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My on-again, off-again wedding Add to ...

My boyfriend and I were dating on-and-off for eight years when he finally asked me to marry him.

Our high-school and university years were plagued with tumultuous break-ups, but I spent every ounce of my energy fighting for our relationship.

I met the love of my life two days after my 17th birthday and three months after my mother died. He pursued me with gusto. At first I lacked interest, but he kept on pushing.

Our relationship began to move quickly. He showed up at my door almost every night bearing chocolates and flowers. His shoulder proved a comfortable place to cry, and when I needed to escape my broken family, his car got us anywhere we wanted to go.

We dated for three months, then he broke up with me after Valentine's Day. Our relationship had become too intense for him, and he couldn't see himself getting so serious at the tender age of 18.

I didn't leave my house for days. I moped for weeks. Months passed before I felt like dating again. Still, I never gave up hope he would find his way back to me.

It took 10 months for that day to come. This time I was a lot needier and more insecure. We dated for six months but again he broke it off.

Our on-again, off-again courtship continued for five more years, kept alive by our chance reunions in bars and on the street. By the time we reached our mid-20s, we were at a crossroads: Either the relationship would need to go beyond the dating phase or we would have to end it for good. We began to plan our future together.

From the time I was 3 or 4, I had dreamt about a big, beautiful wedding. I knew exactly what I wanted - the dress, the bridesmaids, the cake. The only question mark was the groom. That taken care of, all that was left was the wedding.

Our engagement coincided with my being transferred to another city for work. We took turns travelling to see each other every weekend. I was sure my dream wedding would come together in the end.

My fiancé warned me that a large, traditional Jewish wedding might not be viable. His parents' ugly divorce had overshadowed most of the big events in his life. I convinced him a wedding planner could ease any conflicts.

The first thing we needed to do was find a venue. My family wanted a synagogue, but since my husband-to-be's family was not religious we decided on a hotel with a garden ceremony - ducks swimming in the pond included - and a gala kosher reception for 300 of our closest friends and family.

My mother had talked about how she planned to take me to New York to buy my wedding dress. I settled on the next best thing. My best friend and I stayed with my cousin in Manhattan, and we found the perfect dress in Brooklyn.

Two months before the wedding, I moved back. I took care of the bridesmaids' dresses, the flowers, the invitations. The ceremony became a point of contention. We needed to tread carefully when planning the procession and the chuppah (a small cover the bride's and groom's parents stand under). Our wedding planner came up with an idea, but it was vetoed when we proposed it to family members.

My husband was beginning to realize my dream wedding would need to be altered, and he wanted me to see the same thing. One day he came home with an idea - we could have a giant chuppah with our whole wedding party under it. Now the dream was becoming a circus.

Emotions were running high on both sides and we were constantly fighting. I could only envision the day in black and white, and I wanted him to see it from my perspective. After all, it was my wedding - my dream wedding.

Bit by bit, everything began to fall apart. How could we make a marriage work when we could not even plan a wedding? I was weighing my options when my fiancé said, "You need to decide what is more important - a life with me or your dream wedding." The wedding was just the means to an end, and the end I had fought so hard for all these years was him.

We decided to cancel the wedding reception. We would have the ceremony in the rabbi's office with immediate family. We repaid all our debts and returned one super-pouffy dress purchased in Brooklyn. We told family members the disappointing news.

I cried for a week, mourning my dream. Our wedding planner became our wedding therapist. She reminded me she had had a dream wedding, with not so dreamy a divorce. I found great comfort in this. My husband promised that for our 10-year anniversary we could renew our vows with all the elements of a big wedding.

That day recently came and passed. My wedding day was not the best day of my life, but the births of my three children were. Our home is filled with hugs and kisses and more than I could have dreamed. We are way too busy to renew our vows, and it's not that important any more. Maybe we'll do it after 25 years.

A wedding lasts one night. A marriage is forever (you hope).

Susan Lanyi lives in Montreal.

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