leave a comment,” she said, “Please do,” and I came up with something along the lines of, “Man, you need a book that big to figure out what she means when she says you treat her like shit?” And he…did not take it well.

And look, there are a few ways he could’ve responded where he may have had valid points. I don’t blame him at all for being pissed, because frankly, he had the right, but I’m also not just gonna sit back and watch you be a dick to my best friend over and over again. He said if I had a problem with him to tell him personally and not blast it on Facebook, so I basically was like, “Look, dude, you’re the one posting memes right after basically not caring that your girlfriend feels she’s not being treated well.”

And then I learned just how big a dick he is. Because look, I’ll grant that maybe I shouldn’t have said it, but like I said, not gonna put up with assholes. My asshole tolerance has been wearing very, very thin over the past few years and I’m pretty much done with letting people do whatever they want, so yeah, not letting you get away with running for Worst Boyfriend 2017. Thing is, of all the ways he could’ve handled it that would’ve been mature and valid and not really possible for me to argue with/fault him for, he went for…personal attacks. He did to me what I’ve seen him do with Terra, which is turn it around to make me/her the bad guy. In the end, I realized it’s exactly what Paul’s mom does. The problem is never that they said something shitty and crossed a line, it’s that the person they said such things to is too insensitive or reads too much into things. It’s not his fault he said something shitty, it’s your fault for taking offense.

So while I’m trying to make the point that a meme about your girlfriend being mad posted mid-fight looks pretty shitty and you need to give a damn when she says she’s unhappy, he’s going on about my Facebook posts (which are heavy on politics but nothing that makes this relevant), saying that a good writer would get both sides of the story, that I preach about freedom of speech but was trying to tell him what to post, and that I “run my mouth whether or not it’s appropriate” and a whole number of other things that were not just irrelevant but shitty, and he would not stop. No matter my point, I was always the problem somehow, and in the end, I told him he was inconsiderate and immature–an opinion I’ve held for a long time now. Even before they were dating, he had a way of being melodramatic and difficult, to the point that I told her she ought to stop talking to him altogether. As she said after another day or so of them fighting before she dumped him, the more he defended himself, the more he needed to defend himself, because all he did was justify being an asshole and came off looking like a big asshole in the process. He said some things to her about her pass that frankly I would call major dealbreakers, but she still gave him a chance to try to work it out. And he still complained that he got blamed for everything, so with that disregard for her and her feelings, he killed the whole thing himself. Good riddance, I say. She can do better.

All that to say her mom’s boyfriend’s advice was to “treat the reunion like a buffet,” though unfortunately, she did not.

The day after the wedding was mostly recovery and aftermath. We had the family who stayed in the hotel come over to our room to our presents–when my brother got married last year, we served leftovers at my parents’ house and had his in-laws and a few other people over, but in a hotel room and with both sets of parents living an hour away, that wasn’t really feasible. So we did it all in our room, making sure to open Julie and Michael’s dirty gift they’d warned us about before anyone got there.

I was relieved that we didn’t get a lot of stuff, you know? I know I’ve been saying this for months, but we really, really don’t need anything else, so the less we got that takes up space, the better. We did get some pretty things that are gonna be really nice to put up in a house one day, or even a bigger apartment by next year, but for now, most of it’s getting shipped off to my parents’ basement until that point.

We also got a good bit of money, putting us back to where we were before we made final payments the day of.

Between unused mixers and alcohol and our gifts, there was just enough stuff that it didn’t all fit in our car, so Brandon and Kelly volunteered to help haul it back. Everyone else brunched with Jacob and Katie before they flew home, and of course we were starving by the time we were done. Paul’s tux needed returned, too, so we did that out in the South Hills and had some lunch while we were out there.

I slept like shit on the wedding night, so by Sunday, I’d gotten about eight hours of sleep in two days and was feeling rough. Paul and I both took Monday off to recover, and finally, that was where I recouped my sleep–I didn’t sleep in as late as I wanted to, but I did end up taking a two-hour morning nap. Over the next couple days, we gradually handled whatever post-wedding tasks we had, like returning alcohol and mixers and slowly starting on thank-yous. We’ve changed our benefits at work, opened a joint bank account where all the wedding is or will go when we’re done with thank-yous, since I’m depositing money as I write them out so I can be thorough and not miss anyone.

