Remembering the Promises

It was a beautiful day. Picture perfect, as the saying goes. The sun was shining, the temperature was perfect. All your friends and family were there. Both sets of parents cried as you said your vows. And so did both of you.

You posed for pictures, toasted each other with champagne, cut the cake, and danced into the night. She tossed her bouquet, and he threw the garter. Then you left for a wonderful romantic honeymoon. You spent a week enjoying the perfect vacation, and you hated to leave. But reality called, and as much as you wanted to stay on that honeymoon forever, you had to return to real, every day life.

But you knew it would be great; it would be perfect. After all, you were finally married, and ready to officially start your forever life together.

But after a while, the newness wore off, didn’t it? The almost-magical, too good to be true feelings started to fade as bills came in the mail; the air conditioning gave up in the house; the car decided it needed a major repair; and you got really tired of cooking and eating dinner at home every night because you needed to stay on a budget.

But do you remember those vows you made? What you said to each other? Let’s take a look at them.

“I take you today to be my husband/wife…to have and to hold from this day forward…for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death we part.”

And you meant those vows. With every inch and every part of your being. Sometimes you need to be reminded of what you promised. Especially that “for better, for worse” part! Because no matter how good things can be, there’s always something that comes along that upsets the way things should be.

That’s where the “for worse” part comes in. And it may seem to last a long time, but that’s only if you let it. When you work through that part together, it works itself back into the “for better”. And it actually becomes a lot better, because surviving the difficult times together make you stronger together.

No one ever said marriage was easy. Because it isn’t. Even the officiating pastor at the beginning of the ceremony usually reminds the couple, “Marriage is a binding and true commitment of two people vowing to love each other for a lifetime. It is a commitment not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly. But reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God.”

They weren’t just words you said for the moment, you know. You promised, and promises are just that. They’re meant to be kept.

The wedding itself only exists now in the beautiful pictures displayed around your home, but the marriage…that keeps on going. It’s a work in progress, with highs and lows. For better or for worse.

It’s what the two of you make it. Together.

Don’t forget those promises made in love in the heat of a disagreement.

The heat of love is much hotter and far brighter.

Weddings and Marriages

What comes to mind when you hear the word “wedding”? Most of us still think about brides in beautiful long white dresses, with gauzy veils, carrying a beautiful bouquet of flowers, surrounded by several close girlfriends as her bridesmaids, all dressed in identical pastel colors and smiling happily at their friend who’s ready to walk down the aisle in a flower-filled church or other romantic setting. We picture the groom, nervous in his rented tuxedo, surrounded by his friends in their rented tuxedos, anxiously waiting as the bride is escorted down the aisle by her father. Vows are exchanged and the two promise to love each other until “death do we part”. There’s an amazing tiered wedding cake the two of them cut, feed each other a piece (hopefully not smashing it into each others’ faces) and then leave on a magical honeymoon.

And then it’s happily ever after. Right?

Or does that exist only in storybooks and fairy tales?

What is “happily ever after” anyway? Is it what little girls read about in Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty where the handsome prince sweeps his lady love off her feet and they live together forever in total wedded bliss, with a perfect home, perfect kids, and no worries ever?

It sounds good, doesn’t it?

But marriage is a lot more than having a perfectly planned and coordinated wedding. Once the dresses are put away, the tuxes returned, the wedding cake eaten, and the honeymooners return from their trip, then the marriage really begins.

And as much as you love your spouse, you begin to realize that the marriage is a lot harder than the wedding ever was. Planning a wedding can certainly be stressful, because you want everything to go perfectly. (And there’s almost always a little glitch that almost no one except the wedding coordinator notices.) But no one ever stops to think about planning the marriage. That is, planning what happens after all the wedding festivities are over and the real life together begins.

In reality, marriage is a lot more difficult than planning or coordinating any wedding!

For a number of years I was very much involved in wedding planning and coordinating. It was a lot of fun, and each one was different, each couple had their own definite ideas about what their wedding should entail, and each one had little glitches that happened at the last minute that we had to handle. One couple had a heavy metal band playing the Wedding March, which raised many eyebrows among the guests. One bride was adamant about certain family members not being allowed at the reception. One bride tried to add a bridesmaid the day of the wedding. One wedding entailed three groomsmen being almost an hour late for the ceremony, setting our time schedule in turmoil. One wedding involved the bride’s shy 5 year old son walking her down the aisle, and having to have a backup plan in case the young man got scared at the last minute (he didn’t and happily walked his mom down the aisle!).

