Someone’s elbow struck my eye socket with a dull thud and a sharp splash. Everyone in the pool froze. My eye immediately started to swell.
“Audra, your eye…,” my fiancé began. I flew out of the pool in search of a mirror.
My wedding was less than 24 hours away. An elbow had just smashed my bridal dreams beyond recognition.
I had been planning this day since I was a little girl. I spent 18 months pouring through bridal magazines and visiting bridal salons in search of the perfect dress. I had a dozen meetings with the florist to determine the ideal combination of white lilies and roses for my bouquet. I kept an elaborately detailed organizational binder, bulging at the seams with my plans – until one careless moment destroyed them all.
I never considered on my wedding day I might look like I’d barely survived a bar room brawl. I imagined the gossip.
“Did you see the bride? Look at that shiner. I heard she was punched in the face. Poor girl.”
I was supposed to be an elegant vision in beaded white, not a red-faced and one-eyed mess. I wanted to call it all off.
But I knew that I couldn’t let down the man who would be waiting for me at the altar. So consumed with being the picture perfect bride for him, I’d forgotten what really mattered. He loved me without condition, just as I was.
At that moment, I decided I wouldn’t let a black eye – or my wounded ego – ruin our wedding. I grabbed an ice pack.
After an embarrassing application of Preparation H and a generous slathering of eyeshadow, I arrived at the church. I held my injured head high, taking a deep breath for courage and my father’s arm for strength – and walked down the aisle. Standing next to the priest was the man of my dreams. I stared into his blue eyes and forgot about the state of mine.
Thirteen years later, as I flip through our wedding album, I still wince a little at the photos. I so clearly remember the sting of my eye and disappointment in my failed plans.
But I also remember my husband taking my hand at the altar and telling me how beautiful I was. I remember my eyes welling with tears and my heart swelling with emotion as I said, “I do.”
I remember hearing applause, not gossip, when we were pronounced husband and wife.
It wasn’t exactly a picture perfect wedding, but it was the start of a good marriage. We’ve grown from that young couple into a family of five. Today, the love I see in my husband’s eyes is just as strong as it ever was. And when he looks at me, I still feel beautiful – no matter what state I’m in.