Yes, it was a Vegas wedding, but a carefully planned one. We had about 50 people coming from both Southern California and my hometown. Nine months before, we’d started at one end of the Strip and stopped at every wedding venue, and I mean every. Some were in hotels, but we found those stiff, overpriced and way too close to the noise of the casino when you entered and exited. Others were cheesy, rundown, or otherwise not our idea of where we wanted to start our marriage. I was very discouraged, and then we found our place – The Little Chapel of the Flowers. Perfectly appointed for our little, kinda traditional wedding. There was even a hall for receptions; my dad took care of those arrangements.
We spent the next months doing the normal wedding stuff – bridal showers, buying a wedding dress, guys getting fitted for tuxes, sending out invitations to family and a few friends. We had one attendant each. Everything went swimmingly.
And then it was time.
Keep in mind, my fiancee was 21 years old and I was 27.
We loaded up the little blue Honda Civic hatchback with all our wedding accoutrements. My maid of honor flew from our hometown to Southern California to help with preparations and rode with us to Vegas.
From our home, across the desert, to Las Vegas was a trip we’d made many times. The drive took about three-and-a-half hours. No one spoke a word for pretty much the whole journey. We all three chain-smoked, and my beloved, the one with whom I was to tie the knot the next day, my husband-to-be listened to the Red Hot Chili Peppers cassette, most particularly the song “Under the Bridge,” over and over and over. Yes, there were CDs way back then but my little Honda wasn’t equipped.
If you’re not familiar with this song, it’s a fairly melancholy ode to Los Angeles. Lyrics notably include the phrasing, “Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a partner. Sometimes I feel like my only friend is the city I live in, the city of angels. Lonely as I am, we cry together,” and, “It’s hard to believe there’s nobody out there. It’s hard for me to believe that I’m all alone. At least I have her love. The city she loves me. Lonely as I am, together we cry.”
This was less than comforting and never what I imagined when I looked forward to the days we would exchange nuptials, surrounded by friends and family, and get to have a Vegas weekend with all of them too! At first, it didn’t seem like a big deal, new album, new song. For a few times. Then I felt a bit concerned.
The engagement had been 14 months. We dated and lived together for a year-and-a-half prior to that. I know you’re doing the math on our age difference and how young my guy must’ve been when we met. That’s a whole story unto itself. He and I had candid conversations along the way about how we were feeling about getting married. We agreed it was a nerve-wracking endeavor. We also agreed we wanted to say, “I do.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, I really like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. A couple hours in, though, come on. It wasn’t only that song playing, but it was a lot that song on repeat. He gripped the steering wheel and stared down the freeway. His demeanor didn’t really invite questions such as, ” Can we listen to something else? Why are you playing this? Do you still want to get married?” I looked out the window at the vast Mojave desert and lit another cigarette.
My maid of honor looked like she wished she’d flown into Las Vegas and skipped the drive. We’ve been friends since we were in ninth grade. I knew she was feeling uncomfortable in the extreme but I had my own shit, so we three mutely and individually traveled to Nevada in the same vehicle.
Sometime after we crossed the state line, I turned to the radio station we listened to when in Sin City. I felt like I was gambling, rolling the dice. Things loosened up as the city skyline came into view. Eventually we started discussing the location of the marriage licensing office, way before cell phones or personal GPS.
Marriage license procured, we checked into our hotel rooms and met up with friends and family at an Italian restaurant. My fiancee remained pretty quiet and looked a bit ill throughout.
Following dinner, we parted ways, he with his guys and me with my girls. Friday night in Vegas!
When my maid of honor and I went to bed that night, I was pretty sure I was getting married as planned, barring any unfortunate incidences.
Every time I hear, “Under the Bridge,” 28 years on, I think back to that time and how much we had ahead of us that we couldn’t have imagined. It’s been a good ride.
To be continued: The events of that evening and the wedding day will have to wait for another day.