Most people would envision our “wedding day” like this:
And, it was beautiful. (Cory Henry Photography did such a great job of capturing our special day when we got to rejoice over our commitment to one another and to the Lord with all of our friends and family.) Luke went above and beyond to make sure that it was the perfect day– and it was. The antebellum mansion venue was perfect, the cake was elegant and delicious, the weather could not have been more perfect if we had ordered it from God himself, and the company was incomparable. I will never forget the day that we spent, dancing, laughing and joking with those nearest and dearest to us as we celebrated our love on Sept. 1st. That day — our wedding day –will forever hold a special place in our hearts, as the anniversary we will always treasure and celebrate.
But, what most people do not know is that our marriage did not actually begin on Sept. 1st. I see our lives as an open book, as an opportunity to share with others so that they may know our hearts and see God through us in any way possible. Therefore, it is important to talk about the beginning of our marriage – the day that two became one in the eyes of God and the day that I truly became responsible to Luke as his wife, for better or for worse, as long as we both shall live. That day did not come with the fancy cake (or any cake at all), the large bouquet or more than 100 guests in tuxes and cocktail gowns.
Due to an inflexible military schedule, Luke and I learned early in the summer that he would not be able to get leave to sign our marriage license 30 days before the Sept. 1st ceremony. (That meant that on our wedding day, we would not officially be married because we could not obtain the TN license within the required 30-day window.) Additionally, I needed to find a job in our new home, and after moving out of my college apartment and finding a new place at Fort Benning, we were more than ready to make things “official.” In our hearts, it felt like we were already married to one another, but we did want things to be official on or before Sept. 1st. After all, what’s a wedding night or a honeymoon for that matter, for a Christian couple who is not technically married?!
Thus, for these reasons, on July 12, 2013, Luke and I signed our marriage license and had a small, private ceremony up on Monte Sano mountain, forever joining our lives as one in front of only one very kind preacher, our parents, my Maid of Honor, and my younger brother. We had a short and sweet ceremony, with the most basic of vows. Luke even brought me a bouquet from Publix to use when I walked down the dirt-covered “aisle.” My MOH and his best man (his dad), stood up with us. We took a few quick snapshots and headed out to dinner at a casual German restaurant in Huntsville afterward. It was entirely free from stress or worry, and I can only describe that day as incredibly magical. That was the day of our marriage.
For a long while, we did not tell anyone about our marriage, because we wanted everyone to view Sept. 1st as our wedding day- the one and only day of our marriage. The day we had spent so much
(blood, sweat and tears) money, time and effort on. We didn’t want to change anyone’s feelings of excitement or anticipation leading up to that day, and so down here, we followed the norm. We only confided in a few military couples who “understand” because they have been in our shoes. Many of them have done the same thing because it is the best –or only– option for them. The needs of the Army trump all, including marriage licenses, ceremonies, etc. I have known women who have changed their wedding date 3 or more times to accommodate Uncle Sam. And so, a “courthouse wedding” before the “wedding day” is as common as remembering to wear something blue among those who choose to marry someone on active duty. (We know couples who have been married for YEARS in secret!) It is such a well-kept secret that many of our families and friends probably did not realize that as of yesterday, we have been officially married for 7 months!
And then, I began to wonder, as we are approaching this Valentine’s Day- why? Why are we afraid to tell those that we love and those who love us that we have been married 7 months? Why do we stutter and pause awkwardly when someone asks us our anniversary date and wonder if they mean the legal date or the celebratory date? Why do we hide the fact that we signed a piece of paper and committed our lives to one another on July 12th out of necessity but with the desire for our actual wedding day to signify the beginning of a new chapter with the support of our family and friends? And why, would a wedding day mean anything less to our family and friends if they knew the “why” behind our actions?
I know now that many of them would have been nothing but supportive! It has been their support that has carried us through some of those tough days in our early marriage as we adjusted to living together as a couple. We’ve both adapted a little- I bear the ceiling fan at night and he bears the lamps I like to turn on all over the house, for example. And, while every moment of our marriage has made me love my husband even more, I must admit that in some of those moments I have been downright mad, frustrated or sad. And yet, true love does persevere.
As we approach Valentine’s tomorrow, I suggested to Luke a throwback to the day of our marriage. Rather than celebrate with a fancy dinner and all of the trimmings, I think we are going to do something smaller, simple and fun. After all, it really just matters that we are together. The rest- the fancy dinner, the heart-shaped box of chocolate and jewelry are just that – extras. The bonuses that make the day feel “special.” But then, he reminds me that every day together is special, and I could not agree more. (Although, I secretly hope he remembers my heart-shaped box of chocolate tomorrow haha)
I felt just as much of a bride on July 12th as I did on Sept. 1st and that’s that. Each day was different and brought different joys. But, neither of the white dresses, the flowers or the food are what made our marriage what it is today. It is only our love (of the Lord first and then each other), continued commitment to one another and the support of our friends and family that really matters in the long run. Would I change anything or do anything differently? Not a thing. Would our non-existent house/ future mortgage appreciate some of the extra funds from Sept. 1st? Yes, probably. But, nothing will replace the incredible memories of BOTH our marriage day and our wedding day 🙂
Forever and Always.