Stories From A Life

Been there. Done that. Writing about it.

Sally Swift

Sally Swift
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
June 14
VP, Repartee
Swift Retorts
sally: a journey, a venture, an expression of feeling, an outburst, a quip, a wisecrack ... me


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JANUARY 23, 2013 7:34PM

I Got Married On A Bet 31 Years Ago Today

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Back Story
I  never wanted to marry, which is odd because though I've sown my share of wild oats around the globe, I'm basically a monogamous homebody. Wherever I've lived, I've created a nest. And preferred only one man at a time to share it with me. But never quite the right one.

I dated a lot. Smart ones. Rich ones. Poor ones. Famous ones. A few infamous ones. Good, kind, decent, extremely marriageable ones. Except to me. There was always a reason why this one or that one wasn't right.

Eventually I caught on to the painful Inner Truth. I didn't believe I could give a man the kind of love that includes Trust. Or allow a man to love and put his trust in me. (You can read some of the reasons why here.)

The One
So of course when I least expected it I met a man I trusted instantly. I didn't love him right away, but I liked him. A lot. I felt safe with him, valued. Adored. Understood. Admired. Cherished. Loved.

He didn't care about my wild oats, he'd sown plenty of his own. The skeletons in my family closet didn't scare him away, they made him want to protect me. He loved me, he wanted me to make a nest for us. A home. A future.

I took that man at his word, trusted him and his love, learned to love him back. Fiercely. Completely. Con gusto. Then he wanted marriage. No!

My rationalizations: We're already living together. Happily. Both working. Fulfilled. Complete. Content. Everything was great, why rock the boat?

He tried to talk me down, convince me it could work, but I was firm. He backed off. I thought I was safe. So I relaxed. Really. I really relaxed. His plan all along.

Predictably, almost six months later, one night I said to him, "You know, I think we should get married. I'm not afraid any more. I love you. I want to be your wife. Let's do it."

Unpredictably, it was his turn to panic. We were living together. Both working. Happy. Complete. Content. Everything was great, why rock the boat? You get the idea.

The Fight
Then, right in the middle of a fairly reasonable discussion, he said the magic words that started The Fight. "There's no reason to get married unless we have kids."

Steam shot out my ears. "Are you kidding me??? What is this, the 1950s?? We should get married because we want to spend our lives together, form a lasting partnership, a family of Husband and Wife. Children should be an added blessing to our union, not an excuse or a requirement for marriage!"

The battle raged for almost two hours.

The Bet

Finally, exhausted, he said what he intended as a joke to break the tension. "Okay, let's make a bet. If you can pull off a surprise party for my (30th) birthday, a real surprise, we'll get married."

"You're on!" I said. And the die was cast.

Two months later, while he was playing racketball with a clued-in friend at our health club/pool/community center, other friends helped me turn the juice bar into a party room. 

The Sucker Bet

sweaty me 

When he walked in the room, sweaty and unsuspecting, 75 people yelled, "Surprise! You're getting married!"

sweaty him 

Planning The Wedding
The wedding plans were remarkably easy. Though it wasn't my style, my mother wanted me to have A. Wedding. Okay, then it would also be a fun Saturday night party with a great band.

Also a chocolate wedding cake. Delicious!

choc cake

And I didn't want a traditional wedding gown or legions of bridesmaids. Okay, two sisters. Color scheme: If I'm wearing white, everybody's wearing white.

sisters in white
It's entirely possible I'd been given some Valium at this point.

We put everything in my mother's more than capable hands, no fighting, no hysteria, no bridezilla.

Food was fun, we had a tasting party, picked what we liked, that was that.


Open bar, of course. Photographer, no problem.

Only one thing I really, really regret: I said no to video. This is a wedding, not a movie, it kills spontaneity, it's tacky, I said. I was wrong. I have the memories, but I've wished so often I could see and hear them again. Especially because so many people are gone now. At least we have the pictures.

Husband-to-Be said, typically, "Just tell me what to wear and what time to show up." Tuxedo. Ketubah signing, 6 PM. Wedding, 7 PM.

The hotel gave us the three-bedroom Presidential Suite so everybody could be together. My sister-in-law and her two little kids, my other sister with her new baby and their joint baby sitter in one bedroom, the rest of the women in another, the men in the third.

Getting ready was just like home. Fighting with my sisters for space at the sink to put on make-up. Yelling at my older sister for showering so late, steaming up the mirror and frizzing my hair. Everybody telling me to put on more make-up. Older sister and Mom fixing my hair.

Sitting in a robe holding my baby nephew, chatting quietly with my two little nieces, a small oasis of calm.

