Mine was a non-traditional wedding in so many ways.
I didn’t wear a white dress; I wore black slacks and an olive, long-sleeved blouse.
I didn’t have a maid of honor or bridesmaids; my brother signed the marriage certificate when the priest asked for my witness.
I didn’t have my papa walk me down the aisle; before the ceremony, I sat in the church pew waiting for the ceremony to start. This one had surprised my papa. I remember him asking, “I’m not going to walk you down the aisle?” when I told him my plan.
“No, papa,” I told him. And then I explained my feminist theory: “I think the tradition symbolizes the transfer of property—which is the woman—from one man, the father, to another man, the husband, and women are not property.” And then I explained my daughter theory: “And also, I don’t want you to give me away.”
He smiled at that last part, before agreeing: “I don’t want to give you away.” I could tell he was proud of my decision, the same way he was proud of me when I explained that I wouldn’t be changing my name.
After the wedding, which was a quick Catholic wedding ceremony, everyone said their good-byes in the parking lot with the intention of meeting up at a nearby restaurant for an informal lunch. Finding his vehicle, my papa yelled across the parking lot, “Mija, do you need a ride?”
“No,” I told him, “I’ll go with <insert husband name>.” I jokingly offered, “I’m married now, remember?”
“Okay,” he said. “But if you need a ride, I can take you.”
No—my papa wasn’t giving me away.
By the time the marriage from the wedding ended in divorce, my papa had already journeyed to the other side. But I am certain he watched over me from his side throughout the whole painful ordeal. It was during the spring when the divorce was negotiated that my father came to me in a dream—one of only two dreams I have had of my papa in the almost 14 years he has been on the other side.
In my dream, it was morning when my papa opened my bedroom door. He was pre-cancer papa—healthy, hearty, strong. He smiled at me, entered my bedroom, and walked to the opposite end of my room where he exited into my bathroom. The vividness of my dream woke me up and left me with a sense of hope that had been stolen with the divorce.
My divorce challenged me to think introspectively about so many things, including my wedding ceremony. On the surface, my nontraditional wedding was a statement about patriarchy. But from the more important emotional perspective, the nontraditional wedding was an attempt to focus on what I believed the most important thing in any marriage is—the importance of the promise made during the ceremony itself. The end of my marriage left me feeling like I had failed in fulfilling the promise I had made. This sense of failure led to one of the darkest times in my life, a time when I doubted so many things including my worth.
When my papa came to me in my dream, he reminded me that I was loved and wanted. On this side or from the other, my papa has no intention of giving me away. His love has been one of the truest loves I have ever known, and it didn’t take a public ceremony or lawful promise to secure it.