We were poor and young. Dirt poor with not much career under our names yet. I wanted a small garden wedding and knew we couldn't afford much else. Then our collective parents made the guest list and a problem occurred. There were about 400 people they all wanted to come and a little bit of panic set in. But what I didn't realize, was that the reason 400 people were invited was because our families over the years had poured into our community, the church we both grew up in, our tight family connections, and those roots went down deep.
Within a month, the guest list "problem" was solved. Everyone was invited and the people we had lived alongside and loved us growing up offered pieces of our wedding to us. With each offer I was touched and I often cried.
The large church we grew up in said we could have the building, chairs, kitchen, tables, etc. for free.
My second "mom" growing up does wedding cakes and did ours. From scratch. Plus a groom's cake. It was amazing, huge, and we had plenty left over.
My mother-in-law's best friend (a florist) took me up to San Francisco two days before the wedding to the wholesale flower market, bought (what seemed to me) about a million dollars worth of flowers, did all of our flowers and gave it to us as our wedding gift.
One of our former youth group leaders (also a florist) did all of the backdrop and church flowers and decorating as a gift.
A childhood friend did our pictures for only the cost of the film (he was a photographer) in the days before digital.
Another friend did our wedding video and editing as our gift (he is a videographer).
And then we didn't know how to do the food for so many people. Another second "mom" to me growing up said, "No problem. Hand me the guest list." She then proceeded to call them all and got people to bring food. You guys, we had a hors d'oeuvres potluck wedding and it was marvelously good. Church people can throw down.
Wedding coordinators for the church volunteered their time to run our wedding that day.
My husband's two best friends hired the DJ as our gift.
Tone's grandpa and our childhood pastor both did our wedding ceremony. Very close friends did the music at the ceremony. A friend ran all the sound. We paid for nothing there.
Tone's best friend's mom is a hairdresser and she did our hair for free.
Tone's cousin did a fly over in his little plane during the reception.
A second dad to me sang a surprise song during the reception that was kind of joke song that we sang every year with them on vacation.
Sure, we bought a few things. Ribbons for bows, candles, paper for programs, my dress and my sister's, some fruit for the reception lunch. But that was about it.
My dress was a whole $200. I kept trying on heavy dresses and they all felt too much for little me. Finally I found a floaty chiffon simple dress and it had "me" all over it. I made my veil.
It was the most beautiful wedding, and I am so glad that I didn't have my little garden wedding. It's not that I'm a girl that wants large parties and the glam, it's that I have never felt that a wedding represented what a wedding should be more than ours. Our wedding represented a large community of people who have invested in the lives of two people, celebrating and blessing them into their new life together. I look back and treasure every single person that came. Our wedding was grace and undeserved love from our community who felt we were worth investing in for whatever reason. It was an example from our community who knew how to love well and a prayer for us to model the same.
We had to go back to our registry and put more stuff on it....twice. We literally had every possible thing we could think of to start our new lives together and then some. We didn't register at the most expensive places or for the most expensive things (we don't roll that way and neither does most of our friends), but twice our large registry and Target and Bed Bath and Beyond was bought out. This isn't to brag. This is more a tribute to our parents who raised us in such a strong, supportive community. In turn, throughout our marriage, we've thrown our doors open and hosted about a million people out of our home. We haven't been hoarders with those gifts.
So what kind of marriage did they bless us into? I was a naive, bright eyed twenty two year old teacher and Tone, at twenty five, flying little planes and dreaming of being in the airlines someday. Ha. We knew nothing but had a handful of role models.
Flash forward 13 years. As we have grown into this thing called marriage, we have found that there is nothing harder or more transforming or more powerful than committed love. We've lived off of $19,000 a year, with a baby, away from family and friends. We've traveled the world, had more babies, fought, laughed, been in counseling, had lots of romance, clung to each other through really tough times, served together in community, fought and laughed some more. Marriage is the greatest picture of true love because it was designed to be a reflection and earthly picture of the truest love there is.
The reality is that the search for true love is built into the core of all of our souls. True love is the definition of the gospel. The gospel is simply that God never quits, never gives up, never runs away, never turns away, is not conditional, gave everything to His very own life, and is ever committed in His love for us and He built that yearning into our very souls. And then He gave the earth, marriage, as a picture to show this kind of love. It's why divorce and affairs and selfish, hard-hearted marriage is so devastating. It takes the picture of God's love for us and trashes it. It's why there are two roles in marriage. The husband reflects this kind of selfless, lay it all on the line, do anything, love for his bride so that she can shine in all her glory knowing she is cherished full well, nurturing and calling her to be a great reflection of God (Ephesians 5:25-29). He's supposed to reflect how God loves the church. I'm super glad I'm not male and receiving that tall order. And likewise, the bride, reflects the love of the church for God; helping, supporting, respecting the husband knowing that whatever he endeavors is out of love and a reflection of who God is, calling him to greater love when it is not (Ephesians 5:22, 33). It's this love that draws us in movies, books, the loving looks of those celebrating their 50th anniversary, and all the wishes of the heart. It's the kind of love that forgives often, dispels the arguments over women's and men's roles in marriage, and encourages people to reach their highest potential in Christ. It's not the ultimate in love since it's only a reflection of our greater relationship with God, but it is the best picture of that love that God set on earth. We all want to have that kind of love given to us, the struggle is to BE that kind of love. Marriage seems to be the battle ground and lab for us here on earth as Tone and I continue to fully know each other and love each other well.
I think our church community grasped that, and yearned to bless us into that kind of marriage, knowing full well that it takes a life-time to get it "right". Honestly, we still don't have it right, and struggle in our selfishness. This side of heaven, we are reflecting dimly the love we will enjoy one day with our Father. But marriage gives me a taste, a glimmer of that kind of great great love. I know that I love Tone. I know I won't ever give up on him or us and he won't on me either, even as we slug it out in our selfish areas. I know that it has taken a community rallying around us to keep us straight some days. They sent us off into a marriage with much hope and faith that we would reflect the gospel. Some days, it seems Tone and I have scratched and clawed for our own "rights", some days we have gotten love exactly right, and some days have been a mixture of both.
As it says in 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I have been fully known. But now abide faith, hope, love, these three. But the greatest of these in love."
Some people have just a wedding, but our community sent us off into a marriage full of hopes and blessings. And thirteen years later, I am still saying thank you.