A week ago today, we shared our vows between two trees in the mountains with all of the most important people in our lives standing before us as witnesses. I know most everyone says this about their wedding day, but it was magical.
Early on, I set an intention to enjoy the process and to maintain perspective- to remember that I wanted to create a marriage that was more beautiful than our wedding. And so I did my best with infusing each step of the planning with love, attention to detail, and a deep appreciation for all of the help we received along the way. I wasn’t always perfect, but I did always try. July 23rd was an absolute dream that I’m not sure I’ll ever wake from and I’ll take from it more than a genuinely kind husband and a new last name. I gained an abundance of wisdom I never expected to receive and a re-commitment to celebrate each of my days with the same peace, happiness, and thankfulness I experienced during our wedding.
And so when people ask about wedding planning advice, I guess all I really have to offer are suggestions about life and things we already know but so easily lose sight of.
What I know is that love exists in moments. Nights of staying up too late talking, learning to swing dance, and falling asleep in buses, trains, subways, and on hard-wood floors. It’s in monthly budget meetings, cooking dinner at midnight, training for a half-marathon, and watching thunderstorms from the front porch while sipping on wine. It’s in those simple, sweet words that get strung together so perfectly that will one day become your vows. These acts of love are the moments that we will be forever nostalgic for.
And when you choose the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with, remember that you’re also choosing the person you eat breakfast with, experience heartaches and growing pains with, and a person who will deeply influence who you become. You’re choosing a person who will be in all of the memories you have; a person to sing alongside with during road trips, someone you’ll cry in front of when life gets hard, and a person who you’ll sleep in with on lazy Sunday afternoons. You’re choosing a partner who will not only see you during your greatest and weakest moments, but also endure them all with you.
Choose well. Be with someone who will tell you a corny joke just to make you laugh and who knows when it’s a wine, cheese, and salami kind of day. You deserve a love that lights up your soul in all of the most beautiful ways and knows all of the deepest places in your heart. You deserve a love that is centered around kindness, compassion, sincerity, and warmth; a relationship that is tender, giving, and pure.
The best advice I have is to give away all the love you have in heart, on your wedding day and on unsuspecting moments that feel like ordinary life.
It goes back to love, but take the opportunity to look at every person at the wedding and know that your life story, happiness, and experience in this world has been impacted by all of the warm smiles standing before you. Place your hand on your heart and recognize all of the beautiful faces that showed up in honor of your love and to celebrate your relationship and new life adventure. Know that there may not be another chance to have all of your most treasured people eating together in one place, dancing together during one night. Close your eyes and try to capture it forever.
Notice all of the effort that goes into making not only your wedding, but your life, as memorable as it is and understand that you couldn’t have done this alone. Be mindful of the time spent by your parents making all of the wedding crafts, the sweet gestures of your new in-laws in planning the rehearsal dinner, your bridal party and their willingness to go offer advice and problem-solve challenges, and your extended family members who give up their vacation and contribute their talents into making your wedding day everything you hoped it would be. Recognize that these are the same people that have been offering you their gifts all along.
As a general rule, surround yourself with the people you would like to be like; be kind to everyone and selective in who you allow to become your greatest support. The people who will encourage you to take on new adventures and schedule phone dates with you just so they don’t miss a thing are the ones that will be there on your wedding day and all the days after. Hold on tight to your relationships with them.
And on a different day and in a different setting, look around you. Feel the happiness that wells up in your heart when you focus on the gifts you received in this life that come in the forms of your friends and family members. Focus on the love that brings you all together and gently let go of the rest. I’d like to bottle up all of the love that we were surrounded with on July 23rd and pass it around to strangers on the street in need of a pick-me-up. I believe that everyone deserves that kind of everlasting and unconditional love and I know we all bloom like the magnificent flowers we are when we feel loved, supported, and acknowledged.
