There are some little girls who dream of sugary sweet proposals and horse-drawn carriages. My expectations fell slightly left of center in that I only ever dreamed of meeting a nice boy who liked me a whole lot.”Reach for the star-patterned china”, the women yell, “Online registries! Champagne Fountains!”. I always figured a picnic would do the trick. So when people ask for the story of my engagement, I feel little shame in spilling the less-than-sparkly details.
It was the hot summer of 2009. I was melting from the uterus out, swollen and sweaty and five months pregnant.The Gentleman sat on the couch and pressed the week’s most widely discussed issue. We should get married because he really wanted to marry me… and because both of our families would be shamed for eternity by our Satan-pleasing choice to live in sin. I responded like the mature adult that I am, something like “You’re not the boss of me. I can do bad all by myself”. Those five months made me hot-flashing angry. I resented being told (socially and religiously) that not marrying before the baby was born was my refusal to rectify a “mistake”. We shall be wed, I informed him, after the baby is born and things settle down. Perhaps it was God trying to smack the sin out of me, but at that moment in the discussion I was hit with the wrath of fiery heartburn. I burped, as daintily and discreetly as a lady does, and changed the topic to why Salsa hated my soul so much. Irritated at my lack of understanding, The Gentleman huffed and puffed and tossed a small box onto my lap. It was a ring- a pretty, shiny thing- he had purchased months and months and maybe 6 months before. So I sat in the enveloping fold my rear hand created in the sofa. A beached whale stuck between a rock and a couch cushion.
It was some three months later when a diamond-sniffing friend noticed the shimmer on my finger, that the news got out! We were engaged! Almost like married! Almost like married before having a kid! Savior Bless Thy Soul! The Ring Hath Saved Thy Noble Reputation! The excitement in the air was palpable. Amidst stretch marks and puffy feet, I checked e-mails from friends ready to plan my wedding yesterday.Give me a minute and an epidural. Then we can talk.
A side effect of taking Life out-of-order was my diminished enthusiasm for discussing napkin patterns and shades of ivory. I had bigger fish to fry and birth, so I ignored the generous pushes of the Southern population and focused soley on the task at belly.
Labor sucks, but as with most unpleasant circumstances, it is only temporary. Before I knew it I had birthed that ten-pound fish. I only asked my stomach to do a sit up now and again, hardly daunting after growing and housing a small man for 9 months. We moved. We settled. Things simplified.
And then the anxious questions from my wedding-happy group started up again. Wedding now? What about now? Now? NOW! I felt ready to tackle the Tulle Beast.
First things first. I turned to the ever-flowing fountain of knowledge that is the television. As the baby napped I watched Bridezillas, intent on mimicking the demeanor of a true bride. I felt this was a good move at the time as my natural inclination was to have a picnic, shoes optional. I needed a mentor of sorts to show me how this blissful union was supposed to go down.
Weeks passed and my research and training proved fruitless. I showed no signs of progress in my quest to flourish into a lady fit for marriage. Despite my best efforts, I was incapable of possessing the “bride factor” displayed on the show. Namely, a girl must be one-part lady and one-part beast. She must perfect a crazed glare to scare away her loved ones. Most importantly, the quintessential bride must pay no regards to social decency.I could not seem flustered at the thought of mismatched shades of white. I couldn’t hurl a high-heel across a room in response to a bridesmaid asking for lip gloss. I couldn’t tell which screwup on the caterer’s part was funny and which was worth a smack down. I always wanted to giggle and shrug things off when a real bride would’ve been knuckle deep in a bridesmaid’s weave.
Second in my search for education was the magazine aisle at the market. I bought a stack of glossy bridal books and set home for a crash course in How To Bride It Up. From the harsh, violent tempers of Bridezillas I was pleased to find page after page of plastic-looking smiles. Mostly nice. Almost smiling like they meant it. I am an all-or-nothing kind of girl and could not master the artificial face pose. Upon further inspection, I learned that weddings (particularly in the South) are extravagant affairs. By extravagant I mean Holy Mother of Dollar Signs! That’s Expensive! On to cheaper pastures…
And then I found it. The answer to my veiled head of questions. COMMON LAW. A friend who now insists she was joking, recommended the no-cost option in conversation. No money! No Planning! The Lazy Lady’s Guide To Legitimizing Her Love Child! All you have to do is stay together until the State realizes they aren’t going to get that $100 for a marriage license. State gives in, calls you Man & Wife. Done and DONE. It was a while before a slight flaw presented itself in our Lack of Plans.
Over the months since the proposal, I’d followed the subsequent engagements of friends on Facebook. I discovered Tennessee does not offer Common Law Marriages. The friends get married in churches and fields and the occasional bar. We have to move to New Mexico. Friends announce their pregnancies and 1-year wedding anniversaries. We have to set up pueblo in New Mexico for 8 years. These friends have babies and give them precious names like Billy. After 8 years the New Mexico will give us an authentic certificate for sticking together for 8 years. Common Law Victory! Billy graduates college. I miss Tennessee. I have arthritis, and this was a lot more of a pain than planning a fancy wedding.
It was April of last year when the reality took hold. Even the Free Option comes with a price. So we settled on April, 2012 for its fresh Spring weather and distance from right this very second.
It was just yesterday that The Gentleman asked how plans were coming. His eyes got big in a way that almost looked like excitement. It was the twitching bottom lip that tattled on him. His face, in no uncertain terms, screamed “You need help“, and for once I feel convinced he was not talking about a prescription-happy head doctor. I called an event planner recommended by Google. We’ll call her Erlene. Because her name was Erlene. She tried to make small talk:
Erlene: So what is your vision? Do you see magical twilight ethereal glow? Or maybe more southern princess lu-
Me: How much?
Erlene: Well, I would need to know your true vision first. So, maybe a French countryside meets Parisian socialite soiree fee-
Me: Money? How much of it?
And so on and so on and magical visions of Paris nights and dainty teacups.
With a year before the Big (Little) Day, I found myself looking for a free, creative, spunky, fresh and funky wedding planner to help me understand the difference between regular and salad forks and how to throw a hoedown on a budget.
The same friend who suggested Common Law and absolutely was not kidding about it also suggested a
creativespunkyfreshandfunky FREE team of planners: ALL OF YOU! I think her wacky idea might just work.
So, blog friends, slap on your pantyhose and let’s get to planning. We start tomorrow, Erlene(s). Bring coffee and some ethereal, magical visions.