What’ll it be?” Steve asked me, just days after our wedding. “Do we go on the honeymoon we’ve got planned, or do you want to go catch crocs?”
My head was still spinning from the ceremony, the celebration, and the fact that I could now use the two words “my husband” and have them mean something real. The four months between February 2, 1992--the day Steve asked me to marry him--and our wedding day on June 4 had been a blur.
Steve’s mother threw us an engagement party for Queensland friends and family, and I encountered a very common theme: “We never thought Steve would get married.” Everyone said it--relatives, old friends, and schoolmates. I’d smile and nod, but my inner response was, Well, we’ve got that in common. And something else: Wait until I get home and tell everybody I am moving to Australia.
I knew what I’d have to explain. Being with Steve, running the zoo, and helping the crocs was exactly the right thing to do. I knew with all my heart and soul that this was the path I was meant to travel. My American friends--the best, closest ones--understood this perfectly. I trusted Steve with my life and loved him desperately.
One of the first challenges was how to bring as many Australian friends and family as possible over to the United States for the wedding. None of us had a lot of money. Eleven people wound up making the trip from Australia, and we held the ceremony in the big Methodist church my grandmother attended.
It was more than a wedding, it was saying good-bye to everyone I’d ever known. I invited everybody, even people who may not have been intimate friends. I even invited my dentist. The whole network of wildlife rehabilitators came too--four hundred people in all.
The ceremony began at eight p.m., with coffee and cake afterward. I wore the same dress that my older sister Bonnie had worn at her wedding twenty-seven years earlier, and my sister Tricia wore at her wedding six years after that. The wedding cake had white frosting, but it was decorated with real flowers instead of icing ones.
Steve had picked out a simple ring for me, a quarter carat, exactly what I wanted. He didn’t have a wedding ring. We were just going to borrow one for the service, but we couldn’t find anybody with fingers that were big enough. It turned out that my dad’s wedding ring fitted him, and that’s the one we used. Steve’s mother, Lyn, gave me a silk horseshoe to put around my wrist, a symbol of good luck.
On our wedding day, June 4, 1992, it had been eight months since Steve and I first met. As the minister started reading the vows, I could see that Steve was nervous. His tuxedo looked like it was strangling him. For a man who was used to working in the tropics, he sure looked hot. The church was air-conditioned, but sweat drops formed on the ends of his fingers. Poor Steve, I thought. He’d never been up in front of such a big crowd before.
“The scariest situation I’ve ever been in,” Steve would say later of the ceremony. This from a man who wrangled crocodiles!
When the minister invited the groom to kiss the bride, I could feel all Steve’s energy, passion, and love. I realized without a doubt we were doing the right thing.