If you're anything like me, you'll spend the year before the big day agonizing over important choices like buffet or sit-down. You'll search high and low to find the florist who can provide you with the exact color of blue hydrangea that you envision for your bouquet. You'll try on dresses in white, cream and ivory, ball gowns, sheaths and A-lines, searching for the one that makes you feel beautiful without bankrupting you. You'll work hard to convince your future mother-in-law that not all justices of the peace are Elvis-impersonators and a DJ can be just as classy as a band but at half the price.
And then the day will actually come. If yours goes anything like mine, the florist who promised those blue hydrangeas will show up with white and you'll fight back tears until your mother tells her that she'll just have to go back and fix it. Then just before you walk down the aisle, you will fluff the reasonably priced but still flattering dress you settled on, your father will beam proudly at you and then step squarely on the back of it, leaving a muddy size 11 footprint on the ivory train. And it will rain, angry sheets of water deluging the outdoor courtyard that was to be the site of your cocktail hour. A distant cousin will take issue with his table assignment and drunkenly confront your groom, and some middle-aged lady on the groom's side will waste many frames of the disposable camera on her table taking pictures of herself giving the finger. As the evening winds down, the DJ, who promised to keep it classy, will berate guests for not dancing and will sign off by thanking them for their presence and warning them that they better not drive if "shitfaced," and you will feel mortified for all of the little old ladies in the room.
But none of that will actually matter, because you will be celebrating a life-changing event with all of the people who are most important to you (except for your cousin and that lady, who were invited strictly out of obligation). Guests will rave about the beautiful ceremony and pretend not to have noticed that the DJ made efficient use of the open bar. You will wake up the next morning and you will be married (MARRIED!) and the sun will be shining and you'll go home to pack for a honeymoon so exotic that at least three people wondered if you would need to get a lot of shots (and you, always accounting for the thick New England accent where you live, will have told them that actually you were packing long skirts because in some cultures it's considered disrespectful for a woman to show her knees and then you will have wondered why they looked at you so strangely).
You will drive down the highway with your streamers and balloons and "Just Married" sign and people will honk and wave and give you the thumbs up, and you will feel special and happy and excited about everything to come. And that's a really good thing because, as some of those well-wishers will know, it won't be like this everyday.
There will be more rain, sometimes so much that it pours in through the roof.
There will be things even messier than a footprint on a dress. There will be clogged toilets and leaking pipes. There will be the miraculous, bodily fluid-drenched mayhem of childbirth, and there will be diapers and potty seats. And there will be vomit: dog vomit, baby vomit, stomach virus vomit, morning sickness vomit, so much vomit.
There will be things more worthy of tears than the wrong-colored flowers. Sometimes you will watch your children struggle more than you can bear and sometimes they will hurt in a way you can't fix. There will be mortgage applications and job losses, trips to the emergency vet and the emergency room, and there will be funerals and biopsies and nights of wakeful worry followed by days when you don't want to pick your head up off the pillow.
And if you are anything like me, 11 years to the day later you will find yourself at dollar night at the children's museum, because promises were made without regard to the date, because you'd have felt guilty getting a sitter anyway after sending the kids away the weekend before, and because, really, it's just a day no different than the rest. You will be wearing a dress that looked cute on the clearance rack at Marshall's, but which now makes you feel like you've been shopping in your mother-in-law's closet (though your husband will deny this and seem a little disgusted by the suggestion). You will have spent the past week breaking up fights between your kids and trying to manage their suddenly excruciatingly frequent fits and tantrums and you will wish that instead of driving to the children's museum, that echo chamber of whines and screams, you could get into your car drive anywhere else. Alone. When some sort of kerfuffle breaks out between the children as they are loaded into the car, you may even share this wish as you stand in the driveway, pouting, arms crossed.
But you'll make remarkably good time as you march the children through the museum, and they won't even complain when you skip the gift shop. Only one will demand to be carried on your evening stroll through the city, and the breeze will feel soft on your skin. As the kids watch the harbor seals flopped in their tank outside the aquarium, you'll look up at an orange full moon hovering just above the masts of the boats moored in the harbor you'll know that even though the DJ was a bust and the buffet line got a little backed up, you got the most important choice right.
After 11 years, it mostly matters that you chose the person who will run for the buckets when it starts to rain, help you mop up the vomit when it comes, get your head off the pillow when it wants to stay, and patiently wait out your pout until you calm down and get in the car. And --maybe especially-- the person who thinks you look nothing like his mother and likes it that way.