— originally published in Season's Blog—
When I walked down the aisle, I did not feel like I thought I would.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamt of walking down the aisle on my wedding day. Maybe it’d be on a warm sunlit day with lanterns and ocean waves in the distance, or in an extravagant pine forest with romantic candles. I had no idea who would be at the end of the aisle, I just knew it’d be the perfect moment. So while I waited for my person, I inserted my favorite animated Prince Charmings into the scenario: Tangled’s Flynn Ryder, Pocahontas’ John Smith and Tadashi Hamada from Big Hero 6 to name a few.
One day, my daydream of the wedding aisle changed. My real life best friend got down on his knee and I gave my yes to spending my life with him. I finally got to envision the wedding aisle with my man at the end of it! We started wedding planning and I just couldn’t wait for that aisle moment. But when the moment arrived and I took my first step down the aisle, and my heart sank.
Instantly, I heard the unmistakable crunch of November leaves beneath my feet. I took another step and they started dragging on the cobblestone walkway under my train; they were louder than the music and the most distracting mood-killer sound of all time. With each step towards my almost husband, the leafy dead clump crackled louder and louder. By the time I tuned out the sound, refocused my mind, and reminded myself that I was supposed to smile, I was at the front of the aisle facing my teary-eyed man.
I missed it.
How did I miss it!? This was the moment I had been waiting for forever. I had planned the decor, picked the location, selected the music, and even rocked my dream dress, but what was I doing during that moment? Attempting to mentally warp sound and rid my train of the crunchy leaves.
It wasn’t until long after the ceremony that I realized something important.
You can’t control everything.
I had over romanticized that moment for so many years, that I mentally wasn’t able to enjoy the quirkiness of the real life thing. When in reality, it didn’t matter as much as I thought it did.
I’ve been a wedding photographer for years. I’ve worked with couples to capture their precious aisle moments and everything in between. Now that I’ve also been a bride, I have a much broader understanding of everything swimming around in the mind of someone on their wedding day. So whether you’re one day into engagement or one week away from saying ‘I do,’ I offer these points to you.
Here’s what really matters on your wedding day:
1 / YOUR PERSON (DUH!)
Don’t skip past this if you’re engaged!! The absolute most important thing before your wedding day is making sure you’re with the right person. It can be easy to get excited by the glamor of being engaged, but keep in mind that engagement is leading up to not just a wedding day, but a marriage—one that is intended to last a lifetime.
We did premarital counseling with our pastor and got to discuss things like communication, love languages, budget and finances, family history and even our thoughts on future children. On top of discipleship with our closest friends, this intentional time was extremely helpful in solidifying our relationship and gave us discussion points to gear us up for a healthy marriage.
Another way to help solidify your relationship with your person, is to continue pursuing them! We can quickly get lost in the wedding plans and forget the point of it all. Take time to put wedding planning aside and date your fiancé.
Ask the big questions:
What are your goals as a couple? Dreams? Fears? Pet Peeves?
How will you create a space to cultivate creativity?
What does spirituality look like in your future marriage?
Where do you see yourselves in 5, 10, 20 years?
What are your individual career goals?
How will you handle finances?
Do you want kids?
Take this time to dive deeper into your relationship. Strengthening your foundation now will only help build a stronger love as you go.
2 / YOUR WEDDING COVENANT
You’ve heard it all before, but I’ll say it again to reinforce it. The wedding day is not about the perfect decor, or how big of a party you can pull off. The day should center on starting and solidifying your marriage. The vows you make carry weight, the symbolism you choose has meaning, and your relationship is being taken to the highest commitment you can make. Keep that at the forefront of your mind in the planning and the day-of.
3 / MOMENTS WITH YOUR PARTNER
I’ve always thought it was silly to craft such a beautiful wedding day and spend the majority of it mingling separately. While you obviously want to make an effort to greet your guests, the most precious moments you’ll hold onto from your wedding day are the ones spent with your person. We chose a first look (which helped in the long run because of those dang leaves!). This allowed us to have an intimate moment before we exchanged vows, to see each other, pray over our futures, cry tears of joy uninterrupted, and snap some of our most favorite photos of the day. Talk with your photographer and coordinator about building in extra time within the schedule for photos, drink breaks, and little moments to breathe.
4/ HOW YOU GET MARRIED
How you get married matters. We got engaged just days before COVID-19 hit the states. In what was supposed to be a season full of engagement bliss, we were instantly hit with many challenging choices. Do we delay our wedding? For how long? How do we keep ourselves and our loved ones safe? What makes sense for us?
We were grateful to get married at the Beverly Mansion in Ohio—get this, outside in the warm sunshine—on a November day in the middle of a pandemic. We knew it was risky to plan an outdoor wedding that late in the fall, but to prioritize our guests' safety, it made the most sense (plus we love the outdoors!). To accommodate guests who were unable to attend, we set up a livestream. Unfortunately we ran into technical difficulties and the livestream turned into a prerecorded, delayed video (just our luck!) but at the end of the day, we got married! And that mattered most.
Whether you elope to the mountains or create a boho backyard dream, whether it’s over zoom or with two hundred friends, choose what makes sense for you. Those who love you will celebrate you all the same.
5 / YOUR CREW
Even though we had to cut our in-person guest list to comply with safety guidelines..twice..we were so grateful to host a safe, intimate gathering of family and friends to cheer us on! Your guest list can look like whatever you want it to, but from personal experience, looking around to see my gorgeous gals and my man’s closest crew made my heart burst.
Keep in mind that while this wedding day marks the beginning of your marriage to your spouse, everyone who in attendance has a duty, too. Marriage is best done in community. You’ll need accountability partners and double date-goers. You’ll want people to do life with, vacation with, have lazy Sundays and movie nights with. These are the people that will help pick you up when you’ve had a silly argument with your spouse, and remind you of the vows you made. Inviting them into your wedding day can invite them further into your life. Cherish that.
You cannot control everything that happens on your wedding day, but you can have a say in how you prepare for your marriage before it starts and how you love on your person along the way.
Long before my aisle moment, I had made a choice in who I was going to marry. We spent months strengthening our love, making wild memories, crying real tears, growing our relationship and deepening our friendship. So regardless of what uncontrollable thing happened on the wedding day, or how distracted my mind was, nothing would overshadow our marriage commitment to choose each other forever because we had already started choosing each other long before that day arrived.
My husband and I laugh about the crunchy leaves (among many other things that went wrong!) when reminiscing on our wedding day. But as I look back as both a recent bride, and a wedding photographer, I think of all the time I spent scheduling, budgeting, Pinterest-ing, chatting, and preparing for the day. What really mattered? What was irreplaceable and unforgettable?
Making the decision to do forever with my best friend.
That’s the stuff that outshines all the decor, outlasts all the trends, and gets you right in the feels. You get to marry your best friend—and on your wedding day, that’s all that really matters.