Love Looks Like This: Planning a Wedding With a Concussion Brought Out Our Community

love looks like this

Courtesy of Mikhal Weiner / Cristina Cianci

Brides is committed to guiding ALL couples through not only their wedding planning journey, but through relationship milestones and ups and downs. Every love story is beautiful, has its own distinct history, and its own trials—there's no relationship that looks the same. To celebrate that uniqueness, we're asking couples to open up about their love story, for our latest column, "Love Looks Like This." Below, Mikhal Weiner tells her story. 

Technically speaking, we had been married for less than a month when I crashed my bike, flying headfirst into the sidewalk outside a T station in Boston. I was on my way to meet Ella at the gym, where we were trying to get in shape for what we’d consider our ‘real’ wedding. But there would be no workout that day. Instead, we headed to the emergency room for a CT and a conversation with a neurologist who confirmed what we’d suspected: I had a serious concussion. That explained the nausea, as well as the feeling that the world was suddenly very loud and very bright. The floor was wavy; I couldn’t get it to stay still under my feet. 

That was the November of our last year at college. We’d proposed to one another over the summer, after I’d finally come out as gay to my religious grandmother in Israel. Back in Boston we said our vows at City Hall in mid-October on a quintessential New England fall day. The lightest of breezes made leaves dance above us in hues of burnt umber and crimson, the sky a bright, clear blue. In the pictures my cousin took that day, we can’t stop grinning. 

All I could do was sit on our couch with my eyes closed, concentrating on my breath. All Ella could do was keep me afloat and manage her very demanding studies. Wedding planning got pushed aside.

It made sense to plan a big wedding ceremony for May, right after graduation. We’re both from Israel; having the wedding then meant that our families wouldn’t have to make another trip and our school friends wouldn’t yet have dispersed. Ella and I tend to make our decisions logically—a list of pros and cons at the ready, information collected and analyzed thoroughly. We like plans. 

So it really threw us for a loop when I fell apart. 

I spent the rest of the semester at home, writing papers in pencil by a dim light. I took leave from my three part-time jobs. All I could do was sit on our couch with my eyes closed, concentrating on my breath. All Ella could do was keep me afloat and manage her very demanding studies. Wedding planning got pushed aside.

My mother came to visit us in December when the semester break rolled around. We didn’t yet have a venue, a photographer, a caterer, invitations, or a guest list. How could we even think about our wedding when I could barely crawl to the bathroom on my own? Ella sat beside me each evening in our dark living room while the streetlamp outside our window illuminated an incessant wet snowfall. 

Through all of this, we were also trying to rewrite the Jewish wedding ceremony. No small task, but a crucial one for us. Her family is steadfastly secular, while mine is religious. Judaism would play a part in our nuptials, that was clear, but how big a part? Which of the customs would we retain, alter, or discard entirely? 

Ella and I had been submerged entirely in our love for one another since we’d met, four years prior. We’d traveled across the ocean to reinvent ourselves side-by-side in a new country. We’d come out to our families together. We’d held each other as we figured out what being out even meant. We wanted our wedding to be a distillation of all the adventures we’d had together, all the wild sweetness, all the late nights of poetry and wine and chocolate ice cream.

I know now that we could not have done this without our community. My mom, who changed her flight, borrowed a car, and drove us to tens of venues till we found the right one. The rabbis who married us—two dear friends who offered guidance as we set out to craft a ceremony that fully expressed our essence. Our many friends who cared for me until I regained my strength while Ella kept our lives afloat. My cousins who drove us to bridal shops, found us a seamstress to do alterations, helped us figure out the interminable logistics so that every detail would be right.

It was our community that held us as we made our way to our wedding day and it was our commitment to and gratitude for our friends and family that imbued every aspect of our ceremony and day.

We held our ceremony by the banks of the Charles River on an overcast day. The sun peeked periodically through the clouds, shadows and light lapping alternately at our feet as we stood, strong side by side. 

It was our community that held us as we made our way to our wedding day and it was our commitment to and gratitude for our friends and family that imbued every aspect of our ceremony and day. We tried to keep one eye on the traditions we come from while training the other on the ones we’ll create as we go forward—this is the distillation of who we are as a couple.

Our chuppah (wedding canopy) bedspread my great-grandmother had crocheted a century earlier. Our centerpieces were origami flowers folded by our sisters, mothers and grandmothers. Ella’s ring belonged to my great-great aunt Hannah (for whom I’m named), inscribed with her wedding date: May 28, 1916. My ring is brand new, picked by Ella and inscribed with a verse from the Book of Ruth: “Wherever you go, I will go.” The Jewish ceremony usually has seven blessings; we wrote seven new ones and asked our friends from around the world to bless us in their own languages. In place of a ketubah (the traditional Jewish marriage contract) we wrote an original passage describing who we'd aim to be as a family, a couple, a new entity. Our parents read it aloud—once in Hebrew and once in English. Then we danced and danced until we thought we’d faint, despite the rain that poured down, muddying our wedding gowns. Bliss is being encircled by love as you twirl your heart out.

Soon it will be six years since we walked down the aisle. Our ketubah hangs on our bedroom wall, where we can read it and reflect on our intentions as we make our choices. It serves as a reminder of that year—so difficult, so dark, so full of beauty and support and tears and side-splitting laughter. When I see it now I think of the fortitude we found as we overcame the odds together, of the strength it took to rely on others when we needed to, of how much we learned as we planned that first spectacular day of the rest of our lives.

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