My heart hammered as I looked through the crack between a set of doors to the auditorium of the church I was about to be married in. I wasn’t particularly nervous about getting married, but I was extremely nervous about a surprise I had planned for my bride. I didn’t like singing solo in front of large numbers of people and the sight of what ended up being a little over four hundred people streaming in to the auditorium thoroughly dried my throat.
“I don’t know if I can do this,” I said to my friend Jim who performed the ceremony.
“Of course you can. You spoke at length about looking forward to marrying Chrisie in your counseling session.”
“No, not that. I know I can marry her. I’m not sure I can go ahead with the song thing. There’s a lot of people out there.”
“You can do it. Just imagine her face when you start singing. She’ll know you wrote it for here and only her and it will be one of the first things you say to her after your vows, one of the first things you share as husband and wife.”
So I did think about it. I imagined the surprise on her face as I began to sing turn to a smile of joy at my grand gesture of love. I thought of years to come of listening to her tell the romantic story of this unexpected moment in our wedding. Then I knew that all my nervousness would be worth it after I saw the look on her face when I was done.
“Okay, I can do it. But still, don’t say I’m going to sing just in case I chicken out.”
“I won’t. We’ve been over this. You’ll be fine.”
He calmed me down immensely.
The ceremony went as planned. We listened to Jim, said our vows, and exchanged rings. Then JIm said the fateful words, “Chrisie, Leighton has something he’d like to share with you.”
This was it, this was my moment to declare in front of what turned out to be a lot of people what being Chrisie’s husband meant to me. I took a deep breath, licked my suddenly dry lips, and attempted to swallow. I quickly ran through my plans and imagination of this moment one last time and sang.
Chrisie got mad. Not just a little mad either. She got eyes wide, nostrils flared, lips pressed tightly together, if all these people weren’t watching I would kill you mad. Her anger radiated from her face in a laser focused stare that bored into my eyes (it’s one of the reasons we rarely show anyone our wedding video).
I obviously couldn’t stop at that point, so I pressed on. The song still flowed from my lips, but with less confidence. I was about to sing the line, “touch your face,” so I imagined my hand on her cheek and for a moment I thought I might hit my groove and it would get easier. For a moment. As I sang he line, I reached out my hand and gently caressed her face. At least I tried to. The moment my fingertips brushed her cheek, she slightly shook her head and then violently jerked it back from me.
She composed herself as my song ended and the remaining ceremony finished without incident. We made it through the reception (where we didn’t get any food), cut the cake, and changed to leave. (Fun fact, we couldn’t change in the same room even though we were married at that point).
On the drive to the hotel, I asked her about the song incident.
“Why did you get so mad?”
“Because I didn’t know you were going to do that. Why did you do that?”
“Because I wanted to surprise you with a grand gesture. I wanted to proclaim my love for you in a special way.”
“But it wasn’t in the plan. We never talked about it.”
“Well, that’s kind of what makes it a surprise.”
“Well, I don’t always like surprises.”
“Clearly. Here’s what’s really bothering me though. I get that you were upset about the surprise, but why did you stay mad?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you jerked away when I tried to touch your face.”
“I did not!”
“You did. It totally killed my confidence.”
“Well, that’s why I was mad.”
“I got mad because I know you don’t like to sing in front of people. I was worried you might mess up or something. It’s because I love you so much that’s all.”
Her rationale didn’t make much sense to me, but wisely (and completely out of character) I dropped it.
“So you love me?” I asked.
“Of course I do.”
“And you’re glad you married me?”
“Promise?” I asked. It’s one of our things. We asked it to each other a lot (and still often do).”
“Look inside your ring,” she said.
“Look in your ring. I had something engraved.”
“You did? What does it say?”
“Take it off and see.”
I pulled the ring from my finger to read the inscription. It turns out, driving down the interstate is not the best time to do something like this.
“Did you seriously just drop the ring I just gave you?”
“I didn’t mean to, ” I said, “Besides, I only took it off because you told me to.”
“Well, I thought you;d pull over.”
“I’m pulling over now.”
I did and ended up having to open the car door to get at the ring which had slipped under the seat on the side. I shut the door and held the ring up to read the inscription. Etched into the gold were two words, “I Promise.”
“I love you, baby,” I said as I put the ring back on. I had never worn a ring on my left hand before and the wedding band still felt awkward, but I was glad to have it.
The ring was a lot like our marriage. In the beginning, it was new, but it also felt awkward and sometimes uncomfortable. Over time I grew accustomed to the ring and marriage. Now I feel awkward if it’s not on. I wear it always and rarely remove it. When I do, it is usually to read the inscription yet again. It’s harder to read now because the engraving has faded in a way my love for her cannot.
The irony is that my finger has rubbed away at it. But the ring I wear has worn my finger as well. My skin is always a slightly different color (in the summer it’s a drastically different color) where the ring is and it has even created a small groove in my flesh. I can feel the ridges of it if move the ring. I find them comforting and am always reassured when I slip my ring back into place, nestled into that marriage groove.