There was one redemptive moment of the night: Driving off as husband & wife. Tim & I together. Going to sleep in his arms and knowing I would wake there in the morning. THAT was magic - peace. Peace is the word I used to describe our marriage in that 1st year. Peace is the word I would use today.
My advice to brides-to-be is this*: Splurge on a great outfit (it doesn't necessarily have to be a fancy white frock) and a really-super-awesome-artistic photographer. Document your union in crazy-cool pictures. If your money is all spent after those two things, don't sweat it. Head for the courthouse and, if you like, celebrate w/ friends and family afterward at a laidback soiree (seriously, weddings can be so stuffy and stressful and matchy-matchy sometimes anyway).
But I can't end on that note. My MOST IMPORTANT piece of advice is: everyone-huddle-in-tight, I-don't-want-the-bridal-industry-to-sue-me...the wedding doesn't actually matter. Your marriage matters. The day in, the day out. The private. The intimate. The life you live in between events and appearances.
And, in that department? I have absolutely no regrets. As Tim put it a few days ago, "It's nice to be able to say, 'We've been married almost a decade and our marriage is awesome.'" In the early years, people looked at our intense happiness and wild romanticism and tight friendship and said, "Newlyweds!" Now, they're not quite sure what to do with us. ;)
You see: I'd much rather have a disappointing wedding than a disappointing marriage. And our marriage is the opposite of disappointing. It's the kind where we kiss every day. I text him at work and tell him I miss him. He knows exactly what to say when I'm having a ho-hum day. We can exchange a glance and know precisely what the other is thinking. We like road trips because we can talk for hours (mostly after the girls are asleep - otherwise, it's chaos - you know how it is).
One day, Tim & I will have gray hair (and he'll still have those hypnotic green eyes). He'll take my hand at the dinner table and say, "'Isn't it nice that we can say...We've been married almost 50 years and our marriage is awesome?'" And I'll probably think to myself with the most secretive little-old-lady smile, "the dress didn't matter so much after all."
* Note: If you want a fancy dress and a big wedding, feel free to go confidently in the direction of your dreams. All I'm saying is - If you don't have the money or the desire, that's okay too.