The Wedding Marathon
Imagine wearing jeans, flip flops and a pink boa to your wedding. A Canadian Elvis-impersonator walks you down the aisle of the small chapel with only your in-laws as guests. The minister (who you have already paid, in cash) delivers a moving speech about marriage and commitment and then quotes the Bible. There is a brief intermission so you can slow dance with your husband at the altar while Elvis sings over you, and when it’s all over you have a marriage license stamped Nevada, and one incredible story to tell.
It was a whirlwind wedding if ever there was one. It spanned two countries and three states. I was a lucky bride— able to wear my wedding dress for two crowds of people, and walk down the aisle twice. We said “I do” two times and celebrated with family friends in time zones three hours apart. It was anything but boring, and probably landed more in the “crazy” zone, but it’s not something I would recommend to others. (The crazy part, not actually getting married).
With families on opposites sides of the U.S. and Canada, we decided to make a weekend of our nuptials. It started on the Saturday of a long weekend with the traditional small town wedding in the church I grew up attending as a child. We didn’t worry about seating since everyone there from my husband’s side was either in the party, or already on the first row.
There were so many moments in the three days surrounding that ceremony that are cemented in my mind. Like when my parents and my in-laws met for the first time, days before we said our vows. My dad hosted a backyard BBQ for the family and bridal party, and sitting around the fire telling stories is one of my favorite memories from the weekend.
Another highlight was starting down the aisle next to my father, and peering through my veil to see a giant pile of red flower petals gracing the front of the church. Apparently my sweet groom had convinced the flower girl to dump the remaining contents of her basket once completing her walk down the aisle.
Our church ceremony included a beautiful song written by a mutual friend (the only person in attendance who had seen our relationship blossom out of an awkward friendship). We took communion, lit a unity candle, and then our dads both joined us on stage to offer “a father’s blessing” of prayer over our future life together.
We decided against the formal reception with dinner and dancing, and instead we served appetizers, danced in my dad’s living room, and ate the most delicious strawberry angel food cake that my mother-in-law had made that same morning (she made eight of them actually!)
The next morning, after brunch and opening gifts, I kissed all of my Canadian relatives goodbye and headed to the airport with my new family. It was Sunday, and we were headed to Oregon for our reception with the American side the next day. Or, so I thought.
When we reached the airport my husband announced a change of plans: we were headed to Vegas for a quick (overnight) layover. “Ok cool,” I thought, “that sounds like fun!”
But later as we were landing, the exhaustion hit hard and I told my 24-hr husband that all I wanted to do was sleep, not party like rock stars for the next few hours. He admitted he had a hotel room booked and we headed to catch a taxi. But halfway through the terminal he shocked me again.
“Do you want to get married while we are here?” Because of the smile plastered across his face I couldn’t tell if he was joking or not.
“Only if there’s no cheesy Elvis or anything,” I shot back, half serious.
When I looked up at him, his demeanor had changed. With total seriousness he responded with, “Elvis is booked and we have an appointment at a chapel at 11pm.”
What?!** We had chosen not to legalize our Canadian marriage as we were waiting on some immigration paperwork. We had planned to have a ceremony at a court-house once everything had been finalized within a few months time **
We headed to the hotel to check-in without bags, as they had mistakenly been checked through to our final destination, where we literally bumped into my in-laws, who had come to be our witnesses, in the hotel lobby. My mother-in-law looped a pink boa around my neck to “dress up” my jeans, flip flops and white t-shirt, and we hailed another taxi to take us past the stratosphere to the little chapel. Half way to our destination our driver exclaimed, “I got married there once!” Perfect!
When we arrived at the chapel my dear husband was asked to provide our marriage license— which he didn’t have. “No worries!” said the owner of the chapel, “you can get one at the courthouse!” Remember, it’s Sunday, and it’s almost midnight at this point.
This woman loaded is into her ’85 Cadillac and off we went to the courthouse. There were a couple wrong turns down one-way streets which she apologized for— when you’re blind in one eye it happens, and we also heard a story involving taxes and the IRS. She was gracious chauffeur though, agreeing to wait for us as we bounded up the steps. Once inside, we filled out our paperwork with the small pencils you receive when you play mini-golf, and over-heard the couple in front of us ask through slurs, “what’s your first name, anyway?”
Once back at the chapel, we met Elvis (from Canada) who actually walked me down the aisle, and sang to us while we danced at the altar, because don’t most people have an intermission in the middle of their wedding ceremony? The paid-in-cash minister actually delivered a moving message which was sprinkled with the typical marriage scripture references, and a challenge to honor our commitment, not be those who break a promise.
When the pictures had been taken and everything made official, we went back to the hotel for a middle-of-the-night dinner and a few hours of sleep before jumping back into another taxi at six the next morning. Our plane was, this time, headed for Portland, and we were excited to catch a nap before getting ready for the grand finale of events.
We drove from our downtown hotel to the beautiful home of a friend outside of the city. The first time I had visited the house I thought, “this would be a beautiful wedding venue,” with views overlooking the valley and glistening white columns surrounding the pool. We were ecstatic when the owners had agreed to let us throw a party in their backyard.
We donned our wedding attire and greeted another 100+ guests representing the American side of our family that holiday Monday afternoon. It was definitely a blur, but I do remember a white tent, cake, and that moment when we went to play the video from our Las Vegas ceremony the night before— and the blank tape that we had received. Oh, Las Vegas! There was dancing around the pool, a moment where my husband’s uncle let it slip the location of the honeymoon, and replaying all the past 48 hours for our many guests. By 9pm we were exhausted and ready to leave.
Our five day honeymoon on the other side of the country was rainy, our resort was full of young children, and we were too young to rent a car to even explore the surrounding area. It was a wedding marathon if ever there was one. And thirteen years later our story is still providing laughter and great memories.
I am so grateful for the many friends and family who rallied around us to provide help as we were living in two different places than our actual wedding locations. It was a weeklong celebration when we include the family dinners, bridal party events and formalities. And though I would do many things differently today, the extremes of our nuptials were really just the starting gun for the race that we have run together. Our journey has, more often than not, been fast-paced, thrilling and hopefully inspiring to others. And it makes me very excited to see what the future holds!