Monday, March 26, 2012

The Ultimate Wedding Week: The Ceremony

There are three more topics left in the "Ultimate Wedding Week Link-Up Party" and today is all about the most important part: the ceremony.  Throughout our wedding planning process, Josh stayed very involved, but was most invested in the ceremony itself.  Seeing that he is a pastor and has been to his fair share of weddings, I loved planning this part with him as he had such a clear idea of what it should be.  And at the end of the day, we knew that if anything went wrong or a wedding detail did not happen the way we wanted it to, we would be husband and wife and that was the most important thing.  Focusing on that rather than all of the "what if's" really kept my stress levels down... knowing that I was going to be married to the most special person I have ever met was all that mattered.

So anyhoo... where was I?  Oh yes, the ceremony.  I've mentioned that we got married at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa in Miami, which has so many beautiful spots for a ceremony.  Being in Florida and having friends from all over visiting, we really wanted an outdoor ceremony, since God's church is everywhere anyway!  Why not get married in his biggest masterpiece?  I had to twist some arms to have my ceremony on the spa terrace, which was being taken over by new management that would be utilizing the area for other things and no longer available for brides.  It's such a shame, too, because this is what the gorgeous place looks like:

See what I mean?  The terrace itself is up top, the building behind it, overlooking the fountains and gardens.  And just so you know, I was the last bride to get married there.  We've come under new management yet again (Mr. Donald Trump's management in fact) and I hope this is one of the things he changes.  It would be a shame to not use this space for weddings!  This picture was taken in the early afternoon when my photographer arrived, and it rained shortly after.  All day.  It was cloudy and dreary, but the upside was that it was cool.  The event manager waited as long as he possibly could before pulling it inside, and about 2 hours before the ceremony, the rain stopped.  I wish I had a picture of the weather map that day because there was green covering all of south Florida, except for this little circle over Doral. God smiled on us that day for sure.  There was still a small part of us that was concerned it might rain down on us at any point (which happens out of nowhere all the time down there!) but we decided to go for it.  Besides, it would make a great wedding day story if all of our guests (and us) had to run inside and finish the ceremony there.  No big deal.  Because the venue was so gorgeous and green, we really did not need flowers or decoration.  We just kept it simple with a cross my mom bought for us and a garland that our florist made for the occasion.  I did not know what she had in mind (as we did not budget for it and so she said she'd make something inexpensive) but the final product was perfect.  Simple and elegant, which was pretty much my vision for everything.

For the processional, my lovely bridesmaids walked down the aisle to an acoustic guitar playing Canon in D.  Meanwhile, Josh waited at the bottom of the terrace steps and then made his way up to the top with our officiant and his groomsmen.

And then the moment was upon us... time to walk down the aisle!  I had not been nervous all day, but man did those butterflies amp up right then!  My dad asked me if I was ready and I could hardly speak, but then he said, "ok, let's go," and off we went.  I could see my guests long before I could see Josh as I had to round a corner to get to him.  I love the picture of me waving to him upon first sight.  This moment to me made it worth waiting until the ceremony to see each other.  I also love how incredibly big and cheesy my smile is in these pictures... clearly this was the happiest day of my life to that point!  I did not realize how choked up my dad got until I saw that last picture.  He really had to try hard not to lose it.

I really did not get too emotional until it my dad gave me away.  He told me he loved me and kissed me on the cheek... it was such a mixture of happy and sad, but I held it together.  Seeing Josh standing there brought that smile right back to my face.  One of my favorite pictures of the day is the one of my dad and I standing there waiting for that moment.  I love the contrast of our faces.  My dad has three daughters and I am the third, so even though it was difficult all three times, seeing his baby go was not easy.  That is why Miss Lilly is never allowed to get married.  Okay, okay, that's a tad unfair.  Maybe I'll change my mind when she's 35.

The ceremony itself was pretty much mapped out by Josh and myself.  Because we were not getting married in a church, we chose to be married by our friend, Blake, who is also in ministry and one of the godliest men that I know.  He had never performed a wedding and was so honored when we asked.  We gave him the specifics and told him that first and foremost, we did want a Gospel presentation to be a part of the ceremony, but we also wanted the ceremony to be twenty minutes tops... it would be too hot for anything longer!  When we met with him the day before, he nervously read us what he had prepared.  He talked about how God loved marriage so much that He started and ended the Bible with one... the first being between man and woman the second being between His son and the church.  It was beautifully thought out and eloquent and we were stunned at how well he took what we wanted and put it into words and Blake was stunned that we liked it so much!  Josh told him that he would be "borrowing" that opening message for the weddings he performs in the future and as promised, Josh's version of it has been put to use once or twice.  We are so thankful to have friends like Blake and his wife Julie.

