Weddings

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I’ve had four of them–five, if you count the two ceremonies my first husband and I had (to accommodate family and friends). So I guess you could call me an expert of sorts about weddings. I’m not a full-fledged expert however, because I’ve never spent as much as a year’s college tuition at any of my weddings, never had a wedding planner, printed invitations, a professional photographer, an expensive wedding gown, or a honeymoon (unless you count the trip my first husband and I took before our wedding). At one wedding, we didn’t even have guests.

For my first wedding, we handwrote our invitations, I wore my mother’s wedding gown at one ceremony and a white dress bought in Mallorca at the other, an old boyfriend took pictures (and ruined half of them–hmm, was that really an accident?), the first ceremony was in the church my grandfather had pastored for 35 years in the town my mother grew up in, my sister was the only bridesmaid (thus also the maid of honor) and my husband’s brother his best man. My sister wore an former prom dress. The very accommodating minister (he traveled an hour and half to repeat the second and technically unnecessary ceremony) was an old friend of the family. The second ceremony was held in a field closer to home with rented chairs, three bridesmaids (with home-made dresses) and a picnic-style reception. As wedding goes, it was a pretty big production. But it wasn’t that expensive. (I don’t know the final total–my parents paid for it all and we never even saw the bills–but I’m guessing it was less than $1000.) We were also only 20. The marriage lasted ten years. But it was worth it. (I got four children out of the deal–yeah, I know…)

My second wedding took place in a “borrowed” church, with a minister we barely knew. I wore a dark blue dress and my kids wore outfits that were all red, white and blue–I had pictures taken of them later on in their dresses, but the only wedding pictures were snapshots. The reception was held at my new husband’s family’s house. The guest list was very small: family and a few friends. That marriage lasted three and a half years. It had definitely been a rebound relationship, with an old boyfriend (not the one who took pictures). I should have remembered why we broke up the first time around.

My third wedding was held in the church my fiance and I had been attending, conducted by the minister we knew very well and witnessed only by his wife. There were no other guests, not even my children. (I figured they were getting tired of this wedding business by this time–their father was also on his third marriage.) I wore a white dress and we went to White Castle afterwards for coffee. (This was pretty much pre-Starbucks.) Again, only a few snapshots taken by the minister. It was probably the sweetest of my ceremonies. I cried. The marriage lasted eight years but we had lived together for two years before that.

My fourth and last wedding was held in a “professional” wedding chapel by the minister that ran it. We figured it was a little better than city hall. We had to rush to get married because my husband-to-be was in the States on a fiance visa which required us to get married within 90 days. The only guests were my four daughters and my grandson. The minister took the pictures (that was included in the package) and they were awful. We had a dinner back at the house afterwards which was nice. Again, we’d sort of had our honeymoon before the ceremony since we’d just come from Germany together. (I’d stayed with him there for four months before I brought him back with me to the States.) That was right after 9/11–I was in Germany when it happened. So we will be celebrating our seventh anniversary this November11th–exactly two months after that horrible event. (It makes it hard to forget either.)

So which wedding did I prefer? That’s hard to say. Each one fit the circumstances at the time. Yet I do have a few opinions about weddings which are based on my own as well as others I’ve attended. I’ll save those opinions for my next post.

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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