While driving to our wedding ceremony, I cried so hard I thought I’d get pulled over. I tried not to cry, but I just couldn’t help it; we were halfway to Reno when we realized that we couldn’t find Jim’s wallet anywhere. Therefore, he didn’t have his ID, and therefore, we couldn’t get married on our way to visit my family in California.
I was five months pregnant, and we’d just moved in together at the 25 Ranch near Battle Mountain, Nevada. We wanted to get married before the baby was born, and I thought we could stop off at a little chapel in Reno for the night on our way to Big Springs, California to visit my dad and load up our stock trailer with secondhand furniture.
The day before we left for our trip, I starched and ironed Jim’s white shirt, blue jeans and my $10 yellow sundress. As I drove west on I-80 sobbing, Jim searched through all our bags looking for his wallet, looking miserable because of my misery. Then I remembered the side pocket of the little blue duffel bag, the one he’d taken to camp and brought his wallet along for spending money along the way. He checked, and there it was – we could get married! The tears stopped and all was well again.
We checked into a room at the Grand Sierra, which the front desk clerk kindly upgraded for the about-to-be-newlyweds. We showered, changed into our wedding clothes, and headed downstairs for a fancy dinner. I decided that since we weren’t buying dinner for 200 of our closest friends and family, we were going to drop some cash on dinner for ourselves. I ate lobster for the first time and we split a piece of cheesecake.
After dinner, we called a cab to take us downtown. Neither one of us wanted to tow a twenty-foot stock trailer through nighttime Reno traffic, especially since it didn’t have any lights or brakes. Those two attributes seem to be really important to some people, like cops.
At the chapel, we sat and waited…and waited…and waited. It was nearly ten o’clock PM at night before we got married. The officiant had Elvis hair, but not the costume. Apparently, you have to call in early and request to get married by Elvis, and we weren’t that organized. He asked if we wanted to walk down the aisle, and we shrugged and said “Sure.” I tripped over my heels and Jim snickered, but we made it to the altar.
We opted for the “no-ring” ceremony, as I was already wearing the diamonds Jim had bought me earlier that summer, and we hadn’t gotten his ring yet. We had just bought an 11-year-old pickup and his 100X felt hat. A wedding ring could wait.
After Almost-Elvis pronounced us Mr. and Mrs. James Young (which I thought was odd, since his name was Jim), we kissed and headed back to the room. I chose to skip the $89 portrait package, since the only employee at the chapel was the receptionist, and I didn’t peg her for a professional photographer. She snapped a couple pictures with my camera for free, and we called it good.
Two days later, my dad and his girlfriend threw us a backyard barbeque for about 40 friends and family. It was a surprise wedding reception – for the guests. They thought they were just coming over to meet Jim, but we surprised them with our wedding news. They all admired the baby bump, and it was just super fun.
Three years into this project, I’m more glad than ever that we skipped the customary formal wedding ceremony and big reception. Money is the biggest factor, honestly; if we’re going to take out a loan, we’re going to get something to drive to town, live in, or take a calf crop to the sale from each fall. No matter how our Big Day went down, we are just as married as the next couple. The way Jim treated me after we got married is the same way he treated me before we got married; like the most important person in his world. Our marriage certificate didn’t change anything.
Oh, and I bought him a ring that winter. It’s a traditional fourteen-karat gold model with “I love you” engraved on the inside. I gave it to him in the kitchen of the run-down single-wide trailer we called our first home, and he hasn’t taken it off since.