I was less than a sentence into my vows when I felt the tears coming on. I made it through the rest without a full-on outburst, but what happened instead was probably far more awkward to watch. My volume shifted from way too high to way too low as I spit out as much as I could before I had to suck in my breath and reinforce the dam. To try to draw the attention away from what was going on up top, I started shuffling in place, almost like I had to pee really badly. In hindsight, I doubt it was a conscious decision to do that. I have to believe my fight or flight mechanism kicked in and my nervous system was divided between staying and pressing on and getting the hell out of there.
It’s ironic it happened that way because my wife was terrified for weeks about the prospect of writing her own vows and delivering them in front of our closest friends and families. But I, the writer, insisted. When her turn came, she was confident and composed. For someone who swore she had difficulty articulating her emotional self, her vows had an incredible depth and authenticity. Here, in front of an audience, I felt like she was opening up to me in a way she never had before.
By now, it’ll come as little surprise that I spent the next few hours on the verge of tears. It was all the attention and love – it was practically palpable. It was also the fleeting nature of the night. For the better part of a year, our lives revolved around the planning of this one night, and now it was unfolding so quickly, faster than I could register it. I felt like I was in a freefall – in a good way, if that’s possible – until my wife and I were alone at the end of the night, eating leftovers on the floor of our hotel room.
It’s probably not a coincidence that that’s my most vivid memory of the day. Grateful as I am for having experienced the rest of it – and I am very grateful – I feel like that was the moment when everything became real to me. It was just the two of us, like so many times before, but now were married.
What brought all of this rushing back to the surface was seeing a headline announcing a free Valentine’s Day marriage ceremony in Doylestown. In the rotunda of the Old Courthouse, at 1 PM, the Bucks County Register of Wills and Clerk of Orphans’ Court, Linda Bobrin, will be wedding all interested couples. There will be flowers, hors d’oeuvres, and photographers.
Couples interested in renewing their vows are welcome, too.
When we celebrated our 10-year anniversary last October, I started thinking about renewing our vows, something that always seemed so superfluous to me until then. But I can’t imagine recreating our wedding ceremony, not only because it would bring me face-to-face with my sniveling self, but also because it now feels unnecessary. Except for the part where we stand together and pledge our unconditional love to each other.