NOT QUITE THIRTY – Marilyn Armstrong

We are about to celebrate our 29th  wedding anniversary. As I ponder the upcoming 29th — a year short of the big 3-0 — I hear distant bells.

I remember the wedding. The thrill of ultimate victory, the agony of getting there. How, by the time I got to the altar, I was a nervous wreck, but Garry was cool as the proverbial cucumber and looked dashing in his tuxedo.

After it was clearly established that we were definitely, unquestionably, without any doubt, getting married, it came down to details. Dates. Rings. Caterers. Bakers. Flowers. Music. Photography. Videography. And (trumpets) a ceremony.

I had been married twice before — okay, three times because I’d been married in a registry office in London, then the whole Jewish medieval ceremony in Jerusalem. Having been there and done that. I wanted to elope or maximum, go to city hall, have the mayor marry us. He would have. We knew the guy and still do.

We could have been married at City Hall, I’d toss a bouquet, someone would throw some confetti, and voilà. Married. After that, we and our actual friends could all go out for Chinese.

Garry wanted a Real Wedding.

He was 48 years old. Never married. This would be his one and only wedding and by golly, he was going to Do It Right.

“I want a real wedding. In the church in which I grew up. In New York,” says Garry. “And I want my old pastor to officiate.”

“Pastor G. is retired … like fifteen years ago.”

“I’m sure we can work it out.” When he said we, I thought he meant he and I would do this thing together. Because where I come from, that’s what “we” means. I was delusional.

“Why can’t we just do something in Boston? New York is 250 miles away. You haven’t lived there in 30 years. Everyone you know except your parents live in Boston or some other part of the country.”

Garry’s face was set and stony. He wanted a hometown wedding in the church he attended as a child. With the Pastor who ran the church when he was a kid. Who was very retired.

Did I mention my husband is stubborn? He is very stubborn.

“This is going to be a lot of work. It’s hard to plan a wedding long distance,” I point out. “And I have a full-time job. in case you’ve forgotten.” Garry is unfazed.

“We can,” he repeats, “Work it out.” There was that we again.

“Fine,” I eventually agree. “We’ll have a wedding. In New York. At your church.”

There were caterers to hire. Music to be arranged. A bagpiper (don’t ask). Battles over the guest list. A cake to be designed. The cake was my favorite part. It went like this. Having settled on a vanilla cake with lemon filling, we needed to decide on decorations.

“Do you want the bride and groom in white or black?”

“Can we have one of each?” No, we could not. In 1990, they do not have a mixed couple cake topper. I offered to take a marker and paint the groom black, but inexplicably, Garry found this objectionable. I suggested they take two sets and cut them in half, but it was deemed too complicated. In the end, I opted for wedding bells, the DMZ of wedding cake toppers.

So, Garry got his wedding. It was (for him) as simple as simple could be. Marilyn arranged the wedding. Garry showed up in a tux.

You see? We worked it out.

P.S. I eventually learned that “we’ll work it out” always meant “you’ll take care of it for me.” That included moving, packing, unpacking, cooking, arranging vacations, airline tickets, mortgages, and car loans. For Garry, it meant “show up nicely dressed and smile.”

Categories: Anecdote, Humor, Marilyn Armstrong, Marriage, Relationships

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45 replies

  1. Isn’t “we” always the royal version? That’s how it works in our household. You’ve reminded me why T and I have been happily unmarried for 33 years — I’ve always been too busy to organise the wedding.


    • I don’t know how I did it. Honestly. I think I called in every favor anyone owed me. We’ve gotten remarried a couple of times since. Once it was a barbecue in the backyard with the tallest Pastor our church every had. Garry and I looked like hobbits and he looked like a wizard. The other one was at the JP down the block. Garry asked if we should invite people and i said HE could invite people, but I wasn’t doing it. We went out to dinner afterward, THAT was a wedding.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. congratulations to you both. The surprises come as they do. Cheers!


  3. I had a friend who got married for the first time at age fifty! He had to have everything just so too.


    • I think that was at least a big part of the reason. He knew he was only going to get married once and until we got together, I don’t think he thought he would ever marry. So it had to be Just Right. I didn’t mind it being “just right.” I minded doing it all by myself.


  4. Ah – you say you are ‘pissed off’ by 29 years of you doing the grunt work and Garry showing up dressed well and smiling. Those of us in the tree seats (obscure reference to Neil Diamond and an outdoor concert he once gave. He gave a shout out to ‘the people in the trees’, who were free loaders, who had climbed those trees and gotten comfy to hear the music without the price tag. This was a long time ago obviously) … those of us in the tree seats see the love between you two. The caring and the devotion. You’ve lasted 29 years after all and are going on to 30. Which you’ll make, perhaps grumbling still. But the bond carries you along. I see it and I admit to being a bit envious. Because my husband is gone, and even if he weren’t, we wouldn’t be together. We made eighteen years, which still shocks me. But the bond frayed and broke and we were headed to splitsville. I envy those who love despite the grunt work and the ordinary days and still stick together. It’s amazing.


    • I think once you get past the wedding, if you’ve got a working relationship, the rest is relatively easy compared to the wedding. I STILL think we should have eloped. I’ve decided that no one should spend money on a wedding, but blow the bank account on the honeymoon. That, unlike the wedding, is really FUN.

      I’m sure there are a lot of people who spent themselves into oblivion on a wedding followed by a divorce a few years later. Have the big party for year number 10 or 20. THAT is when you know you’ve made it. It’s not like we are the royal family and hey, even THEY are getting divorced these days. Who’d have thought that would happen?


  5. Happy Anniversary! Love the story and all the pictures.


  6. Happy anniversary. We’re about to celebrate our 41st, but neither of us were previously married. Sometimes I’m amazed that we made it this long. It’s been quite a ride.


    • Relationships are bumpy and no one said they would be easy. I keep being surprised at the stupid reasons people get divorced. It sounds — often — to me that they never really sat down and made a serious effort to work through the problems. I know there are things you can’t work out, but a lot of things that are “impossible” are not impossible — just difficult and require a lot of patience plus love and affection.

      You have to know when to let it go and when to push on it. A good marriage doesn’t happen in a couple of years. It isn’t dating so when you get a little bored or tired, you give up.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Happy Anniversary to both of you! My husband and I just celebrated the 40th anniversary of our first date (married 38 years). Where has the time gone?


  8. For all that, you looked beautiful and Garry looked dashing. NOt to mention you seem well suited and happy together. Bonus!


  9. Congratulations on your nearly 30th Wedding Anniversary, Marilyn and Garry. You made – and still make – a lovely couple. I hope you enjoy your special day nearly three decades on. 🙂


  10. Happy Anniversary!


    • Thanks. At least we survived the wedding. Towards the end, my eyes were rolling back into my head. And he couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t remember my vows. I could remember the guest list — even though 20 extra people showed up.


  11. A very happy anniversary to you guys. Lovely pictures. I think when say “we” they mostly mean “you”.


  12. I think it’s really sweet that Garry wanted the big wedding. It meant a lot to him.


  13. Isn‘t that exactly what we women do????? I never knew any different. That‘s also why we may look worn out at our own wedding while our new husbands look so bloody dashing and smiling….. 🙂


  14. And you have the memories of the great day.


    • I remember my feet REALLY hurt. I’m pretty sure that was the last time I wore really high heels. I needed the jaws of life to remove my shoes. But our honeymoon was GREAT. Two weeks in Ireland was phenomenal.


  15. Ha! Ah, yes…the ever popular ‘we.’ Love this, Marilyn.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Evidently this method of doing things has worked for both of you:)

    Liked by 1 person


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