I am simply in love with this couple, and you’re about to be. I’m not even going to tell you about them myself, because I could never convey to you the love these two share better than the groom can. So settle in, because it’s not every day we have the groom to introduce his wedding with a love story. (And, I just have to add, while some brides choose to change up their look for the reception, it’s not every day it is the groom who does it – marrying his beautiful bride Virginia in his dashing Australian Army dress uniform, and then celebrating in a still-pretty-dapper tux).
I left breakfast and returned to Observation Post 72 in Syria that Monday via New York and Tel Aviv. My home was a tennis court-sized United Nations post near Quneitra in Syria where, with two other soldiers, I bore witness to the failure of humanity that is the Syrian conflict. In that place I had immediate occasion to reflect on the pretty blonde girl with pink lips and blue eyes that I had met – and how valuable a moment that was. Wanting to pass on only a compliment, I sent her a dozen pink roses and a Cormac McCarthy novel. At best she would have cause to feel good, at worst reject the ostensibly sentimental impulse of a stranger.
We started to write to each other, my weeks punctuated by her letters. We met again months later when I had some more leave, this time in Vietnam. Our first date was on a humid night in a dark bar in Hanoi. She wore a long flowing blue print dress. She laughed a lot. After that, it was an easy decision to send her flowers each week, easier still to start flying to New York every month or so to become part of her life. Harder when I finished secondment with the United Nations and moved back to Australia in December 2014 to continue my career as an infantry officer.
I have a very large family (18 immediate family members!) and they all live in Brooklyn. James’ immediate family is smaller (his parents, one sister who lives in Canada, plus a close aunt and uncle and two cousins) and they would pretty easily be able to come to Brooklyn. His parents were going to be visiting his sister in Canada for a week in May, which lined up with his pre-deployment leave from the Army, before he left for seven months in Iraq. So we decided to get married in Brooklyn with my family, his parents and sister down from Canada, and his aunt, uncle, and cousins from Australia.
I walked down the aisle to From Little Things Big Things Grow by Paul Kelly, an Australian Folk singer. We exchanged rings to The Stable Song by Gregory Alan Isakov. We walked back up the aisle together to Sweet Virginia by The Rolling Stones.
People underestimate the importance of the ceremony. There’s a tendency to rush through it because it’s perceived as boring or trite. But don’t rush through it and spend time thinking about and planning for the kind of ceremony you want. Because it’s likely going to be the only time the two of you get together – close enough to touch and hear one another at a whisper – and that’s what the day is all about. Really, the whole ceremony was my favorite part of the day, because it was the only part of the day where James and I were standing next to each other, holding hands, looking at one another and speaking to one another. The rest of the day was hectic – getting ready, partying with everyone, etc. Weddings are supposed to be ways to share and celebrate with all of your loved ones, which is great. But the ceremony really felt like it was just for James and me.
Army cake! I’m not particularly creative, but I guess my contribution was the cute camo cake with the green Army men crawling up it, like they were storming the beaches of Normandy!
We love Virginia’s honesty about what she would do differently if she had their wedding again. Even though she looks so lovely, she tells us “I would’ve kept my hair straight, as it is naturally. I made a last-minute, impulsive decision to do the Hollywood glam 1920s curls (because I hadn’t given any thought to how I was going to do it until the day-of and my hair stylist said it looked good!) and – even though he did a great job and the hair was beautiful – I wish I looked more like myself.”
The speeches. They were all short and sweet (as we instructed everyone – James and I had recently gone to a wedding where speeches went for almost 2 hours!) and hilarious! Everyone made the whole party laugh, which was awesome. But specifically my brother Ben’s speech was perfect.
Ray La Montagne’s You Are The Best Thing. James and I danced to this for a minute, then I grabbed my dad and he grabbed his mom. Then everyone started dancing. It was really fun. The DJ was great, so almost everyone was on the dance floor throughout the night.