Suddenly standing in my dress, my mother and sisters helping me with the short veil we'd had attached to my favorite headband.

The homey aromas of soap and baby powder mixing with perfumes, then colognes as we joined the men in the living room. Husband-to-Be looked at me with such wonder and so much love. I will never forget that look.

People went quiet as the Rabbi came in, asked us to join him at the table to sign the Ketubah (Jewish marriage contract).

Best Man signing, oldest friend/witness waiting his turn, Rabbi

The Rabbi was an old hand at marrying nervous couples (including my parents and two of my sisters, plus he'd officiated at my husband's and both his brothers' bar mitzvahs). Solumnly he reviewed the Ketubah with us. No matter what you do afterward, once you sign that, you're married. It's large, opens into three sections, all written in tiny, tiny Hebrew.

After we all signed, the Rabbi pointed to a section in the center. "This is extremely important," he said, "It contains the secret to a happy marriage." You could have heard a pin drop.

chopped liver 
We all waited expectantly. "It's my wife's recipe for chopped liver!"

We burst out laughing, groaning at what must be a tired old joke to him, but it worked, tension broken. Until we went downstairs to the chapel. Everyone got ready. And quiet.

The Wedding

My husband's two brothers, my younger sister's husband and older sister's son carried the chuppah (Jewish marriage canopy) to the front, opened the beautiful old lace overhead, each holding a pole (another Jewish custom). Then Husband-to-Be's parents walked him to his place just before the chuppah so he could wait for my parents to give me over to him.

Already under the chuppah was our best man, the mutual friend who'd introduced us. They joined him there. My sisters, one after the other, moved smiling down the aisle and took their places underneath too.



Then it was just Mom, Dad and me, standing in the doorway, waiting for our cue. NOOO! I had a flash of panic so sharp I almost doubled over. I saw all my friends and family, so many smiling faces, so genuinely happy for me. I wanted to be a gracious, smiling bride.

But it seemed the room went suddenly dark. All I could see was soft light glowing around Husband-to-Be, my True North. My eyes locked onto him like a lazer beam.

The feeling was otherworldly. If I can just get to him, I thought, I'll be okay. I don't remember walking down that aisle, but here's a close-up so you can see the genuine fear in my eyes. 

deer bride
Oh yeah, I'm a deer caught in the headlights.

Once we got to him, though, the rest was easy. My parents kissed me...Dad kiss

Husband-to-Be winked at me, took me to join our families and the Rabbi under the chuppah.  
To the chuppah

It was a beautiful religious and personal ceremony. Rich with ancient tradition in a modern setting. The Rabbi who knew our families so well, spoke from the heart about Continuity. Belief. Trust. Faith. Love.


And it was a great party too. Went on until past 2 AM.


bride dancing


thanks Mom
Thanks for everything, Mom. I love you.

An after-party migrated back to the presidential suite. Family, friends, Husband and I still talk about it. Especially this time of year. Especially today.

Why today?

Today, January 23, 2013 is our 31st Wedding Anniversary.

I can joke about the panic now. I can laugh about that picture, it's in our wedding album. I love all the wonderful wedding memories. Because I took that huge leap of faith. And we're still married after all these years.

Continuity. Belief. Faith. Trust. Love. And Humor. In the end, that's what it takes.


PS Little more than a year later, we had our son. Win-win.




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If you never read my story, this is your chance to learn about a real, lasting romance. I love you honey. Let's go have dinner.
So great Sally. Mademe smile all the way thru. Valium has eased anxiety for many brides. :)
So great Sally. Mademe smile all the way thru. Valium has eased anxiety for many brides. :)
Seriously, this has got to be one of the best marriage stories ever told. Love the pictures, love the story, love that it lasted. xox
Sally - Mazel tov!! What a gorgeous read...I was lost in your incredible translation (I love "If I'm wearing white, everybody's wearing white") and the pictures are fabulous. "Continuity. Belief. Faith. Trust. Love. And Humor. In the end, that's what it takes." - and selflessness. BEAUTIFUL!!!
This is as good as a video. Happy Anniversary.
Happy Anniversary! When a marriage works it is wonderful.
Mazel tov and Happy Anniversary! Looks great. Loved the deer in the headlights shot.

