Thirty-seven years and 24 hours ago, it was 90 degrees in the shade with 90 percent humidity. My hair, which had been optimistically washed and curled earlier in the day, had wilted into a sticky, lanky mop. I stood at the altar in my simple white dress, a steady stream of sweat rolling down between my shoulder blades and pooling at my waistband. My hair stuck damply to the veil I had borrowed from my sister-in-law.
Churches back then were not air conditioned. A couple would have to be absolutely deluded to plan a wedding at 2 p.m. on a hot and humid August 4th afternoon. But we were young and in love and thought the weather gods would smile fondly on us. That was the last time we ever really counted on the weather gods.
In 1973, it was all about the hair. (Remember the musical, Hair? –“Hair, flow it, show it, long as God can grow, my hair!”)
Our wedding in 1973 was back in the hippie days when people got married barefoot and made up their own wedding vows. Tom and I did wear shoes, but the vows were original. Prior to the wedding, I had written out my vows on a yellow legal pad and carefully memorized them. When the appropriate time came, I recited my vows word for word.
Tom, on the other hand, had jotted down some ideas for his vows on a paper napkin the day before and had a general idea what he was going to say. However, once he was at the altar and it was his turn to speak, he forgot everything he planned and just kind of gave a political-type extemporaneous list of compliments and promises . Neither one of us remembers a word of what he promised, but later one of my roommates told me that she was in tears listening to his earnest declarations. The big fake. (Tom, I mean, not the roommate.)
The reception was downstairs in the church basement where the women from my mother’s Ladies' Aid church circle served cake and ham buns. It was so humid in the church basement that the floor had puddles. I had never been so hot in my life.
I like to think that the more realistic and gritty the wedding, the greater the chance for a successful marriage. We had no illusions during our wedding—no Cinderella, fairy tale, happily ever after, I-want-to-be-a-princess illusions. It was hot, we were sweaty, we ate cake, and the marriage has lasted 37 years and 24 hours.
Celebrating our anniversary in 2010, 37 years later, when it’s not so much about the hair.
The secret is not in the dress or the music or the flowers or the $50 a plate reception. The secret is in the person you marry. Thank goodness we both got that right.