All of these weddings came off perfectly to the guests. No one knew what went on behind the scenes, except those of us involved in the coordination.

But during one of the planning sessions for one of the couples, I distinctly heard the words, “don’t be so concerned about the wedding; be concerned about the marriage”. And those words weren’t aimed at just that couple, because I heard them several other times planning several other weddings. And before you begin to think it was because the marriages were possibly destined for failure, that was not the case at all. In fact, for all of the weddings I coordinated during that time, all of the couples are still together, and their marriages, although not without ups and downs, are still going strong.

On the contrary, the Lord obviously told me that statement to remind me that marriage is a lifelong process. Although the actual wedding may take months to plan, the actual event lasts only a day. The marriage is supposed to last a lifetime.

Good advice, but as a wedding coordinator I’d never thought about it that way.

Most couples don’t either. They’re more concerned about everything being “perfect” for their big day. They don’t stop to think about what happens after the celebrations and parties are over; when reality…life…sets in.

The truth is…marriage is not always easy. It takes a lot of work. The honeymoon was great. Your life as a couple is all brand new and fun; there’s no worries, no hassles. You’re on vacation, and vacations are meant to be fun and relaxing.

But then you return, and suddenly, you realize you’re married! This is it! And when the first thing goes a bit wrong in your relationship you immediately wonder “Did I make a mistake? Isn’t it all supposed to be happily ever after? What’s wrong?”

Nothing is wrong. You’re just learning to live together as a married couple. And there are going to be hard times as well as good times. Fun times as well as angry times. You’re still two individuals with your own opinions and your own ideas, but now you have to mold those ideas into one plan, one life. And both of you have to learn to adjust to each other. That doesn’t happen overnight; it takes years. My husband and I have been married almost 32 years, and we’re still learning. It’s a lifetime of learning.

All marriages start out with the idea of how perfect we are for each other; how much in love we are; and how great our life is going to be. But as daily life sets in, we can lose that perspective. Because a good marriage is hard work, and our human nature doesn’t always want to deal with the difficult.

Does every marriage have a happy ending? Unfortunately not. For many reasons. I can say this because my first two marriages didn’t last. They were weddings, but the marriage part, well, I won’t go into the reasons. But I can also add that my husband Ben and I have been married for almost 32 years. Has it always been easy? No. Of course not.

But if you love your spouse, isn’t it worth it to make that extra effort? Everything that’s worth having, worth keeping, is worth that extra effort it takes to keep your marriage as happy as you were the day of your wedding. Sometimes even happier!

After all, a wedding only lasts for a day; a marriage should last a lifetime.

Before You Say I Do

He had it all planned. He’d already bought the ring. He’d asked her father. Now all he had to do was put his plan into action; make all the arrangements; and then get down on one knee and say those words. Ask THE question. And hold his breath until she answered. He knew she’d say yes, at least he thought he was sure she would.

And her…well, she was just waiting. They’d looked at a few perfect engagement rings, so she knew it was on his mind, and they’d talked about it a lot, but she just didn’t know when he’d be ready to finally officially ask her. And she knew that’s what she wanted. She just didn’t know for sure if he was ready.

Young love. It’s always a great story. How you met, when you started dating, when you really thought you knew he/she was “the one”. You’d talk about your future together for hours at a time. And you wondered…what would marriage be like? What would it be like to be together all the time?

So he finally found the perfect time to ask. Maybe it was at the place where you’d had your first date. Maybe your favorite restaurant with the waiter bringing the ring out nestled in whipped cream on an ice cream sundae. Maybe during a walk along the beach in the moonlight, or at an ice skating rink with “your song” playing in the background. But you really were surprised. You’d really had no idea. And of course you said YES!!!

And so then the excitement began. Setting the date. Planning the engagement party, selecting bridesmaids and groomsmen, dresses, flowers, cake, food, bridal showers, planning a honeymoon. It was a whirlwind.

