by Jessica Lynn
Last month I took one of the best trips of my life. It wasn’t to the Amazon or Asia, and I didn’t travel around Europe or Australia. Instead, one arm grasped around my dad’s arm and the other held tight to a fragrant bouquet of light pink carnations and roses as I took my last steps as a single lady.
My journey to wedded bliss began more than four years ago when, thanks to the military, my then boyfriend/now husband and I were living across the country from each other. He was stationed in Georgia and I was living in New Mexico. Not only did people tell me how hard it was to date someone in the military, but they also said a long-distance relationship would never last. After using our hard-earned vacation time to see each other, making sure communication and trust were number one priorities in our relationship, and racking up thousands of frequent flier miles, we made it work.
He proposed on Valentine’s Day in 2009 while I was visiting him, and after a short celebratory weekend, I flew home with an engagement ring sparkling on my left hand and started planning our wedding.
Luckily, my husband didn’t deploy over the course of our engagement, but the military still played a hand in influencing the specifics for the wedding. The date of the wedding was determined by when his best man and groomsman returned from their deployments.
During that year I walked, talked, blogged, ate, slept, and dreamt about our wedding. New words like boudoir, pomanders, and thermography became part of my every-day vocabulary. I could talk for hours about our color pallet, the latest in D-I-Y projects I was working on, and found all the latest must-have trends for our Twenty-Ten wedding.
We did our best to focus on the marriage since we knew the wedding, in retrospect, would only be one day out of our lives. But the pressure to have that “perfect” wedding overwhelmed every sane thought I conceived, and my one-track wedding-centric mind quickly went into overhaul. I spent countless nights fretting and worrying over petty problems—would our guests really care if chairs had seat covers or if the table overlay matched the napkins? Luckily, the man I was marrying saw through the crazy talk and was constantly there—even from miles away—to help me see a light at the end of the tunnel.
When I woke up the morning of my wedding, all of my anxiety and worrisome fears completely disappeared. I was unusually calm while getting ready and my hairdresser even confirmed my Zen state-of-mind when she told me she “felt an aura of peace” surrounding me as she curled strands of my long hair.
As I slipped into my pristine wedding gown and had my best friends lace the corset back, the excitement began to build. I attached my late grandmother’s blue broach to the front of the dress as my something “blue,” and my mom fastened my veil to the crown of my head (the veil was made out of her wedding gown and served as my “something old”). And for the final touch, my sister-in-law handed over my “something borrowed,” which was a gift she received as her “something old” for her wedding. The hanky she let me borrow was made out of a bonnet my brother wore as he came home from the hospital as a baby.
With everything in place and ready to go, it was the moment we had all been waiting for. I gathered my gown, walked to the chapel, and took long, deep breaths. Since I wanted my grand entrance to include the two chapel doors swinging open to welcome me inside, I had to wait outside in the very cold, windy elements. The wind was blowing my hair in every direction so as I crouched down into a squatting position, our wedding planner held her jacket open to block the wind. I never thought I’d have to perform squats on my wedding day.
I was so concerned with staying warm and not looking like a tornado just whirled through my hair that I almost didn’t realize what was happening, because before I knew it, we received the cue that it was time for my dad to walk me down the aisle.
I gasped and giggled out loud as the doors opened to the small New Mexican chapel, taking in the sight before my eyes. Never in my life have I seen so many eyes, cameras, and friendly, smiley faces all focused on me. The whole experience was completely overwhelming and for a split second I felt a little bit like Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride.
But then I saw my future husband standing at the front of the chapel in his full Air Force tuxedo and suddenly the paparazzi in the pews vanished. The second our eyes connected, the smile on my face grew until my cheeks were physically hurting, and I almost ran towards him when I saw a tear roll down the side of his face.
When we reached the front of the chapel, my dad let go of my arm, asked the new man in my life to take care of his little girl, and then gave me away. The short ceremony flew by faster than I ever could have imagined, and before I knew it, we were vowing to love and honor each other for the rest of our lives.
Towards the end of the ceremony I noticed the Air Force Honor Guard filing down the aisle in perfect formation. Their timing was perfect, because just as they reached the front of the chapel, it was time for our kiss. And as the pastor pronounced us as husband and wife, the honor guard swiftly raised their sabers allowing us to walk underneath the arch.
As we walked under the arch, the saber bearers lowered their sabers and detained us until we kissed. Then they released us until we took another step to reach the next pair of saber bearers where we repeated our kiss. At the very last stop, they requested a kiss, but just as they released us to continue on our way, the last saber bearer gently swatted my behind and said to me, “Welcome to the United States Air force, Ma’am.”
If I weren’t so gosh-darn, overwhelmingly happy and excited, I would've broke down and cried right then and there. It was that moment when I realized that I was no longer a girlfriend or fiancé, but had finally made the long journey to becoming his wife.
Jessica Lynn, thanks to the Air Force, lives in Georgia. Her husband is currently deployed, but she's hanging in there and keeping busy. She's a stay-at-home wife and freelance writer with a penchant for cupcakes, spicy food, chick flicks, cooking, and snail mail.