What I Remember

Selective memories of an unforgettable day.

Illustration by Hadley Hooper

Here’s something I have never told anyone, except my wife: I don’t remember a single song played at our wedding reception. I remember dancing. I remember the band. And I will never forget laughing with my wife, whisper-yelling into each other’s ears while surrounded by our friends and family on the dance floor. But the music? For all I know, it could have been Eminem or the E Street Band. (It was probably neither.) I can tell you the band was terrific, but specific songs have been lost in the thrilling adrenaline rush that obscures so many details from that day, yet renders others with crystalline clarity.

Here’s one of those vivid details I do remember: Graves’ Mountain Apple Butter.

My wife and I are both from Virginia (Richmond and Charlottesville, respectively). At the time of our wedding, we were both living in New York City, where we had spent most of our adult lives. But we planned to relocate—and have our wedding—in our home state. So we filled welcome bags for our guests traveling from far away with snacks and souvenirs from around the Central Virginia region—including 9-ounce glass canning jars of apple butter. It is a small, seemingly inconsequential detail to remember.

These are other things I remember: 

Holding hands in a rare moment alone on the hillside where we were married, looking out at the soft purpling glow of the mountains encircling the clustered twinkling lights of the city below.

The way my wife looked coming down the bright red carpeted church aisle—jubilant, proud, but playful. She saw that I was about to cry (or was crying a little already), and her smile got even wider.

The way her little pearl earrings rubbed along the side of my face.

I know why these memories are so clear. But why can I still picture the old-timey image of Graves’ Mountain Lodge printed on each jar’s label and not recall a single song from our reception? Why can I tell you about the specific groan-inducing jokes I included in the programs we wrote welcoming our guests to Virginia (jokes about topics including, but not limited to, MySpace, Back to the Future 2 and 3, the recently launched HealthCare.gov website, The Wizard of Oz, and Amazon drone delivery service), but not about the place settings or flowers or linens or so many other things? 

In my mind, those jars of apple butter stand for the same thing as the time I spent together alone with my wife on that hilltop at sunset: Both represent a sense of place, a reflection of our move closer to our families to start a family of our own, and a belief that the world twinkling in front of us was made specifically for us, to find our way in, together.

So to couples planning their weddings, I offer this advice: Don’t create unnecessary stress for yourself worrying that every small wedding item be so incredible that it cannot be ignored. (Obviously, don’t neglect necessary items—people will still expect to eat, so yes, you should plan for food.) The truth is, you’ll never remember everything from your wedding day. Pay attention to the details that have meaning to you and your partner, both large and small, and you’ll make plenty of memories.

My wife and I have children of our own now. The oldest loves apple butter.

This article originally appeared in our Weddings 2019 issue.

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