Going to the Chapel

Josh and I made some important decisions on the day that we got engaged. First, we decided to retain our sanity amidst the barrage of impending wedding chaos. We decided that meaning is more important than madness. We decided that we definitely wanted to register for a snow-cone machine.

I don't remember ever being the gap-toothed girl in a miniature white wedding gown who stares back at me now from a magazine ad touting this day as the day I have dreamed about since I was 5 years old. My wedding day. I was too busy back then collecting moss to carpet my miniature shoe-box universes to be preoccupied with prince charming and his pals.

So two years ago, when prince charming pulled up in a red Chevy station wagon, I was a bit surprised. We both cautiously put down our armor, surveyed the relational wreckage in our wake, and decided to take on a few new battles together.

Now we are both 20-something interns in Washington, D.C., making roughly enough money to finance a healthy coffee habit, but not enough for a full-blown Bridal Mart or Honeymoon Emporium wedding extravaganza. Our decision to keep our wedding simple comes partly from necessity, partly from laziness, and partly from our values and idealism.

The complexity of the simple route seems daunting at times. Weddings can be energy vacuums that suck us into a vortex of absurd concerns. I catch myself focusing on the frivolous - wondering whether the punch color will clash with the centerpieces. (I don't think the centerpieces will mind.)

JOSH AND I are trying to find a way to live outside of societal expectations without trashing tradition. What rituals should we keep, what should we throw away, what should we transform? We want our decisions to honor our families, our friends, and ourselves instead of showcasing what is most impressive or expensive. We want to avoid trappings that sap our celebration of its joy and sacred strength.

We also want to make these plans together. The "bridal business" seems to exclude men from having any part in the wedding preparations. This is not just my day - even though the Ritz-Carlton ad says, "It is only one day of your life. It is the only day of your life."

While so much emphasis is placed on the wedding day as the perfect day, we don't expect perfection. Society celebrates the manufactured and made-up, the plastic fantasy that can be purchased. We are supposed to look perfect. I am encouraged to hide behind a veil of physical flawlessness - assisted by home tanning and hair dye and diet drugs, instead of honestly and unapologetically embracing who I am.

Josh and I admit we come with our stumblings and scars, believing that good relationships are about glimpses of redemption in the day to day. And, when control of the details inevitably slips from our grasp, we have faith that grace will fill in the gaps. Preparing to get married is not about looking forward to a fairy tale event, but finding freedom in the "ever after" that will have its "happilys" and its "sadlys" and everything in between. Ultimately, through the tangle of time and truth, it will become a thing of beauty.

Until then we are gathering up as much faith, hope, and love as we can squeeze into the back of a Chevy station wagon, making room for the snow-cone machine, and reminding ourselves that no matter what the ad says, forever doesn't start with a diamond. It starts with a lump of coal. It starts with forgiveness.

AMIE ROSE is resource center manager at Sojourners.

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