Plus deciding where you’d live, picking out furniture, dishes, linens, signing up for the bridal registry and adding things you’ll probably never use!

So much to do. It was so easy to get caught up in all of the plans and details, that at times you wondered if it was all worth it.

Yes, you really did wonder that at times.

Because there’s a lot more to plan for than the wedding details.

There’s a life together to plan as well. And that’s the hardest part. Because wedding planners don’t help you with that part. That you have to do yourselves.

And no amount of planning can ever prepare you for what marriage is actually like. Each one is different, because each person is different; each personality is different. Each of you has set ideas about what marriage will be like. And you’d better discuss them together before you say “I do!” Because discussing them afterwards and finding out your ideas are different is not the right time.

Too often couples neglect the most important part of the planning process: pre marriage counseling with a pastor or other professional who knows the questions to ask, as well what the answers to those questions should be. And if your answers are totally different, the counselor can help you figure out compromises before those differences cause major problems later on. There’s nothing wrong with having pre-marriage counseling. It’s a necessary step in the wedding

Because a wedding lasts less than a day. The marriage that follows should last a lifetime. Are you ready for that lifetime together, because it’s not all wedding cake and flowers.

Each married day brings a new challenge to a husband and wife. Some are tiny, and some are big. Some start out tiny and become huge before you know it. And before you know it, in the shadow of your favorite wedding photo, you’re sitting in the same room not speaking to each other because you’re so angry.

Yes, it happens. And it happens to every couple. You’re not alone. Marriage is a process and a daily work in progress. Not all days will be picture perfect. Not all weeks will be easy. There will be disagreements, arguments, disappointments, and accusations.

It’s how you handle them. Together. It’s not always blaming him or her, but looking at the part each of you played in causing the problem. And then sitting down and talking it over. And solving your problems together.

So…are you sure you’re ready to do this?

The wedding will be much easier compared to the actual marriage. But when you really love each other, it’s all worth it. No one said it would be easy.

But the rewards of a happy marriage far outweigh all the rough parts along the way.

Dreams of My Mother’s Wedding

Hanging in our guest room closet is a yellowed and torn lacy dress that has undoubtedly seen better – and happier – days. And it carries memories that I wish I could see and hear. And since today is my husband and my wedding anniversary, I thought it appropriate to post this story today.

I found the dress in my mother’s attic many years ago. It had been hanging there since my mom and dad moved into their first and only home sometime back in 1940 or so. They were married on June 18, 1938. 77 years ago. And the dress hung there until I had to clean out her home eight years ago.

I have this one picture of her and my dad on their wedding day. And I cherish this photo.
Mom and Dad Wedding
I wish I knew more about their wedding day. But my mother was an extremely private person, and as much as she loved my father, I don’t know a lot about their early days together. I never had the nerve to ask, because my dad passed away when I was only eight years old. And even though I was an adult in my fifties’ with a teenage daughter when my mom left us, I had never asked her much about her wedding, because I knew the memories would make her cry. Because of all the special times she never got to share with the only man she ever loved.

And although I don’t totally know all of their story, I want to share some of what I know, and some of what I can only imagine.

My mom fell in love with my dad the first time she saw him in high school. I can imagine them laughing together after school, and him coming over to see her at my grandfather’s farm. I’m sure they spent a lot of time together on that big front porch, and rocking in that old porch swing I wish we still had! Times were different in the 1930’s, and I can imagine that my grandfather kept a close eye on the young man who was “courting” his daughter.

I’m sure when my dad left for college, my mom was unbelievably lonesome for him. She went to college at a school close to home, but he attended college in Williamsburg, which back then was a long way from their homes! Although I’m sure they wrote letters back and forth to each other a lot, since phone calls were so expensive, one of the regrets I have is that I never found any of their letters to each other, and my mother kept almost EVERYTHING. What a treasure that would have been!

It must have felt like an eternity for them until college graduation happened. And my mom and dad were finally able to start seeing each other regularly again, in between her teaching school and my dad working as a salesman for his uncle. Obviously, they both knew they were meant to be together. And like every young girl totally in love, she dreamed of her wedding day!

