I adore that Edna St. Vincent Millay poem, “Love is Not All.” The one where she says that love can’t feed us, or heal disease, or protect us from the elements, or save us from disaster. And yet. If she were driven to distraction by pain and want, she says, maybe she might sell her love for food or peace. Maybe, but probably not. Love isn’t everything, you see. It’s only the most important thing.

I’m waxing sentimental and uncharacteristically romantic today, my friends. That’s because it’s Hubby’s and my thirtieth wedding anniversary. I know! Thirty years. We’re both finding that hard to believe.

When Hubby and I were married we’d been living together for three years. And neither of us was in the first blush of youth. Or so we thought then. I was thirty-three and he was forty-five. In fact, I remember telling my class at the Adult High School, where I taught at the time, that we were getting married that summer. Someone asked me my age, and when I said thirty-three, a woman in my class, much older than I was, said in an oddly, condescending tone, “You’ve left it late haven’t you?” Seems funny now. I mean, I wasn’t eighteen, but I had a few good years left in me. Ha.

Bride and groom in front of the blooming hydrangeas.
Ah, love is not all. Except that it is. July 8, 1989.

We had a small wedding, at home. I’d never wanted the white wedding extravaganza. Even as a teenager, I thought if I ever married I’d want it to be at home on the farm. As it happened it was on our deck, in our front garden, overlooking the river in Manotick, on a perfect summer’s day. My sister Connie and I cleaned our house from top to bottom the day before, in preparation. Hubby bought white potted plants to put around the deck. The venerable Manotick Tea Room catered. My mum made our wedding cake. And my friend’s boyfriend played his guitar and sang.

I ordered daisies for my flowers, and the Mill Street Florist here in Manotick tied the bouquets for free. I bought my vanilla suit at Ad Lib, my favourite boutique. And my hairdresser Chinta did my hair as a wedding gift; I didn’t want a veil so she pinned a spray of baby’s breath up one side of my head. I loved it. Simple, but still a bit bride-y.

Everyone, it seemed, went out of their way to be kind. To make our day a success.

Laughing bride and groom.
Someone just said something hilarious, as I recall.
Wedding buffet.
My mum, my sister Carolyn, and my sister Connie sample the buffet. That’s Mum’s cake in the foreground.

When everyone had gone home that evening, I changed into my shorts, and Hubby and I, my sister Connie, and her husband Pat finished the last of the wine out on our deck. Connie and Pat and their three kids had been staying with us, the kids sleeping in our tent in the backyard. But on our wedding night, Hubby and I swapped our room for the tent, and the kids moved indoors. As it happens, there was more privacy in the tent. Our house is pretty small.

One of my fondest memories is of my sister bringing our morning tea on a tray to the backyard the next day. And seeing as you can’t knock on a tent door, she announced her approach with a loud, “Knock, knock. Morning tea for the happy couple.” Or something similar. Not exactly breakfast in bed, at the Ritz. But pretty darned close. And lovelier, I think.

Evening on the river.
Looking a bit pensive at the end of the day.

When our guests had headed home to New Brunswick, Hubby and I packed up and lit out on our honeymoon. We spent five days canoeing and camping in Algonquin Park. I know. Not everyone’s idea of a romantic trip. But you can’t get much more alone under the stars than in a wilderness park. Just saying.

On our honeymoon. Booth Lake, in Algonquin Park, Ontario.
Yes, yes we did. We went canoeing on our honeymoon. Booth Lake in Algonquin Park.

Our wedding was exactly what we wanted. Low key. Intimate. Our special day shared only with those closest to us. But, you know, it wasn’t perfect. Are weddings ever perfect?

And like our wedding day, our marriage hasn’t been all smooth paddling. There’s been a bit of white water. Hubby and I are quite different people, as I’m sure you’ve guessed if you’ve read my blog before. We have very different temperaments. Sometimes his get up and get a thousand things done before breakfast drives me nutty. Sometimes my tendency to be dreamy, a bit slower (okay, a lot slower) off the mark drives him to distraction. He’s a saver, and I’m a spender. He’s the classic, quiet, responsible eldest child. And, well, I’m the cliché youngest child, waving my arms and dancing for attention. On the surface, we really shouldn’t work as a couple. But we do.

That Edna St. Vincent Millay poem has long been my very, very favourite. And when Hubby and I planned our wedding ceremony, I wanted it included. I thought it would make a beautiful reading. But Hubby said that maybe it was a bit dark in tone. Maybe our mums would miss the important last line. Maybe they’d only hear all the other lines about what love isn’t. And after all, if we wanted them at our wedding ceremony we should take into consideration what they’d like. So I relented. And I’m glad I did. In the event, I was so emotional already, I’d probably have made an ass of myself if the minister had read the poem. Like Lucy, I’d have opened my mouth wide, and sobbed. Loudly. Messily. Mascara everywhere. Phew. I sure dodged a bullet with that one, folks.

