He picked me up in the Biltmore lobby at 7 A.M. We greeted each other with sly smiles and a lot of hope. I'll never forget how calm he seemed. And woah... handsome. That man makes a sport coat look good.
After yesterday's fiasco, he was gripping our marriage license. That week, and every day since, he's been our designated paper gripper. You can see it in most of our pictures. I love him for that.
"This is just paperwork," he said. "Not a wedding."
"Copy that. Just a piece of paper," I confirmed.
So we hopped in the car resolute in our conviction that this was just another day. And then he turned the ignition.
The second the car started up, so did the first chord of "First Day of My Life" by Bright Eyes.
So, obviously our plans to keep our "whatever" attitude wasn't going to last. We drove through the early mist of the Biltmore grounds, letting the moment just be quiet and still and perfect.
Even though we had committed to the "not a big deal" mindset, we wanted my siblings to be our witnesses. None of us really grew up together, but we have a bond that transcends every other connection in our lives.
We're the unicorns. To have them loaded up in my car together automatically made this the best day of my life up to that point.
And we actually made it to the courthouse in plenty of time!
Ken and I sat outside of the small claims court on a bench adjacent to a bookshelf filled with stacks of very boring paper work. Yes! Boring! Paperwork! This was really going well.
Just as the clock struck 8A.M., the magistrate popped his head out of a door. "Getting married," he asked.
"Come on then," he said and closed the door behind him.
This, obviously uncaffeinated, man was all business, and that's exactly what we wanted. He didn't even give us eye contact when we entered the room.
"Ya'll have rings?"
"No, sir." (We were saving them for our real wedding.)
"Fine then," he said and kept rummaging through his mass of papers.
And then he stopped the rummaging.
I swear I'll never forget that crooked, wicked, smile he cracked when he finally looked up at us.
I don't remember much of what he said, because the whole room started sobbing the moment he started talking. Even the couple who was getting married after us was a puddle of tears.
Over our four years of dating, I had left him hundreds of little notes and cards. None of them ever came close to capturing what I had really felt, but damn if I didn't keep trying. But this random magistrate DID know them. And he gave them to us.
The words Mr. Grumpy Magistrate recited were so beautiful and heartfelt and poignant.
The words that we do remember so clearly are the vows:
"... with all that I am and with all that I have."
I couldn't even get those words out of my mouth. Not because I didn't mean them, but that I meant them all too much.
More than any other ceremony we had over the next two weeks, those are the vows - the vows said in the musky old courthouse, as our brothers and sister became family, that pierced us the deepest.
They're simple. They're clear. They're true. And I mean them still.