Twenty-five years ago today, I married my best friend and the love of my life. Together, we embarked on the adventure of a lifetime.
Mark and I had lived together for about two and a half years and were already considering a ceremony that summer. But like many in the military, our wedding was a hastily arranged. He had gone on active duty in the Army just before Thanksgiving, starting with the Infantry Officer’s Basic Course at Ft. Benning, Ga. He and his fellow students had been told to get their lives in order. They were going to war against Iraq.
I was still at Florida State University. Mark called me a week after he left for Ft. Benning and said: “If we get married you get health insurance and we get a housing allowance to pay the rent. I’ve got two four-day weekends, one for Christmas and one for New Year’s. Which one do you want?”
I picked New Year’s, simply because I had already decided my bridesmaids would wear purple and that didn’t seem very “Christmasy” to me.
It was 85 degrees that day on Anna Maria Island, my hometown in Florida. We didn’t have a lot of money – my mom had been saving coins in a coffee can for a couple of years, just for this occasion.
Mark arrived in Florida 48 hours before the wedding, and the minister, who neither of us had ever met, counseled Mark over the phone. we had a rehearsal dinner at his parent’s house and his dad and friends took him for out a last-minute bachelor party.
The ceremony was in a small church and Mark’s uncle was our chauffeur – driving his gold Cadillac – to the reception at the local Elks Lodge.
We had about 80 guests at the wedding, including many family members who managed to fly in on short notice.
When some of the vendors involved heard Mark was in the Army, they gave us discounts and upgrades. The florist put up extra arrangements on the church pews that we weren’t expecting. The Elks Lodge gave us hot food instead of cold on the buffet. A newspaper friend took the photos for free.
It was a beautiful, wonderful, perfect day.
As it turned out, Mark didn’t actually go to Iraq until 14 years later. And by then he was already stuck with me.