In May of last year, I married my wife for the first time, which is ironic. On our third date, I told her, quite sincerely, I was lukewarm about the whole concept of marriage, wedded bless, fairy tale endings, and I figured I could probably get the milk for free.
After all, I learned my lesson. I had been married before, a big event at a fancy restaurant along a windswept marina with a setting sun backdrop. My then wife and I paraded from table to table, offering hugs and a thank you to each of our 150 closest friends and family. The wedding was a blast but did not cement our future together. Within a couple of years, she had her side and I had mine before we went our separate ways. Up until the marriage, the relationship had been pretty good. I vowed to vow no more.
Since then, I have happily married my current wife 12 times. The last time was in a small town in Turkey, on our way to 100 weddings in 100 countries -- yes, each time marrying the same person! My attitude about marriage, as you might have guessed has changed. As I have been asked, by both skeptics and enthusiasts, what changed? Why marriage and why a slew of weddings around the world?
What changed was my expectations in a relationship. Sure, we fell in love with each other -- just not with a commercial version of nuptials that surrounds itself with symmetrical pink hearts and a diapered cherub, love in a vacuum protected from the pollution of real life. I had to get real.
I had to fall in love with my wife's few imperfections and with the ideals of negotiation, compassion, forgiveness and acceptance. She not only had to fall in love with my charming bits, but with the wildly flawed, yet well-intentioned, guy who eats a two-pound chocolate bar in one sitting and who thinks Pilates is a city in Greece -- none of which is terribly sexy.
Getting married around the world started after our initial elopement in the States. A work assignment in Puerta Vallarta included my new bride. As we were walking outside of the impressive and beautiful Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral, I turned to my wife and said, "Do you want to get married again?" It was almost a dare that included a friend next to us to preside.
I don't know exactly what my spontaneous vows were. I told her the truth about how I felt about her, what I wanted for our future together, flaws and all, and how I planned to serve her and acknowledged that love is not what I receive; it's what I give. I know how she heard them as I watch her well up.
Yes, it was romantic, and I realized the renewal of vows and weddings did not have to be a one-time experience. Each wedding is an opportunity to focus attention to my commitment to the relationship. And each time we have our weddings, I know her a little better. I know what I want for her -- not just for myself -- with greater clarity, and I have a better understanding of how to deliver what I want for her.
Sure, I know this all sounds a bit "kumbaya," some overly romanticized crap in order to sell marriage. So I can keep getting laid and have someone on my arm when I go to parties.
I think what is different is the understanding that a real relationship cannot be summed up by the wishful sentiments on a Hallmark card. I can sum up romantic relationships of all kinds as work -- and it's not for everyone. My decision to marry my wife includes what I bring to the party. The ideals I want from a spouse are the same ideals I plan on maintaining myself, with the full understand that ideals are goals and not absolutes. Over time, my wife will likely mirror all the worst qualities I possess.
Each time we get married we expand our family by adding to it. We now have a San Marino family. Thirty people we didn't know shared pizza with us and then helped us perform a medieval wedding ceremony performed in Vulgar Latin complete with recreated costumes. Because of this, we have a collection of friends that make up one incredible afternoon. I suppose we could have stopped there.
The spectacle of the traditional, one-day wedding is wonderful. However, knowing that it is a one-time experience creates a pressure which can overshadow the focus of why we got married in the first place.
So, when we get married 100 times, hopefully far more than 100, the focus is always on putting relationship and commitment first, and celebrating love with new friends around the world.
It's been exciting to discover how many people have us invited to their countries around the globe, bringing their support and encouragement. Exploring love and marriage through the eyes of other cultures make us feel closer to the world at large, especially during a time when it is so easy to have the world feel like a big disjointed place.
Why did I ask my wife to marry her again in Mexico in the first place? I don't have a pat answer. I am a man of little faith. I can only say looking back that it was a choice that has made my wife happy and feel loved - not sure I need more than that. Next stop, Asia.