1. The Proposal.
It's a strange thing now, looking back so far, that I am a husband because of a question I asked nearly two years ago. I have a reputation for not being reliable when it comes to organizing major events, but I must say I did a pretty good job on this one. Frankly, I'm fortunate that Denise was candid about wanting to get married from the get-go, and regularly dropped hints about what she expected.
Here's what I knew she wanted: a princess cut diamond ring (not yellow gold), the blessing of her parents, and for it to be somewhat romantic. What I wanted: a ring within my limited post-university budget, and to do it in her first year of medical school. I was also looking for a window of time where I could discretely get the ring, ask her parents, and then propose, all while in Vancouver and all under her nose. In a two year span, there was only a five day period where I could do this. How she was shocked is beyond me, not to mention the fact that I can't keep a secret for shit. A strange day, which kicked off a crazy process.
It was a major relief, having proposed. Denise cried and I gave myself hearty congratulations for the rest of the day, as she distracted herself with the shininess of her new bling. I had planned meticulously and executed it well. I can now look forward to a lifetime of "job well done, Mark." Awesome.
What I was not prepared for was the immediate vacuum that was created amongst everyone who cares about us. It's a natural occurance: we've barely had time to process what happened, or to even form opinions about the next step, when all parties converge and ask questions. They can hardly be blamed for wanting to know, and we can hardly be blamed for not having the answers, but it creates immediate stress, even from the most innocuous of questions. I found that temperatures rose rapidly, as ideas and motives were bounced back and forth between families and friends. Our solution? Hire a wedding planner. Besides getting us enough discounts to almost pay herself off, she provided a buffer between us and the questions, so that we could constantly say: "Don't know, go ask Candice."
|"Everyone calm down. I've got this."|
Slowly, the dust settled, and we settled in for the long haul. Over the span of a year, we regularly knocked down major decisions: what kind of service (United is, afterall, a lovely compromise for a Catholic and an Atheist), where to have the service, where to have the reception, the colour schemes, a wedding theme, and a few more that I can't think of because Denise took care of all that. This was a period of frustrations and small joys, as we made decisions that cost us a lot of money but also helped us shape an idea of how the day was going to go down.
|So glad we chose this place.|
At a certain point, we got the distinct impression that things were moving well beyond our control, as things got faster and faster and louder and louder. Perhaps an apt metaphor would be that we had been pedaling up a gigantic hill, and now we were suddenly sloping down without brakes. Nothing was happening that was bad, but the process took on a life of its own, and it was like a great crescendo all around us.
I first noticed it when Denise's uncle and godfather Danny came to town several weeks before the wedding, and then others started trickling in. "Holy shit," Denise noted. "If there were a box on those sheets you fill out at the border, their reason for coming is DENISE AND MARK." It's exciting and terrifying - all these months of people talking about the wedding has suddenly become tangible; people bought tickets, rented hotel rooms, started sending you gifts. Single handedly, we were spurring the Vancouver economy. In the days before, when people began piling in, we were at full speed and it felt like no one was in control. Thank God for Candice.
For me, as I noted in my wedding speech, people asked if I was nervous; also an apt question that I began to find strange. Like I told my best man right before the ceremony (who, as a newlywed, sympathized with): it was never the contract I was nervous about. I'm signing a deal to hang with Denise for an awfully long time - no problem. It's the spectacle and the attention that made me nervous. Not a big fan of the spotlight. Thankfully, most eyes would be on Denise.
|Oh so pretty. On a related note, that is not our child.|
5. The Day.
This section really should be written by Denise, but no dice - her life is an endless stream of studying. For me, the wedding day was not quite what I expected: a lot of hurry up and wait. I woke and was immediately nervous, I guess finally succumbing to the anxiety that others had been asking me about. It was a quiet morning, and I got dressed slowly, had a nice breakfast, and took the bus downtown while listening to music, which calmed my nerves considerably. Until 2pm, it was really a lot of waiting around in rooms until I had to do something, like pose for photos or keep my groomsmen from running all over the city.
We arrived at the church at 1:30, and Candice informed me that I could stay out and shmooz or hide in the waiting room next to the altar. I told her I'd hide. That room could have a novel written about it. There was nothing in it of importance, but I could picture, day in day out, grooms pacing nervously in there, staring at a single phone on the table, waiting for it to ring. My groomsmen joked with each other, and my best man tried to make me laugh, but I kept mostly silent, getting up to check my hair from time to time, or fix my annoying collar, which had a stubborn dent in it. The phone rang, ten minutes late, and the minister calmly asked me to follow her. My best man said, "Hey she's here. Guess she likes you."
