As the years pass, memories fade. One day we find ourselves relying more and more on photos, videos, and keepsakes to spark a memory of notable events in our lives. But when a memory is so special, like one that is spawned by a unique wedding occurrence, chances are that no external stimuli will ever be necessary to remember that precious moment in time.
For me, that one special wedding memory is the look on my soon-to-be-husband's face during the "repeat after me" part of our ceremony. In an unfortunate slip of the tongue he mistakenly took me to be his "awfully" wedded wife, and the lightning flash of horror and bemusement in his eyes as he realized what he had just said was priceless. A heartbeat later, he laughed, I laughed, and a groundswell of laughter filled the air as our attendants and guests joined in.
That was more than 33 years ago, and it's a moment that is seared into my memory like a brand on a steer. In the middle of all of the intensity of the wedding ritual, his innocent faux-pas was so incredibly human that it made my heart sing in a way that happens even today as that memory springs to life in my mind. I loved it, and it's forever on tape for posterity, not that I need that tape to remember it.
It occurs to me that perhaps the best wedding day memories have nothing to do with the gown or the flowers or the salmon dinner. Yet, amidst all of the wedding frills, it can be easy to lose perspective, causing us to overlook the memorable moments that have the ability to transform us.
There is no denying that the trappings are enjoyable. The exchange of vows is one of the biggest celebrations in anyone's life, and adding beauty and meaning to the occasion by planning one's "ideal" wedding is a thrilling experience all its own. But if you asked me today, so many anniversaries later, to relate the pattern of the lace on my gown, or to recall how many guests were in attendance, or to recount what caused the flowers to be arranged differently than what I had ordered, I would have to think long and hard about the details. But not so with my husband's slip-of-the-tongue declaration, or the feel of his hand on mine as we exchanged our rings, or the brush of the veil against my cheek as I made my way to the altar, my dad at my side. Those memories are as vivid as the day they were created.
I wonder if the brain has a filing system that prioritizes important memories so that down the road we can lean on them to add joy or perspective to any given day. Whatever the biological function, it seems to work, but I do wish I had known years ago that it was going to be that way. I likely would have saved a great deal of money that was spent on wedding "stuff" I can no long remember without external prompting.
It is definitely fun to pore over the photos or to watch the videos and say, "Do you remember that?" But those indelible memories that don't require any special effort to recall are the ones that resonate again and again.
When brides-to-be ask me for advice as they navigate the never-ending details that come with planning a wedding, I answer this way. "Follow your wedding day dreams to the best of your ability, but don't sweat the big stuff. It's the amazing little things that happen without any planning at all that will become a part of who you are for the rest of your life."
And if you are a former bride, I ask this. "What is the first thing about your wedding day that springs to mind? Did you discover, as I did, that the most important memories didn't cost a dime?"
Memories do fade. Perhaps that's why our brains push the essential ones to the forefront. Those "uniquely us" memories are the ones that weave themselves into the everyday lives we build from the wedding day forward. And in the end, they are the ones that matter the most.