On December 30, 2003, my husband and I got married on a sandy beach in the Dominican Republic, just as the sun set.
Were I to leave that story there, it would be beautiful.
The behind-the-scenes details are more heartbreaking, starting with arriving to the country weeks before the wedding and realizing that the cash we had saved up and wired to my father to pass on to the wedding planner and all the vendors servicing our wedding had in fact been spent on other things not related to our wedding at all, leaving us not only in shock and heartbroken that someone whom we trusted would steal from us in that way, but also that we now had no choice but to pay for everything, on a credit card, so that we could get married. All this as guests were arriving to the scene. My relationship with my dad has never been a great one, but as I grew older I wanted to heal those wounds and brings us closer together. People thought it crazy that I would entrust the most special day of my life to someone whom many felt didn’t deserve it, but I didn’t listen.
In addition to the horrible violation of trust, the hotel we were getting married in mistook me for a prostitute as I walked in from the beach with my white husband and banned me entry. The scene was so insane that the wedding planner had to give me a special wrist band to wear so that employees would know that this dark-skinned girl with this white man was not offering sexual services, but actually paying a lot to be there. To take on the racism so endemic to this country on top of the family break down that was happening was a lot.
Our ceremony, which we had meant to only include a few of our closest friends and family, instantly became a showcasing of social status by my father (these idiocies mean a lot in countries like ours). Over 200 people showed up, almost none of which we knew or had any connection to. Generals, politicians, executives and members of the Dominican elite. My father showed off the wedding, the disappearance of the money for which he never explained to us, as a grand accomplishment of his. None of the guests he invited, except for one, gave us a gift and while we danced with our closest friends and family in the adjacent ballroom to the live band playing none of the music we had specifically requested, all the guests left with the center pieces we had shipped in from Pottery Barn, without so much as a goodbye, and with a piece of cake my step-mother felt generous enough to give away without consulting us.
You know how it is tradition to keep the top layer of the cake for a year after the wedding? Yeah, she gave that away too. By the time we took a break from dancing and walked out of the ballroom into the beautiful Spanish courtyard where the reception was being held all the guests had gone, the cake crumbs covered in ants, with only the hotel linens left on the tables. And that, my friends, is just the gist of it. There is so much more in the in-betweens.
By the time our honeymoon came around, my husband and I had experience so much emotional distress that we fell ill. I cried for days and not out of joy. We left the country and broke ties with that part of our family forever. We even left without our wedding certificate. After we got back to NYC and recovered from our physical ailments, we headed to city hall and got married, then had pie with a handful of friends.
That was 13 years ago and even as I write it today, my eyes well up.
Needless to say, a do-over was in order. But we spent many years paying back that credit card debt, then babies came, then life, and though we have talked about a ceremony in Scotland (to honor my husband’s heritage, and because I love the country so much), we just never got around to doing it.
Fast forward to this past weekend.
My husband had purchased tickets to the Elle King concert months ago. I was excited, but a lot has happened since he first told me about the concert. Lots of travel, lots of work, tons of homeschooling hours and the election.
Oy, the election. It’s been a lot.
But this past weekend my husband, who is an incredible introvert, tells me that he had submitted our wedding story to Elle King’s management. Turns out that the singer/songwriter/actress is also an ordained minister and had started to marry couples in different shows throughout her Ministry Tour. So, he submitted our story and we were chosen!
Honestly, I couldn’t process it. Any of it. My husband is one of the most romantic men I have ever met but he is also not big on the “doing stuff in front of thousands of people” kind of guy. Yet, there he was, as giddy as a school boy, almost dancing at the news. I was in shock.
And I stayed in a state of “what is happening” for most of this experience.
We arrived to the Beacon Theatre in NYC and it wasn’t until we met King’s assistant, who walked us through what would happen, that I started to realize this was really happening.
She asked us what we loved the most about each other.
I love that he balances me. His laid back, soft spoken demeanor is my zen. I love how everyone who knows him really likes him a lot. He is one of those guys people really feel comfortable with. Whereas, I am not that immediately endearing at all.
He said he loved my strong personality and confidence, and courage to just take things on.
Except on this night. Standing back stage, watching King rock the stage with her sultry voice and Blues melodies, I felt frozen. I looked at the crowd. There were a lot of people.
Mind you, I have been on a stage before. Performed in front of thousands of people myself, none of which adored me the way this crowd adored her of course.
We went out on stage, the crowd was sweet and applauded and cheered us on. Ms. King, now wearing a white robe, lead us into our vows. “Do you promise to always be best friends?” My husband yells into the mic, “I DO!!” I in turn gave a shy response, encouraged later on to be louder by Ms. King herself. She went through the vows and I fought back the tears. I looked at my husband, smiling at me from ear to ear, in awe of him and what he had done. For us.
Photo courtesy of the Beacon Theatre by Carl Scheffel/MSG Photos
Then we kissed and the crowd cheered some more as Ms. King serenaded us to Oh Darling by The Beatles. My husband danced like I had never seen him dance before, I fought to fight back the tears. He would move his body away from me, and I would pull him closer not wanting him to let go of me at that moment – or ever.
I needed to sleep on that experience to even feel I had processed it all. It was surreal, and sweet, and unbelievably romantic.
Photo courtesy of the Beacon Theatre by Carl Scheffel/MSG Photos
What a crazy, wonderful gift both from my husband and Elle King. I am still in awe of it.
And so this is now our wedding story.
I often think back at that horribly sad experience that was our wedding in the Dom. Rep. and the light that was always present was my husband. How he comforted me and dried my tears, how he held my hand strong and held me tight. I lost a lot then, but it is nothing compared to what I walked away with: an incredible, sweet, loving man, a friend who has stood by me through it all, loves me for all I am – good and bad, and continues to give me so much still. Last night we were able to celebrate that.
Our wedding didn’t define our love for each other, or the path of our relationship. That thing, that one ugly moment in time, didn’t break us. It tested us and we won. 13 years later I can’t imagine a life without him, I am more in love than I was back then. Whatever negativity surrounded us then, it did nothing to who we are together.
Cab ride home, still can’t believe it.
Thank you to Elle King, her band, and her team for this incredible gift. Thank you to the Beacon Theatre for the beautiful photographs (now we have ones we can actually show off!), and thank you to my husband, Travis. There aren’t really any words that encapsulate all I feel and want to say, so I promise you to show you instead for all the days of our lives. I am so thankful to you all for reminding me of all the kindness and love still left in this world. Humanity has a way of failing us sometimes, but last night was a symbol of how great it can also be. As we left the theatre strangers cheered for us, congratulated us, high-fived us, and were just so incredibly happy for us. I might be crying over this moment for a few days, but this time, from sheer joy.