Thirty-two years. That’s how long we’ve been married now.
There’s something ridiculously liberating about spending 30 years with your person. He gets me utterly and there’s zero judgment. Even on my worst days, he still gropes me. I don’t think he even has a concept of “bad hair days” when it comes to how he sees me.
Every ten years, we’ve renewed our wedding vows, but our 30th was different.
We started this tradition by accident actually.
Our original wedding ceremony wasn’t entirely my created dream wedding.
We’d eloped on a Tuesday (just 3 weeks after we started dating) with plans to keep it a secret until much later (that’s a whole story in itself), but Grant’s best friend mentioned it to Grant’s father who mentioned it to Grant’s mother, who was livid that she’d been cheated out of her son’s wedding.
As a mother with grown kids, I get it now, but at 18, I wasn’t thinking of other people’s feelings so much. No matter. The necessity to mend fences presented itself, and we quickly threw together a wedding just 30 days after we eloped.
It was a sunset cruise out of Clearwater Marina. We had no Pinterest or Google to guide our wedding design.
I had no previous experience with weddings in any capacity whatsoever, so my Matron of Honor helped me make the bridesmaid dresses (because I didn’t know that bridesmaids pay for their own dresses), the bouquets were ultra-low budget (I mean carnations. white carnations with a couple of red roses), I had a tight perm with the side of my head shaved because it was the 80’s and that was a thing.
Remember tube tops? Those are fun. Well, to keep this theme rolling along, my bridesmaids wore white sheath dresses made out of tube top material with blue lace glue-gunned onto the dresses in various places as trim. Seriously. Don’t ask me how I agreed to white. Or tube tops. But it makes a great story, and the photographs are fantastic. See?
The night before my wedding, I was at the salon that one of my bridesmaids worked at. There were three stylists there, and a couple of customers. We were doing a test run on my hairstyle when one of the girls asked if I was nervous about the wedding.
Me: “Yes. I don’t have a dress to wear so that’s pretty stressful.”
Everyone froze gaping at me.
Nicole: “You don’t have a dress?!”
Me: (Probably in shock because scary calm) “Yeah. I don’t know what to do.”
Lori: (Alarmed) “Ummm. How did this happen? I mean, the wedding is TOMORROW.”
Me: “Well, I was going to sew my own wedding dress. I got the pattern, all the materials, the appliqués, everything. But I don’t know how to sew, so…”
Lori: “Oh my God! You have to go buy one!”
Me: “Yeah….my budget is already spent on all the material for the dress, so that’s not really an option.”
Then, from across the room, I heard a male voice…
Male Stylist: “Wait! Did you say you have everything you need to make the dress? All the material, threads, and details??”
Me: “Yes. Everything.” Sigh.
Male Stylist: “Oh Honey! You go home right now and get it!”
Male Stylist: “Girl, I make prom dresses on the side and I will make your dress!”
Me: “…. B-b-but, I don’t have any money to pay you.”
Male Stylist: “I don’t want your money. Just pictures afterward to show off my talent.”
Twenty-four hours later I was getting my second and final fitting…
My Savior. Seriously.
I mean, look at this dress!
I have no idea what I would have done without him. Wherever you are, Sir: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!!!
Despite the 80’s DIY cheesiness, the wedding turned out awesome.
Most of the guests were co-workers and friends of our parents, and most of my closest friends refused to come because they felt our marriage wouldn’t last and they were sure Grant was just using me for a green card (that’s only partly true-but that’s another story!)
I was in a fight with my best friend which had only been resolved two days before the wedding so she wasn’t actually in my wedding party. However, she was the one at my side helping me hold it together as the moments ticked by to the ceremony.
Thank you, Sitka. To this day, you are the sister I never had and I love you.
No one remembered to bring any of my jewelry–it’s also possible that I forgot to ask anyone to…
However, I did buy an expensive garter that we threw because who needs a keepsake? And how would I possibly know that there’s such a thing as a throw garter. Oh Internet, where were you when I needed you? #1989
The truth is, I was so out of my element, I felt more like a spectator–detached and kind of numb. All in all, it was a celebration that I felt like I was attending as a guest.
The only thing that I was certain about was that he was the one I would share the rest of my life with. It was a surreal sort of “pinch me” feeling that stuck with me.
But life happens.
We went through the kinds of things that young couples go through when they don’t really have a grip on adulting: Poorly managed finances, unexpected babies 1-2-3-4, pressures from other young friends who don’t get it, lack of direction in life, the list goes on…
At the two-year mark, we weren’t doing so good. Baby #2 had arrived and I was managing–sort of. Grant and I were fighting. A lot. And our marriage was crumbling.
Thanks to a friend, we fixed the broken parts quickly and came back stronger and more in love than ever.
The photo below is from the day after we fixed our marriage. You can see us walking with my big hair and his arm around me.
We still had ups and downs that come with life, but we tackled them together as a team and managed to conquer some fairly dark periods, and in the journey growing closer.
This is why we decided that we should renew our vows in celebration of our 10th Anniversary. What a victory!
Ten years is remarkable, and only those who’ve weathered it themselves truly appreciate the magic of it.
This time, we would do it our way. Sort of.
We were still young enough that “our way” was hugely influenced by what we thought others might like.
