the wedding binder

 image by Stacey Woods Photography

image by Stacey Woods Photography

It was my very first purchase after he proposed and I said yes...or, more accurately, I said "are you sure?" and then I said "yes!" Not just any old wedding planner would do. It would have to be perfect. I had been the stereotypical little girl who dreamed about her wedding and her Prince Charming. I would play with my porcelain bride dolls (which happen to also wind up and play "Here Comes the Bride") and imagine my Prince Charming. A hopeless romantic. In love with love.   When I was older I began looking at all the bridal magazines. I loved my family management classes in high school and soaked in all the information about planning weddings...and a bit about the whole planning a marriage thing too. In college I would actually buy those bridal magazines and comb through them. I held onto them and dog eared my favorite things. Martha Stewarts were my favorite. So, naturally, when it came time to purchase my wedding planner, I knew it had to be the one from Martha. In her signature blue, it had everything a girl could ever need in what would hold all the essentials in planning her big day plus room to add more. I began to fill it with my dreams...and Bret's too, of course. Images of dresses, tuxes, favors, flowers, decorations, wedding DIYs, sample timelines, vows, business cards, quotes, lists of local vendors, all my research of all the things, and, of course, dream weddings. We wanted our friends and family to walk away with a better sense of who we were. We wanted them to see us in all the details. To see our love. We would have different shades of pink, obviously...that's my favorite color. Bret insisted on actual bow ties...no clip ons for him. We picked a location for the reception that screamed KY, with its rolling hills and beautiful sunsets (Talon Winery...one of my favorite places to shoot to this day). I picked my dress out online and knew it was the one before I even tried it on. I knew we had to have a sparkler exit, so cute little pink matches were the perfect favor. I DIYed everything I could...invitations, decorating the unity candle, the centerpieces. Every detail was just us. Our story. Our love.

That Martha Stewart blue binder was bursting at the seams with details for one day. One beautiful day that was exactly 13 years ago. What it didn't include, what it was so obviously missing, how to plan a marriage. It didn't include details on how to organize finances. It didn't give helpful tips on how to disagree with love and respect. It didn't warn there may be times when you still feel lonely and scared of what the future holds. It didn't tell how to plan for infertility and the possibility of never having a child. It didn't teach about having empathy for your partner even when you don't really understand their thinking. It didn't tell us how to truly be partners. It didn't guide us in knowing how to be gentle with each other while going through those first few months of bringing home a newborn. It didn't give either of us tips on how to handle a mommas postpartum depression. It didn't teach us about giving the best of ourselves. It didn't say we should take a date night once a week or continue to actually date or pursue each other after the wedding. It didn't demand we find a way to have a work life "balance" or how to handle the ups and downs of careers and owning small businesses. I'm thankful we included the 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 in our ceremony or it wouldn't have even included anything about what love actually is. I don't blame Martha. I mean, how could she know what our lives would hold. How could we even know that? 

We learned the secrets to love and marriage can't be held within a binder. They are held within our days. Within each moment, each struggle, each "I love you", each spin around the kitchen, each kiss.  We learned how to love when we fought infertility and held each others hands through IVF. We learned to love when we felt the tiny kicks of our baby for the first time. We learned to love when he held me as I pushed our sweet baby boy into the world. We learned to love as we struggled through the first few months of being new parents and the journey through postpartum depression. We learned to love through owning a home and all...the...projects. We learned to love through the laughter. We learned to love through the tears. We learned to love through miscommunication and every "I'm sorry". We learned to love through slammed doors and raised voices. We learned to love through holding hands and big kisses and "good efforts". We learned to love through watching t-ball games and five year old basketball...laughing and cheering. We learned to love through honey-do lists. We learned to love through dreams coming true and the disappointment of dreams missed. We learned to love through books and experts and therapy. We learned to love through self growth and self care. We learned to love through loving ourselves first. We learned to love through dates and surprises...so many wonderful surprises. We learned to love through church hymns and prayers. We learned to love at Friday night football games and late night talks after. We learned to love through rushed mornings and slow summers. We learned to love through teaching our son to ride his bike and skinned knees. We learned to love through seeing friends and family rise and fall. We learned to love through long talks and silence. We learned to love through slow dances and silly family dances. Mostly, we learned to love from choosing each other every single day...through all the beauty, all the darkness, all the passion, and all the fear.

It's not like I imagined when I put together that perfect little blue Martha Stewart wedding binder all those years ago. It's better, stronger, more colorful, and more full of imperfect beauty than I had ever imagined. It's us. It's our story. It's our love. 

I love you, babe! Happy 13 year anniversary! I'm sorry I forgot to tell you this morning in the mad rush to get out the door. I'm so thankful you choose me every day. Can we have a dance in the kitchen tonight? And maybe not cook in it? You know...after football practice and your radio interview and soccer practice. I promise I'll try not to fall asleep when I lay down with Steff. 

So much love...

Cilla