But I still love the poem. It expresses exactly what I think about love. And marriage. And our marriage. We’re not everything to each other. Only everything that’s important.

So, after a thirty year delay… here’s a beautiful reading of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Love Is Not All.”


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66 thoughts on “Love Is Not All”

  1. Happy,happy,happy anniversary to you and Stu!
    What a wonderful wedding-just you and the people you love…and daisies….so intimate and meaningful
    Your mother’s wedding cake was a master-piece indeed
    Wonderful poem

    1. Thanks, Dotoressa. My mum was a wonderful cook, and particularly a baker. Her fruit cakes and doughnuts were well known in the neighbourhood.

  2. Lovely post , lovely poem & a lovely wedding . Many congratulations . We don’t celebrate love enough . Perhaps we don’t want to seem smug to those who didn’t find the right person or maybe it isn’t fashionable to feel love is so important , so we keep quiet . There’s talk now of serial relationships for our long lives as ‘ no one person can be all you want or need ‘ Well , we met at seventeen & married at twenty , almost 51 years ago so it is possible . Like you we had a small wedding & not too much fuss . The honeymoon was in our little rented flat with a few days out walking in the dales via the local bus . All very nice .
    Of course there have been some hiccups since then but another poet wrote ‘ grow old with me – the best is yet to be ‘ & it is . So I echo all your thoughts ( & I’d have been doing a Lucy too )

  3. Happy 30th Anniversary! Thank you for sharing such a romantic story of a perfectly-imperfect wedding day and marriage. And of course, the beautiful poem. Wishing you many more years living and growing together.

  4. Happy Anniversary. I love the sound of your wedding. I always think perfection is overrated. Unfortunately in today’s social media obsessed world perfection seems to be the only thing that is allowed. The least little chink and boom, the bullies are out. While striving for perfection I think it is easy to miss out on real life, which is really very sad. Life isn’t perfect, nor are people. Some of the best parts of my life are highlights because they are at least in part imperfect. I wish you many more happy years together.

  5. That was a lovely start to the morning and I am so glad to have heard that poem. She is pretty much a mystery to me but I shall now look for more. Your wedding sounds delightful and spending the night in a tent…with tea brought to the tent-flap…I hope you both crack open the bubbly tonight (or today, why not?) and carry on the story.

  6. Congratulations. It sounds like your wedding was a mix of class and common sense. I read somewhere that the more spent on the wedding, the less likely the marriage is to last.
    To many more decades of marital joy!

    1. I guess that means we’re all set for several more years. We didn’t spend much money. Although I did buy exactly the suit I wanted. No surprise there.

  7. Happy anniversary. It is quite unusual these days to be married to the same person for such a long time. In Germany one third of the marriages fail.

  8. Happy Anniversary Stu & Sue 💐
    Your wedding story was a wonderful read.

    I’m not usually a poem person but I did listen and really enjoyed the words…and the voice! Thanks for sharing…

  9. A very happy Anniversary Sue and Stu!! May you enjoy the small moments and share another 30 plus years together!

  10. Wishing the two of you many, many more years of togetherness as you celebrate 30 years of marriage. No one should ever say that marriage is going to be easy. Two distinct personalities must try to wend their way through the ups and downs that life brings….but it is so worth the effort! Lovely to read of your very special wedding celebration…all the personal details made it your very own…beautiful! My husband and I have been married 41 years (I was 22 years old and very grown up!) and it is like only a few years have gone by…the path isn’t always smooth but it is so much lovelier when it can be shared with someone you love and you know loves you in return. Happy 30th Anniversary….enjoy! Cheers, Alayne

  11. Happy anniversary! Your wedding sounds like it was perfectly the way you wanted it.
    Edna St. Vincent Millay is one of my favorite poets and Love Is Not All is one of my favorite poems of hers. It is so beautiful.

  12. Such a beautiful post, everything from the poem to the description of your intimate wedding. Is it the same home you live in now? How absolutely wonderful. Happy Anniversary to you both.

  13. Happy Anniversary S & S
    Thanks for sharing your wedding story. Our 32nd wedding anniversary is coming up this year – where does the time go!
    Suz from Vancouver

  14. Happy Anniversary! I’d never heard that poem before but it is lovely.

    I found it refreshing to see how you chose to be married, on your terms doing it your own way. Sometimes stripping down to the bare necessities helps to remind us what is really important in life.