And then it was back to work. It was kind of funny Sunday how we just threw this wedding a night before and then it was just like…back to life as usual. We went to work on Tuesday, showed some pictures and told the highlights when asked, and came home like usual.

When my boss asked me how married life was a week or so later, I was like, “It’s pretty much the same,” and she told me how once she read this article about when Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt got married, someone asked her how married life was, and she commented on how difficult and what a big change it was. My boss–and even myself when she told me–was like, “What? Why?” I mean, you’re together for years, have kids together, and marriage is still that huge? I’m not saying it’s not a big deal, it’s just that I find it strange that couples who have been together for a long time and were already living together find marriage to be a big adjustment, and the only reason I’ve been able to come up with is that it’s the sense of permanent commitment. One of my own issues with marriage as an institution is that I don’t need a big ceremony to commit to someone, and I’ve always loved the stories of how Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell never married. But commitment itself has never bothered me, and the thought of getting married and even now of being married isn’t at all scary. Like I said, nothing’s changed. People talk a lot about how hard the first year of marriage is and I can see that if that’s the first time the couple lives together, but so far, I’m not seeing how. It was more of a challenge when he first moved in and we were learning how to live together, but the marriage itself? Easy. I mean, so far, the hardest thing has been figuring out how to deposit checks made out to his last name when I’m not changing it.