On Christmas Eve, 1937, my dad brought her Christmas present over. She was expecting (and hoping for) a ring. And I can only imagine the disappointment on her face and in her heart when my dad handed her this big box, beautifully wrapped I’m sure, that was her gift. My mom being the lady she was, opened it, and tried not to show her disappointment when she saw it was a hand-crocheted pillow with the initial “C” on it. (Since her name started with an “L” she should’ve known something else was coming, but…) Evidently her disappointment really showed when she told my dad how much she liked it, and he asked her what was wrong (smiling to himself, I’m sure). And then he pulled out the REAL gift! And that ring was…and still is…beautiful! Because I have it now (and the pillow)!

Knowing my dad, and the times they lived in, I’m sure he’d already talked to my grandfather and had his permission. And he’d probably been a lot more nervous asking him than our future son-in-law was when he talked to Ashley’s dad! So now they were officially engaged! And here’s the young bride to be!

From that evening until their wedding six months later, I’m sure all my mom did was count the days until she was a bride. Her two brothers and her older sister were already married, and I’m sure she’d dreamed of her wedding day since the day she first saw my dad.

Weddings in that era were usually quite simple and for the most part, included only family members, and maybe a few close friends. Being a farming community, money was tight, and wedding expenses were kept at a minimum. A few flowers, a wedding cake, and food made by family and friends, and that was basically it. Sometimes there was another couple standing up with the bride and groom, and sometimes there wasn’t. And even more unfortunate, there were very few wedding photographers to memorialize the day. I’m happy to have the one picture!

Mom and Dad had a small, simple wedding, but nonetheless perfect for them. I do know a few bits and pieces, but here is where my dreams step in, as I imagine her on her wedding day as a young woman of 25, the same age as my own daughter….

My mom was an excellent seamstress, and most likely she made her wedding gown, sewing every stitch carefully because it was the most important dress she’d ever make. (I so wish it had been better preserved.) She wanted to look absolutely perfect when she stepped down the stairs to meet her husband-to-be.

I’m sure she woke up that warm and sunny morning quite early, because she was so excited. Downstairs, her mom, and probably some other relatives, were already preparing food for after the ceremony. I’ve never found a picture of their wedding cake, but I can imagine that someone in the family, most likely her sister-in-law Ruth, who was an excellent cook and seamstress, made it herself as a gift for them.

As the bride-to-be, I can imagine my mom sitting in front of her vanity mirror, carefully arranging her hair and putting on just a touch of makeup. Her hands probably shook a bit, and even though I never remember my mother wearing nail polish, I can see her applying it for that day. After all, her engagement ring was about to receive its mate!

The wedding was set for early afternoon, at my grandparents’ house. Her older sister Mary was there, wearing a light blue dress, and would hold her bouquet for her during the ceremony. Although she would have been called the Matron of Honor today, back then she was just there standing with her sister, and most likely her husband was standing with my dad.

How I would love to have heard the conversation between the two sisters that morning! It’s hard to imagine my mom as the young woman she once was, and I’m sure she was just as nervous and scared and excited as brides are today. I can also imagine their younger sister, who would have only been 13 at the time, rushing into the room and wanting to be a part of the action as well. And most likely being shooed away because they had important things to discuss that she was too young to hear!

As she put on her wedding gown, and her sister helped her zip it up, I can picture her turning to the mirror and watching as her veil was attached, and wondering who that woman in the mirror was. She was becoming a different person…no longer a single lady, but now a WIFE! Wondering what changes that would bring…

Rachel and Clay were married in the living room of her childhood home. Everyone was standing, because there wasn’t a lot of room for extra chairs, and she had a large family, who were all in attendance. I can picture her walking down the stairs on my grandfather’s arm, dressed in his best Sunday suit, nervous but smiling, my mom with her veil over her face, and carrying a huge bouquet of roses, as was the style for brides at that time. All she could see was my dad’s face. And as she walked down the stairs, all he could see was her.

And they were married. No fanfare, no row of bridesmaids or groomsmen. No sit-down dinner with champagne toasts and dancing. No elaborate decorations. Just a simple ceremony, cake cutting and pure happiness. A dream come true for a young bride and groom. A brief honeymoon, and then on to start their life together.

Mom and Dad Young

And yes, until his premature passing a brief twenty years later, they did live happily ever after.

Photo Sources: Personal files