Last week I got married.
The days leading up to the wedding were filled with last minute details, welcoming people to Palm Springs, and worrying about the 100+ degree temperatures.
I was so focused on making sure every potted plant made it to the venue and protecting myself from unwanted tan lines that I didn’t have a lot of time to focus on the real reason 170 of our closest friends and family had descended on Palm Springs.
No time, until the night before the wedding.
That night, my mom and I left the Mexican, Mariachi-band-filled rehearsal dinner a bit early and escaped to a peaceful room at a different hotel to spend one last night alone before my life changed forever.
When I closed the door and collapsed on the bed it hit me that there were no more parties to attend or obstacles to overcome to get to the wedding day. There was nothing left for me to focus on except actually getting married and facing that suddenly seemed much more frightening that catering bills or running out of tequila.
I felt my stomach start to turn and my pulse pick up.
I wasn’t nervous at all about the man I was marrying (Jason wanted me to point out) but rather that I was about to do something huge. I was about to make a decision that would change the rest of my life and I was the only person who knew if it was the right decision. It felt exhilarating and terrifying, and a little bit lonely.
Eventually, thanks to pure exhaustion and the comfort of my mom sleeping in the bed next to me, I was able to fall asleep. The next morning I woke up with my mind spinning.
I’d heard people talk about becoming an ‘us’ after marriage but I’d never liked that idea. To me, it seemed to imply that with marriage you lose a part of your identity. And now, I was about to see if that were true.
I tried to drown my anxiety in a pre-wedding carb-load but two croissants, an apple turnover, and a cinnamon role later my stomach was still fluttering.
When we arrived at the venue a few of my close friends and family were there to get ready with me. After a few minutes with them I felt myself relax a bit and by the time I slipped on my dress and snacked on a few last minute Teddy Grahams (the breakfast apparently wasn’t big enough) I was feeling calmer and ready to walk down the aisle.
Outside in the blazing sun, I took my dad’s arm and my mind started spinning again.
As we walked up the steps to the garden, I worried about being hot, I worried that my fake eyelashes were too long, and I worried I should have had fruit for breakfast.
But as soon as we rounded the corner to the garden all of those thoughts flashed out of my mind and finally, finally there was Jason.
During the ceremony, I tried to commit every moment to memory – making sure I would never forget the moment Jason called a piece of Norwegian cookie ‘Swedish’ and my whole family moaned and booed. I tried to embed on my heart the way Jason looked at me when he vowed that he had made a lot of mistakes in life but today he was doing something right.
Near the end of the ceremony our close friend (and pastor) Rachel asked Jason and I to turn around and look out at all the people who had gathered for us.
“In this moment of commitment to each other I want you to remember that though your vows are to each other, you do not go into this just the two of you…You two have found yourself in this moment today because of the years of love and support of all these people…so keep leaning on us, and keep letting us love you.”
I looked out over everyone – North Dakotans, Arizonans, and Californians. Friends who had flown all the way from India and Belgium.
All of these people had come together for us.
I realized then, with the sun shining in my eyes under the swaying palm trees, that I wasn’t just marrying Jason – I was marrying his people. And he was marrying mine.
I didn’t feel afraid anymore and I definitely didn’t feel lonely. My anxiety had melted away like most of my makeup and I felt solid and supported by momentous love that I get to hang on to and lean on for the rest of my life.
When Jason slipped that ring on my finger I felt a surge of joy that I had not just gained a husband, I had gained a tribe.
When we walked back down that aisle, Jason tripping over my dress and me smiling so wide you couldn’t see my eyes, I felt like I had been given a gift – new friends and new family that for the rest of my life I get to know and love.
As Jason and I hugged sweaty, happy friends and family I thought again about becoming an ‘us’. But I realized that maybe that didn’t just mean Jason and I – it meant everyone here.
These people had brought us to this place with their love. They had protected us and helped us our whole lives.
And now, with one simple ceremony in the dessert, we had doubled that love. This group of Lutheran, Buddhist, Norwegian, Mexican, Italian, French friends and family were tied together now.
We were all, Us.
This piece was originally written for the Fargo Forum. You can find them (and me) here.