A Special New Year
Holidays have always conveyed huge significance for me, beginning when I was teeny tiny and my parents designated my birthday as always my very special day. On that day, I was allowed to do whatever I wanted: I could go to school, I could not go to school; I could have a party, I could not have a party; we could all go to Knotts Berry Farm or to Disneyland, . . . or even to both! It was a family tradition that I was even allowed to choose what my whole family (my parents and my little sisters, eventually all three of them) would eat for dinner on the extraordinary day that came to pass only once every 365 days of the year.
The Significance of A Holiday
Christmas, of course, continues to be one of my faves. I spend all year searching for the perfect gifts for everyone on my list. It gives me great joy to watch someone’s face light up because of my unexpected understanding of what they needed or wanted at that point in their lives, sometimes before they themselves knew.
Halloween was another one of my favorites. My sisters and I would spend weeks ahead of time selecting, designing, and then creating who or what we be on that special night. My mother was always helpful with the darning needle or the sewing machine. She provided plenty of ingenuity about how to piece our costumes together so that the end result would last the evening of walking the neighborhood and begging for treats. I was fifteen the last year I trick-or-treated, impersonating a UNICEF box so that homeowners couldn’t see just how old I was!
But Halloween was not just a single-night experience. Once we were back home that night, we poured all of our trick-or-treat bags out onto the dining room table and began the chore of separating the wheat from the chaff, the fabulous (but safe) stuff from the questionable (I was ten when we began to worry about needles buried in apples – yes, we still got apples back then), and the quality candy (Butterfingers and Almond Joys) from the everyday stuff that could go in our school lunches (like raisins – yech!). The latter would go to my mom to either pack into our lunch boxes or toss in the garbage, if it was problematic. But the former would go into what-seemed-at-the-time a massive ice chest that my mother had requisitioned for the sole purpose of holding our Halloween candy. (It had, appropriately, been painted to replicate a pirate’s treasure chest.) We would all dump our good stuff in there so that, on Saturday nights, after dinner, we could each choose one treat to eat. Needless to say, Halloween lasted all year for us.
So it’s no surprise that I chose to get married on Valentine’s Day. It was purely circumstantial but pretty amusing that, two years later, when it came time to divorce my husband (yes, even lawyers make mistakes), the judge executed the final judgment dissolving my marriage on Halloween.
Anniversary Dates Are Important
Then I met Todd. Although we’d known each other for a few years, and had become good friends, I didn’t want children and he knew that. Still, he officially asked me out on his daughter’s fourth birthday, inviting me to join him (and, as it turned out, his parents and Alexis) at Disney World. A “date” turned into a three-day weekend in their camper at Fort Wilderness en famille, with the tiny little girl who couldn’t seem to unwrap her arms from around my neck.
So that turned out to be our first date, and I was hooked. Less than a year later, Todd and I decided to marry; he suggested that July 4 would be a great day to do it because, after all, as Americans, we would always have the day off from work! We were also kind of tickled by the apparent contradiction; we would be getting hitched on “Independence Day.”
Now it’s 26 years later; my redheaded stepdaughter (who now lives in Houston) is planning her own wedding, here in Tampa, and I’m on deck as the Mother of the Bride. As Alexis and I played with the dates available at the various venues she preferred, it dawned on me that the dates themselves were important to her; certain dates of the month resonate for her while others do not. Then, not a month into making all of these difficult decisions, choosing the venue, picking one of the dates available (April 3, 2021 or “4-3-2-1”), buying the dress (it took her only 90 minutes and it was just perfect), selecting how many and who would be in the wedding party and their colors, her fiancé received a job offer to move to Buenos Aires for a promotion. This was a singular opportunity that would be difficult for Dylan to turn down. He would leave in six weeks. (The same day, by the way, she herself got a promotion and a raise.)
A Beachy, Surprise Wedding
She and Dylan immediately realized that, because of the benefits his employer would offer them, it made more sense for Alexis to accompany him to Argentina as his wife, rather than as his fiancée. So they began researching the ins and outs of getting married right away, in Houston.
That was the Friday before Christmas. In the meantime, Dylan, Alexis, Todd, and I were all boarding planes on Christmas Eve, that Tuesday, to spend the holidays together on a power catamaran in the British Virgin Islands. It would be my tenth trip with Todd, but our first time sharing this with the kids.
As it turns out, it’s amazingly easy to plan a “surprise” wedding on Tortola. Todd researched the wedding rules and regulations for the Islands. We discovered that Dylan and Alexis would need only their passports and to pay a nominal fee to apply for a marriage license, which could issue immediately. But rather than introduce yet another decision for them to make while they tried to pack for Christmas in the Islands, Todd and I simply planned for that possibility. Todd packed the “good” camera. I visited Amazon.com and bought five white dresses of various styles suitable for a wedding on the beach. They arrived that Monday and I threw them all into my suitcase for the next day’s flight. Easy. We suggested, when we all chatted about how they should pack for such a cruise, that Dylan bring something “nice casual” for dining at some of the finer restaurants we planned to visit.
Christmas Eve, they flew into Beef Island and jumped on the ferry in time to meet us for dinner at Scrub Island, an amazingly low-key venue, given the high-end quality of the food they serve there. During the seven-course meal that ensued, we suggested they could marry here, instead of jumping through all the hoops required by the State of Texas.
And so, it happened, thanks to Myrtle, in the Marriage Registry Office, and the entire staff at Oil Nut Bay, that, on New Year’s Day, 2020, Pastor Paul Ricketts married them on Oil Nut Beach in a simple, but significant ceremony. (His 768th, by the way.) Tasia arranged for the wedding bower and the flowers were courtesy of Shaylene, who put together the bouquet AND took many of the photos (with our best-of-the-best Canon) so that Todd and I could be fully present for the ceremony. The pelicans floated on the waves, listening as Alexis and Dylan spoke their amazingly moving vows, and the rain showers held off until after we popped the champagne, which we did right then and there, barefoot in the sand.
When the skies did open up, the natives were quick to inform us of how blessed the married couple were, to have rain on their wedding day, considered an extremely propitious event in the Islands.
So, there you have it. The New Year commemorated in a very special way. You can be sure that none of us will ever forget their anniversary. I hope your holidays were as much fun!
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Joryn, attorney and Open Palm Founder, began her own firm here in Tampa after a 14-year career in law, two of which she served as a professor of law at Stetson University. She is a recipient of the prestigious A. Sherman Christensen Award, an honor bestowed in the United States Supreme Court upon those who have provided exceptional leadership in the American Inns of Court Movement. For more information on Joryn’s professional experience, take a look at her resume.