Military couples have the 'normal' stress of weddings plus a whole 'nother level- civil ceremony only? ceremony and reception for friends & family? when? where? before deployment or after? My first military bride in particular is unforgettable- we planned together for a year and a half... while she & her Navy husband were stationed in Guam! Throw in the fact that planning with my Guam bride included a 14 hour time difference, her husband was deployed for part of her stay and she conquered a few tsunamis just to name a few reasons why this is one planning process I will always remember. I've asked her to share her amazing story and she happily obliged. You can follow her adventures on her own blog and on here as this is the first in three posts on her wedding story. Enjoy!
“Do you see him?” I whispered to my best friend, trying to discreetly point out the cute boy on the chip aisle of the grocery store. Casually leaning against the shopping cart talking to his two friends, his hoodie, with “Surf Rescue” printed on the back, caught my attention. And when I saw him turn a corner riding the cart, you know how we all used to -- both feet on the bar in the back, enough weight in the basket to counterbalance you -- I knew I had to meet him. Fortunately, one of his friends noticed my sideways glances and made sure they got behind us at the checkout line. My girlfriend and I giggled and glanced, but I wasn’t sure what to do. Would he be turned off if I approached? The cashier handed us our receipt; it was do or die. My friend nudged me, handing me a pen, and said “Just go!” Scrawling my name and number on the back of the receipt, I walked the long 3 feet closer to him and found myself frozen by the deepest brown eyes I’ve ever seen. I have no idea what I said or what he said to me, but he had my number and, embarrassed, I walked away certain I’d never hear from him again.
My phone rang late Saturday night and the next morning I listened to a voicemail fueled by liquid courage and decided he sounded normal nice enough. Sunday afternoon, after flopping on all of my roommates beds and debating every detail, I called him back. Pacing around my room on my cell, we talked for about an hour. He was part of the Corps of Cadets which didn’t phase me, my dad was a Colonel in the Army. My dad had also been in the Corps of Cadets at Virginia Tech, and met my mom there. I knew what the military was about. Chris was a Navy brat and was hoping to be a pilot. Our first date led to a second, a third and soon we were officially a couple. My first experience with how the military would play into our relationship was his summer cruise. He was sent to San Diego for a month to learn about life on a carrier. I stayed in Blacksburg taking summer classes. It was only a few months into the relationship so I honestly wasn’t too affected by it. He came back to Blacksburg for the rest of the summer and our relationship grew. A year older than him, I graduated in December of 2005. This began our long distance relationship. He graduated in May 2006 and was accepted into Flight School. In the following 3 years, he would move every 6 months, to Florida, Oklahoma and back to Florida. I stayed in Maryland working and going to visit every 4-6 months. He asked me to move in with him when he moved from Oklahoma back to Florida, but the timing for me was off and I had to say no. I wondered if I had missed my chance. He became a helicopter pilot and got orders to Guam. I was crushed. No that doesn’t do it justice. I curled into a ball and sobbed thinking I was losing my best friend. He was going to be training in San Diego for 6 months before going to Guam and I decided to go with him. I figured the time together would help me decide whether to wait for him or call it off when he moved to halfway around the world. We packed as much as we could into his Camry, I sold my beloved 1994 Honda Civic and we drove across the country to North Island Coronado Navy Base.
I wasn’t supposed to be staying in the BOQ (Bachelor Officer Quarters -- the military is all about acronyms, get used to it), we weren’t married, but no one asked too many questions. We eventually found a townhouse in Mission Valley and soon life became a fun routine. But the more fun we had, the more I realized how hard it would be to say goodbye when it came time for him to go to Guam for three years. I held my line that I would not go to Guam without being married. Let the awkward stand-off begin. Ok, to be honest, as he would tell you, I wasn’t always so subtle. There may have been a time we were watching TV at night, I would curl up next to him on the couch with my laptop and oh-so-innocently be browsing through engagement rings. Sigh, it happens to the best of us.
We eventually started talking about how we would do this. Was there enough time between December and May to plan a wedding? I felt that it would be too rushed and then the idea of a Civil Ceremony came up. I wasn’t really sure about that and neither was my Dad. I was afraid of all the old stereotypes a Civil Ceremony carried with it and so was my Dad. Were we just getting married so that I would come to Guam, or were we getting married because we were ready for forever together? Would our wedding later still be meaningful? Should we even have a wedding later? Is it cocktail hour yet?
On Valentine’s Day, we had our engagement pictures done but still no plan on how or when we would be married. Time was running out. I remember the day we finally decided so clearly. We went whale watching off the coast of San Diego and while we stood in line to board the boat we talked over dates, decided on the Civil but adding some of the more traditional wedding elements and we would consider having a large actual wedding the following year. He had a month between leaving San Diego and when he had to be in Guam, so we decided to do it then.
The happy couple right after the proposal!