10 Things I Learned in Summer '23 (Wedding Edition)
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Oh, summer 2023 is a summer Will and I will never forget - for so many reasons.
As girls tend to do, I had dreamed about getting to plan my wedding for as long as I could remember, so it's no surprise, I embraced every detail. Every single one of them. Will and I wanted this day to be holy - set apart and glorify God - and to be a genuine reflection of who we are together.
For all the bride-to-be's out there, I challenge you to invite God into it with you. Yes, invite God into the wedding planning, but more than this, invite God into your days and conversations as you prepare for marriage.
As I said before, this was a summer we will never forget for so many reasons. More than ten, that's for sure. Way more. But let's start with ten and see where we get.
1. Rehearsal Dinners are less about the rehearsing and more about the fellowship.
We can say this with full confidence because we skipped the rehearsal. Well, delayed it and had a quick run-through (without me, of course) a few minutes before the ceremony the next day. Since many of our guests were traveling from out of town, it just made sense to meet at one location rather than two.
While it felt like we had stumbled upon this spot, I know different - God led us there. I surprised Will for his birthday last year at a fun, new restaurant. The day before we had been trying to figure out a rehearsal dinner spot and I was feeling a bit overwhelmed, wondering if we'd find a place that was both special and fun for the night we hoped to have. All I knew to do was to pray about it and ask God to lead us and give us a unified vision for it, and long story short: He did!
The name of the place was Selah, and as my dad pointed out in his toast to us, Selah is a Hebrew word from Scripture which refers to a voluntary and intentional pause for reflection, an invitation to rest in God's refuge and strength. How appropriate for the night before our wedding! Through the words God had placed on our hearts to share with our family and friends and their words for us, God was accentuating something in our spirits, as if to say, “Wait, stop here. This is important.” A transition into the glorious grace and purpose God had prepared for us.
2. ...and if you can add some fun to the dinner, do!
Will and I often say "we pray we're playing pickle ball until we're 80, that would just be the ultimate." So, after a delicious dinner with all of our favorite people, we ended the night with a pickle ball tourney! It was a blast and such a fun way to spend quality time with the people who mean the most to us.
3. Before they were our flower girls, they were our flour girls!
Every detail of the weekend was intentional. From the centerpieces to the food and beverage choices, we cared less about what was expected and instead made it a reflection of us. Now, we can remember not just the memory of the day through photos and songs, but also with some of our favorite recipes, the first being Almond Melt-Away Cookies.
Even the most culinary challenged will feel like a Top Chef with this simple, easy and super tasty recipe. (See video notes for recipe.)
For my OKC readers, I baked an extra couple batches for Will to take to work and they all thought they came from Eileen's! Hey, we like that!
4. These cones put the "cute" in charcuterie!
'Dubs will admit he was skeptical of my selection as it all came from Sam's. (Hey, we're hosting this rehearsal dinner on a budget, babe!) But, when our friends were asking for more charcuterie cones between pickle ball games and were surprised to hear they were not catered by the restaurant but made by my mom and I earlier that day, he, too, realized: People don't want fancy, what-is-that-cheese. People want "good."
...at least, this is true for our people.
This is another one of those simple, easy, and super tasty recipes. Save this video for your next holiday get-together. It's now a staple around our house!
5. His Favorite, Her Favorite, and Our Favorite.
We had all three well represented in our beverage selections for the wedding reception. "His favorite" - none other than Braum's chocolate milk! "Her favorite" represented my West Texas roots well with sweet mint tea. "Our favorite," a fun treat we love to make: cherry limeades.
Again, simple, easy and super tasty. Are you beginning to see a pattern here?
Lemme tell ya, people loved the cherry limeades! We're still hearing about it from our friends and family!
6. My heart and my kitchen in full bloom!
Speaking of kitchen, I have never seen my kitchen look so good as it did the week before the wedding. Because...
PEONIES! SO MANY PEONIES!!!
When my flower order was cancelled the week of the wedding, I was surprised that I wasn't thrown into a panic. The only explanation is grace, loads and loads of grace covered me in that moment. I headed for Trader Joe's, and no lie, the moment I walk in, a lady is wheeling out an entire shipment of pink peonies with yellow centers - the exact SAME flowers I had ordered and thought I would not get.
And I learned: God's grace comes to us in all different forms. That day, it was the loveliest of pink peonies - wouldn't you agree?...
