Everyone wants their wedding day to rank as one of the best days of their lives. The memories are clear even though the day occured over 25 years ago. The pain they bring now is more heartache as I realize that the vows we exchanged have been unravelled in a courtroom and in our hearts. But the day itself remains a life changer on my life’s journey.
My own wedding day was a life changing event like none I had ever experienced before or since. Of course it was one of the best days of my life, but there was so much more going on besides two people exchanging wedding vows. It was the melding of two people, our families, friends, traditions, cultures, and dreams. It was also the end of our single and individual lives as we knew them.
My husband and I planned for months for that day to be perfect. We attended marriage preparation classes, researched wedding planning, and collected resources from everywhere we could think of. It would have been inexcusable to not incorporate the requisite “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue” to fulfill the traditional rhyme we have all heard over and over. We also wanted to share our different cultures and family traditions with each other and our friends and family that day. Including as many family members and friends to be a part of the celebration was important for both of us.
The most obvious clash of cultures began with the fact that my husband and his family are of Mexican descent, and although most of them were born and raised in Florida, the traditions were still predominant in their everyday lives. My own family was confusing combination of Hungarian, Irish, German and Pennsylvania Dutch influences. The common denominator we discovered was that we were all Catholic, thank God. This proved to be the common thread that helped pull the day together beautifully.
Catholic weddings are already rich with ceremony and traditions. Our wedding was all that and more. The day finally arrived and I found myself nervously viewing the scene from my vantage point at the church entrance. After the church was filled with our guests, the twenty person wedding party entered and proceeded to the altar as they had been directed during the rehearsal. On my father’s arm I somehow walked down the aisle to stand in front of the priest without a stumble. I was very proud and honored to wear my mother’s wedding gown although I had some concern about how old it was and how that might affect its durability. It was the “something old” part and it served its part well. “Something borrowed” was in the form of my best friend and matron of honor’s own wedding veil. The simplicity of her tulle veil complimented my gown from another era, another generation.
Many people were present that day to be part of our celebration. Tradition and the wedding guide books taught us that the bride and groom’s family and friends are supposed to be seated on specific sides of the church. The bride’s family and friends sit on the left if you are facing the altar and the groom’s family and friends should sit on the right. On my side, my family filled the first two pews while my friends and my parent’s friends filled the others to the back of the church. My husband’s side was a little different in comparison. His family took up almost all of their side all the way to the back of the church and then some more. I am sure he had a few friends mixed in, but I suspect they were also on the my side too.
Different members of my husband’s family made their presentations to us during this part of the ceremony. I considered all of these symbolic gifts to be the “something new” in our wedding rhyme. My husband’s aunt, Tia Idalia, presented us with the thirteen gold coins for prosperity. My sister in law, Luz, laid two satin pillows before us to kneel upon for comfort. My mother in law, Rosa, handed us a new, leather bound bible to guide and enrich our faith. All of these were very special in thought and fact, but it was my husband’s grandparents’ gift and its presentation that I still think was the most special of all. Holding hands themselves, they came up and joined us at the altar together. While reciting a prayer in their native Spanish language, they draped a beautiful marriage lasso around both of us. This elaborate double rosary represented the real combination of two people with one faith and one God to hold us together. Before the day was done the coins had mysteriously disappeared and the pillows were stained with a spilled drink, but the bible and the rosaries are still intact on my nightstand today.
The rest of the Catholic Mass went on with bible readings, prayers, hymns, and communion. Father W. gave the blessing finally, and with his guidance we exchanged our wedding vows and rings to unite us in marriage. My engagement ring was a square aquamarine stone flanked by diamond baguettes. The light blue of my birthstone was the “something blue” needed to complete the wedding rhyme requirements. With the new jewelry and public vows, I realized at that moment I had ceased to be single, nor would I be Miss Silver ever again. I had a new title and surname as well as a new family and culture to identify me.
Our reception was the culmination of the day’s events. We had much music and dancing that continued to express the many ages and traditions we were celebrating with. Music of many genres and generations was played. The Spanish tunes and dances were just as popular as the current top radio hits of pop, rock, country and jazz stations. To complement the celebration we served a variety of foods as varied as the guests that enjoyed it. There was a buffet of roast beef, turkey, vegetables and salads, as well as tamales, Spanish rice, beans, salsas and tortillas. A local bakery prepared our three layer carrot wedding cake with cream cheese frosting while my husband’s godmother had baked the hundreds of tiny Mexican wedding cookies from her own secret recipe.
My wedding day changed my life because it was so much more than just two people exchanging wedding vows. I shared my family and gained a new one. Our circles of friends expanded to include and incorporate each other’s within it. My all American culture now includes his Mexican and Spanish influences which have helped create our unique identity with this complex combination. My name and status have changed again since that day, but, not with as much impact as on my wedding day.
If I ever make that walk again, I want the event to be a re-run – the players as well as the feelings.