“Feel any different?”
Planning a wedding looked stressful. When you watch TV or talk to people, horror stories abound. I have two suggestions. First, keep it small and uncomplicated. If you pick a reception hall that at best holds 90 people, your list needs to stay trim. You may not be able to invite everyone you want (or that other people want), but it does keep the expectations realistic. Second, it helps to get married in your mid-thirties when people don’t expect a huge party and most of the people coming have a bed time before 10:00 or have children who do. Brian and I helped clean up and were heading to our honeymoon night at 10:15. The place cleared out faster than a Catholic mass after the first verse of the last hymn. We had spent months planning the party. And look forward to never having to throw such a party again.
When we returned to Kentucky, the church that Brian served wanted to throw a reception for us as well. Members of our family came down to help celebrate and it truly was a remarkable evening. But it also became when we first noticed the question that comes from almost every person we see: “Feel any different?”
At first, we would answer, “No.” We have lived together for over three years in a state neither of us lived in before. We had a mortgage together, a Rottweiler, and cannot spend an evening apart without the other one freaking out about every noise downstairs. Though on occasion, even when we are both in the house, we freak out because of the noises downstairs. We need a better security system than a snoring dog and a Louisville slugger. Or worse imaginations.
Then, we would answer, “Not really. But it feels nice.” And that also felt true. On occasion, we will look at each other and one will say, “We got married.” We chuckle and think about how our taxes may change or how we get to use the word husband now. We both grew tired of the word partner since it seemed more like we opened up a business together and the pictures that people take of us always resemble those that appear on benches for lawyers, realtors, or funeral homes. We do just have pleasant faces for advertisements. But no more partners here.
Now, I want to answer, “Yes. But no.” Our relationship grows. We have seen each other change and we have had to adjust a lot about each other based on what the other wants to do. But one thing that became incredibly clear throughout the wedding process was that we were not in this alone. We felt different because the people we know have shown us that it is different.
Only a few times in your life involve other people by your invitation. The invitation may not go to everyone you would like but those who get that invite have a hard time saying no. In fact, we had more people just fail to respond at all instead of replying with a No. We spend so little of our time on this Earth telling people thank you and showing them how much they mean to us. Instead, we all have to work jobs for eight hours a day to put food on the table and continue our own existence. We try our best to stay connected and we usually fail. But the wedding made me realize that that effort matters more than I ever thought.
I have written a Christmas letter for 11 years now. I use it as an excuse to reach out to people I don’t get to reach out to that often. I try to make a few jokes; I try to force you to shed a few tears; and I try to signal a thank you for what you have meant to my life. I do feel different.
Now, 2018 included one of those defining moments in our lives. But it also included the moment when Brian decided to begin his doctor of ministry program, when I signed up for a class to begin writing again, when we both jumped off social media to reduce stress and communicate positively, when, in addition to two nephews, we welcomed our first niece into our family, and when Brian got to experience the north woods of Wisconsin for the first time (and Max learned to swim).
2019 will undoubtedly include many important and life-defining moments. It will not include a wedding. I may finish a novel. Brian may have to read the draft of said novel. And Max may catch that bird that sits on our chimney every morning chirping to no end. You will hear all about it next year. But I promise you one thing: it will feel different.