    We eloped and I don’t regret a thing.

    We only had four people at the wedding. At the last hour my sister convinced me to tell my parents otherwise I’d only planned to have her and a girlfriend as witnesses. Looking back I’m so grateful my parents were there.


  15. Happy Anniversary! We just celebrated 25 years, been together, 28. Such a journey. Thank you for sharing. Love how intimate your wedding was.

    1. Thanks, Sandra. I’ve long been an Edna St. Vincent Millay fan. She was definitely an original, in her work, and in how she lived her life.

  16. OH, I just loved this post from beginning to end. What a wonderful read. Happy Anniversary and many, many more!

  17. Congratulations to you both!
    I’m another 1989 bride. My husband and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary in May. And like you, I eschewed the big meringue dress and wore a suit, with flowers in my hair and I carried a large bouquet, which was just about the only nod to a traditional wedding. We may have dispensed with big dresses and veils but we must’ve done some right to make it to 30 years 😉

  18. Sue, Thank you for such a moving post. I love it all–the poem, your prose, and the photos. Happy anniversary to you and Stu. A marriage that matures and deepens with the passing years is a great blessing. My husband and I were married in 1980 and like you kept it simple and heartfelt. — Dianne

  19. Lovely to read this on our just about 2 week anniversary. Love the sound of your wedding and love hearing about you and Stu. Congratulations! Such a nice story, lovely for me to read after just celebrating our wedding. I was amazed by how many people were there to lend a helping hand. I did not cry on our wedding day, but ended up crying the following day when Ali was talking to me about how much a friend of mine helped us out. Sounds about right for what I would cry about following our wedding, haha.

    1. I saw pictures of your wonderful wedding on your Mum’s FB page. You looked awesome, my dear. So sweet and so happy. And your mum… she sure knows how to shake a leg! Looks like she danced up a storm. Made me smile. Thirty years from now may you and Ali look back on your photos and smile too.

  20. Congratulations!
    I love this post, such a sweet but not sentimental description of a significant life event celebrated so well. (and that’s a favourite EStVMilly poem, but I guess I can see your groom’s point –)
    We also had a home wedding, although there were more guests and it was at my parents’ home. But a similar spirit prevailed, and your lovely description makes me want to haul out the photo albums. . . .
    And like you, we went canoe camping on our honeymoon. . .unlike you, I don’t have 30+ years of continued canoe camping, the mosquitos, no-see-ums, and portages having limited appeal. You’re obviously made of stronger stuff.

  21. Last night an old friend called to tell me his wife had died. She and I used to be business partners. At the beginning of the call he was stoic but then I could hear his voice breaking and the tears started and he said goodbye. He’s 80, and she was 78. They didn’t marry until they were in their mid-30’s. Even though it’s heartbreaking to lose a spouse, the best thing is remembering we were loved by them. Love is the thread that knits our DNA together. Congratulations on your anniversary! xoxox, Brenda

  22. Happy Anniversary! What a lovely, special day you had – much more meaningful and personal than all the razzmatazz of today’s Big Weddings. We’ve been married 45 years / together 47. Many ups and downs – but all good now! We were married in Wales in a Register Office – the Registrar spoke mainly in Welsh (which we didn’t speak!) and the certificate provided at the end was also in Welsh. We only had two ‘witnesses’ there and they had a dog with them. We’ve since wondered if we actually have a marriage certificate or if it’s a dog licence!

  23. What a lovely bride you were and still are. I loved the poem. I’ve been married 44 years (child bride I like to say) and I’m looking forward to the future still. We have some great times together.

  24. Just found you through a link on another blog. I have been immersed for an hour or so reading past posts. So enjoyable!! I’m also a 60+ retired teacher. I’ll keep reading— thanks for sharing and inspiration.

  25. Thanks for sharing this. You’re so right – no wedding or marriage is perfect, but your wedding is my idea of just about perfect. In these days of so many over the top weddings (the expense and hoopla astounds me) it’s wonderful to read about a wedding that was small, intimate, and lovely. We also had a small wedding and if left to do it again, I’d do the same. Next year will be our 40th anniversary (how can that be?!). Happy Anniversary to You and your Hubby!

  26. Stephanie Haly

    Thanks for this poem. It is a lovely one about love. It is not sentimental and perhaps, could only be written by a woman.

  27. Happy Anniversary! (Somewhat belated as I’m catching up on posts that I’ve been too busy enjoying summer to read.) Your wedding sounds absolutely lovely and so personal. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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