It turned out to be just okay and still not awesome. I’m still looking for the photos, which are buried in a box somewhere…
We did a Renaissance-themed event and rented a fancy house that stressed us out because it had white carpet and there was lots of wine… And we stayed up until after 2:00am cleaning up everything with Sitka and her husband, John. Ha!
And we continued to explore our values and personal sense of styles as we navigated our life and growing family.
The next ten years were a whirlwind of raising kids, building a successful business, and finally wrapping our wits around the whole adulting thing (mostly).
We welcomed our first grandchild and experienced parenting pre-teens, teens, and a grown-up all at once.
We also moved into our forever home with enough space (and bathrooms) to accommodate our family of six–just as the kids started leaving the nest. Dammit.
I decided that I wanted to renew our vows to celebrate our 20th on our terms authentically.
I wanted 100 of our closest friends and family there to share the moment in a casual, comfortable setting with good food and great company.
Some of our oldest and dearest friends flew in from as far as California to celebrate with us. We renewed our vows on our back deck at sunset in a Caribbean-casual-themed ceremony.
I walked down the aisle to “What a Wonderful World” by Iz (aka Israel Kamakawiwo’ole) with my granddaughter leading the way. My father-in-law performed the ceremony.
As we exchanged our vows, I was struck by the words and how much I’d needed them and lived them over the years. And as I looked into Grant’s eyes newly reaffirming my promise, I saw a depth of trust and passion forged over two decades and I found my love for him had deepened beyond anything I could have imagined.
Hand-in-hand, we walked up the aisle together surrounded by friends and family as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Iz played in the background. Perfection.
I believe that my 40’s were the most significant decade of my life so far.
My personal sense of style became more clear and for the first time, uninfluenced by anyone else’s opinion of what I should or shouldn’t be.
So, this is what it means to be unapologetically comfortable in my own skin? Sublime.
The next ten years would prove to be our alignment years.
We welcomed our 2nd grandchild, the kids were grown and on their own, forcing us to focus on what mattered to us personally. I had significant health situations that tested each of us and ultimately brought us together even more firmly as a team. Our priorities shifted and our lives took on a deeper meaning as we focused on our passions and purposes.
We wrote novels, learned more, dialed in on the things that truly mattered, celebrated our kids as adults, delighted in the company of our grandchildren, and traveled the world helping others. We found ourselves in the best place mentally, spiritually, and physically than we’d ever dreamed. We also pushed ourselves harder than ever, stretching beyond our comfort zone and becoming better versions of ourselves.
We were traveling so much on our humanitarian missions that we almost skipped our vow renewals for our 30th altogether. But the truth is that it’s been working, so why change it now?
Our 20th was perfect, so I wasn’t looking to create a perfect anything. I simply wanted to reaffirm our commitment surrounded by people who matter in my life.
We did two separate ceremonies this time, and here’s what happened:
Our kids have incredibly busy lives. They live their own versions of helping to make the world a bit better, so matching up schedules is a challenge.
It just so happens that we have an annual convention on a cruise that falls on our anniversary and is attended by some of our best friends from all corners of the world. What better place to renew our vows than this? I couldn’t possibly coordinate so many of these friends in one place at one time. But my family would not be there.
So, my oldest daughter suggested that we do a very intimate vow renewal with just the family before we leave for our trip. Yes!
My in-laws provided the perfect garden setting with all the kids, grandkids, and parents.
Afterward, we had a homemade curry and a cake baked by my fabulous mother-in-law. My youngest son performed the ceremony, while my oldest son had the role of best man. Sitka stood beside me while my girls took photos and video.
I teared up more than once as I looked around at all that we had created in three decades. It meant so much for my kids to share in that moment with us because they truly know that we’ve created this life and marriage on an “all-in” basis. What a celebration!
Then there was the cruise. This was the icing on the cake of a sublimely perfect 30th Wedding Anniversary!
We were docked in Dominica, so the setting was spectacular. Our friends gathered from all over the US, South Africa, and the UK, and together they shared in one of the most remarkable moments of my life.
As I listened to my wedding vows–the same ones we’d exchanged three decades before–that moment flashed before me when I knew that he was the one all those years ago.
I recalled with clarity moments of hopeful anxiousness as I vowed to honor and love him and take him honestly as he is with all his admirable qualities, and even his not-so-admirable qualities. How I made a pledge to constantly create our love and marriage, and I remembered distinctly thinking that it was a lot to live up to way back then. Would I have the strength to stay the course? So many marriages don’t.
I vividly recalled all these thoughts flitting through my mind as I promised to be and do until death itself undoes. And as all those moments flashed before me, I repeated those same vows filled with a deeper conviction and understanding, knowing that I’d done my part and that he’d done his, and we still have a lifetime ahead of us to create.
Tears filled my eyes and his as we pledged ourselves newly and promised to do and be until the rest of our days.
I feel that this is one of the most therapeutic things a married couple can do. To pledge to one another anew and take a moment to breathe and take stock in all that has come to pass. Especially in this fast-paced world we live in where we sometimes forget to appreciate everything we have and where we have been.
How lucky I am. I can hardly wait to see what this decade brings, and the one after. One thing is certain though, we will renew our vows again.