I adore my husband, but after 12 years of marriage and three kids, I have to admit wedding anniversaries have gotten pretty low-key in our household. What was once celebrated with romantic vacations or at least a fancy meal out has given way to a Netflix-and-chill evening at home (which has its own kind of romance, if you ask me) and mutually agreed-upon pacts that “we’re not doing gifts this year.”
But there is one tradition that we’re committed to maintaining as long as possible: required family viewing of our wedding video. Once a year, on or around our anniversary date, we pile on the couch with our kids (and the requisite snacks) and turn on our otherwise sadly ignored DVD player. It isn’t a tough sell; our kids are still too young for their own electronic devices, so pretty much anything that appears on a screen is a draw for them.
This practice started off a little self-serving—my husband and I just really wanted to watch our wedding video—but the outcome has been eye-opening for all of us. Weddings are a who’s who of the main characters in our lives at a specific moment in time, and the photos or videos that come out of them last far longer than many of those relationships.
In our case, they offer our kids a chance to see relatives who have since passed away, significant others who didn’t stand the test of time and people they do know looking fresh-faced, carefree and, yes, younger (something a child will never fail to point out!).
As we watch our video, we tell our kids stories about people they will never have the chance to meet, like my husband’s Egyptian grandmother, who traveled to our New York City celebration from Cairo and received a standing ovation at the reception dinner. She passed away not long after, before we had our kids, but our video has allowed her to become a familiar figure to them even in her absence.
The wedding ceremony itself opens up often-unexpected lines of questioning, about religious traditions or the lack of them, about social customs (why don’t both parents give away a bride?) and even who can and can’t get married (two men or women, yes; two siblings, nope; a person and their favorite stuffed animal, maybe in Vegas).
Most importantly, of course, weddings are a celebration of love and commitment—a declaration before family and friends that the couple intends to stick with each other through the Instagram-perfect moments and the other 99% of the time. That is a commitment I believe our kids need to hear about, especially since they can’t yet appreciate what it takes to weather the storms of job stress, newborn-induced sleep deprivation or overly long visits from the in-laws.
I hope my kids have picked up on my love for their dad through gestures of affection, respect and appreciation woven into our everyday lives. I suspect, however, that they see the two of us as a team of tall people who alternate between fulfilling their needs and blocking their desires for more sugar and fewer naps. I want them to see how that team first formed, and that it’s more than a cordial working relationship. I need them to know that the love that brought them into the world is still just as strong as it ever was, even if it looks a lot different than when we said “I do.”
As I look ahead to our next anniversary, I don’t know if we’ll be binging on champagne or binge-watching Fleabag. But I know we’ll be setting aside time to share with our kids some of the images and memories of the day that set it all in motion. It’s pretty amazing to see it through their eyes and to realize that the “for better” part of our vows is now snuggled up around us on the couch.