Viva Las Vegas
article by Meredith McKinnie
On July 5 of last year, Boyfriend got down on one knee in the privacy of our living room and asked me to be his wife. We were both crying, though I wasn’t exactly surprised. We had felt married for years. And not wanting to wait after almost four years of dating, we decided we would exchange vows by the end of the month. We wanted our anniversary to fall at a time when we were both free to celebrate. And randomly one night I asked, “How about Vegas?”
Three weeks later, we waited at the Monroe airport for a flight that would never come, and I began to panic. I remember crying to the lady at the desk insisting, “But I’m getting married tomorrow.” She just looked at me, nothing she could do. After my Mom picked us up and took us back home, to the place we had left seven hours prior with intense anticipation, we headed by car for Dallas to make a second connection. Boyfriend’s parents anxiously awaited us at the airport. I cried on the way over, thinking I had made a mistake in planning it this way, that fate was working against us. But oddly, I never doubted marrying him. He’s always been a definite, my constant. His mother hugged me and gave me a white, flower-embroidered handkerchief that had belonged to her mother for the ceremony. And it hit me; his family was now a part of it. Without the missed flight, we wouldn’t have seen them until a few months later. They were the last people to hug us before we boarded. And they were so happy. I’m so fortunate to have married into a family so established, so bonded, and yet so open to my coming in.
Because we were standby passengers, we weren’t able to sit together, but we didn’t care. I remember watching his head from three rows back and smiling to myself. That’s my person, my sweetheart, my calm in the chaos that is life. Marrying him may be the most considered, most hoped for decision I’ve ever made. I felt firm. I felt thankful. I felt humbled. He wasn’t physically holding my hand, but I could feel the warmth of his touch from across the plane. When we landed at midnight, he said, “The Strip didn’t look so big from the plane.” I just chuckled. I’d been here three times before. Boyfriend was a Vegas virgin.
The Paris hotel upgraded us to the LeMans suite. It was bigger than our first apartment with tufted furniture, French-country decor, and a marble bathroom with a bidet. I’d never actually seen one up close. In the late-night/early morning hours, we browsed the hotel, the cobblestone streets inside and pale blue ceiling with painted clouds. It screams romance, but I hardly noticed. We were in our pre-nuptial bubble, chuckling at passersby, while we sampled the pizzeria and the chocolatier shoppe and bought Paris-themed trinkets for our bookshelves. It was heaven, as the painted clouds above kept reminding me.
The next morning, our official wedding day, we awoke to a call from room service. I hadn’t ordered anything. But then champagne and strawberries arrived from my friends back home, and I cried. I cried, because here we were alone about to pledge our lives to each other, and our people back home are the best friends we could ask for, and they were thinking of us. After an hour soak in a bathtub I could barely see out of and applying my makeup just right, I walked into the bedroom and Boyfriend told me how beautiful I looked. I felt beautiful even before he confirmed it. I’d never felt more ready, no nerves at all.
Our limo driver, Oscar, escorted us to the Marriage Bureau and then the famous Little White Wedding Chapel. It wasn’t busy on a Friday at 1 p.m. The building had low ceilings and red carpet and various shades of pink flowers in silver vases and chandeliers and quaint little chapels with five white pews lining each side. I walked without a bouquet towards Boyfriend. He was beaming. Words were exchanged, though I can’t remember exactly what they were. He just looked so at peace. He looked like home, and I knew it didn’t matter where we were, as long as he was with me, and then we said, “I do.” For a brief moment during the prayer I remembered, my mom isn’t here. And I teared up. But it was the choice I’d made. We kissed and took pictures and just like that, we were back in the limo. My five-inch heels hadn’t even started to pinch my feet. Oscar played Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Stay Together” on the way back, and we just held each other. It felt like it always does when he holds me, safe.
That afternoon we walked the Strip, touring the Venetian with the gondolas in the canal and the gondoliers singing to the passengers, more romance. We went atop the Eiffel Tower outside our hotel, our timing impeccable, right before sunset. I remember feeling the wind on our faces while he held me around my waist. I felt a peace and security