It's official - Sheldon and I are married! Okay, it's actually been official for over three months now, but I had to take some time to reflect on everything and decide what to share.
We had a pretty short engagement -- about six months. We wanted to get married as soon as we could because we saw no reason to wait -- we are in our thirties, we've been living together for a couple years, and we knew we were ready.
One thing that made me so sure about Sheldon - although anyone who would meet him would understand why I love him - was the fact that I had been in love and married before. I knew what work went into running a household and into tending a marriage, and I knew we could do that well together.
It felt a little weird to be planning a second wedding (though it was his first) -- I felt a little bashful or ashamed of the attention that is showered on brides-to-be. I didn't want an engagement party or bridal shower, although I did acquiesce when some friends wanted to throw us an engagement party (and I am glad I did). We did have bachelor and bachelorette parties, but nothing too crazy. Sheldon and some of his buds went to the beach for a weekend of fishing and golfing. I had a girls' weekend in at the house, making wedding decorations Friday night and wine-tasting on Saturday with my friends in Texas and our mothers. Sheldon drove the van we rented for the occasion. I had a lot of fun planning the wedding, particularly with the encouragement of my good friend Gabby, who was an enthusiastic personal attendant/co-planner, with a hot glue gun burn on her arm to show for it (oddly enough, it matches one I got the same night as we made centerpieces around my kitchen table together). Still, I have to admit that I felt a little weird inviting people to my second wedding in a decade's time -- I was afraid to infringe on the lives of my family and friends by asking them to commit to another weekend of wedding activities on my behalf. I was ambivalent about having a gift registry, but in the end realized people would bring gifts anyway and we picked out a few things we could use or that needed to be replaced. We also picked a couple charities for people to donate to in lieu of gifts, one of them being the animal shelter where Brian had volunteered.
We ended up having a fantastic wedding - and I have to say, I think part of that was also because I'd planned one before. It's funny - brides expect or feel pressured to create a "perfect day" on their first attempt at pulling off such an event! At least this time around, I knew what was important and what wasn't. I had consciously vowed to be more calm and to not worry so much about the details. I knew from having gone through it before that it doesn't matter if there are personalized napkins, or if the white of the cake doesn't match the shade of the dress, etc. It's about love, celebration, and the union of two lives into one family.
That doesn't mean I didn't pay attention to the details though...we put in a new mantle and repainted the fireplace in anticipation for the reception, and Sheldon was very detail-oriented in getting the yard to look perfect. We hung white string and globe lights in the backyard, I acquired tablecloths and runners on Craigslist, I oversaw the making of centerpieces (painted bottle vases), yard lanterns and hanging lanterns, and the list goes on. Instead of a guest book, my mom made a fingerprint tree -- she drew a tree and guests put green "leaves" on with an inkpad and their fingers or thumbs and signed next to those. We did the flowers and food ourselves, with me making up the gin lemonade the morning of the event. We had a port-a-potty brought in for outside, and the two bathrooms inside had flowers and baskets of toiletries and the like. We cleared out two rooms of our house to turn them into the buffet room and the coffee lounge. There was a dance floor and a photo booth. We had a bartender who served beer, wine, gin lemonade, old fashioneds, manhattans, and a fine selection of whiskeys and mixers, with cigars to go along. Oh, boy, were there details....
I struggled, too, with how to behave as a widow planning a wedding. Should I pay some tribute to Brian, such as a mention of him in the ceremony or flowers at the altar in his memory? I was afraid of insulting his memory if I ignored him, but afraid of drawing attention away from Sheldon and my union if I did. I worried about what people would think either way -- if I did honor him, or if I didn't. In the end, I decided that rather than a formal tribute or token mention of him in a few written or spoken words, I'd let his influence shape the day organically. Some of the musical selections were songs or artists he had liked, or that he had introduced to me. There was a photo from our wedding in the DVD slideshow of our lives that Sheldon and I played at the reception. Several members of his family were there, and many more friends who came into my life through him. My one big way of honoring him was more private - I found an antique locket for my "something old" and inserted photos of Brian and me on our wedding day in 2004; the locket was tied to my bouquet. In the end, I didn't feel the need to draw attention to him, but I also didn't feel the need to exclude him. I do feel that he was there with us.
Aside from the fine line I walked trying to plan a wedding celebration appropriately as a widow, there were the inside thoughts and feelings about what a marriage is, what it really meant to be traveling this road. Again, but with a new partner. I thought about what the vows mean, what a marriage is. I know Sheldon will be there in good times and in bad, because he has been a rock through some of the worst times of my life. I thought about how much more I understood the gravity of the promises we were making now as opposed to the first time, when I was so much younger and didn't really know what we were getting into. I thought about the fact that I can't just call Brian "my husband" anymore, because that title belongs to Sheldon now. I cried about that and struggled to figure out new terminology. (I alternate between "my late husband," "my first husband," and "Brian" depending on the context.) I wondered how Brian felt about all this, and sought some guidance to explore and handle these thoughts. I wondered how Brian's young nieces were interpreting all these events, and how I might be perceived by others.
Worse, I thought about the fact that the unthinkable could happen again, and I had a nightmare about it just the other night. But I realized that not getting married wouldn't change that risk -- just by loving him and sharing my life with him, I risk the pain of losing him, but I have chosen to be with him anyway because I couldn't go through life afraid to life to avoid pain. I chose to go out on a limb and love again. I thought of the Garth Brooks song "The Dance," which was played on the DVD tribute to Brian at his funeral. The chorus is:
Now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end,
The way it all would go.
Our lives are better left to chance.
I could have missed the pain,
But I'd have had to miss the dance.
I knew that I had to keep dancing. So we rented a dance floor.