It was a late afternoon in May of 2014. I was enjoying some serious vacation cocktail bliss in Tulum, when my boyfriend, Eric, asked me to follow him to the hotel’s rustic courtyard. I assumed he just wanted to take a romantic stroll around the property. It only dawned on me that something else was up when, visibly shaking, he lowered to one knee. I was overcome by an out-of-body sensation — my heart was pounding, my mind was racing. Of course, what followed was a question that would change both of our lives forever, and my answer was a resounding yes. We ran out to the beach, downed a celebratory glass of bubbly, and then spent the rest of the night talking about our hopes and dreams for a wedding that would never happen.
I love telling my engagement story. Maybe because, in my mind, it was pretty damn close to perfection (and remains one of the most romantic days of my life). But everything that happened in the months that followed, well, wasn't.
By October, I was in the throes of wedding planning, and really just starting to understand what people mean when they say it's a full-time job. I began to feel the immense stress and pressure, even though I was excited about planning the perfect day. But we were making great headway and had all the major boxes checked off. We set a date for the following August. We found our venue on a drive through the quiet Northern California town of Bolinas (not too far from where we live, in San Francisco). The manicured barn stood out thanks to the gigantic peace sign that hung from it. One look at the property, and I knew this was the spot. I envisioned us saying our vows overlooking Tomales Bay. I imagined what the day would be like, surrounded by our friends and family. I closed my eyes and could see it so vividly. It was all starting to feel so real.
As the weeks went on, we pored over details, like what songs would be on the playlist, what kind of photo booth to have, what kind of tacos to serve. It was going to be so idyllic — an outdoor ceremony, food from our favourite San Francisco restaurant, my perfect gown.
Then I found out that I was one month pregnant. And it all came to a screeching halt.
After the initial shock wore off (“I am going to be a mum?!”) and elation set in, the thought of blowing our wad on a costly wedding when we had a new little life to support (hello, diapers, hospital bills, child care, baby furniture) seemed more than a little bit out of touch for us. I tried to wrap my mind around how we could still make it work. We could scale the guest list down. We could do without the photo booth bus. We could outsource things to our friends, and have a DIY party. But when it came down to it, Eric and I knew we just couldn’t pull off the nuptials as we knew them — not to mention that the baby was due the very same week we'd planned to get married. There was a very good chance I could go into labor before or even during the ceremony. That would be interesting.
This was just one of the early eye-openers of how things change when you have children. Your priorities shift in ways that would have once seemed unimaginable. Saving those funds for our little girl’s future was suddenly paramount. So we decided to scrap the whole plan. All the months spent ticking away at the “big day” were effectively for naught.
We explained to the vendors we had already hired that there had been a change of plans. Whoops, baby came first! Fortunately (and amazingly), we didn't lose any money. The deposit for the venue had just been a handshake (gotta love NorCal hippies). As for the caterer, we found out I was pregnant just before we were scheduled to hand over a considerable deposit check. Dodged that. And just like that, we went from wedding prep to newborn prep — which is also intense, but in a very, very different way. Home or hospital birth? What pediatrician will she see? Breast or bottle? And that’s just scratching the surface.
Once I accepted the new course we were on, the pressure of curating the perfect day was lifted, and I was surprised to find that I didn’t feel an ounce of regret. In fact, I felt relieved. It’s not that I didn’t want to have a dream wedding — I absolutely did. Ridding myself of the planning stress certainly was a part of it. But I also think that deep down, I knew that I had lost sight of what our big day meant. Maybe the elaborate production I thought I needed wasn’t even what I wanted. It may be a cliche, but there’s nothing like a dramatic life change to really put things in perspective. I was happy: happy with our decision to go another route, happy with the unpredictable way our lives were unfolding, and happy with the idea of doing something much more personal if and when we decided to get married. Sometimes, you just have to roll with life's punches, and that's okay.
Sure, if it had been really important to us to be legally married before our baby was born, we could have eloped. (And even in 2015, there was still familial pressure to do so. Parents have a unique way of letting their disapproval be known.) But we weren't making choices for our parents, we were making them as parents. The idea of incorporating our little girl, the tiny mysterious person who was on her way into our lives, meant a great deal to us. So we decided to wait until after she arrived to make it official.
As fate would have it, on the night of August 22 — our original wedding date — I felt my first contractions. Thinking about it still gives me goosebumps.
Once I accepted the new course we were on, the pressure of curating the perfect day was lifted — and I was surprised to find that I didn’t feel an ounce of regret.
Eric and I shared some laughs while I was in labour about the drastically different way we were spending that evening. But despite the fact we were hardly having our first dance, cutting a cake, or toasting the night away, there was one incredible commonality: raw, core-rattling love.
And then, at 1:37 a.m., in what you might call a very intimate gathering, a lifelong bond was formed. With happy tears flowing, we held our hearts in our arms for the first time. Our daughter, radiant and healthy, was here, and we relished the miracle we had made.
It wasn't what we'd planned. And now, six months later, we still haven't tied the knot. But we are planning to make it official at City Hall very soon. And when we do, we'll be bringing the best plus-one, ever.