Continued from 'Before the ceremony'...
I walked too quickly. I smiled a lot. I was aware of the photographer somewhere in front of me. I watched where I placed my feet, one in front of the other. Don't step in that hole, avoid that patch of dirt, don't fall, don't fall.
Mike turned around. I was trying desperately not to cry. I think I smiled and waved at our small group of guests. I saw our Justice of the Peace for the first time, but I remember thinking she looked very familiar to me. Mike had the strangest (best) look on his face, like every emotion all at once. I've never seen that look before, and I doubt I'll ever see it again.
All of a sudden I was in front of Mike holding his hands. I kissed him. It was a habit that had crept up on me over the past nine years, to kiss him quickly when I greeted him.
I had a forehead smacking moment. I always rolled my eyes at brides who did that at the wrong time in the ceremony.
I giggled nervously.
He looked like he might cry, and that made me want to cry more. He never cries, and I truly never thought he would during our wedding ceremony. To calm myself down I tucked a stray lock of hair off his forehead. Someone made a joke about his hair always being messy.
The Justice of the Peace started talking.
When I talked to Mike afterwards he revealed he had been listening and concentrating on the JOP's words during the ceremony. I had just been doing everything I could not to cry. I was aware of the JOP moving through the various parts of the ceremony, I picked up phrases I had read a dozen times before (I wrote the ceremony) but I was more intent on not crying because I knew if I started I wouldn't stop.
My eyes did a constant circle between his eyes, down to our joined hands, back up to his eyes. I smiled. I giggled out of pure happiness, and I remembered thinking, shit I bet everyone thinks I'm laughing at the Justice of the Peace! this is probably the worst part of the ceremony to be laughing during! He looked very handsome, and he still looked like he might cry. He kept mouthing 'you look beautiful' and I mouthed back 'right back atcha' but I wasn't sure if he could lip read that well.
It was time for the vows, and the JOP told me I was going first. I forgot I had written that into the ceremony (so I wouldn't have to read mine through my tears, if I cried during his). But since I forgot I said, "I'm going first?" in a tone I'm sure suggested I forgot I had to read vows at all. Everyone laughed. I did too.
The JOP handed me the sealed envelope I had put my vows in. I recall staring at Mike, and I said the words. As slowly as I could, with as much meaning as I could put into them. But I'm sure I still said them too fast. They seemed too short, inadequate for the occasion. When I promised to be financially responsible, everyone laughed again. Mike's a trained accountant, so it must have seemed like an attempt at a joke, even though I was quite serious. But I'm glad everyone laughed. I remember being happy that our ceremony was so full of laughter. Real laughter.
When my vows were over I felt relief wash over me. And then he started his.
My husband was reluctant to write our own vows, since I write all day for fun and for work, and he doesn't think he's a writer at all (except that he's quite good at it). So we had settled on an "I promise" format and a short length.
I intentionally wrote my vows to be short, concise, and to the point. Serious, but not too sappy.
In hindsight, I wrote the vows I thought he would write.
And he wrote the vows he thought I would write.
His vows were beautiful. He broke the format we established, but it was so lovely. He also broke down crying, and so I cried too. My first thought was My mascara isn't waterproof! and then I was mad at myself for thinking that in the middle of the most poignant part of our ceremony, like some silly character in a movie.
I let the tears run down my face. I had no tissue, and neither did he.
Up until now it felt like we were dropped into a time warp, where everything moved slower and - like so many brides before me have thought and said - it was like we were the only two people in the
His vows were over. I squeezed his hands.
We moved quite quickly through the legal declarations part of our ceremony. The weight of my full legal maiden name felt heavy and clumsy as I said it out loud, "I Jessica...take thee Michael..."
Rings. Legal words. Repeat after me.
I do. I do.
By the power invested in me...I now declare that you are husband and wife.
We kissed. Two times in a row. We laughed and smiled.
Another silly movie cliche.
Time began to return to a normal pace. I became more aware of the people around us. They clapped. We smiled.
Someone gave Mike tissues, and he pressed a wad of them into my hand. I dabbed at my eyes. Gloriously, no mascara had run down my face. We moved toward a little table and chair to sign our wedding certificate with our two witnesses, our sisters.
While they scrawled their names across the paper a man and his dog walked on the ridge above us, and the dog - a huge brown boxer - plopped himself down in the shade of the tree that we had sat under on our first date. Where Mike proposed to me almost two years ago. Where I had come during that particularly crazy semester - the one that left me crying with frustration at 3 am over philosophy papers - with my dogs to play fetch and try to feel normal.
The big brown dog rolled around on its back, tongue lolling out, luxuriating in the shade. The owner was embarrassed, trying to pull it away, but it wouldn't budge. I laughed. We all laughed. Real, pure laughter.
It was perfect that a dog made an appearance during our wedding. I missed our dogs so much.
The dog rolled around, legs up in the hair, perfectly happy in the way that only dogs can be.
All seventeen of us stared up at him and his person, perfectly happy in the way that only humans can be.
Saying thank you and goodbye to our Justice of the Peace.
Smiles, so many smiles.
We thanked our guests for coming and asked them to mingle while we ducked off for a quick walk on our own. I thought I had stopped the flow of tears before we signed our paperwork, but I was really only holding them back.
Mike and I held hands and walked back up the hill the way I had come down it. I felt a rush of emotions smack me in the chest, and I started gasping for big breaths, tearing up, and laughing at the same time. Mike held my hand tightly, smiling. We ducked behind the tree where I had waited to walk towards him just twenty minutes ago and kissed.