You can read wedding magazines, and wedding blogs, and wedding everything, but you’ll almost never turn the page and see the marriage. Everything stops in a last, beautiful moment, blurred by sparklers or bubbles or birdseed as the (inevitably white, inevitably young, inevitably thin, inevitably straight) couple disappears into the back of a limousine, a horse-drawn carriage, or, if they’re very edgy, maybe a racy vintage sports car.
Having a wedding can be glamorous; certainly the Wedding Industrial Complex sells it that way. And being engaged is exciting. People send you pretty cards and congratulate you for being nothing more than very lucky. They ask you where they can go to buy you some presents so they can reward you for being in love. You are actively encouraged to brag about yourself. Everything builds up to the big day. Your perfect day! Your princess day!
And then … what?
There’s a stark contrast between the glamour of the wedding industry and the actual practice of being married. Peruse through the gauzily lit photos on Style Me Pretty or Ruffled, and stop me when you get to a picture of a couple laying in bed, eating breakfast tacos and watching “Star Trek” for six hours. I’d love to read the Modern Bride feature about changing your husband’s colostomy bag. Whither the Vogue Weddings photo essay on people trying to decide which brand of toilet paper to buy?
Marriage is wonderful, or at least I think it’s wonderful so far, but it isn’t shimmer sparkles and precious place settings. There are no style slideshows for what comes after the wedding: LUCIOUS LIPS for accidentally dumping the soggy coffee filter into the family dinner! HOT UP-DOs for pretending like it’s not your turn to empty the dishwasher! SEXY EYES for calling his dad an asshole!
And so, I guess, we have Valentine’s Day, another commercially driven one-off day on which we’re supposed to be especially nice to the people we love and also, or perhaps mainly, buy some shit.
Which is not to say that it isn’t important to take some time — a weekend, an evening, a morning, a minute, any time at all — to focus on your partner and rekindle the flames of passion or whatever Ladies Home Journal-esque phrase you want to use. But I see Valentine’s Day and wedding days as being of a piece. Special, delineated days on which we are all supposed to put on the love show. The other 364 days a year be damned, I guess.
I loved our wedding day. I loved seeing Patrick look like Humphrey Bogart, and singing “Brandy” with him for our first karaoke, and jumping into his pick-up at the end of the night through a haze of waving sparklers, even though (or perhaps especially because) our friends had covered said truck in shoepolished penises. But it’s nothing compared to our everyday relationship, the thing that sustains me through life’s regular and reliable cycle of bullshit and stress.
I didn’t need a wedding day to get all these other days with Patrick. I don’t think the fact that he goes out to grab breakfast tacos when I’m too cold and lazy to get out of bed has anything to do with our wedding. We could have had a courthouse ceremony, or no ceremony at all, and my favorite place to sit would still be on our terribly uncomfortable couch next to him, watching BBC crime dramas, eating cans-of-whatever-from-the-cupboard casserole.
And so I don’t really care if I get flowers on Valentine’s Day. Chocolates? Can do without. (Though I would take a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos adorned with a festive bow, any day of the year.) I haven’t spent weeks picking out the perfect card that really says us, so I can present it to Patrick with some expensive cufflinks or an engraved tie clip. Because our relationship doesn’t happen on Valentine’s Day any more or less than it happened on our wedding day or on last Tuesday; our relationship happens every day, all the time.
It happens when I’m at my favorite table at our local pub, and I’m watching the door for the moment Patrick walks in to join me after work. It happens when we get home from the grocery store, and like clockwork, one of us takes the fridge and the other takes the cabinets and our food is put away in a matter of crazily efficient seconds. It happens when I get frustrated at him for having to work late, or when he can’t stand the way I forget my phone every time I get in the car.
It’s hard to say when, precisely, after our wedding that I stopped being charmed by the idea of wedding-ness and married-ness, and just started being a married lady. Being engaged, especially if you’re planning a wedding, is a bit like getting a fancy new gadget or toy, and all of a sudden, you want to do everything, to get everything, to buy everything, that goes with your new toy. The ring! The new last name! The monogrammed napkins! The embossed thank-you cards!
But as our wedding day recedes farther and farther into my memory, and the immediacy and shininess of that time wears off, I have a harder and harder time remembering what it was like to want all those great new engaged-lady accessories. And I’m fine with that. I like building our own personal Style Me In These Sweatpants, Picking You Up From Your Doctor’s Appointment slideshow in my head, instead.
Original by Andrea Grimes