**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events that I have experienced firsthand; used with permission.
Rustling palm trees. Floral aromas floating on the breeze. A looming pink sunset emerging from the horizon.
It was an absolutely stunning backdrop for a wedding. It was the scene for my first wedding.
My parents were there. My closest friends were there. I had my hair done. I had my makeup done. I even wore a tropical flower in my hair.
My wedding outfit only cost about $100. It was a simple 2-piece white outfit. That was island life. It was Key West, Florida, after all.
My memories of this day play out like some sort of fairytale nostalgia. However, the relationship and marriage that followed was anything but that. It was a nightmare of abuse and sorrow.
I married my first husband in a historic, garden setting. The wedding came off without a hitch. My parents were even able to fly and my three best friends were my bridesmaids.
The after-party was so much fun and there was so much laughter. Our three-day honeymoon in Key Largo which directly followed was wonderful as well.
Looking back at the pictures now, I was absolutely glowing that day. We all were. We were all trying to make it a positive experience.
We were all trying to keep what was swept under the rug —to stay there.
In fact, the best memories I have of my first marriage are from that day — that beautiful day which was a golden page in the darker book of an abusive relationship and marriage.
How can a wedding ceremony masquerade as something so lovely when there is actually something dark and sinister lying directly underneath?
I believe it is simply the hopes of all of those who loved me that day. I think that everyone — my family, my friends, and those who showed up to support me despite their hesitations about the union — brought an energy that tried to turn the tides of what was undoubtedly a doomed partnership.
Ultimately, a wedding is supposed to be a celebration of a relationship — no matter how dysfunctional that relationship may be under the surface.
Those who attend weddings are generally expected to come with their best wishes for the couple getting married even if they don’t feel it. It’s kind of an unspoken rule of wedding etiquette.
That said, I’m pretty sure almost everyone who attended my first wedding knew it wouldn’t work out. I did too.
But that day was magical. It mattered. It was an intention to make it work — to do better.
My second wedding was even more simple than my first. It wasn’t that magical. It took place at a City Hall in a small desert town. We had a one-year-old who cried for the entire ceremony and we barely had a honeymoon. It wasn’t exotic. It was messy and functional at best.
However, the marriage I have now — my second one — is more true and fulfilling than my first marriage could ever have been — despite the absence of the Fuschia sunset, the bright smiles, and the generous well wishes of everyone who cared about me at the wedding.
There is also the absence of violence, sadness, and dysfunction.
I will always think fondly of my first wedding ceremony. It was a leap of faith in an impossible situation. It represented hope. It displayed beauty. It was a splendid mistake.