Love, Loss, and Locations

My mother and father were married by a judge in a Philadelphia courthouse. They were together for 12 years.

Years later, my mother and stepfather were married by an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas. As of this writing, they've been together more than 35 years. I attribute their longevity in part to my stepfather's hearing loss.

Clearly, when it comes to weddings, there's no correlation between what you spend and what you get. My mother has enjoyed almost 50 years of wedded bliss as the result of two ceremonies that probably cost less than $200 combined. The woman got her money's worth.

There's only been one big wedding in my family, and I still don't know what the hell everyone was thinking. My parents, who were both atheists, booked a Beverly Hills synagogue so a rabbi could marry my Italian sister to an Irishman. Faith and the hora, you may now kiss the shiksa.

To be fair, choosing the venue is probably the hardest part of this whole exercise. I know it's been almost impossible for my fiancé and me. For one thing, our families live on opposite coasts, so someone's going to have to travel. But who? The only fair thing to do is get married in Lebanon, Kansas—the geographical center of the 48 states. Then everyone can suffer, including us.

But that's just one idea that isn't going to happen. I've had dozens. For a while, I seriously considered getting married in Yankee Stadium, in a pinstriped wedding gown.

Let me back up.

I like to tell people that I met John in rehab, because it's less embarrassing than admitting we met on MySpace. But that's where we met, five years ago, at the height of baseball season. I'd never been exposed to baseball growing up, but John's been a fan his whole life. And I soon discovered that I liked it, too.

But very early in our relationship—after only a few dates, really—I was diagnosed with cancer. I told John that we should stop seeing each other, but he refused to go away. He spent that whole summer in my little apartment by the beach, watching over me like a superhero. He kept vigil in the living room, while the sounds of baseball drifted into my bedroom on the ocean breeze. It was incredibly comforting. And now, whenever I think of baseball, I feel like nothing bad can happen to me.

Okay, it's a nice story. But unless I can personally tell it to everyone who receives a wedding invitation to a stadium, I'm going to seem like the sad superfan who paints himself blue and passes out drunk in the parking lot.

So, the Yankee wedding was out. And the only idea I liked after that one involved getting married in the morning, so we could have pancakes. But I lost interest in that when I realized how early I'd have to get up.

While all this brainstorming was going on, John and I found ourselves house-hunting. This was its own brand of misery, and we were really at the end of our patience when we happened across a modest house in the San Fernando Valley. It was a small, old-fashioned place, but the back door led directly to Narnia—there was a secret enchanted park out there, ringed by flowering trees and whispering pines. I'd never seen such a big yard in Los Angeles; there was even a small pond. I was already starting to feel a little misty when the owner of the house appeared, and told me he'd married his late wife on that very spot.

April Winchell
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