One month ago I woke up on my wedding morning in a 1637-built villa in the heart of a rolling olive grove in Italy. My parents, in laws, and pastors were making a big breakfast when I got to the kitchen. The better part of a week exploring monasteries, winding medieval roads, and staying up too late conversing over really, wildly good red wine had blended my church family, blood family, and in laws into one unit. It was beautiful to see them acting as natural as siblings--eggs bubbling in a big pan, pancetta smoking on the stove, fruit being sliced--bright and sweet, everything working together that threshold morning. This was different, slower than the wedding mornings we'd been a part of before, but the anticipation was still palpable. We had planned for informal, relaxed, sacred. Pushing well beyond 11am my fiance and I held hands by the pool and when I started editing my vows he brought me a second mimosa.
I remember a trip I took to Israel in 2011, the excitement was uncontainable. I knew I would have earth-shattering revelations at the Garden of Gethsemane, tingles down my spine at the Sea of Galilee, and know God’s will for my life at the Wailing Wall.
None of that was true.
The country was beautiful, I loved walking in places I read bible stories about, and the history was incredible, but it didn’t feel personal or sacred. It was a let-down, having flown all that way in search of holiness at such famous sites. However, I didn’t go home without the sacred moments and epiphanies I wanted. Do you know where they happened? In the tour van maneuvering through the desert from one site to the next, on the plane ride home, jumping into the Mediterranean in all my clothes with my friends. The sacred places didn’t bring about sacred moments. The Pool of Bethesda didn't feel as if it was just stirred by an angel. The deepest moments of my trip were happening during van rides, on cramped airplane seats, and in silly moments with friends. Those were the places I felt God and saw my life as clearly as a spring morning. In the average and ordinary. When I wasn’t expecting it.
I’d been planning this day for 7 months, daydreaming about it, emailing florists 6,000 miles away about blush pink peonies and olive leaves. We wanted a different story than the one we had heard again and again, “It was all such a blur and I didn’t eat anything!” I worked hard to create a setting that would be intimate, slow, magical. Holy.
When the makeup artist arrived I began to feel the stress most brides experience, a need for everything to be perfect, to feel utterly magical. Sometimes I numb myself a bit if I feel too vulnerable or I’m afraid my expectations are too high. Soon I was feeling overwhelmed. I put my game face and best bridal smile on as videographers, photographers, florists, and family swirled around me asking questions and recording my every move. I didn’t give myself time to breathe, I moved and moved and moved. I barely heard the song I’d carefully selected to walk down the aisle to, I felt nervous even in front of our tiny group of guests, I wasn’t present like I dreamed I would be.
I beat myself up hard for the next two weeks, I should’ve snuck away to pray, I should’ve breathed, I should’ve found Jon and connected with him, I should’ve remembered what it was all about and made it as magical as it could’ve been. That best day of my life felt like a blur.
Two weeks later, being home was so good, all those expectations off my back. Things weren’t perfect, but when I woke up in the arms of the man I loved more than anything in the world, I felt grateful and warm. When he insisted on making me waffles in our new iron on Sunday morning I let the happy revelation we’re really married now settle into my chest. When he knew what childhood memories made me feel weak and weepy when we played tennis on the weekend and wrapped his arms and racket around me, I let myself sink into the word home. Things weren’t perfect, we still fought when the cat ripped the new couch, our routines felt grating to match some days, and honeymoon credit card bills were coming due. But on the hard nights we ate Thrifty’s ice cream curled up on the couch during an episode of "Parks and Rec" together, and these little moments felt like magic.
From the safety of this cozy place I now call home I look back on that wedding day with such sweet fondness. I felt so comfortable and ready with my step-dad as we prepared to walk down the stone staircase toward my new life. I remember catching my fiance's eyes and watching him wipe a tear away as I walked closer to him. I remember the blue evening melting over the sunset until the lake behind us looked ethereal, surrounded by the twinkling lights of towns and boats. I remember our 8 guests sipping red wine during our ceremony, each giving a toast before our vows began. How one of my dearest friends called me pure poetry in hers. I remember the feel of my new husband’s hands in mine as he read me his vows, the way his mouth looked when he said our story was his favorite. How my soul leaned toward him in that moment, affirming it was the story I wanted to tell all my days. I remember the bug flapping its wings in our communion cup and trying not to laugh as we whispered, “act natural,” to each other during the serious rite. I remember being around a table of our people, 2 families that had become one, laughing and saying toasts and reading quotes we loved. We ate unbelievably good food until 1am, silly from wine and full to the brim with pasta and fresh fruit and cream.
The next two weeks were champagne-soaked boat rides, cerulean waters crashing against mile-high cliffs, overflowing breakfast tables and kisses that are my husband and my business.
There were no Sea of Galilee revelations or wedding dress epiphanies. There were beautiful little moments strung together around big promises. Maybe my favorite memories will be holding hands and drinking coffee on the ripped couch, leaning my head on my brand new husband as we watch our families laugh together, bugs in communion cups and the simple fact that this love story will go on forever. Maybe it’s okay that it always goes differently than we planned.
I know this, sacredness does not like to follow our plans like a trained animal. Magic and holiness show up when we’ve just stopped looking.
On van rides in Israeli deserts, on tennis courts in the fog, when he pulls you close in the mornings. Maybe waffles can be more holy than a first dance. All I’m left with, is that our story is always my favorite one to tell.