Sunday, November 8, 2009

My dream wedding... and how the Army changed it.

For a few days now, I've been thinking about the things about my life that will change because of the military. Not in a bad way, just changed. Sometimes even for the better! And a girl friend of mine is experiencing this first hand while trying to plan a wedding with her deployed soldier. So here's my wedding, first the wedding I wanted as a young girl, and then the wedding I got when I decided to marry a soldier.

I wanted a winter wedding at Wiederkehr Wine Cellars, a wine village my grandfather helped design. In their big dark red ballroom. With white lights everywhere. And my brother officiating at the top of the staircase. Me in a long white dress. Hubs in a nice dark gray suit. Sit down dinner for everyone. And then dancing! Very low-key and casual but super fun!

So Joe flew in from Germany in January 2007. He proposed on my birthday, January 20th. We had an amazing night. But he had to fly back to Germany two days later. And I had to concentrate on college. So we were planning a December wedding; a whole year for my mom and me to plan this thing. Very do-able. I was just about to put down a $500 non-refundable deposit on my dream ballroom when Joe calls me. He can get leave in June. Whoa. Okay, so now no winter wedding. Okay, that's fine. But the ballroom might still be do-able! Okay, lets plan this sucker! And then another call. How about August? Okay, no big deal. But the $500 deposit cant be wasted on a date that might not happen at all. So the ballroom isn't possible at all. Okay, that's fine. But where do we have a wedding that doesn't require a set date? Yep, my parents' backyard! It's big enough for my whole crazy family. And FREE!! Everything changed, down to the wedding colors! Now they are celadon and tangerine. (Although, I was told by a wedding planner that celadon was the "it" color that year. Who would have guessed I was in fashion!!) So another phone call. Now his leave is in July. Can we have it July 7, 2007? That would be freaking awesome!! Nope, sorry, Joe cant fly in until July 10th. So in February, my mother and I have basically 4 months to plan a wedding. My mother did an AWESOME job! The whole family pulled together to fix up the back yard. It was beautiful by the time we had the wedding. Lush green ferns, Gerber daises, and tiny orange flowers my grandma potted for us. We didn't have a set date until two weeks out. Which means that we couldn't special order any invitations. I did them all my hand. Which was okay by me, because I'm very picky about stuff like that. But we had two weeks to send them out to family. But my family being my family, they already knew the issues we were dealing with and didn't care about the short notice. Joe flew in on July 10th. We had three days to get the marriage license and Joe's wedding vest (didn't make him wear a jacket in the July heat).

We got married on Friday, July 13th, 2007 at 6pm. In my parents' back yard. Surrounded by 150 people I love. And in that moment, I realized that even though it wasn't the dream wedding I planned as a child, it was my dream wedding because I got to marry this boy. And I got to marry him on the porch I used to play on as a child. I got to marry him in front of everyone I care about. I got to marry Joe. And it didn't matter where we were. My mother still cried.
Did we get a honeymoon. Sorta. We went to spa-tastic Eureka Springs, AR, and stayed there for a few nights. It was so nice. Just me and Joe. I hadn't been alone with him for that many days straight in literally YEARS. He got 21 days leave. But travel time was included in that. So only a week later, Joe had to fly back to Germany for 4 more months. I was a newlywed without my partner. And it sucked.
Looking back at the whole ordeal, this almost seems like an Army wife orientation. How can YOU handle planning the biggest day of YOUR life around the Army's schedule? You cant get mad at anyone about it. Your husband has no control over any of it. But if you can plan a wedding on the Army's time table, you can plan anything on the Army's schedule! Now, I know that someone out there is an Army wife that had her perfect wedding while also marrying a soldier. But I don't know any of them! Many of my Army wife friends had fly-by weddings as their husbands were breezing through. As far as I can tell, this is the norm in the Army. Couples have courthouse weddings in anticipation of a real church wedding later on. But I know that only a handful of those women actually get the church wedding they are waiting for. Life gets in the way (isn't that a song?). But at the end of the day, we are all married to the love of our lives. So what does it matter?
So did the Army change my plans? Most definitely. But I like to think it was for the better. I loved my wedding. I got the low-key casual event I wanted. I have a gorgeous scrapbook to show for it (thanks mom!!) and the love of my life upstairs snoring in our bed. So I'm going to take this lesson with me on my PCS move. No one can control the Army. You just have to go with the flow. Something I'm not good at, but I'm learning. And by the time this craziness is over in 16 years, I'll be a pro at it!


Julie said...

I loved reading your wedding story! I think you guys did good considering all the date changes and everything. We were married during his time out of the Army so I did get to plan everything the way I wanted it. But most of the other wives I have met did not. It is very normal to not have things exactly the way you wanted to.

We have the same birthday too...Jan 20th :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this story, Sara! I found myself nodding as I read with a smile each time your wedding date changed. I think we all have these "orientation" events in our military lives and, sister, you passed the test with flying colors!! Your great attitude and obvious love for your Soldier has already made you one great Army wife!

HellcatBetty said...

Aww, I love this story :) So very Army. I'm one of the lucky few who actually got the wedding of her dreams, but it wasn't without some Army induced hiccups along the way! Hubs was gone for all but one week in the three months before the wedding and I couldn't even contact him to get info. And then his lovely (sarcasm) best man assigned himself and one of the other groomsmen to a funeral 3 hours away (they were all on the funeral honors team at the time) the day of the wedding. I wanted to murder him. But in the end it all turned out well and the wedding was gorgeous. Best day of my life by a landslide :)

Tonja +Jere + Kids said...

my wedding story is similar...we eloped and cashed in the money with that he bought me a house and not too upset. years later i still have all the wedding stuff we couldn't send back or get a refund and I still have my dress which I can fit in. My husband says that in maybe five years he promised before I turn 40 lol we will renew our vows and have the swanky 40K wedding that we should have had years ago. excited.:)

kelly said...

HI i'm an english army wife who's hubby is out in Afghan at the moment. I'm loving this blog - it rings true with a lot of things - not just the wedding planning nightmare. I'm going to read that book.

Anonymous said...

Hey, my boyfriend just deployed about a month ago to Afgan. He keeps telling me not to worry about him, just to worry about the wedding when he gets home, i dunno which is harder, lol. I know i have at least a year until he comes home, but won't know exactly when until it hits me haha. He is stationed in Germany, so when he comes back from Afgan he goes straight to Germany and then from there he should find out when he gets his month leave..but that will take anywhere from 1 to 3 months. Now when and after the wedding, he goes back and changes his paperwork for me to come over there with him will take another 2-6 months. I mean i know is the Army and everything and i am very laid back when it comes to planning things, but i think they should let you have dates to when they can come home a little bit more in advance so they can plan their wedding. I know i have time but i just don't know where to start. I have been looking at wedding dresses online to get an idea of where to shop and what i think i like. As far as the reception site that will have to wait until 1-3 months before the actual date. I am really hoping that it will be in the winter so there is a better chance to get the place that we want.