A young friend of our family has just announced her engagement. We are so happy for her and praying that she will have a wonderful wedding and even more wonderful marriage. As today is my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, I’d like to take the time to offer some advice to those young people out there planning their own nuptials and expand on what I told our friend:
1. As you plan the wedding, don’t spend money; spend time with those you love.
2. Spend more time and energy planning the marriage than the wedding.
When Ken and I got married, twenty-five years ago, we wanted a grand wedding with all of the accouterments – the fairy tale dress and tuxedos, the large wedding party, the enormous guest list, an unforgettable nuptial Mass, a full-course dinner, and a joy-filled evening of dancing and partying. We got it all. We hosted 300 guests, and we didn’t break the bank doing it.
The Dress and Veil
My aunt, my mother, and I scoured the stores to find the perfect dress at the perfect price. We bought it, off the rack, at a discount bridal shop. It was on the “last year’s fashions” rack and was exactly what I wanted. The veil was made with my mother’s wedding tiara. I wore it for my First Communion as did my both of my cousins and, years later, all three of my daughters. We added new tule and some pearls, and it was the perfect accessory for my dress. I wanted lots of lace, a modest bodice, a beautiful back, and a detailed train. I got it all at a bargain basement price. I just had to be patient, wait and relax, and enjoy the hunt with my aunt and my mom.
The church that my parents attended (in the parish where I attended when in high school and before marriage) was under construction, so we headed up the road to the church I grew up in, and it was still as beautiful as I remembered it. We worked with our Pastor, Father Paul Dudziak, to plan a meaningful ceremony rich in faith and tradition. Afterward, a friend of Ken’s lamented that he had never attended a wedding that was an hour and a half long! It was worth every minute. I’ve never been a fan of the ten-minute wedding. I believe a wedding should be something that represents the eternal love of Jesus Christ as well as the eternal bond of marriage. I wanted everyone, especially Ken and me, to leave the church knowing that something special, something lasting, something sacred had just taken place.
The Flowers, Photography, and Cake
Our flower arrangements and bouquets were designed by mother and me with the help of a family friend who owned a florist. She helped us choose exquisite selections that matched the color theme and my personal tastes while staying within a strict budget. Our biggest single expense was probably the photographer, but we could afford to spend a little more because we cut costs everywhere else, including the wedding cake. A friend of ours owned a bakery and made the most mouth-watering cakes you’ve ever tasted. When we asked her about making the cake, she insisted on making it as her gift to us. We have never forgotten her generosity.
We held our reception at the church hall next to our parish’s yet-to-be-constructed church. It wasn’t fancy, but it was affordable, and the decorations that my mother and her friend planned and designed transformed the room from an ordinary church hall into an elegant banquet room. We hired someone with event experience to make sure the food was on the buffet table and to do all of the serving and cleanup of the dishes.
Believe it or not, we made all of the food ourselves. Yes, we made a traditional Southern Maryland Fall Dinner, for 300 people, all by ourselves. Every – single – bite – with the exception of frozen rolls that were baked fresh during the ceremony. For months, everyone in the family chipped in to pick crab meat. Throughout the summer, we saved enough meat for my grandmother and Ken’s grandmother to fill their freezers with homemade crab balls. My mother made hundreds of her unforgettable pumpkin muffins and froze those as well. My father and my grandmother spent days, leading up to the wedding, making the Southern Maryland Stuffed Ham, a delicacy only found in Southern Maryland. My uncle worked his magic to grill melt-in-your-mouth pit beef. And the day before the wedding, all of the women in our family, my Godmother, my bridal party, and several family friends, gathered in the church hall to cut fruit and veggies, steam shrimp, and assemble trays while the men followed my mother’s decorating instructions. We talked, we laughed, and we reminisced. It was a day that I remember and cherish as much as the wedding day itself, and in some ways, even more.
But the truth is that none of that would have mattered. None of it would have meant anything at all. All of it would have been for nothing if Ken and I had not spent as much effort planning and working on our marriage. Twenty-five years together, in today’s world, is a long time. Sometimes, it feels like twice that. There have been days when we didn’t like each other very much. There have been moments when we wondered if it was worth it. There have been fights and slammed doors and long drives to clear my head. But in the end, we meant it when we said, “until death do us part.” We’ve lived through the good times and bad, the richer and poorer, the sickness and health. We’ve laughed until we cried and cried until we laughed. But we’ve always been there for each other. We’ve never turned our backs on each other, never considered life without the other, never looked to anything beyond what we have together.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that, if you’re right for each other, everything else will fall into place. Don’t let anyone tell you that marriage shouldn’t be hard sometimes. Don’t believe that you won’t have to work at it, even harder than you work at your job, your studies, your goals. But don’t ever think for a moment that it isn’t worth it to have someone to come home to who loves you more than anyone or anything in the world. To have someone to share your dreams and your failings. Someone to hold you when you cry and someone who knows how to make you laugh.
And don’t make the mistake that so many make these days and wait until it’s too late! There will NEVER be enough money. There will NEVER be the right time in your career. There will NEVER be plenty of time down the road for the timing to be right. We got married at 23 and 24. Unheard of today! We still had several years of graduate and law school ahead of us. We had nothing except college loans and a lot of hope and dreams. And we had each other, a plan, and faith.
As we read in Ecclesiastes, “Therefore, it is better for two to be together, than for one to be alone. For they have the advantage of their companionship. If one falls, he shall be supported by the other.” (Ecc. 4:9-10). And in Proverbs: “To find a wife is the find happiness, a favor granted by the Lord” (Prob 18:22). So, to those young couples getting ready to embark on the most wonderful time of your lives, don’t worry about spending a fortune on your wedding. A small budget can still give you the wedding of your dreams! But do spend a fortune on your marriage, paid for with all the treasures that will ensure a happy life together – love, joy, communication, tenderness, understanding, patience, resiliency, forgiveness, and an abundance of faith in God.
What I was writing about a year ago this week: A Little Time to Spare.
The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.
Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).