Thankfully it wasn't long until lovely women began walking slowly down a long red carpet, and so 200 gazes were not long looking at me. The music played and they all looked lovely, and my heart warmed to see my niece Kaely walk down all cute towards me - I had to resist giving her a hug at that moment. Then in came Denise with her parents, and of course she was beautiful, and I immediately calmed down.
Everything from that moment on became blissfully out of our control. I had trouble with where to look: no one can look into another person's eyes for 30 minutes straight. It's too intense. So my eyes wandered and I found myself accidentally staring at Denise's breasts more often than not, and so I had to find other things to glance at while I listened and sometimes spoke. I also found it hard to resist whispering to Denise, though we sometimes cheated (we both find seriousness hard to handle, and our instinct is to crack jokes). Somehow we made it through okay, and then we were giving hugs and shaking hands to dozens of people, and about a quarter of the time one of us had no idea whom we were speaking to.
|Incriminating evidence of my wandering gaze.|
Weddings have a way of making people reevaluate their lives. In a day I reconnected with dozens of old family members and friends from around the world. We are responsible for at least one relationship starting that night, for rumours of another's engagement, and for an eager girlfriend aggressively catching the bouquet.
Our wedding planner hurried us out before the party died down, and we found ourselves walking the block and half, quietly and exhausted, to our hotel room across the street. We had a posh little room with a gorgeous view of the mountains, and it wasn't long until we fell into a deep sleep.
6. The Day After.
We woke up and realized that we had spent countless hours preparing for Saturday, but not a minute preparing for Sunday.
We had no change of clothes.
My sister called to see if we wanted to have a family breakfast, and we informed her that we couldn't make it because all Denise had to wear was a wedding dress (though we probably would have gotten a free meal out of it). Jocelyn, in customary super hero fashion, scrounged up clothing from my mother, my brother, and my sister in law, and met us at the hotel room. Our concierge laughed at us when we explained our predicament. "Never seen that before," he said, astounding us. When we arrived at breakfast, Denise was wearing maternity pants and a faded UBC shirt, and I tuxedo pants and dress shoes with an Abercrombie and Fitch green t-shirt. It was a lovely meal.
We stumbled from event to event that day, wandering almost in a daze, surveying the wreckage of everything around us. Our place was a mess. Our clothes needed washing. We were exhausted, mentally and physically. And we felt wonderful, a delightful mixture of deflation and relief: we'd done it, and done it well.
That night we decided to open the wedding presents which had accumulated at Denise's parents' place. Our friend Caitlyn wrote down in an excel spreadsheet everything we had received while we opened them. We're still working out the process of sending thank you cards, and believe me, they're coming. In all the process of planning, and the day of, I never came as close to crying as that night. The sudden realization of how tired I was, and the overwhelming gratitude to everyone who gave anything to us to make sure we started our marriage properly almost brought me to tears. The entire time I tried not to count on receiving gifts, since it was such an uncontrollable factor, and because I was not prepared I was blown away by the generosity of our family and friends.
More happy news came in the next day, as we got an invoice from the Convention Center with the final tally. Our predictions were wild guesses. Denise and her father thought that we had collectively drank more than we had thought, and so the bill would be way higher than the original estimate. As for me, I assumed we would have to pay a little extra, but not too much. In the end? We got a nice refund!
So, this is officially the only time I will ever say this: Thank you to my entire family for not getting too shmammered.
Some facts and figures? Okay. As a group, we consumed:
-70 bottles of wine
-65 extra glasses of wine
-35 bottles of water
-100 soft drinks
-392 shots (you boozers you! so proud)
On average, everyone had two glasses of wine, one beer, and almost three shots. We honestly planned for far more. I'm not sure if I'm proud or ashamed, people.
7. Thoughts on Marriage so far.
Evidently, we're new to this, but not much has changed. It's constantly in the back of your mind though. I told Denise that it was like playing solo on Mario Kart 64: when you go the second time, you see your little ghost next to you to compare how you're doing now. Everything we do is the same, but cast in a different light. Everything I do, I wonder if we'll keep doing forever.
The biggest difference thus far is, honestly, wearing a wedding ring. With the exception of watches, I haven't worn jewellery in my life. I find myself fiddling with it, playing with it, while at the same time feeling extremely protective of it. I used to find it silly, the extreme lengths people would go to to retrieve lost rings. Now I get it.
So that's it. We're hitched. If you've made it this far in the post, you're a patient person. It's still a strange thing, having a wife, but I'm growing very quickly used to it. She's pretty cool.