Post-Wedding Thoughts, In No Particular Order

  • Weddings and wedding planning both are entirely what you make of them. Things don’t need to be perfect. Do what you want.
  • If you hate a tradition, don’t get pressured into doing it. Just because the universe has been doing bouquet tosses forever doesn’t mean it’s a good reason to have one, and I’m glad I scrapped everything but the bridal dance. But…
  • Compromise a little. I didn’t want a guest book. His mom did, and by extension, to appease her, so did he, and since we knew she was gonna hate just about everything else, getting a guest book for 50% off the day before the wedding at Hobby Lobby wasn’t the worst idea ever. I mean, I still think it was a waste of money and I’m never gonna look at it, but that’s one thing I won’t have to hear about later, I guess. That said…
  • The logic of, “You have to have a guest book because everyone will be looking for one” is stupid. You can’t ask a couple to plan a wedding around what everyone else wants or expects–it’s unfair. It’s their day and their celebration, and yes, they’re asking other people to celebrate with them who might think they’re gonna see certain traditions played out, but don’t keep doing them just for that.
  • Going back to wasting money, be practical. All those super cute things on Pinterest were great ideas until I realized I’d be spending time and/or money doing it, and unless it’s something you really love and you think it’ll make the day memorable, don’t do it.
  • No one on the planet needs me or anyone else to tell them how things can change in a year or so, but bear with me–if you had told me the day we got engaged, New Year’s Day of 2016, that I would invite friends and cousins I was not on good terms with at the time and that I would do so willingly and that all but two would come and that those two only didn’t come because one’s living in Arizona and the other was on the outskirts of Hurricane Harvey, I would’ve said there was no fucking way.  Yet here we are.
  • I should probably feel like a bitch for deliberately including my mother-in-law in as little as possible. I don’t. I did what I had to do for us to have the wedding we wanted without having to fight for it.
  • Married life so far is exactly the same as it was before. Nothing has changed between being unwed Friday to wed Saturday. We went back to our normal lives. I think we feel closer to each other, but in terms of relationship dynamics, exactly the same. I will admit this probably has a lot to do with the fact that we’ve now been together for seven years, two of which were spent living together–I mean, we’ve been together longer than some couples who got married before we did.
  • We waited until we could afford it. Some couples have the attitude of why wait when you know it’s right, but I was a little more, “Why rush if you’re together regardless?”
  • My mother-in-law has been insisting to her daughters that I will regret not having a bridal shower. The sense of relief I have that she didn’t plan one behind my back and the apartment full of presents and unopened mixers that are getting returned beg to differ.
  • Not everything turned out the way I expected, but I’m happy.
  • I don’t know what I did for the four hours we were there, because I don’t feel like I danced much and I don’t feel like I socialized much.
  • My favorite part of Jacob’s best-man speech was the end where he said, “May your children be 5’9″.” I’m 5’4″, my new groom is 6’5″. We’ve been joking about how when we have kids, they’re all gonna be tall like him and then there’s gonna be like one runt that curses getting their mother’s genes.
  • The shoe game was fun, and I’m glad we did it. For those who don’t know, it’s when the couple sits back to back and holds one of their own shoes and one of their spouse’s shoes and answers questions by holding up a shoe–stuff like who has the bigger family, who has the crazier friends, who said, “I love you,” first. I enjoyed watching the video later and seeing where we disagreed, but we were almost entirely on the same page.
  • It’s weird being the bride in the bridal dance. And people said a lot of nice things to me, and I remember approximately three of them. One was that it was like an episode of “Four Weddings,” another was one of my cousins yelling that her boob was falling out of her dress.
  • One of my all-time favorite moments was my Uncle Vince, almost definitely drunk, getting in the middle of our dance circle during “Shoop” and actually dancing. My mother says she’s never seen him do that and I don’t think anyone filmed it, so I’ll have to sear the image into my brain forever.
  • The choir in church was so worth their price.
  •  I’m glad we didn’t come home with a ton of gifts, and the ones we did get are generally pretty cool. Some people got pretty sentimental and creative, which I love. And we have some really nice things to put in a house, but for now, a lot of it’s probably going in my parents’ basement.
  • I’m working on preserving my bouquet, which I never really thought I’d do, but it seems a shame to just let them wither and throw them out. So I’ve gone to Michael’s twice for silica gel, then to Target for something to put the silica and flowers in, and tomorrow I’ll probably go back out for a shadow box when the whole thing’s done. The flowers held up beautifully before I started–it’s now Thursday and they’re only just starting to look wilted. One white rose did completely fall apart when I touched it, but that’s it. The ones I dried out before I realized I needed a second box of silica turned out pretty nice, too. It’s a simple process, yet I’m proud of myself for not fucking it up, at least not yet.
  • Food was one of my priorities. Our caterer came recommended by the venue staff, and I liked his menu options–as Julie’s boyfriend said later, it was something different from the fried chicken and rigatoni you see at almost all the weddings around here. When we saw he does bigos, a Polish hunter stew, we knew we had to serve it because both families would love it. We also went with shrimp pasta, mashed potatoes, salad, grilled vegetables. I wish I’d had more of an appetite, because I ate small servings of the pasta, potatoes, and salad but that was it. Still, it was really good. The photographer said it was the best wedding food she’s ever had, and people from both families asked the caterer about his recipe. He got it from a little old Polish lady.
  • It’s weird to go from talking to all these vendors and people regularly to just, like, nothing, and even though they were doing their jobs, I feel like we need to reach out and thank everyone. And we will.
  • We returned $500 worth of liquor, plus some mixers. I feel a little bad because apparently, even though it’s unopened pop, the store just throws it away, but…I really don’t need like 10 bottles of diet Coke, three bottles of ginger ale, and five bottles each of tonic water and club soda sitting in the apartment.
  • I can’t wait to dump these empty boxes at my parents’ house.
  • We spent about $24,000. Jacob and Katie, who spent a good bit less last year, got what they spent back in gifts, and although we didn’t make up that large a number–it would probably be impossible to–we are on track to have our bank accounts back up to where they were before we paid the caterer Saturday night.
  • It’s a lot of money, but we’re not really in debt–the only things on credit cards are wedding rings, which we got no-interest financing on, and the rental company, which is on a no-interest cash-back card. All in all, it’s a small fraction of what we spent total.
  • And we were actually under budget. I thought $20,000 on a wedding was unrealistic–it can be done, but for what we wanted in terms of venue, it wasn’t doable, mostly because even though the cost of renting the place wasn’t huge, we had to rent all the tables, chairs, dishes, linens, etc. So things added up. So I set the budget at $30,000, which means we came in about $6,000 under budget. It’s easier than you might think. Which leads me to…
  • Weddings are expensive, and people will jack up prices just because they know couples will pay. So if you have friends, family, or acquaintances who can help with things, definitely take advantage of that. We turned to family for cookies and made a few dozen ourselves, and I only bought another few dozen to round out the table and because I saw some really cute decorated cookies online I wanted. My maid of honor’s sister-in-law who’s starting up a catering business made the cake. My aunt knew someone who did real flowers, centerpieces and all, for a fraction of what you’d pay a full-time professional florist to do, and they looked great. My sister-in-law did favors. There are talented people out there willing to pitch in without charging a ton, so don’t think it has to be expensive to be good.
  • The day really was a blur. Going back to normal life afterwards was weird. Like, you throw this big party and publicly make a commitment, and then, what, you come home the next day, nap because you’re tired, and watch some Netflix? Pretty much.
  • Wedding planning is work, and we joked plenty about how we didn’t want to ever do it again, har har. That said, having this whole day where everyone’s there to celebrate with you is pretty damn cool, and while I still have some non-traditional ideas about the nature of marriage, it is something people ought to get to experience. I mean, everyone’s there for the two of you, and that does feel really good.
  • We’re excited to not have to spend any more money, beyond paying those debts, and to not have anyone to meet with or to-do lists to tackle now that it’s over. We have thank-yous to send, sure, but our free time is back!
  • We’re happy. Still probably working with sleep debt, but happy.

