F rom my view at the sidelines, the inner circle looks bright: a pageant of rosy-cheeked girls in poufy dresses, diamonds on their wrists and in their eyes. The kallah is a flash of white, lace, joy.

My friend and I watch, titter, yawn, check our phones for irate messages from the babysitter. Our own poufy dresses are tucked away in some dark closet; either they don’t fit, or they serve no purpose. Long-ago nights of heels and jewelry and dance have been replaced by dinner and bedtime routines.

My friend tilts her head in the direction of the glittery circle. “We never had that, my husband and I.”

“What?”

“That euphoric shanah rishonah, the flying in the clouds.” She shrugs.

We watch as the kallah is swept onto a table, beams at her guests from beneath an adorable lacy umbrella, raining shimmery ribbons.

“I used to think there was something wrong with us,” she continues. “Sure, our marriage was okay, but there was so much struggle and misunderstanding and adjustment. Everyone else seemed to be in the clouds.” She turns to look at me and her face is serene, content. “Honesty, love, everything real and deep and strong in a marriage, it doesn’t come from the fluff. You have to sweat for it.”

Standing there, hovering at the edges as the kallah and her friends spin around in their magic loop, I remember an article I penned shortly after my engagement. I wrote of the glory, the newness and wonder of a relationship before it gets tarnished with arguments and resentment, weighed down with such things like how are we going to cover the rent?

There’s a sparkle a kallah has, and I waxed lyrical about keeping it alive, never losing that sheen. From my perch on top of the world, I went on to write about my relationship with Hashem, wondering how to tap into the sincerity and earnest love that was also ours, once.

This article was published in a Shavuos magazine edition, one week before my wedding, and I blushed as I read it, smug and happy. I felt it was all very appropriate and timely.

The tempo quickens, the girls reach for partners and skip-twirl through a quirky loop dance. I’m still a dreamer, so my heart tugs at the thought of a bride, of veils whispering over satin and tulle, of innocent love and beginnings and purity.

But real marriages happen slowly, real love unfurls within the struggle, with arguments and patience and forgiveness. Honest connection is formed, stuck together piece by gritty piece, over birthday gifts and burned pasta, Shabbos meals and shenanigans that need getting used to. A marriage is cemented over the din of screaming toddlers and meddling mothers-in-law and irate landlords. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 544 – Shavuos 2017 Special Edition)