As for the ceremony elements, we did not want to do a unity candle as we were outside and we did not want to do the sand because we did not want to have to keep a jar of sand in our house forever.  No offense to those of you who choose to do that, but it just wasn't "us."  Josh loved the concept of Ecclesiastes 4:12 that says "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."  This verse had been printed on our invitations, too.  He thought it would be awesome if we made something to braid and after a little Google research, I found that this already existed!  We purchased our rope from God's Knot, a website that I stumbled across on accident.  The braided cord now hangs over the cross from our wedding and both are displayed on our mantle.  If you choose to do this, I would suggest making sure your groom knows how to braid first!  He faked his way through it like a champ!

The other thing we really wanted was for our bridal party to come around us in prayer.  Thankfully we had a large enough area up front to make this happen and it actually resulted in another one of my favorite photos from the day.

Aside from the verse in Ecclesiastes, we also had two of our cousins come up and read from Ephesians 5:21-28 and 5:31.

This was the only point in the ceremony when the weather gave us a scare.  A huge gust of wind swept through and for a moment, everyone thought that a downpour would come with it.  Our photographer was ready and captured the moment perfectly with both Josh and I looking at the sky.  On our video you can hear Josh whisper, "just five more minutes, God."  He not only gave us five, but the rain stayed away for the rest of the night so we could get more outdoor photos, too.

Finally we said our vows and exchanged rings.  Josh and I decided to read and write our own vows, which was more difficult than I thought it would be.  How do you tell a man how much you love him in just a couple of minutes?  I thought a lot about it, wrote many version, and admittedly did not complete them until that morning.  And for some reason, on our wedding day, I just had such clarity on what I wanted to share at that special time... the words basically wrote themselves.  Many people told us that it was their favorite part of our wedding.  I'd have to agree.

Then finally I heard those words that every girl dreams about since childhood... "Without further ado, I know pronounce you husband and wife.  You may kiss the bride!"

To me, it was perfect and I would seriously not change a thing.  I cannot believe this post got so long, but I just didn't want to leave anything out.  My advice to any couple would be to make the ceremony your own, even if you're staying within a traditional framework like we did.  We found elements that were unique to us, but showed others how much we loved each other and more importantly, how God was at the center of it all.  A lot of couples get nervous about writing their own vows, but I would also encourage couples to consider this.  I do love the traditional ones, too, and the fact that couples for thousands of years have recited those same sacred words, but there was so much more that I wanted to share with Josh on that day.  We put some of the traditional vow elements into the "repeat after me" portion of the ring exchange so that they could be incorporated, too.

Once our ceremony was over the guests all went over to the cocktail reception and we took a few photos with family, our bridal party, and a few (far too few!) of just the two of us.

I have tons of advice when it comes to this because we did it all wrong!  I had read to make a list of the picture you want taken that day and even though I meant to do it, I never did.  Because we didn't have a plan I feel like we missed out on a lot of pictures that I would've loved to have had.  For example, we do not have one of our combined families together or even our extended families with us!  And we literally have only one photo of our entire bridal party together and somehow my flower girl isn't even in it!  There were such beautiful places on the grounds that I loved, such as stone staircases and iron gates, but I never shared that with my photographer.  He wanted to take photos out on the golf course, and since he's the expert, we did that.  I felt like we spent too much of our allotted photo time riding in the cart to get there and then I looked windblown in every one of them.  He did do a great job and again, I take responsibility for not getting the ones I wanted, but my point is to speak up.  It's YOUR day.  I agree that they are experts, but all of your vendors can and should be able to work within the parameters of your vision.  I do not Pinterest (as I have plenty of other things- mainly 2 small kiddos- that take up enough of my free time) but if you're planning a wedding, find the kinds of pictures you like from other wedding, pin them, and then show them to your photographer so that he or she can see what kind of style you like.  I had a "photography" file saved on my computer, but I never shared any of the sample pictures with him because I did not want to offend him.  Now I know that he would not have been offended in the least, and if your photographer does get offended, I would reconsider using him or her!  Your pictures are the one thing that lasts forever, so to me, spending the most of your budget there to get exactly what you want is super important.  On the upside, the photos he did take are amazing and our video is probably the best I have ever seen.  They have since relocated to Southern California, so if you're in that area, they are worth every penny.  You can check out their site here.

Okay, I think I've bored you all enough today... I never meant to get so long winded!  Make sure you go over to Shue Love today and link up with all of the other brides there.  And stay tuned for the reception on Wednesday and the details on Friday.  Thanks for letting me share!