And We’re Married!

So after a total of seven years together, about a year and nine months of which we spent engaged, we are married. The words “husband” and “wife” are really fucking weird, and I expected to keep saying “fiancé” instead then correcting myself for at least a solid two weeks. And one day, when I’m really tired or just not quite with it, I’ll regress back to “boyfriend,” and if I’m really fucked, maybe even “that guy I’ve been talking to.”

I’m glad I took off from work from Wednesday on last week, because it was a little chaotic. Simple tasks, but lots of them, and they were some little things I’d meant to do but forgot about–I meant to buy a case of Angry Orchard or something for myself and other fruity-drink lovers to have since two kegs were devoted to manly beers and forgot, I forgot to clean my engagement ring to spruce it up before the wedding, and when I packed for my overnight stay at my parents’ house the night before the wedding, I forgot that I’d also need to pack for the actual wedding night and following day. So I was all prettied up Saturday but wore the same clothes Sunday that I wore Friday.

But those days were dedicated to wrapping up loose ends, buying alcohol and mixers, and rehearsal. We carted liquor up into the apartment Thursday and then back down Friday to take it to the venue, and between that and the mixers, our apartment was even worse than normal. We had a tiny path to walk through, and now it’s back that way with anything left over plus gifts and any other little things we or other family had dropped off that needed to come back. Fortunately, we weren’t inundated with a bunch of things we don’t need, and everything we got was really pretty. Some of it might sit in my parents’ basement due to lack of space until we get a house or bigger apartment. But if this place catches on fire or something leaks again, we’re fucked.

Rehearsal was, well, rehearsal. Terra, newly licensed with a new car, has never actually come out here to Washington and got really fucked on traffic and was late, but it wasn’t a huge deal. I was concerned about forgetting everything they told us to do/not do, but the priest was pretty good with reminders mid-ceremony, and in the end, it kind of doesn’t matter because no one really cares.

If I wasn’t keeping busy Friday, I was really nervous, and the only thing making me nervous was that for maybe a week or so leading up to the wedding, I kept picturing the big doors in the back opening before I walked down the aisle, and the thought of everyone watching me combined with how big the church is and how long the aisle is made me nervous. It’s dumb because on your wedding day walking down the aisle, that’s kind of the point, but that was the most anxiety-inducing thing for me. Nothing else mattered–I wasn’t nervous about the ceremony itself, no cold feet, not worrying about everything being perfect at the reception, nothing–just that single moment walking down the aisle. So after a nice dinner and some time hanging out with everyone and having to go back into my apartment three times for things I forgot, I went home with my parents, was nervous there, and slept for about four hours.

I was nervous Saturday morning, but like Friday, not when I was busy. Getting hair and makeup done was fine, and then we left and I got nervous again. We hung out for about an hour, then picked up the dresses since we had no good place to store them otherwise, and I happened to run into a high-school classmate at the store who was wedding-dress shopping with her sister.  Small world.

