You + Me: Our Wedding Story. (Or why I'm thankful for rain.)
I never wanted to get married.
Sure, at some point when I was younger, I’d made that list of qualities I’d like in a husband and I’d had some daydreams of what a wedding would look like.
God really changed my heart regarding marriage (that's another post for another time). So I stopped thinking about weddings and what mine could be like one day.
But once Chris and I got engaged, I was alive with ideas and pretty plans.
I live in the photography industry where I see images of weddings every day. With all of these flawless images coming at you constantly, you start to imagine that all the details of your day will be the same: stunning and perfect. In fact, they have to be, because your wedding has to be featured on the pages of blogs and magazines.
They. Have. To. Be.
There are endless resources on how to plan a wedding and how to pick a perfect venue and the perfect dress and the perfect bridesmaids gifts... and on and on and on.
We didn't know much, only we wanted to do things a little differently, like have tacos and burgers instead of a fancy served meal and a coffee bar instead of an actual bar.
But the one thing I wanted more than anything was to have an outside wedding. If you know anything about me, I’d rather be outside if I can be and I’m addicted to natural light. (This should be no surprise coming from a photographer.)
My parents’ house had the perfect place, down in a little cove surrounded by a creek, the woods surrounding it from the hills above. I imagined beautiful spring weather, a sunshine-y day where we we could worship God in the middle of his creation.
I wanted a tent with open walls were we could celebrate, a dance floor beneath trees and twinkle lights, people able to gather and talk and laugh. I imaged everything clearly. I could see the day in my head. I could feel it.
People were worried about the date, knowing that Illinois weather and Spring together may not make a good mix. But I was certain— it’s not going to rain. I just knew it.
I continued to build my vision. And it was stressful. So much time spent researching so many decisions. Going back and forth between mix and match bridesmaid dress options. Ordering and sending back wedding gowns. Creating and changing table decorations several times.
But it had to be flawless. The day had to have a certain feeling.
The week of the wedding came and the forecast read rain. I wasn't phased. I knew that things could change in the matter a few days. I'd prayed for no rain. I'd worked too hard for nine months planning this event and rain was just not part of the equation.
The forecast did change. The chance of rain increased from 40% to 100%.
The day before the wedding, I was walking around the property, between the house and the tent we'd set up for the reception. The rain would not stop.
And neither would the tears.
Seriously, I think I cried all day.
This just wasn’t what I’d imagined. This isn’t what I’d prayed for.
I was so invested to my vision for the day and I was devastated.
I wanted sunshine. I wanted beautiful portraits outside. I wanted natural light. I wanted people gathered around me on the most perfect Spring day.
My dad took me outside and we walked the property, talking about the possibilities. Do we still get married by the creek and give people umbrellas? Do we get married under the tent? Is the tent even suitable for use? The grass under it was turning into a swamp. Do we move the tent? Do we use the shed? Do we use the bigger machine shed? Do we relocate to a church in town?
Even after we'd decided on a backup plan, the tears still wouldn't stop.
It was like having to let go of the thing you'd dreamt about and planned on for months. All my energy had been focused on making this day happen.
And I didn't want to let it go.
I went home to get ready for the rehearsal and gave myself, the devil, and God a pep talk.
Nothing was going to get in the way of this day. Chris and I were getting married and that was the best and most important thing. And I refused to let sadness or disappointment or unmet expectations rob me of the joy of marrying my best friend.
All bets were off. I didn't know what would happen when we were supposed to host 200 people in my family's yard. In the rain. But I decided to jump in to the unknown and let the journey take me.
Here’s what happened.
We had the most amazing day of our lives.
Yes, it rained. All. Day. Long. It stormed. There was thunder and lightning. It was cold. It was wet. Which made it double cold.
And people just kept showing up, preparing for our day in the downpour.
We crammed 180 chairs into a little shed and strung some bistro lights and threw some Mexican blankets on the floor.
When it was time to actually get married, "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles began to play and there was a mix of chuckles and sad sighs.
"Here Comes the Sun... it's alright."
My dad walked me into that shed turned chapel, surrounded by everyone we love most, and I saw Chris, overcome with emotion, waiting for me. It was one of those moments that will stick with me forever. It was like joy was radiating out of every inch of me. The love in that room was so thick it was like it was sticking to my skin. And I knew:
This is the way it was always supposed to be.
We were there, in that little shed, wet heads, cold toes, and it was perfect.
It felt intimate and personal. My uncle didn’t just marry us, he preached Jesus. We didn’t just say our vows, we sang songs to Jesus. We shared communion and invited everyone to join us. Our families surrounded us in prayer and my uncle unexpectedly put his hands on the top of our heads, like we were receiving an actual, God-breathed blessing. Everything felt sacred.
And to know that 180+ people braved the storm to be with us in a little shed while we made promises to God and to each other… It was so much more than I can handle. Even now.
Our day isn’t one that is going to be featured magazine pages or on pretty little blogs. But as I look at it now, I would have rather had it this way than any other picture perfect way because we understand what truly mattered.
What mattered most wasn’t that my hair stayed perfectly styled. It wasn’t that my dress stayed without a spot of dirt. It wasn’t that our clothes had no wrinkles and that the sun shined on us just right as we got married.
What truly matters is people. What truly matters is family. What truly matters is love.
There’s this temptation to get so wrapped up in the details. To make sure the dress doesn’t get dirty and to make sure everything happens on time and that nothing gets in the way of a perfect day. To make sure you have the picture perfect place and to make sure that your entire day is as unwrinkled as those bridal magazine pages.
And I just want to say.
Hold your plans loosely.
The goal of your wedding isn’t to have the perfect location and the perfect dress and the perfect light for your images and the perfect weather.
The goal of your wedding is to glorify God. To bring people together. And to celebrate the unique, quirky, home-is-whenever-I'm-with-you kind of love, which is so much more exquisite and beautiful than any cake you could choose or gown you could buy.
That should be enough. Let it be enough.
We can get so distracted by the what and the how of a wedding that we forget about the why. Or we acknowledge it, but we care more about the appearance of our day than the substance of it.
I'm thankful for the rain. I'm thankful that I didn't get everything I wanted.
Because God showed up with everything I needed.
Shout to Lauren Apel for being the most rad photographer.