Seven years and two kids ago, my (now) husband knelt on a moonlit boat dock in Camden, Maine, and asked if I would love him forever. For me, it was a no-brainer. I wept and said yes. There was no one there but us and the moon and the swaying boats in the harbour. There was no ring. There was just his earnest ask. I treasured that intimacy, and I wanted to carry it through to our wedding vows.
I was not someone who had been planning her wedding since childhood. I had no vision for what I wanted or what my dress would be — I actually admire women who are this decisive. The only thing I knew for certain was that I wanted my wedding to be small. To me, this was my most personal moment — the moment where I pledged to love another person through all of life’s triumphs and tragedies, and that felt sacred to me. The thought of saying my vows, personal and handwritten, in front of people who I might not even know seemed counter to how I wanted the moment to feel and be remembered.
A few weeks after our engagement, I told my then-fiancé that I’d like to have around 20 people at our wedding. The two of us, his three best friends and their plus-ones, my three best friends and their plus-ones, and our parents and their significant others (his parents are divorced). He was stunned. My husband is loving and charismatic and has a wide social circle. “But,” he argued, “we need more people on the dance floor!” Point taken.
I grew up attending large, gregarious weddings my whole life. I’m from a big extended family, and I loved those gatherings, but I wanted something different for myself. My family alone would have been nearly 100 people. My parents had a difficult time understanding that I wanted to get married far away and have only a handful of people attend. As it often happens while planning a wedding, tensions mounted and feelings were hurt. How would I balance the desires of my family with what I really wanted for my wedding? Meanwhile, my husband’s list took on a life of its own. “Weddings are also about having fun,” he reasoned.
Eventually, we got the number to 40 people. My husband, bless his heart, even added a couple of people two days before the wedding. I’m glad that I compromised with him and had more people attend because ultimately part of marriage is about consistently compromising with your partner to ensure you are each happy.
My husband and I were concerned that we would be blubbering messes while delivering the vows that we wrote for each other. So, instead, we were married with traditional vows during the ceremony. Then, that night in the honeymoon suite, damp with sweat from dancing (you see a theme here, right?) and high on the adrenaline of the day, we sweetly read our handwritten vows to each other. Not a soul on this earth has heard those vows but us, and each year on our wedding anniversary, we take them out and read them to each other again.
In the end, our wedding still felt incredibly intimate because all of the people who attended are still in our lives, and they have supported us through some truly difficult times. I’m extremely grateful that they could be there to bear witness to our marriage. And to shake their asses on the dance floor.