Seventeen years ago, at 4:45 pm (just fifteen minutes before closing) I stood in front of a justice of the peace and married a boy I barely knew.
If there had been an announcement in the social pages it would have read something like this:
Jennifer Wallwork and G. Michael Dominguez were married Friday, March 17th, 2000 in the Small Claims Court of Orange, Co. North Carolina under the glow of flourecent bulbs and attended by their confusing array of parents, none of whom are currently married to each other. Justice of the Peace Juju Adkinson (yes, seriously) officiated from behind a desk stacked high with petty lawsuits and neighborly disagreements.
The bride wore a lovely ivory prom dress that she picked up from the clearance rack at Belk for $30 as well as a ten-year-old Miller Light St. Patrick’s Day garter that belonged to her mother. The groom was attired in a selection of Goodwill’s finest.
After a weekend honeymoon at South of the Border (“You’re always a ‘wiener’ at Pedro’s!”) near the stunning community of Mrytle Beach, SC, the couple will return to their menial minimum wage jobs in Chapel Hill, NC on Monday.
I was barely twenty-three (about sixteen, when adjusted for inflation). Mike was twenty-five, (approximately twelve, when adjusted for testosterone). We’d been together for ALMOST six whole months.
Why the rush?
Well, I had some financial aid paperwork to fill out so I could spend a ton of money on a Bachelor of Music degree (extremely useful, BTW). In order to be considered financially independent of my parents, I had to be twenty-four (impossible), a ward of the state (complicated), or married. OBVIOUSLY, the thing to do was run down to the courthouse and file our small claim.
However, one of the drawbacks of getting married in a courtroom where people usually sue each other over disputed fence lines is the astonishing lack of spectator space. When you have six parents like I do, there’s hardly room for anyone else. There’s also the whole no-planning-no-party-no-CAKE bit.
So… we did it again.
Just to make sure people would show up, we didn’t exactly mention that we were already married.
This made the Mass a little complicated. Our priest was unwilling to lie in church (go figure) so we just had to omit some things – like the “Who gives this woman” bit and the “Speak now or forever hold your peace” part.
Normally, congregants would just read along in The Book of Common Prayer, but we were a little concerned they’d be confused by all the skipped lines, so we typed the entire service up in our program. Yes, it was a LONG program, made no shorter by this list of family:
Susan Howell: Mother of the Bride
Geoff Wallwork, Jr.: Father of the Bride
Don Howell: Don of the Bride
Karen Hennig: Karen of the Bride
Charlotte Glassman: Charlotte of the Bride
Dan Daugherty: Dan of the Bride
Unconventional programs aside, that second marriage (first wedding) was like many are: white dress, big party, people placing bets on how long you’ll last.
Seventeen years later, I think it’s safe to assume we’ve won those wagers.
I’m not sure how it happened. Maybe getting married twice lends a little extra sticking power. Perhaps there’s something to be said for being young and stupid. Or maybe it’s the luck of the Irish.
Today, when some new friend asks about our anniversary I usually go with August 5th. That’s the one with the professional photos and the invitations.
But Mike and I celebrate the first one.
Every St. Patrick’s Day we toast those ridiculous kids in their bargain bin clothes. We remember them standing in a small claims court making a very big wish. And we bless their brave little hearts.