I managed to forget that I’d told the photographer we’d do pictures of me getting dressed, but that’s okay. I wasn’t super set on photos of that specifically, and what happened was we were so focused on getting the thing on that we just did it without thinking. But she still got some good ones. And Aunt Gina brought my grandma’s garter. My mom was concerned about me actually wearing it because the elastic is so old, so we found a good spot on the lining of my dress underneath layers of lace to pin it. It was a nice little sentimental touch for me personally, of course, but for probably the whole side of the family to know I had it. Paul’s family was late, so I have no idea if we actually started on time, but one minute I’m writing checks for the remainder of people who needed paid and the next Terra’s rushing to grab her flowers because we were totally not ready when they came to get us.

And strangely, I wasn’t nervous anymore–a little bit when I could hear people coming in and when I heard the music playing that we picked for before the ceremony, but that whole moment I’d built up in my head was totally fine. I looked around at people a little bit and it was a long walk, but I was pretty calm. And then since the rest of it was just kneeling with our backs to everyone almost the entire time, I didn’t really care anymore. The priest had a nice homily, despite saying we picked tough, non-cliche readings, and he was funny but good.

You know how they say something will go wrong? Paul forgot the rings. He had this “oh, shit” look on his face that I’m honestly surprised no one seemed to notice and said he forgot them, and because we screw with each other all the time, I wasn’t convinced until the time came to actually exchange them. The priest said we’d fake it and Jacob didn’t have them, so yep, they weren’t fucking with me. But by all accounts, you couldn’t actually tell–the photographer and the first like two rows of pews, which was Terra and the parents, thought something was up, but everyone else I told this to said they had no idea. Our backs were turned just enough that faking it was actually really effective, and since we live next to the church, I told Paul when we processed out to just go out the door to the car and get them, so we had them for pictures and the reception and Father was able to bless them for real. I wasn’t thrilled, of course, but also not as mad as I think Paul expected me to be, and everyone–older married couples and the priests in particular brushed it off as a good story we’ll have to tell. Paul’s parents’ wedding story is that he passed out during the ceremony.

And then there was an issue with the shuttle we were supposed to have between the hotel and reception. There was some confusion where initially, we heard there wasn’t one, and it turned out people just needed to request it–because another wedding was in the same hotel with 35 rooms book and they reserved the shuttle, an option I didn’t know we had. And then they lost Terra’s reservation, so Paul got on the phone and was the bitchiest I’ve ever heard him, making sure they got her in a room for the reduced rate. It’s worth noting that what I considered level 10 of pissed-off Paul sounds like a 2 to everyone else.

Julie ended up stuck at the reception taking care of things, but I think she took on more than she needed. She got there early to drop stuff off and kind of panicked when things weren’t set up yet, but it was just that she was a little too early, and not much needed done. And while I appreciate the fact that she felt the need to make sure things were okay and didn’t want to bother us with things, I do wish she or someone would’ve told one of us, because we could’ve told her it was fine and that she didn’t need to stay. She ended up missing the ceremony, so I feel bad about that.

But other than that, things went well and were fine. The cake didn’t turn out quite like I expected but tasted really good, and I wish the DJ would’ve played more of our song requests, but I knew we had more songs than we had time. But dinner was really good, and the Polish family seemed pleased by a traditional Polish hunter’s stew–Uncle Del in particular, who joked that with a vegetarian bride having a wedding at a botanic garden surely meant everyone would be eating grass, but nope. Bigos, shrimp pasta, mashed potatoes, grilled vegetables, and salad. But of course, I wasn’t very hungry, so I ended with a small plate of small servings of food, and I’m annoyed that I couldn’t fully appreciate the good food. Normally, I’d have loaded up and hit it hard. Most annoying was the fact that I was pretty hungry in the morning, when I was at peak nervousness, but had no appetite when the nerves died down. We also barely touched the cookies I’d made sure to have out because I wanted to get to enjoy those, too, but at least we could box those up.

Jacob gave a nice toast, his dad gave a nice blessing, and we had a successful first dance to David Bowie’s “Heroes.” Like everything else, you spend all this time and money and it’s over like that, and I felt like the dance was a little rushed and sloppy, yet looking at the video of it, it looks fine. I’m sure we didn’t quite nail everything we’d talked about in our classes, but it was prettier than I expected and I think we did good.

