After living together for 14 years, whenever we talked about getting married, the biggest obstacle was the wedding itself. My kids were teenagers, his were married with young children of their own. After all this time living like an old married couple, we were embarrassed to make a big deal of it. Yet we wanted our friends and family to be present.
On the Friday before a planned party to celebrate his 60th birthday with all the kids and a few friends coming, I had a light bulb moment. Here was the perfect opportunity to have it both ways! (He obviously agreed or there would be no story to tell.) I called a JP from our town. She was available and loved the idea of a surprise wedding. We ran to Town Hall for the license before it closed for the weekend and invited a few more friends to a “last minute” birthday party.
We cobbled together a marriage service with poems and readings that spoke to our situation. One quote I remember was from Camus: “Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”
Our guests arrived that June Sunday dressed for a backyard barbecue. And so were we. A friend bartended, a daughter served hors-d’oeuvres, and nobody noticed when we both disappeared to change out of our jeans and into wedding “attire” – a fancy white shirt for him, a jumpsuit for me. Then the JP got everyone’s attention and announced who she was and why: she was going to perform a wedding! People didn’t faint exactly but his daughter nearly dropped the baby. A son-in-law operating a video camera recorded the whole ceremony and later presented us with a DVD. Humorous gifts that were meant for him were transformed into wedding entertainment. Someone had brought the Dr. Seuss book, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” which was passed from guest to guest and read aloud.
…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!
What a perfect ending — to the poem and to a memorable day. It was so much fun that today we are both JPs.
P.S. If you do a surprise wedding, hopefully you’ll plan it sooner than two days before the actual event. That will give you time to arrange for flowers, music, candles and any other accoutrements that are important to you. Your guests won’t miss them, of course. They will just be happy to have been invited!