Does it matter how you say, “I do?”
By Glenna Gill
Written on Oct 19, 2023
Photo: Chris LaBasco, matspersson0, ViktorCap, 3bugsmom | Canva
The first time I got married, I was a week away from being 21 years old. My groom was roughly the same age. People might have said we were marrying too young, but it didn’t feel that way. We’d been together since high school and lived together for three years after that. It seemed natural to take it to the next level. People asked us constantly when we would get married as if it was a given. Indeed, that’s how it turned out.
I didn’t really have a family of my own to help me plan the wedding. My mother lived 1000 miles away just like every other family member. She called me up crying one day because I picked out a wedding dress and she wasn’t there, pretending like it wasn’t entirely her choice. Then she threatened to make a scene at the reception because of her mental illness.
“I might have an episode,” she told me with half a smile.
Calmly, I explained that she was free to go back to her hotel at any time if she didn’t feel well. I know that’s not what she wanted. She wanted me to spend the entire wedding checking on her and making sure she was okay. After all the drama we’d been through, it wasn’t something I was prepared to do. Only after somebody remarked that it seemed she was jealous I was getting married did I detach from her completely. Yes, she would be there, but I wasn’t about to fawn all over her.
Instead, it was my mother-in-law who took me shopping for my dress along with my two sisters-in-law. They had known me since I was sixteen and honestly, I felt more comfortable in their company.
The three of them had tons of ideas for the wedding and reception, and together we arranged things for the church and the reception in a hotel ballroom. My husband didn’t want to dance at the wedding, but his mother put her foot down and made him. He showed up looking nice in his tuxedo where he stood next to me at the altar.
My uncle was nice enough to record the wedding itself on his expensive video camera. When I looked at it later, the priest was speaking and my husband-to-be, instead of listening, was making goo-goo eyes at one of my bridesmaids. I ignored it at the time, but it was a giant red flag if I ever saw one.
The marriage worked for 16 years until it didn’t.
My husband began sleeping with the receptionist in his office, and he eventually left me and our two young sons for her. At the time, it nearly wrecked me. His family had been mine for practically my whole life, and suddenly they were yanked away. The new girlfriend took my place on holidays and family dinners.
Without a family of my own to turn to, I was left lonely and isolated. Even though it’s water under the bridge now, part of me still misses the family and wishes things hadn’t changed. The same can’t be said about the husband.
I married again about a year after the first divorce. Yes, it was way too soon, but my self-esteem was so low that I never thought anyone would want to marry me again.
My second husband was a 35-year-old man who thought he was still 18. There were times I clearly thought he was out of his mind. Marrying him seemed like a bad idea other than the fact that I was carrying his child. I wanted her to grow up with two parents, but I wasn’t nearly prepared to raise both of them at the same time.
When we got married, we flew off to Las Vegas for what I can only describe as a rock star wedding. My husband, of course, thought he was the rock star. His tuxedo vest was polka-dotted and blue. As he kept pointing out, Nikki Sixx wore the same tuxedo on the cover of the Theater of Pain album by Motley Crue. He invited a friend to come with us and be his best man, and the two of them went bar crawling at night drinking and getting high the night before the wedding.
The “church” where we were married was placed strategically between a strip club and an adult bookstore, very on-brand for Vegas. The photographer promised to take pictures so the undesirable places didn’t show. It was January and I was freezing in my spaghetti strap dress. After the ceremony, we went to one of the famous buffets of Las Vegas while trying not to think about what I’d just done by making this guy my husband.
The whole experience was flashy yet tacky and seemed almost fake. That’s exactly how the marriage turned out.
The only good that came from it was our beautiful daughter who he couldn’t have cared less about. I spent several years trying to get away from him. If I hadn’t, I would have likely ended up dead. He took everything I had and blamed me for all of it. The day we divorced was one of the best of my life.
My third wedding will definitely be my last.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet a man so kind and generous and sweet that I wanted to marry him from the first day I met him. When he popped the question during a Miami Dolphins game, I grabbed him and said yes a thousand times. Then I tapped the people in the row in front of us to tell them the news and show them my ring. Pretty soon, our whole section was cheering, and not just for the game.
It was the best proposal I’d ever gotten.
My husband and I eloped to Key West where we got married at sunset on the beach. It was only me, him, a photographer, and a notary. Nobody else was there to cause drama or make things overwhelming. We held hands as we said our heartfelt vows, and it was as romantic as I’d always imagined. It was the best way to get married, by far.
My husband is the prince I waited for my whole life, and he treats me as an equal and makes me feel like his princess.
After the wedding, we were outside at night in the hotel’s jacuzzi when we heard music coming from nearby.
“Let’s go,” my husband said.
We threw on shirts and shorts and ventured down the street where a man was playing the guitar at an outdoor restaurant. During a break, we asked him to play a song for our wedding dance. He played “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton, and I danced with my new husband feeling more love than ever in my life.
This was a wedding the way I’d always imagined it — intimate and beautiful with the man I would share the rest of my life with.
I realize that sometimes marriages don’t work out. Actually, I’m a perfect example of that. Still, if anything ever happened between my husband to split us apart, my love would go with him. I wouldn’t even think of dating another man. A prince can’t simply be erased. I’m grateful for every day with him, and those are memories I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.
I think I’ve used up my wedding quota anyway, and I’m perfectly okay with that.
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Glenna Gill is a writer and blogger from Charlotte, North Carolina. Her articles have been featured in Scary Mommy and P.S. I Love You. When I Was Lost is her first full-length book, a memoir of love, loss, and hope.
This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.