7. The music that carries me back with a single note.
Would it surprise you to hear every song was hand-picked? Didn't think so. We had a playlist for the ceremony, another for the garden tour and dinner, another for the dance party. There is no doubt these songs will be in my most-played Spotify remix come end of year. For now, I'll leave you with just a few of our favorites:
In the Garden, instrumental - pre-ceremony
Oklahoma Sky by Miranda Lambert - wedding party processional
O, Praise the Name by Shane and Shane - bride processional
This Will Be by Natalie Cole - recessional
Comin' Home by Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors - first dance
The Nights by Avicii - dance party final group song, and it was EPIC!
8. The food was epic, too.
After being very impressed with the dinner at a friend's wedding, I asked for her caterer contact. She was eager to share saying, "That's the number one thing people remember, even after all this time - how good the food was!" Turns out, it was the same for us. The food and dessert received rave reviews from our guests at the wedding and in the days to follow. Again, we followed her/his favorite for dessert: strawberry shortcake cups and brownies and ice cream cups (by groom's request), both beautiful and delicious, thanks to our very talented friend who flew in from Alaska to help make our day taste so sweet!
9. My favorite moment from the day.
When we saw the gardens we knew, this was where we wanted to get married. The rest of the details all began to come into focus. Our ceremony was held on the great lawn in the gardens followed by a garden tour to lead guests to the reception in the 1930's glass conservatory.
With the month of May being so rainy, an outdoor ceremony would have to be a game-time decision. Concerns of it being too hot were not lost on us, and we truly did not want our guests to be uncomfortable, but getting married in this garden setting was ideal for us.
Even in scripture, the garden is symbolic of intimate communion with God - Eden for Adam and Eve, Gethsemane for Jesus, and the Garden of the Empty Tomb for Mary Magdalene. Marriage, for us as believers, is an intimate communion between one another with God as the center. Sharing our vows in a similar setting was how we could most tangibly remember this.
Though May was rainy and June is known for summer heat, God saw fit to give us the most pleasant evening. I remember holding Will's hand and listening to our pastor while looking around and taking in the cross in front of us with all of the flowers and trees surrounding us: the garden had never before looked so lush. This was God's most personal gift to us. I breathed it in, my cheeks stained with the happiest of tears and my lungs full of gratitude.
The cross brought it all together for us. In case you're wanting to build a cross for your wedding backdrop and not sure where to start, here's a quick video we put together while building ours:
10. My other favorite moment from the day. ...Because a girl's allowed to have two!
Our last dance. A private dance. It's mostly becoming popular because it's practical. The guests go get ready for the send-off while the bride and groom share a private dance. But, this, oh this is something I pray I remember for the rest of my life. The song we chose couldn't have been more fitting: I Wanna Remember by Needtobreathe.
A wedding is fun, sure. But many wonder why pour so much time and energy when it's over in a day. This. This is why.
Because this is the start of something special, the start of something God-ordained. And that is worth celebrating.
There just aren't many days in a lifetime quite as good as this.
Scripture says it this way:
...the LORD rejoices to see the work begin... - Zechariah 4:10
Getting to share the dance floor with my husband and only him, his arms wrapped around me and mine around him, I took a mental photograph of my view - his gold bowtie with our empty but beautiful reception space in the background. A space that looked like a great time had been had by all. The song led us from dance party vibes into intentional focus of what this moment held for us:
This feels like One of those moments moving by so fast You wanna do something just to make it last You wanna do something to remember
By God's grace, we forever will.
Looking back helps us gain perspective as we look forward. Now, shifting our gaze forward...
We're so thankful to get to live life together. We treasure each day we're given to intimately share our joys and face our disappointments together. I think God knew this all along and it's one of the many reasons He created marriage.
We choose to share some of our journey with all of you not to say "look at us" but rather to say "Look at Him." We assure you, any good or bit of hope you see is all Jesus.
As Dave Barnes wrote, "There's nothing glamorous about the way I love you, but I love you as hard as I can."
...and only because He first loved me.
Now, it's your turn. What have you learned through this last season?
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Let's find strength knowing we do not endure these seasons alone. Let's find joy knowing there is purpose for each season we walk. Let's find peace in reflecting on the lessons learned and accepting these circumstances, much like seasons, as temporary. Let's find rest as we cling to the eternal.
The good life, well it starts with a good day. Then another. Then another. Let's choose to live #TheGoodDay one day at a time.
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