3. Everything will fall into place
I think it’s natural to hope that our weddings are beautiful and perfect- but I also noticed that from this comes a hyper-focus on attention to detail, perfection, and rigid ideas about how the day will go. I worried about following the schedule, being on time, and whether the wind would blow our centerpieces away. I worried about whether our moccasins matched the dresses, if the color scheme matched our vision, and whether or not our food would arrive. But life is always teaching and reteaching me that when I loosen my attachment to expectations of how a situation will play out and focus on being open to the experience, everything unfolds in the most breathtaking way. I’m still learning that when we turn ordinary situations into emergencies, we get in our own way of the experience. And I’m still being mindful of the tendency to rob ourselves of the happiness and beauty of the moment by infusing it with our stress or worry.
I practiced allowing the day to unfold and fall into place the most on our wedding day and I smile when I realize how perfect it all was. The interrupted dances, rain on our rehearsal practice, the missing aisle runner, sneaky moonshine, and dipping too soon during our first dance. And as in life, we may not know it at the time but each moment is what we need, exactly in the way we need it.
4. Focus on what matters
Although countless numbers of hours were spent on creating the most serene venue – from the wooden benches to the handmade wood cut slabs and centerpieces- what I’ll remember most is my dad pointing out family members as we walked down the aisle and my two little cousins carrying the train of my wedding dress behind us. I’ll remember my mom dancing the night away with us under the star filled sky, sneaking kisses with my groom, and overlooking the mountains at an incredible view. I’ll replay moments of my bridesmaids sniffling as they heard us share our vows and remember us singing a made-up song to our photographer and watching them sway their hands as my dad and I danced to “My Girl.”
It was easy to get caught up in all of the details- perfecting every last centerpiece and debating over every single hair option, napkin color, and table arrangement. I’m glad I took the time to consider them and create an enchanting atmosphere, but the day would have been perfect without all of that. Don’t lose perspective on the love that brought you to this moment and the love that will sustain your marriage. Don’t get so focused on creating the perfect wedding that you forget to enjoy time with the family and friends that came to share it with you.
There are so many things competing for our attention and so many societal norms demanding our time and money, and in this all, it is our responsibility to choose to spend our energy on enriching our lives. Be unfaltering in your decision to focus on the things that can’t be easily captured or defined and commit to spending your life using up all of the love that you possess. And my dear friend, dance- on your wedding day, in your kitchen, and during salsa lessons- even if you don’t know how to. Promise yourself that you won’t leave the dance floor until you’ve convinced yourself that you have all the moves.
I can’t think about our wedding day and the months, weeks, and days leading up to it without crying. I attribute the constant flow of tears to my heart being so full with appreciation. Never have I experienced people showing up in the most beautiful and thoughtful ways to make us feel so loved and I will always remember this day as a blessing and a privilege.
Live a life of gratitude, of knowing that you have enough, and let the abundance of it all sustain you during difficult times. And in moments of frustration and differing of opinions, take yourself back to the richness of your relationships, the laughter you have shared, and all of the happiness that has colored your life. Take a step back from the push towards consumerism and material pleasures and know that these things will never fulfill our greatest needs. Take a deep breath in and fill yourself with deep gratitude of all that is yours; of all the hands that you’ve held, the scars that have healed, the hugs you’ve received, and the knowledge you have gained.
I still stay up late at night thinking about the kindness received from strangers and new friends in support of our wedding and the people in our lives who continue to teach me what it means to be selfless, flexible, and compassionate. I’m endlessly grateful for a husband who continues to be the best person I know and who always responds in the exact way I need. I’ll always go back to the conversation we had at 3am on the Thursday before the wedding in which he reminded me to hold on to every moment because they would be so fleeting, where we talked about the intentionality of happiness, and choosing to respond to whatever comes our way with love. I’m so grateful for every moment, misstep, and wrong turn that became our love story.
Today was meaningful because sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts, and sometimes when it is, you decide to make it last a lifetime by saying ‘I Do.’