Our families and friends whom we'd seen in person knew that we would be getting married at the earliest opportunity, but otherwise we kept our upcoming nuptials to ourselves. We wanted our civil ceremony and our plans for it to be private (it was a semi-elopement, after all!), and we wanted to avoid as much controversy beforehand as possible. I won't lie--once we went public as Mr. and Mrs.Butters, we encountered pockets of disapproval, hurt, and anger because we'd chosen to do what we had. Our intentions were never exclusionary or malicious, though, and I believe that most upsets are already on their way to being mended--if not there already. More importantly, I'm happy to say that most of the inevitable surprise from our friends and acquaintance ranged from the generally positive to the unmistakably ecstatic.
Personally, I grow more and more sure each day that Spike and I did what was right for us. In a perfect world, I'd have liked our families to have been present at the ceremony (as would they!), but neither set of parents could make it to Oklahoma on a few hours' notice. Plus, the more military couples I meet, the more I realize that courthouse weddings are not all that unusual for people with this lifestyle. That brings me to the real point of this post: the ceremony. I want to write my recollections of the day--mostly so that I'll have a vivid record of them in the years to come--but hopefully you guys will find them enjoyable as well.
10 September, 2010
It's lunchtime, and I'm eating a piece of peach pie--not because I'm hungry, but because I know I should get something into my stomach. My appetite is nonexistent and I'm on pins and needles because this morning, Spike told me that his class might conclude around midday. Ergo, we might have time to do a Really Big Thing: get married. All morning, I've been working in my little home office, trying squeeze every last ounce of concentration out of myself. I've also informed Bosslady that I might need to sign out early...and since she knows and approves of the reason, she has given me her blessing.
Halfway through my pie, I give into temptation and text Spike: Hey love, how's things looking?
Almost immediately, I get a response: im on way
Suddenly, this is real--no longer a daydream. It hits me: I'm getting married today! I do some quick calculations. Already, it's after 1:00, and I know that Spike and I will want to be at the courthouse as close to 3:00 as possible, 4:00 being the absolute latest time to have an impromptu marriage officiated. I realize that I really will need to get ready for my wedding in only an hour and half--the amount of advance notice I'd jokingly told Spike to give me several times before.
I send Bosslady the "I'm leaving early to get married!" email, and notice that I'm breathing very shallowly. I quickly text a friend whose wedding I've just directed, asking her if she felt nervous immediately before tying the knot. Her response is a very quick and very adamant affirmative. Good--it's not just me.
As I make my way to the bathroom, intent on applying makeup and curling my hair, I get a text from another friend whose intuition borders on the psychic: Married yet? I tell her what's going on, and she informs me that nerves are a another version of excitement. She also tells me just what I need to hear: This is just one moment in your life. Pray a prayer of thanks for such an amazing blessing. The hardest part is over, finding "the one."
Soon thereafter, I begin breathing normally--and a good thing, too, as it's anyone's guess what my hair and makeup might have looked like had I been hyperventilating while getting ready!
Spike arrives home just as I'm applying my foundation and starting to curl the bottom layer of my very thick hair. Within five minutes, he has changed from his ACUs to his dress blues, and is good to go. (Men really do have it easier on the fashion and beauty front.) I ask Spike if he's truly okay with getting married on such short notice. He assures me that he is, and then disappears to the living room to give me as much privacy as possible--the best we can do since the whole "groom shouldn't see the bride before the ceremony on their wedding day" thing is already shot.
Finally, I've painted, curled, and tweaked myself into an acceptable state. Spike tells me in heartfelt tones how beautiful I look, and just like that, we're climbing into his truck. As we pull out of our little neighborhood, I text a photographer who said he could meet us on short notice that we're on our way to the courthouse. Then, barely a mile down the road, Spike and I reach for one another's hands over the center console. We're both nervous--we admit as much to each other--but underneath our jitters, we're both sure that we're doing a wonderful thing.
The ride to the courthouse goes by surprisingly quickly, and is punctuated by numerous murmured "I love you"s and "I'm excited"s. (I'm not particularly loquacious when I'm nervous, and neither, it seems, is Spike.) As promised, the photographer, to whom I'll forever be grateful, is waiting in the parking lot to meet us. He starts snapping shots as soon as I hop out of the truck and shake his hand, and continues as we cross the street and enter the proper office in the courthouse building, which is conveniently located right off the entryway.
We find that we're not the only folks with marriage in mind on this particular Friday. There's a private--who we later find out has just graduated from basic training that afternoon--and his fiancee filling out paperwork ahead of us. For awhile, Spike and I focus on signing our names, checking facts, and providing the proper documentation. Pretty soon, with a "You two really are a beautiful couple!" from one of the clerks, we're sent on the heels of the first bride and groom-to-be to wait for Judge R on the fourth floor.
We end up having to wait for 45 minutes or so while Judge R finishes up some other business. Spike talks to the brand-new private for a few minutes, but then wisely decides to give the kid some space since he practically twitches every time Spike looks at him, and ends each utterance with a "Sir!"--even though Spike has told him to relax. Spike and I end up chatting with the photographer, who's a teacher here in town. He actually tells us some pretty interesting facts about Lawton and Oklahoma. For example, I learn that Oklahoma technically isn't landlocked--freighters can make it all the way to Tulsa. I'm not so nervous anymore.
That changes when the door to the courtroom opens, though, emitting a deputy and an orange-clad, shackled inmate. It's our turn to see the judge, and I feel a surge of adrenaline shoot through me. Spike and I sit in the jury box while Couple Number One gets hitched, halfway paying attention to their vows while I dig our ring boxes out of my purse. Then, in no time at all, it's our turn.
We go to stand in front of the judge and grab one another's hands. At this point, I'm simply focusing on successfully breathing in and out, hoping that when my turn comes I won't flub my lines. It's not looking good, though, because I'm not sure I can draw a breath large enough to enable me to make it through an entire sentence.
Then Spike starts talking, repeating after the judge. "Meg, I love you with my whole heart. I take you to be my wife..." ...and suddenly my nerves are gone. I actually understand what the cheesy romance line "and everything else fell away" feels like. Because at this moment, the only things I'm registering are Spike's face and voice, and the way his hands are squeezing mine. I may not have gotten to see his face when I appeared at the end of an aisle, but this is every bit as precious.
Now it's my turn. I repeat my vows after the judge, not missing a single word. I think, judging from Spike's face, that I must be looking at him the same way he looked at me. I take his ring off of my thumb, slide it onto his finger, and it's done. We're husband and wife, and I know I'm grinning like a fool.
The private, his new bride, and their small party--who are all still in the courtroom--applaud us while we kiss. A few more signature, the collection of our marriage license, and we're finished--ready to exit the Comanche County Courthouse as Mr. and Mrs. Butters. And so we do. Our photographer takes a few posed photos, and then it's just us. Our first evening together as Team Butters. The first of many. We smile at each other as we close the truck doors, and hold hands over the console once more.
"Once we went to stand in front of the judge, I wasn't nervous anymore," Spike tells me. "I was so happy because I was getting to marry my best friend."
"I know," I respond. We smile at each other again. When we get home, Spike carries me across the threshold. Welcome home, Mrs. Butters, I think to myself.
Bring on the adventure.