As soon as I said, "Yes, I'll marry you," I panicked. Had I actually uttered those four bombshells?
Ken was ecstatic. I was trembling. Not that I didn't want to marry him, but now that I said yes, things would happen. Plans would be made.
Already, Ken was compiling lists of people to call, reception sites to check out, and honeymoon locations to consider. He was contemplating names for our first-born child when I wailed, "Slow down!"
"Don't worry," he chirped. Everything will be just fine. The main thing is, we're getting married."
That's what Ken kept saying for the next six months, and that's what I recited every time I panicked. Choosing a ring, shopping for my gown, and hiring a caterer and band threw me into temporary tailspins, but I kept repeating Ken's mantra.
By the time I dropped the invitations into the mail, I felt like Alice in Wonderland tumbling down the rabbit hole. Things were beyond my control. Much later, after the wedding, I was sorting through some biographies and found I was not the first spouse-to-be with jitters. Several famous people had been afflicted, too.
"I don't know why, but I am simply terrified of the wedding ceremony," wrote Anton Chekhov to his fiancee in 1901. If the world-famous Russian playwright was scared silly, why not me? He told Olga Knipper he'd marry her only if she swore to tell no one in advance. Mum's the word, said Olga, but Anton fretted anyway, and arranged a luncheon for their friends, held at the same time in a different place as the nuptials. By the time the guests figured out what had happened, the newlyweds were on their honeymoon.
"I wish the awful day was over," naturalist Charles Darwin wrote to Emma Wedgwood in 1839. She was amused by "Charley's" lists debating the virtues and vices of matrimony: Not marrying meant "freedom to go where one liked" and "not being forced to visit relatives," but marriage would bring love and "a constant companion." They celebrated afterward, on a honeymoon train bound for London, and soon settled down to a lifelong love-filled marriage.
"Got to thinking about Mina and came near being run over by a streetcar," Thomas Edison wrote. The great inventor fell in love fast, but he wondered if he would survive the wedding. "I'm getting pretty scared," he told Mina, his bride-to-be. "I wonder if I will pull through. I know you will; women have more nerve than men." If Edison believed that, he certainly didn't know me!
I could relate to Eleanor Roosevelt's anxieties as she prepared for her St. Patrick's Day wedding in New York in 1905. "Try and forget the crowd and only think of Franklin," her aunt advised. She also told Eleanor to drink a cup of strong tea, "to give you color and make you feel well." Eleanor was a wreck because the St. Pat's marching bands and hundreds of noisy people were parading by the Fifth Avenue town house. The throngs of well-wishers almost prevented President Teddy Roosevelt - who was giving away the bride - from getting through the door!
I was a catatonic bundle of nerves throughout my engagement. What if the band forgot to show up? What if the guests hated the soup? And what if my love for Ken wouldn't last the lifetime stretching before us? Fortunately, he was the essence of calm.
Two days before our wedding, I lapsed into a remarkably composed, tranquil condition. All the arrangements were in apple-pie (maybe I should say wedding-cake) order.
I still celebrate my marriage to Ken, the man whom I continue to fall in love with every day, after 33 years. As the Scottish author Sir Walter Scott said when he married Charlotte Carpenter, "When care comes, we will laugh it away, or if the load is too heavy we will sit down and share it between us till it becomes almost as light as pleasure itself."
Every couple should be so lucky.
Copyright (c) Susan J. Gordon
Published in Brides, June/July 2000