You beat me to the chupah by about four months.
Thank you all SO much. The Husband is sleeping a well satisfied sleep, if ya know what I mean...
Thought this looked familiar Sally...I read it LAST year! ha ha They keep on adding up, don't they! Congrats again! R
Mazel tov. 31 - that's the molybdenum anniversary, right? A wonderful story, except you left out a huge part: what about the food?
Stim, she included a picture of the cake.
That's a lovely story. Congratulations! On a side note, do women "sow their oats" too? I always thought that's a male term.
Yes I have read this and yes I read it again twice. I saw the pics on FB.
Well done -very few can say this.
PS you look like Marlo Thomas..:)

I'll bet that after 31 years, hubby doesn't have to wait for anniversaries, birthdays, and Valentine's day to get that well satisfied sleep either ;-)
Congratulations to you both, Sally.

But ... you realise you *did* film that wedding, right?
ah, how i love your story. i really like getting to share your anniversary with you like this. thank you for sharing with all of us.
Strange, but in our day and age that's a real feat. I think you hit it on the head when you said your intention was to be faithful. One of the losses from the "revolution" was that it went out of fashion, and now it's taken another generation (and their suffering) to see its significance.

Chalk one up for organized religion and the sense of community and continuity it provides. Your happiness shows through in every picture, and in every piece of writing I've seen from you. You are forever young.
What a great story! And I LOVE the picture where you look so afraid (only because I know everything turned out all right) and that delicious cake picture (which makes me so hungry!). Happy anniversary to you and your husband, and many, many happy returns!
Either I read this post before or I was at your wedding.

Happy Anniversary!
Great story, Sally! Great pix!

Normally I do not come to these kinds of threads (I fight in the political threads), but Nancy and I will celebrate OUR 31 anniversary on February 3rd. No chopped liver…and no marriage either. Not because we were not going to have kids, it’s just that we didn’t feel the need to have the state or some church agree that we belong together.

We were a blind date...that occurred on February 3rd—and have been together ever since.

I wrote a story about it...posted it here on OS. I'll send you a link in a PM rather than impose it here.

Mazel Tov. The couple who set up our blind date were Jewish...and keep complaining that we have not "completed the mitzvah."
Congratulations. You have beaten the odds. As you indicated, trust is the key part of a successful marriage. Very well told.
Congratulations! Love the pictures (wedding gowns used to have sleeves!) and the tale.
Happy Anniversary! What a fabulous wedding story! I like your "deer in the headlights" photo. Wishing you many more years of laughter.
Who doesn't love a success story?! I think it's wonderful you have been married so long - it restores my faith. /R
Again, thank you so much for so such kind anniversary love. We've been in New York and not a lot of time to respond, plus I didn't even realize I was front and center!

Big shout out to those married/partnered equally long, it ain't easy but it sure is rewarding.

Some answers: Yes, women sow wild oats, right Lea? Stim, c'mon, it was a Jewish wedding, there was food out the wazoo. Larry, you saw a version before, waaay back when. Linda, if you think I resemble Marlo Thomas, I'm flattered. Kellylark, you bet your bippie. ;)

A giant thank you to Ben Sen for beautifully describing the importance of the faith and trust critical to a long, good marriage and especially for calling me "forever young."
Sally, what a great wedding story. You need to write a movie script about this. Congratulations!
Great story Sally. Congrats.
The look of terror in your eyes is priceless. I remember that moment in my own wedding and although I have no photographic proof, I'm pretty sure I looked a lot like that, too. I'm glad yours turned out to be for keeps. :D

I remember reading this, and who could forget the photos? Congratulations to you and your hubby! It's interesting how things turn out, isn't it?

I don't remember if I left a comment when you posted this before, but I met my husband on January 22, 1982. So, as you were getting married, I was waking up the morning after having met the love of my life. So this time of year, even more than our wedding anniversary (which was in April seven years after we met) gets me thinking about romance and strange twists of fate.
Congratulations, Sally dear, especially on lasting so long, so well.
What a good story - you told it so well it played like a movie in my head and I was there, celebrating with you. Mazel Tov, then and now.
I thought I read this last year. But I loved it again. Congratulations.
oh, Sally. I am all gushed up reading this...I am not even going to look at what others have said. I am the new guard, and generally unguarded in my comments.

Your clear, clear memory is astounding. Your enjoyment of the traditions is heartwarming. I feel like I am amongst all the girls in that suite. Maybe I was there. It feels that familiar.

Finally, congratulations on your excellent choice which was clearly the right one.
I'm so glad those who'd seen this enjoyed it again. And especially pleased that newer OSers got a chance, if nothing else, to see that fear can be overcome... and turned into a lifetime of the Right Stuff. Thank you for the kind comments.
Congratulations Sally, finding someone to share your life with and then staying together through the ebb and flow of a 31 year marriage is an accomplishment. May you both enjoy 31 more years together.