I’ve told this story many times since November 3, 1990–and I’m sure I will tell it again and often. It is the story of my wedding day–the day when I gathered all who loved me and my soon-to-be husband to celebrate with us as we became “we.”
It’s a story I pull out when I need to remind myself that I can withstand things I’d rather not have to–and I can do so not only because of what is within me, but because of who is around me.
It is the story of the long and arduous torture I put myself through to look beautiful on my wedding day. Of how I had my nails done–eek!–and sat for a very long time in the beautician’s chair in my sweatpants and t-shirt, while she addressed the curlyness which is my hair and tried to make order of it and of the headpiece to which my veil would eventually be snapped. It is the story of how my parents got lost on the way to the venue and so my bridesmaid’s struggled to fasten the veil to the headpiece as I sat in my wedding gown, trying not to get wrinkled. It is the story of how my parents arrived, my father about to not only give me away but officiate the wedding, and of how out-of-breath and awkward it all felt because of the rush of them being delayed.
More importantly, though, it is the story of the thorny plant just outside the door that I would exit as I made my way to the steps of a Victorian Mansion where my fiance waited to become my husband. It is the story of how I walked out of that door and into the Arizona sunlight, smiling at everyone I loved, excited for the day and what it would hold. And it is the story of how, as we walked, that thorny plant caught hold of my veil–my long, trailing veil, the one that I chose because my dress did not have a train–and would not let go.
My father and I walked toward my fiance, and he felt my step slow and heard my whisper from the side of my still-smiling mouth, “my veil.”
And what he heard as his steps stopped was “I’m going to bail.”
“No, my veil!,” I whisper-yelled as I stopped altogether.
My bridesmaids and my mother saw the situation and came running over to loosen the grip the plant had on my lace, but the plant wouldn’t yield. Finesse forgotten, my mother gave the veil a quick and forceful tug and, well, these pictures tell the story better than I ever could:
Yes. That’s what happened: the plant wore my veil while I married my husband with a funny hair ridge that embarrassed me far more than anything else that happened that day.
When the veil sailed off my head, I looked up and saw someone way across the open space of the yard—someone I worked with and was not particularly close to, but someone I knew. I saw the look on his face–a mix of amusement and horror and true concern. As I remember the story, I think also in that moment I heard the collective gasp of those attended and a silence that fell over the yard as they all waited to see what I would do in that moment. Would I cry? Would I storm back in to the mansion and ask for a do-over? Would I throw my bouquet to the ground and say “forget it?” This is how I remember it, but in truth there was no time to respond in any way other than the way that I actually did.
And in so doing, I heard the breath of 100 people being let out collectively as I invited them to laugh along with me.
My father looked at me and I at him and the recorded music was winding down to a finish, so we walked toward my fiance with my funny hair and veil-less dress. And we got married.
This is not a story of great courage and I don’t share it because I want you to think how wonderful I am in moments of crisis (because, let’s face it, losing a veil is not a crisis–losing a limb or a loved one is, but not a veil). I share this story because I realize that somewhere along the line, I learned to respond with strength and grace. Sometimes it takes a little longer than a moment of held breath and expectation.
I owe that learning to the people that raised me and those that I choose to surround me. Their examples inform me and continue to do so.
And nearly 24 years later, guess what? I’m still married and I still have funny hair. And a story that grounds me.