Marking an Important Day

Our rings

Photo taken March 4, 2011

Today is St. Patrick's Day, and six years ago today, Kirk and I began an e-mail correspondence that eventually led to our sharing our lives together.

On that day in 2005, nothing happened that would have led us to suspect it. He has some business to settle with the organization where I worked, and I was the person tasked with following up with him about it. We had met once before, through my organization again, but other than that, we had no real context for conversation.

Except that conversation began to happen, and we learned that such conversation between us could carry on endlessly. We talked about books, God, ideas, theology, life, and lessons learned. The e-mails grew longer and longer, and soon we needed to ask ourselves and each other and God the question: what is going on here? 

Neither of us knew St. Patrick's Day would change our lives, but it did.

Fast forward one year, and Kirk asked me to marry him. Five years ago today, we got engaged.

We both had a pretty good sense at least a couple months before it happened that this was the weekend we would get engaged, although we'd never breathed a word of it to each other. He kept to himself his plans to make it so, and I kept to myself my growing sense that it would happen at that time.

Prior to getting engaged, we had talked about a lot of things. It seems we had covered every possible subject two people in a relationship could cover about their lives and future, except we'd never discussed any concrete details about the future: where we would live (since he lived in Florida and I lived in California throughout the duration of our pre-married life), when we would get married, where we would get married, and what sort of ceremony we'd have. These were conversations I knew would happen once we'd made a formal commitment to share our lives together, but until then, we stayed focused on growing as a couple and establishing our relationship on solid ground.

I flew out to Florida from California for the weekend of St. Patrick's Day in order to celebrate our one-year anniversary as a couple. Although nothing romantic sparked on that first day our e-mail conversations began in the previous year, we had decided March 17 was the mark of the beginning of our relationship.

He put me up in the JW Marriott hotel, which is one of our favorite places to stay to this day (and one of the most luxurious hotels I'd ever witnessed up to that point!), and the anniversary weekend celebration soon became an engagement weekend celebration when he proposed that first night in Manuels on the 28th in downtown Orlando.

That weekend, he took me to the Kiev Symphony Orchestra at the Bob Carr auditorium. We went on the Winter Park Boat Tour, which is still one of our favorite things to do in Winter Park. As it is every St. Patrick's Day weekend, that weekend was the Winter Park Art Festival in downtown Winter Park, and we spent some time mingling with the crowds and looking in on the various booths displaying artwork. We rode over to the Isle of Sicily at one point and discovered an old, abandoned piece of property that looked prepped to be demolished soon, and we got out of the car and went exploring on the property, peeking in windows and open doors and walking underneath the trees that lined the lake and dock.

That first night of my visit, when Kirk proposed, was the first time we began to speak of the concrete details of our future life together, and we started with a conversation about the wedding. What sort of ceremony would we have, and where would we have it? Kirk's family is from Central Florida, and my family is in California. Would we have the wedding in one of those two places?

The bigger question for me, rather than location, was the type of ceremony we would choose to have. I'd been married before, at nineteen, and had the kind of wedding you normally expect of a wedding at that time: the big dress, the bridesmaids, the location, the reception, the photographer, the formal invitations, the extensive guest list. I had done that before, and something in me resisted the idea of doing it again. I didn't like the idea of re-creating a similar experience. I didn't want to walk down the aisle in a big dress and have deja vu of walking down the aisle at my first wedding. For a long time, before ever knowing Kirk, I knew that I would do it differently next time, should I ever marry again.

When I was preparing to fly to Florida for that first anniversary weekend, then, I remember starting to ask myself what sort of wedding ceremony I would want to share with him if he did actually propose that weekend. I became aware again of my desire to do something totally different, and for the first time it crossed my mind to plan an elopement in another country -- perhaps England, since we'd always felt an affinity to that place.

I held the idea of England in my mind for about a week, but as the St. Patrick's Day weekend in Florida drew nearer, the reminders of all the Irish roots in our relationship came forward. Our relationship began on an Irish holiday. We might be getting engaged on that same Irish holiday. And we had originally met in Ireland. I began to think, for the first time, that I might want to marry him in Ireland.

The uncanny part of all this  (or perhaps not so uncanny, given that God has always been in the mix of our relationship) was what happened when I told Kirk I'd been thinking of a planned elopement to Ireland. He pulled the car over, opened the trunk, and pulled out an issue of National Geographic magazine that had arrived in his mailbox that week. The cover story was a feature on Celtic history, and inside that cover story was a picture of a couple getting married in the ruins of a 12th-century monastery on the Aran Islands of Ireland.

That weekend, we found the monastery online and contacted the priest who performs weddings there. Soon afterward, we heard back from him. The arrangements for a ceremony in that location were quite simple, the fee was nominal, and he would perform the ceremony and provide the photographer. All we needed to do was get ourselves there.

Thus began our three-month engagement season that included preparations for a wedding and honeymoon in Ireland and a cross-country relocation move for me, as I transplanted my life from California to Florida.

So you see, this day, St. Patrick's Day, has always held significance for us. It changed the course of our lives more than once -- first, by being the day upon which Kirk and I began interacting quite innocently by e-mail, and second, by being the day upon which our engagement turned our lives more fully toward one another and our future.

PS: If you'd like to see photographs and read the story of our wedding day, you can find that story here.