After our Southwest trip, Jeff and I decided to move to Boston. The city was small enough to be manageable, it was relatively near our families (in Connecticut and New Jersey), and also, we were sick of trying to figure out where to live. We moved into our apartment in January, during the first big snowstorm of the season, and slept on our camping pads on the floor because we hadn’t gotten the bed out of storage yet. Jeff got a job at the Museum of Science, I began babysitting and giving piano lessons, and we started to get to know Boston. Finally, in the autumn of 2000 we started planning our wedding.
We wanted to get married, we decided, because we wanted witnesses. Back in February ’99 we had made the commitment to each other. Getting married would mean stating that commitment in front of 135 of our nearest and dearest family and friends. We wanted a wedding that would be simple, and we wanted it to be our own. We wrote the ceremony and our vows, we planned a menu that I and many friends would help to cook, and we rented the Cook College Gardens at Rutgers University in New Jersey so that we could have the wedding outside. We chose Sunday, June 3, 2001 for our wedding day, and we sent out invitations (mostly created by Jeff) with a bicycle motif. My mother became a minister so that she could perform the ceremony.
The week before the Big Day, I went down to my parents’ house to cook and prepare. It rained all week, but I refused to get upset.
“If it’s gonna rain, it’s gonna rain,” Jeff kept saying, “and all your worrying won’t help that!” Jeff was right, so mostly I didn’t worry. He came down to NJ on Wednesday, we got our marriage license, and by Saturday everything was ready for the next day.
But on Sunday it was still raining. It was the first time all week that I’d allowed myself to bum out about the weather, but finally I almost cried. And then at 9:00, the sun came out to welcome as gorgeous a wedding day as we could have asked for.
Everything went amazingly smoothly. We’d hired some friends to help out, and around 9:30 they left for the Gardens with a van full of food and utensils and tablecloths and water dispensers. Around 10:00, Jeff and I drove over too. (We discussed the possibility of riding in on our bikes, but the logistics were too complicated.) We took photos with our families, set up the stereo with the special mix CD’s that Jeff had made, and made sure everything else was going well. And then it was almost noon, and Jeff and I went into the woods for a walk, just the two of us.
As we walked, I teased him: “You sure you want to do this?” Then we practiced reading our parts of the ceremony to each other. My soon-to-be-husband cried as I read to him, as we stumbled up the mossy path, and then I cried as he read to me, and then we both laughed because we were both crying at the same time. We kissed each other and Jeff teased me: “You sure you wanna take the plunge?”
And then, in a moment that was both infinitely long and two seconds short, we were walking across the patio and into the pavilion where my parents were singing “Heart and Soul” and all our friends and family were clapping and cheering. One hundred and thirty five of our dearest friends in the world were in that pavilion: our families, and Wyeth, and friends from NJ and CT and Boston, and then there were our bike trip friends: Lili and Jack and Ron and Karen. Alice from Portland had sent her best wishes, and so had Julie and Bryan, Eric and Lorette, and Dick and Laura from Zion.
I squeezed Jeff’s hand as I looked out at all those wonderful people all in one place, as I heard their applause, felt their love, watched my parents singing together. When the music was done, each of our family members did something special. My eight-year-old brother Loren sang an extremely cute (if off-key) rendition of “L’chaim,” my brother Jake read a poem, Jeff’s sister Celeste sang “Annie’s Song,” Jeff’s dad read a poem, my mother spoke, my sister read, and our dads performed a surprise duet of “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof that left no one with dry eyes. After that, Jeff and I told each other, in front of all those people, how much we love each other.
And then we walked over to the gardens. Everybody was given a program, and inside we had printed the things that we were about to promise each other. Each of our 135 wedding guests read our vows aloud:
do you promise to love and respect Sara,
To trust her and be trustworthy,
To care for and be kind to her,
To have fun and laugh and enjoy life with her,
To be honest and open with her,
To honor and recognize her individuality,
To grow and learn with her forever,
Till the end of your time?
Jeffrey Russell Amaral, do you promise all those things to Sara?
“Oh, I do!” Jeff whispered to me, his eyes full of tears. “I do!” he said confidently, aloud to everyone else.
Then everyone asked me.
do you promise to love and respect Jeff,
To trust him and be trustworthy,
To care for and be kind to him,
To have fun and laugh and enjoy life with him,
To be honest and open with him,
To honor and recognize the differences between you,
To grow and learn with him forever,
Till the end of your time?
Sarabeth Matilsky, do you promise all those things to Jeff?
“Yes I do!” I said, and I was laughing as my eyes turned into gushing fountains, too.
As the sun shone and our friends cried, my mom said, “I now pronounce you wife and husband! And now,” she added, “the bride may kiss the groom!”
The day after our wedding, we drove up to Prattsburgh, NY to my family’s cabin—where, nearly two years ago, Jeff and I had “stepped thoughtfully into love.” In preparation for our two-week honeymoon-bike tour around the Finger Lakes, we packed our panniers in the living room. Then, on Friday morning, we rolled our trusty steeds out into the sunshine and down the driveway to the road.
“Are you ready?” I asked Jeff.
“Yup,” he answered.
“I love you,” I said.
“I love you too, wife!”
We smiled at each other, and then together we pedaled onto Route 53 and up our first mountain.