It was December 11, 998 and I was on my way to Gatlinburg, TN to get married. Of all the little girl fantasy visions, none came close to what would become my reality.
Steve and I worked together and decided it would be funny to run off and get married only telling people we were married when they asked what we did over the weekend. That should tell you a lot about us right there.
Tennessee is like a mini Vegas when it comes to weddings. You can pretty well get married anywhere. As we crossed the Kentucky/Tennessee border, we stopped in Jellico to get a Tennessee marriage license. When we exited the courthouse, we saw a huge sign hanging over a feed store that read; “Marriages done here”. Steve thought it would be great fun to get married there. I’m all about the fun but I do have my limits and getting married in a feed store was definitely beyond them.
As we travelled on to our original destination, Gatlinburg, Steve was having trouble letting go of the feed store marriage concept. Patiently, I reminded him I had made reservations at a very nice wedding chapel. I was patient only because I didn’t want to start my marriage out by bonking him on the head for such a hair-brained notion as getting married in a feed store. But seriously, the man was testing me. It didn’t help when we were unable to locate my little pre-planned wedding chapel. Finally, we inquired about it as we checked into our chalet. When the little elderly lady behind the counter informed us that chapel didn’t exist and it was a scam, Steve inquired as to the closest feed store. I think it scared her because she gave a little fluttering motion with her hand as if she was about to pass out as she shouted, “Mabel! Get up here. We’ve got to find a place for this couple to get married.”
Steve and I watched, more than a little amused, as these two precious ladies sprang into action, flipping through the Yellow Pages, calling various places, and providing intimate bits of local “scandal” about all who were booked. When it seemed everyone was booked and no wedding could take place they gave me the phone book to keep trying and wished us luck.
While Steve unpacked, I searched for a place to get married. The only vacancy I found was with a motorcycle-riding minister willing to pick up a pizza on his way to our chalet and marry us in the hot tub. Steve thought this was a better idea than the feed store marriage but a single look from me relieved him of that notion.
Beginning to think it was a sign we shouldn’t get married I sent up a final prayer to God. I made a final call. The man who answered the phone informed me he was an actual minister and just had a cancellation. If we could get there by 6 pm, he would marry us. It was 5:15.
I haphazardly tossed the phone in its receiver and bolted from my seat only to run into Steve. He had some cutesy comment that I didn’t have time for so I gave him a little shove to the side with a strict admonition. “Get out of my way. I’ve got a wedding to go to.” Just as I slammed the bathroom door, I heard his response.
“Am I invited to it?”
“Not if you keep annoying me.” Was my immediate response.
By the grace of God, I managed to get myself wedding ready and make the 20 minute drive down the mountain in 45 minutes. We pulled into the parking lot of the chapel at exactly 6 pm.
All was going well, until we hit the swearing of the vows portion. Because of my hearing, disability I often mishear things. So, when I thought the minister asked me to vow to “obey” I had to interrupt.
“I’m sorry. Could you repeat that?”
Before the minister could respond Steve said, “Is this a problem for you?”
“Well, yeah, if he said obey.” I retorted, much to the minister’s amusement.
“Really?” Steve asked. I couldn’t tell if his laughter was at me or with me. Either way, it didn’t matter because we both knew I couldn’t uphold an obey promise so there was no sense pretending. I sighed. “How surprised can you really be?” The minister was clearly laughing at me but I forged on. “If there is anything about me that you have seen, heard or thought that makes you think I’m willing to blindly obey you we certainly don’t need to be getting married.”
By now the minister, and his assistant (our sole witness to the marriage) was doing all they could to contain their laughter. I looked into the eyes of the man I was marrying and saw my own humor reflected there. He knew exactly what he was getting. We both laughed, effectively giving the minister and our witness permission to do the same.
In the 15 years we have been married we have endured what most people don’t encounter in a lifetime. Our life together has been painfully difficult a vast majority of the time. But just as we did on that cold, crazy night in 1998, we have managed to laugh our way through the worst of worst. And the crazy thing is, we prefer the all the difficulties that come with being married to each other than we do to any possibility of having an easier life married to someone else.
Some things can’t be faked, bought, or imagined. Our loving companionship, joy, and laughter are something that my little girl fantasies never knew existed. Every little girl should know fairytales aren’t true. Yet, they should also know that with the right person marriage is greater beyond all their dreams.