I took a deep breath as I looked into his eyes. I opened the small notebook that I had written my vows in a few months earlier, and I knew that the words that I was about to read were some of the truest and most sincere words that I would ever speak. My heart and my head were completely aligned. “This is what it’s supposed to feel like,” I thought to myself.
Everything around us faded into the background as I started reading. I was fully present and vulnerable. There were times that I had to pause to catch my breath and hold back happy, grateful tears. My vows to him meant that there would be a collection of promises that I could revisit anytime. A reminder of this moment, and of what our love and this man means to me.
How could I be so lucky? How could all of our choices in life lead to this day? Eli and I had both been through a lot, and somehow, someway, we found each other. He was exactly what I needed. Over the last 2+ years our love grew stronger everyday, as I watched him gain confidence and persevere. As he regained the ability to trust himself and accept love, I did the same. I had not gone through anything near what he had, but for the first time, I felt fully and truly loved. Now, we stood face to face to exchange vows and commit to each other for the rest of our lives. This was our “take two.”
But in true, blended family fashion, things didn’t exactly go according to plan. If you read my post about not wanting another stereotypical wedding, then you know that it was never our plan to have a giant, extravagant gathering. I wanted to get married to be married, not to get married. For us, it wasn’t about the fancy dress, expensive venue, or even the audience to witness our vows; it was about me and Eli sharing our words of love and commitment with each other and our four kids. So imagine our struggle when we learned that two of our kids wouldn’t get to be a part of our family’s special day.
In the weeks leading up to our ceremony, we scoped out the perfect spot on the top of Mount Tam, we picked out matching wedding-casual outfits, we bought flower crowns for our girls, and bow ties for our boys. We booked our very favorite photographer (shout out to 10baretoes!), we made arrangements with our amazing officiant, and we both wrote vows to W, P, L and Z. Even though we didn’t have any guests, a dinner menu, a first dance, or even a cake… this was an extremely important day for us. This was about so much more than the “stuff” that comes along with weddings. In, fact, it was not about the “stuff” at all.
Then, on October 11th, the day that Eli’s kids were expected, and court ordered to be transported up to us, a fire broke out in the LA area causing a temporary freeway closure on highway 5, and a few other highways in SoCal. We were told that the kids would not be driven up. We checked google maps, Waze, and Apple Maps every hour that day. Even with the detours, the longest drive time for them was still under 7 hours. We pushed back and pleaded that the kids be brought up as court ordered, so that they could be a part of this special day, but we were not successful. Nothing we could say would change the fact that his kids would not make it to our family wedding ceremony.
We ran through some scenarios. Cancel and reschedule the wedding? NO WAY – I could not wait even a day longer to marry this man. The show must go on. But having a photographer and getting all dressed up to take wedding/family photos without two of our children didn’t seem right. It would have been so upsetting for P and Z when they realized why they weren’t in those special photos. Because P cried happy tears when we got engaged, I knew that there would be sweet moments at our ceremony that I did not want to miss out on capturing. P and Z deserved to be a part of our family’s union.
So, we decided to have a modified ceremony. We cancelled our photographer, put our wedding clothes back in the closet, and decided not to make the trek up Mount Tam. Instead, we wore some of our favorite outfits and drove to the Berkeley Rose Garden. We would save our wedding outfits, our vows for P and Z, and the photo shoot for another day. A day which I will not be disclosing here or on social media for obvious reasons 🙂 We will get to relive our wedding all over again. It can be like a vow renewal, or a re-union of our families. Lucky us!
Even with the absence of two of the most important people in our lives, the ceremony was amazing. We arrived around 9am to an empty rose garden and beautiful weather. It was peaceful, birds were chirping (yes, seriously), and I was SO ready to marry my best friend. Jeremy, our wonderful officiant/friend started us off. I was almost crying by the end of his speech. It reminded me of all of the things that had to go right for us to have found each other. It also reminded me that even when things aren’t perfect, or things don’t seem like they are going as planned, there is a greater lesson, and a reason that things happen the way they do.
Eli read a poem and said his vows. His sincerity melted my heart. Because we didn’t have a large audience, I was able to listen intently and focus only on him. My love for him reached new heights in that moment. As he spoke, he made a point to look up to make sure we connected after each sentence. His words were engrained in me and I will never forget the love that I felt on that day.
My vows came next, and I was again reassured that we made the right decision in not having a large audience. As I read each sentence I took in every word and gave it meaning as I delivered it to Eli. If people were there watching, I guarantee that I would be speed-reading, talking “at” him, and rushing to get it over with. But with no external pressure, I could speak from my heart. I wasn’t worried about what I looked like or sounded like. I wasn’t worried that I had to pause to collect myself, or if I misread a word. I could be me; the woman that Eli wanted to marry.
After our vows, we each said vows to W and L. They stood up on a cement bench so that they were closer to eye-level while we spoke to them. I was already an emotional mess before I began, but man, telling those little humans how much I love them really sent me over the edge. As I was telling W how amazing of a person he is, and what I promise him as our family changes, he started to cry. He has always been a sensitive guy, but his reaction to crying was the sweetest thing I have ever seen. He asked, “Why am I crying, Mom?” I put my hands on his shoulders and told him that he was crying happy tears. This is what true love feels like. I’m sure we will both remember that moment forever.
I hugged him, and then read my vows to L. Although she wasn’t quite as understanding of what my vows really meant, I know that she felt safe and that she knows that I will always have her best interest at heart. As I closed my notebook, I glanced at my vows for P and Z. I got a tight feeling in my chest thinking about how they missed this. They would have felt so special. I had to remind myself that we would get to do this again, and it would be even more special the next time. P and Z missed this day but I know that the universe has a plan that has P and Z missing a lot less time with us in the future.
Then, it was time for Eli to say his vows to each of my kids. I watched W and L look adoringly at him while he read to them. They do not know how lucky they are to have Eli as a step-dad. They will figure it out someday, but in the meantime, they will benefit from his love and dedication on a regular basis. He is the best parent that I have ever met, and my kids get to have him as a father figure. SCORE!
After the ceremony, W got to sign our marriage license as our witness, which was adorable. He felt so important and grown-up. We said our goodbyes to Jeremy, and headed to one of Eli’s old favorite brunch spots. The love and overwhelming happiness continued throughout the rest of the day. We gathered that evening at Drake’s Dealership in Oakland where we celebrated with a small group of friends and family.
I’m sure that some people would have liked to be at our ceremony earlier that day, but this was better. It was peaceful and calm, and we actually got to hang out with our loved ones. Despite Eli’s kids missing out, and the loss of Eli’s baseball team’s championship game (Go Ghosties!), everything felt right and nothing could bring us down. When I look back at our wedding day, it brings me so much joy, and that is what it’s supposed to feel like.