When Garry proposed, I was shocked. That was not supposed to happen. He was 48. I was 43 and had been married twice. My first husband (still alive) was Garry’s best friend. It was (really) complicated.

I had finally managed to get unmarried to number two which was made a lot more difficult because I needed an Israeli board of Rabbis in Jerusalem to agree. You’d be surprised how difficult that can be. They are not modern guys.

Photo: Debbie Stone

After I got over the shock, I realized we would have a wedding, about which I was not enthusiastic. I have never been enthusiastic about weddings. But Garry wanted the whole thing. Flowers,  music, and his pastor from childhood who was retired, but he dragged out of retirement for the occasion … and of course, me. Also, it had to be in New York at his childhood church rather than in Boston where we lived — and where Garry had lived for more than 25 years.

Having told me what he wanted for a wedding, Garry retired and let me deal with it. He figured out I would do everything and he could show up in a tuxedo. Voila! Done and done.

Somewhere in Ireland

The whole thing’s a blur. Luckily, I have it on a DVD. As a bride, you get moved around, told where to stand. You wear shoes so painful you need the jaws of life to remove them from your feet. Also, the gown had no shoulders, so I had to wear a corset. It was a hot September and beneath the corset, I was bathed in sweat. There were stockings with garters, a veil, flowers, coiffed hair, and more makeup than is suitable for a very warm day. Sheesh.

As for the date, it would be when Garry’s baby brother, the honorable Dr. Anton Armstrong, conductor of the St. Olaf’s Choir wasn’t going to be on the road with the choir. We wanted him to sing — and he wanted to sing — but he’s a busy guy. Then there was a bagpiper (my first husband insisted). My Maid of Honor wanted to sing (lovely voice) … and another friend was going to sing too. NO way we were getting away with simple music and anyway, Garry has a streak of Hollywood director in his soul, so we made no plans for the reception, but staged a big show for the ceremony.

That was September 15th,1990, so it will be 30 years this year. Time sure has hurried by.

When people asked if they could bring their kids, we said “absolutely not” and they brought them anyway. Garry’s mother invited all her best friends because she was Garry’s Mom and felt she could do whatever she wanted. And she did.

I wanted to go to City Hall and have the Mayor marry us. He was a pretty good friend then — still IS a friend, though he’s long out of office. We could have had a nice little ceremony on the steps of city hall, grabbed a plane at Logan and headed for Ireland. But we had to have a wedding. I think we were the ONLY people to invite 86 people and end up with 110 people attending. No one refused.

Everyone came. “You mean — GARRY is getting MARRIED? I’ve gotta BE there!” He was Boston’s longest surviving bachelor, so this was an occasion for all and sundry. It was a great wedding which I know because we have the DVD. A couple of years ago, we transferred it from tape to DVD having discovered that mylar tape corrodes rather quickly. Who knew?

With a few exceptions, we know all the same people today we knew then. Funny how that works.

I suppose we stayed married because we were determined to make it work. We really cared about each other. Love is important in a marriage, but I have to say it is the friendship that keeps it going. When the flush of romance has been crushed under the pressure of two full-time jobs, all Mr. Romance wants to do is sit around the apartment watching baseball. Being friends helps.

Love is a grand thing, but a deep and abiding friendship lasts forever. So, if I were you, I’d call a time-out at a big wedding and spend the money on a fabulous honeymoon. Honeymoon food is better and you don’t have to wear high heels.

Categories: humor, Marilyn Armstrong, Marriage, Photography

Tags: , , , , , ,

28 replies

  1. Lovely! We got married October 13th 1990. Congrats to you and us!! Friendship is the key.


  2. This is perfect for Valentine’s Day Marilyn. It really is a romantic story.


  3. This is spot on! I totally agree with you on the recipe for survival in a marriage: Friendship, respect, care!
    We all can and do Fall in Love, and we can and often do Fall out of Love. We all have ‘our moments’. But then Not to give up but maybe realise all the Good Things we might lose if throw in the towel. Then, friendship is what keeps us going.
    Your marriage ‘story’ is delightful, funny, surprising and you both had to be madly in love with each other that it all came together: You the anti-marriage woman and Garry (who never got married before) who wanted an unforgettable, GREAT feast! I was (a tiny bit) like you for my 2nd marriage. Hero Husband insisted 1) on a marriage and 2) with all the trimmings…. He said: I’m only going to marry once and I want the blessings not only of our parents but also God and the State…. So, I’ll go with ‘Friendship’ if and when ‘just’ Love isn’t enough.


    • I especially didn’t want a wedding out of town where neither of us had lived for years. All our friends were in Boston and organizing things like food and a cake? I had to assign those tasks to others because I was also working full time and I couldn’t get back and forth to New York — AND I had nowhere to stay when I was there. I should have just said we need to have our wedding in the same town in which we lived. God watches over Boston AND New York. We could have had the Archbishop marry us. He’d have been delighted.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. This is very heartening to read. In a recent conversation with a relative (after that horrid funeral last week), some how the conversation moved to marriage and dating (this relative has young men, who are unmarried and who can’t seem to find a nice girl (or even a bad girl) to settle down with). Nice young men, a tad naive, but nice. Relative mentioned the sobering statistics around marriages today – a very high rate of divorce. Fall out (in my opinion) of the “I Want It NOW” gratification style thinking of today’s younger generations. This relative and I both agree on no more marriages. His spouse is alive and he’d be a ‘catch’ if she were gone, but he says he would not marry again. I won’t and hubby has been gone eight years this month. Some of us aren’t suited to marriage, we’re too prone to see the greener grass on the other side of the fence or are jaded and cynical about the ability of durable marriages. I’m very glad that you & Garry are one of the ‘good marriages’ that give hope that marriage still works and is a viable and reasonable option. Bless you both!


    • We really were friends first and lovers later. That made a HUGE difference. I don’t think we’d have married at all if we hadn’t been friends. There are so many stresses in relationships that if under the romance there isn’t something solid — and friendship is a lot more solid than romance! — the bumps get bumpier and stress more stressful. And also, one of the great truths is that marriages between older people often last longer. Kids marrying each other has never been the key to long-term success.


  5. awwww love it all, and you are right about friendship. Think that gets so easily forgotten


  6. We eloped. Forty years later I would do it all over again–elope!


  7. Glad you survived the wedding… We were married on the 14th, the day before you but 7 years later 😉


  8. you and Garry are blessed, you have so much experience between you, may you both have more years in the locker, every day is a new beginning, have a great weekend, amen


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