The day I accidentally got married


I accidentally got married one day. You might be picturing a drunken Vegas wedding right now, but that's not how it happened. It was an overcast winter day in Austin, Texas, and we left our apartment with the intention of opening a checking account. 

The day started out with a mission. My boyfriend and I wanted to open a joint checking account. We figured that combining our measly wages would somehow make us slightly less poor.

At the time, banks wouldn't allow unmarried couples to have a joint checking account. What to do? We decided to walk over to the county courthouse to find out how two people might be married. 

The young female clerk explained the cost, requirements and pulled out a calendar of possible dates to be married by the JP. $60 was a lot of money to us, plus we would have to get the blood tests and decide on a date... The clerk noted our hesitation. 

"There's another option, it's called an informal marriage. It's $6 to file and you can do it right now."

My boyfriend dug deep in his pocket and came up with the cash. He said, "Do you want to?" 

I shrugged my shoulders and said, "I guess so."

The clerk asked us some basic questions, typed out our responses, then pushed the completed form toward me. "Sign here," she said. I took the pen and with a shaky hand signed my new married name. 

I left the courthouse with a small white plastic bag adorned with a picture of a wedding cake and the word congratulations in flowing script. The bag contained a sample size box of Tide detergent, a Harlequin romance novel, and a couple of coupons. Those would be our only wedding gifts. On the upside, I didn't have to write any thank you notes. 

Fast forward to our anniversary this year. My husband and I were eating dinner at Red Lobster. We're sort of sentimental about the place. It was the nicest restaurant we could afford on our first anniversary so we like to go back and reminisce. 

My husband said he often felt bad that we didn't do things "the right way". No flowery proposal, no white dress, no church wedding. I guess I might be in the minority, but the thought of walking down the aisle with everyone staring at me was the stuff of my nightmares. I assured him that I didn't feel the least bit slighted. 

You could imagine my surprise when he got down on his knee in that crowded restaurant, held out a ring and asked me if I would spend the rest of my life with him. He couldn't give me the wedding, he explained, but he could give me the proposal.

After all these years, that this man could reduce me to a crying mess in front of dozens of people, told me everything I needed to know.  I might have just wanted a joint checking account that winter day, but what I ended up with was so much better. My children's Dad, my grandchildren's Papa, my best friend and partner for life. 

Oh yeah, we also opened that account.