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Wedding day advice for a daughter

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.”

— Mignon McLaughlin

Twenty-six years ago Mr. Wonderful and I eloped. A surprise wedding that was a surprise even to the bride! I knew I was getting married, of course. I just didn’t know that it would be that particular day.

We had no flowers, no cake, no bridal party and no regrets. A perfect(ish) marriage has always meant more to me than the perfect wedding. At least that is what I said before my own baby girl, the heart of my heart, was getting married.

By the time you read this it will be just 48 hours until GirlWonder’s wedding day, God willing. I am writing this now to future me: there will be enough cookies. Your mother-of-the-bride dress will look fine. Something is bound to happen and if we can all look back and laugh — we are blessed. Remember to enjoy the moments so the whole day isn’t just a blur.

This is a simple wedding. Old-fashioned really. They will be married in a small white clapboard country church just a few miles from our home. Guests will then go to the “banquet hall” in her husband’s hometown. Remember those? Before everyone started getting married in barns and on bridges and such things, banquet halls were the norm. Drop ceiling adorned spaces decorated in the glitzy style of decades past with an ample supply of buffet tables, a dance floor and a disco ball. Even better if it’s a VFW hall.

The food will be plentiful, the cake will be cut and we pray a good and blessed time will be had by all.

I plan to cry and sniffle most of the day — from joy of course.

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I once wrote that the quality of a father can be seen in the goals, dreams and aspirations he sets not only for himself but for his family. Accordingly, when GirlWonder visibly swooned learning her Handsome Boyfriend™ (later fiance) could back up a trailer — I knew her daddy had set the bar high.

All this girl will need to be happy is someone who dotes on her and thinks she is beautiful and smart while also being able to fix all the things, trailer a boat, be a hard worker, always be up for a good time and offer up a dad joke or two. In this, our daughter has chosen very well. Her fiance is a lovely young man, a newly commissioned Second Lieutenant and business graduate. He is outgoing and friendly, hardworking, humorous and above all, kind.

I hope in all the years of raising these beautiful children we have given them an excellent foundation and role models. I also hope I have not given them unrealistic expectations of marriage.

We cannot believe for a second that our work is done when we find “the one.” My favorite marriage advice, which I have not followed perfectly but do still make a priority is this: be kind. Do not save your best self for colleagues, friends and strangers. Speak to your spouse with actual manners. If you wouldn’t take that tone with a stranger or smiling neighbor, don’t take it with your partner either. Be frustrated not at each other but at whatever is currently frustrating you.

My other rule of thumb — or lips: use your words. Speak up (kindly). State your intentions, needs, hopes and dreams. Even if this is just hoping that your partner will take on the grocery shopping this week because you don’t have a minute to spare. Often, we expect our partner to intuitively know what we need, with it a shoulder to cry on, personal space, or for them to please, for the love of all that is good and holy, please pick up their shoes. Unless you married a psychic, you need to speak up, nicely.

The flash of the wedding photographer and the shine of the disco ball will fade. If you are so blessed you get time. Time to learn. Time to grow. Time to age and, one hopes, gain patience along with wisdom.

GirlWonder and her handsome soon-to-be-husband are young and gorgeous and full of big dreams and the skills to make them come true. They should always be proud of that — and also of the fact that in 25 years they will not be the same people they are today. If they are fortunate, marriage will mold them into even better people.

The fact that 26 years with the exact same person has gone by so quickly is both a blessing and quite a surprise. 26 years? How does that happen? It happens with laughter, and smiles, burnt meals, broken down cars, boredom, bickering (we’re human) and a whole lot of mercy too.

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