I wasn't ever one of those girls who sat around dreaming up my lavish, impossibly perfect wedding down to the baby's breath filler. The most romantic, wedding-focused mind game I ever played was designing a perfect day of kayaking and horseback riding in the mountains that might culminate in a ring. But I'd always get stuck in the details of racing at a dead gallop over a meadow, scaring up a moose or some caribou and forget the intended end of the daydream in the first place. I never fawned over my mother's wedding album, or pawed through costume trunks to make myself into a bride for an afternoon. I was far too busy building tree-houses and piloting my dad's sawhorses into F-16 fighter jets.

Last weekend, it occurred to me that I could count down the weeks to The Big Day on my hands. I sat there staring at my spread fingers. Somehow, having this tangible calendar of sorts made the whole thing a little more real. But honestly, none of this process has felt like I thought - even in my lack of forethought - it would be. Despite the omission of this fantasy from my childhood, I still had unexamined expectations of what the build up to getting married would be like. The pile of largely useless wedding planning books and magazines I have unintentionally accumulated since is no less realistic. I am not floating on a happy cloud of flower-choosing bliss. I did not hear angels singing when, exhausted, I chose a dress largely based on being sick of pulling the 20 lb monstrosities on. If asked, I would have denied that I expected to be in a state of blissful bubbly anticipation. But I think, deep down in that secret effusive girly place, I did.

Two weeks ago I was in a panic about ordering wedding invitations. There are entire twenty page chapters in most of the 'planners' going over how and what and where this should take place. Photos of gleaming bride models in the thick of things with their gleaming stationer models, hashing out exactly which shade of blush should go with the intricate hand calligraphy side designs. I had spent a total of an hour browsing the internet before Christmas, but had subsequently lost the scrap where I'd recorded the website and top picks. Peter and I sat down at my computer and googled "buy wedding invitations online," then clicked the first search result. Less than an hour later, after a few frantic calls about wording to my parents (who were at a Spurs game in San Antonio - my mom had to leave the stadium twice so I could hear her over the buzzers and screaming) the invitations were ordered. Two days later, I came home to a box on my porch. And there they were. This monumental thing, the Wedding Invitation, held with such awe in my mind, was sitting there in a cardboard box, dented at the corners, in the murk of my stoop (the porch light is one of the many malfunctioning staples that remind me daily how little I am paying on rent.) It was very unspecial. Like ordering bulk dishsoap from a shady e-bay dealer.

But the sweet, monumental moments are there, too. Unexpected. Quieter. I was still reeling from the letdown of invitations-by-internet when Peter and I opened the box together. He pulled out the little shrink-wrapped pile amid the envelopes and reply cards. And there, in a pretty script, with a pearl border much more elegant in person than on a computer screen, were the names of our parents, and then our names and then the date, that intangible number that we have been holding in our minds for months. And he put one arm around me, and ran his finger over the raised letters of our names, and I had another tangible, count-in-on-your-fingers moment that takes my breath away the way the back of my mind imagined it would. A moment when I remember that I get to build a life with my best friend for as long as our hearts keep pumping, and I can count down to it on my hands.