And then we partied. I danced some and mingled some. My mom and Brandon had arranged with the DJ to do a little something to “The Bird” by Morris Day and The Time, and I feel like only the three of us and my dad even knew what the hell that song was, but we liked it. We played the shoe game, where we sit back to back with one of each of our shoes and answer questions to show how well we know each other by holding up the shoes, and since I didn’t have a bridal shower, I thought something like that would be a fun thing to do. We did the bridal dance, and after going through that line at so many weddings over the years, it’s weird to be on the other end of it. Terra said she could tell the families apart because mine was a little bit rowdier.

Everyone seemed to have a good time. Friends got drunk, some of my cousins had to be drunk, my Uncle Vince surprised everyone and danced so we think he was probably drunk, and two people who are known to hate weddings even had fun. Everyone always says it’s a blur, and it’s true. Everything came together and we pulled off the most important event of our lives, and we even came in a few thousand dollars under budget.

Well, my weekend got off to a nice, shitty start when I got a message from a former coworker about, uh…let’s just say something that attracted his attention while he was with the company. He framed it as the inspiration for a screenplay and was asking my opinion on the matter, but frankly, it seemed to me that it was a hell of a lot more likely that he just wanted to make sure I was aware that he was, say, looking at me in a certain way and for specific reasons. I’ve written a post about it, but for now, I’m sitting on it since it deals with work–I don’t want to risk it becoming bigger than it needs to be at the moment, but rest assured that when I feel I can, I’ll post it. And you can be even more sure that if I hear so much as a rumble of this screenplay actually coming into fruition, I will put this motherfucker on blast and shout from the rooftops of Pittsburgh about how creepy and gross he apparently is.

I will say, though, that now that I’ve had a couple days to think about it and calm down–because when I first read the message, I was so angry that I was shaking and I eventually woke Paul up because I didn’t know what to do and needed to talk to someone–I’ve come to a couple conclusions, mostly about his possible intentions. First and foremost, I honestly think this guy thought I’d take it as a compliment, but that’s exactly part of what makes it so inappropriate. I also think that because there’s at least a few years’ age difference between us–though I don’t know for sure–there may be an element here of an older man counting on a younger woman to be easily flattered and naive, almost like a sort of power thing. I think it’s pretty clear that he didn’t expect me to respond negatively, and respond negatively I did. Granted, I also blocked him from Twitter and I don’t know what impact, if any, that might have on whether or not he got my reply, but I made it very clear that he was disrespectful and disgusting and that he’d crossed a line. I thought about saying, “Guess you didn’t notice my engagement ring,” but it’s also pretty clear that he was, uh, looking elsewhere.

The silver lining? Just about every single person I told was shocked and said something like, “What the hell/fuck?” But the sad part is that when Paul told his tai chi class, the women started swapping stories about similar experiences, with some even sharing stories of being followed. It’s a sad reflection of what women have to deal with. As my mom said, you never know who’s gonna say or do something like this. This former coworker was someone I never really socialized with while he was still there, and we’d only exchanged a few Twitter messages after he left. In fact, I’m even wondering if he wasn’t intending on saying this to me back then when he first contacted me.

Unfortunately, it marred what should’ve been an exciting day–not that it wasn’t, because it’s not like it ruined my whole day, but it was definitely not how I thought I’d be starting it.

I had my first fitting for my wedding dress, which was pretty great. I had some anxiety about fitting into the thing since I really thought my efforts to lose weight would’ve seen faster, more noticeable results, and while it is a little snug, I can get into it, and I’m gonna keep working. It doesn’t need a lot of alteration, and the alterations it does need were pretty predictable for me–it’s too big in the chest and too long. But it was prettier than I remembered, and I think I love it even more than when I first tried it on.

My mom came out for the fitting, so Paul met us for lunch, and in the afternoon, after a change in plans, we went to the South Hills to get his tux rental taken care of. We’re gonna look good.

