A year ago, at this time, Chelsea and I were scrambling to put the final touches on our wedding plans. We double (and triple) checked the ceremony order, confirmed the location of the ice cream truck, and practiced our first dance one more time. The days went by in a blur as we began to connect and re-connect with family and friends and truly lean into the day we had spent so much time planning for.
My gracious aunt and uncle hosted our rehearsal dinner at their home in Aurora. We had around fifty loved ones gather to dine and mingle and enjoy the beginnings of wedding festivities. We had gone through the rehearsal at the park and I found myself in awe that really, mostly everything was falling into place. On the evening of the rehearsal dinner, my brother was involved in an unfortunate (and mostly unscathed) accident on his way to my aunt and uncle’s home. Anxiety flowed through my blood when I heard the news – was he hurt? Were the kids hurt? Would he even be able to come to the dinner or the wedding?
Unfortunately, he was unable to attend the dinner, however, he gave his planned speech the following night at the wedding reception. While this wasn’t part of the initial plan, it did work out. His speech moved me; my heart burst with appreciation and love. One of the biggest takeaways I learned in planning a wedding is that things won’t go according to plan – and that is perfectly fine. Welcome it – when you get around 150 people together, shifting plans is to be expected.
The morning of the wedding I woke up next to my maid of honor, Suzi, in a state of shock, excitement, and intensity that today was the day I would be getting married. I felt like a zombie for part of the day – mostly processing through the reality that the day had finally come. I had spent so much of my life not really believing that marriage was for me – and yet, here I was. I found myself reflecting on the little girl I once was, the free spirit I became, and the woman I was growing to be. That girl – me – was getting married. It didn’t feel mushy or romantic as much as it felt vulnerable, raw, and like a coming of age. When I came out as a lesbian, I figured I would find a long-lasting relationship. Marriage is so new to our community, that I didn’t know if I would want to commit to something like that. Chelsea changed my mind. I changed my mind.
I was grateful to have my friends around me throughout the day. They grounded me, they calmed me. And, my, when I saw Chelsea for the first time, all my jitters flew away like fleeting cicadas on a dewy morning. I was ready. I turned around and saw this regal, stunning, and beautiful woman who would be my wife. We took photographs together and prepared to begin the ceremony. I will never forget seeing my dearest friends and family watch as I came down the earthy, grassy aisle with my dad. I could feel the sobs of my dad as he tried to hold his emotions in. I remember Chelsea and the looks of love upon us. It was one of the best moments of my life.
Our ceremony was brief (and thank GOD because it was insanely hot in the park on the day of our wedding). We had short readings from our mothers and from a friend, a blessing from another friend, and an exchange of our own vows. We had two of our friends playing music with a cello and keyboard – I will always remember how intimate it felt because of this. When we became Mrs. and Mrs. Oglesby, we had ice cream from Sweet Cow. Because honestly, our relationship is built upon the foundations of authenticity, growth, fun, and ice cream.
The photos went in a flash; the next thing I knew, we were being introduced at the iconic Mercury Café as wives. I felt exuberant as our loved ones cheered us on. We attempted our first dance (forgetting to bustle our dresses) and relishing in the planned moves we tried to do. We toasted with champagne to the inspiring speeches of our fathers and best friends. We jammed out to Whitney Houston with the most PERFECT choreography, led by, of course, a friend. And, as Chelsea and I had hoped for, we danced the night away. We did not want to break up the evening with old traditions that didn’t really fit us – we wanted a night of laughter, connection, and joy. One thousand-fold we had that returned to us.
When we left, around midnight, Chelsea and I stayed up until after 3am talking about each moment, searing the memories into our brain, hoping we could hold onto every magical part of the day that we had. For those of you who were there, thank you. Your presence provided the most memorable setting we could have asked for. Our wedding truly took a village – our friends showed up and stood by us, our friends helped to participate and take part in our wedding, and our families from across the state and world made the community we had so longed for on our wedding day.
The truth about weddings is that all the logistical details of where you are and what you are doing are far less important than who is there. Yes – we chose Mercury Café because it’s funky, eclectic, and full of character (like us) but it was more important that the people in the room could be with us to honor our story and love. That is what happened, and even today, a year later, I am left speechless from that night.
We didn’t know back in August of 2019 what would lie ahead. We did not know what would come of two weeks exploring and adventuring around Italy. We were not aware of the joys that slowing down life would bring as I took a semester off from school in the fall. We certainly could not have anticipated that most of our time as newlyweds would be spent in quarantine, working from home and limiting social contact with others. As the nation and our communities have had to adjust to living through a pandemic, so have we. We have found creative ways to continue to spark intimacy and connection, through day trips and long weekends in the mountains, or a multitude of game nights. I believe we have probably played at least 60 games of Skipbo, however, it’s working, and it keeps us laughing (until one of loses three times in a row).
The first year of marriage was challenging. We have – and will continue – to learn about each other in new ways and to grow and adapt. We are individuals – humans – who are still becoming who we are, and so of course this impacts our relationship and how we show up to share our life together. Chelsea and I walked down the “aisle” to one of our favorite songs – “I Choose You” – by Sara Bareilles. We picked this song because we found a deep meaning in what it means to choose one another. Marriage is a choice. We show up for each other every day – not because we must, but because we chose to, we want to. There have been days where it feels exhausting or hard. There are days where I want my space, where I fear I cannot hold onto my freedom. What I have learned is that I can. I can show up in my marriage and I can still be me. I can fully find the freedom to explore, engage, and be Heather, while also being a wife that supports and sees and loves my partner fully.
Marriage isn’t a requirement for love and partnership – that I fully believe. And yet, I know that marriage was the right choice for me. Marriage has pushed me to gain perspective, to love fully, to expand my understanding of what it is to invite another into my life. I am fiercely independent, however, being able to open up and let someone inside is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
Marriage is also one supported by the people around us. Because of our chosen family, because of our families, and because of our friends, we can keep going, to keep learning, and to keep adjusting to what life together means. Marriage and relationships are communal by nature, and it has been immensely important to rely on the people around us to stay grounded in who we are – as a couple, and as individuals.
Year one – full of change, adjustment, learning, commitment, sacrifice, and joy. I can say that I love my wife even more than the day we were married. I did not know that was possible, but yes, it certainly is.