Sunday brought the church music meeting, where we had to pick out all the music we want played for the ceremony and choose cantors. We decided to spring for the choir–we have a lot more money in our bank accounts right now than I thought we would and we’re coming in under budget on most of what we’ve already done, plus I was afraid we’d regret it. Every time we hear the choir sing in church, we’re impressed, and I’ve said more than once now I’d pay for them to sing at the wedding without realizing I actually could. I figured that the first mass we went to with the choir after the wedding, we’d immediately regret not having them, and as we’re now three months and a few days away from the wedding and everything is coming together, there’s not a whole hell of a lot I’m looking at and wanting to change. That’s good, obviously, but I don’t want the music to be an exception. So we’re going for it. We’ll slip into church next month, when the choir performs at two weddings, both for fellow choir members, to listen to how it sounds since it could impact our song selections, but I can’t imagine we’ll come out of it saying, “Nah, let’s not do that.”

So aside from some other downtime, it was all wedding all weekend, and I’m expecting that to happen more and more over the summer. Except this coming weekend. We’re heading off to Erie to visit Paul’s sisters.

Look, based on everything I’d heard from other people who went through Catholic marriage prep, I expected the whole thing to be kind of dumb and boring.

I didn’t doubt its usefulness to a degree–while I knew it covered things that most couples discuss before getting married, I also knew that not everyone does that and that for some couples, this absolutely would be the first time they faced questions about finances or having kids. But Paul and I kind of pride ourselves on being this smart, rational couple who’s just about covered all of that, especially since by the time we’re actually married, we’ll have been together for seven years. When you go from college to the early days of careers where you’re not making much money and the job maybe doesn’t even last and ultimately move in together, you get a pretty good idea of your opinions on these things and how compatible you are. Seven years can throw a lot of shit at you, and you learn a lot about each other in the process.

I’d also heard about a lot of religious aspects to it that I wasn’t really interested in.

But the whole thing kind of surprised me in the end. I don’t doubt at all some of the sillier stories I’ve heard, like couples being told to “keep Jesus in the bedroom,” but I came to the conclusion that the church I went to, where we joined and will be getting married, has a pretty good program going.

It kicked off on a Friday night with a talk on family planning, which usually isn’t the opener but due to scheduling, that’s how it worked out. Having gone to Catholic school, I’d actually learned that already, and to be honest, I’m totally okay with the entire concept of natural family planning. I get why the church promotes it. Where they lose me, though, is their stance on birth control, and when I later read through some of the handouts we’d been given on it, I was rolling my eyes a lot.

Saturday was the big one, with a day full of talks from various married couples in the church on everything from finances to communication. And for the most part, I was right–we were going in pretty well-prepared, although I appreciated the fact that so much of the information was practical and not religious. I told Terra that later, and she said hers hadn’t been like that at all, which I think is kind of unfortunate. Even if I wasn’t sure it was for me, I do have to give the Catholics credit for doing it, and to be honest, I think divorce rates might be lower if everyone did some sort of marriage prep like this. Like I said, we may have discussed almost all of these issues ahead of time, but we’re not indicative of everyone. Some of the handouts we got were useful, too, like one where we answered questions about how we handle money. It’s a good thing to know going in.

And funnily enough, my shrink and his wife ended up giving two talks, which were my favorites. Sure, I could be biased, but his personality and probably his job as a therapist make him well-suited for it. One of our biggest, most useful takeaways actually came from one of his talks, and it’s a nightly exercise where you each list something you appreciate about the other, new information you may have, any questions you may have, any complaints or requests for change from your partner, and your hopes for the future. Things like that sounds kind of hokey, which again, I think that contributes to break-ups and divorces. Everyone talks about relationships being work, but not necessarily about actively doing exercises designed to address issues. Still, though, I thought it could be something useful for us, and Paul expressed interest in doing it, too. It’s turned out to be pretty good–it forces you to tell your partner something you appreciate every day, which makes them feel loved and valued, and it gives you an opportunity to bring up any issues, which has been more useful for Paul than it has for me. I’m far more likely to bring something up as soon as I’m bothered, but he’s far more likely to keep things to himself. Doing this every night, or at least most nights, actually encourages him to bring things up, and it’s probably stopping arguments before they even start.

The whole thing went faster than I expected to, especially for being something like six hours long. We got a nice little catered lunch, which included wedding soup because duh, and then when we were free to go, Paul and I decided to head out to the mall.

So at least in the church’s eyes, save for one more compatibility quiz we’ll have to do, we’re prepared for marriage.