Last September, Matt and I celebrated 10 years of marriage with an intimate and elegant vow renewal ceremony. I have been patiently waiting to share all the details and the beautiful photos we had taken to forever document that special day. Renewing our vows served as an important reminder of how much we have grown as a couple, as individuals, as parents, and as a family.
These past 10 years have shed so much light on what matters most to us. And as we continue to build a life we are proud of we’ve learned a few key lessons along the way. In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided to share our story and how we’ve made it this far in our marriage. While our story is unique to us, the take away can be applied to anyone.
“We met on a cruise to Mexico.”
That is usually the first line out of my mouth when I explain to anyone who asks how my husband and I first met.
My family and I were on a Mexican cruise as bonding vacation my dad had planned. My husband was on the cruise partying it up with his buddies. On the second night, he made a bold move and walked across the ship deck from his crazy hot tub to mine. He slid into the seat next to me, introduced himself and proceeded into some form of small talk. He asked a lot of questions about me, who I was on the cruise with, where I was from, etc. We got to talking and surprising, we never ran out of things to say.
I can’t remember the conversations we had way back then but I know they were all small talk. At the end of the night, we said our goodbyes and hoped to see each other around. The next morning came and we immediately set out to find each other at breakfast. The rest of our time together was pretty blurry. The Mexican sun, alcohol, and lack of sleep was definitely to blame. But I do remember we were by each other's side from the early morning sunrise to the late night cruise parties. At the end of the cruise, we said our goodbyes and exchanged phone numbers.
Contrary to what everyone may believe, it was not love at first sight. It was a few days of great conversations and an instant connection with another human being. Once we were ported back in Long Beach, I went back to my real life which was a full-time pre-med student at U.C.L.A. and he went back to his, at home in South Lake Tahoe.
A few months had passed before either of us called each other. I can’t remember who called whom first but when we talked on the phone we picked up right where we had left off. I had just broken up with my boyfriend at the time and he was just starting a new relationship. We talked about life and what we’ve been up to, but nothing along the lines of dating each other or getting married.
This went on for two years. He was always the person I called at 3:00 a.m. on my lunch break during my hospital night shifts and I was always the person he called after a night of partying with the guys. He would even call and debrief his dating life with me.
We were definitely friends. Best friends. He was the person I would drop anything to talk to and I was his. After a few years, our conversations began to get deeper and deeper. We would talk about what life would look like when we had kids (not together but in general), what we believed, our core values, our passions, our dreams, our families and everything else.
There was even a time he offered to come to L.A. to visit me and I had made up an excuse of being out of town because I was afraid it would change everything. I loved our friendship and valued what we had. I just couldn't stand the thought of anything changing.
Our conversations on the phone grew longer and longer. They were consuming all of our free time, our sleep time and a lot of should be studying and working time.
Then one day my mom suggested we meet up again and see if there was any spark between us. She not so elegantly said, “You need to s*** or get off the pot.” In other words, figure out if this is the person you want to do life with or stop wasting your time with him.
So we decided to meet in Vegas. It was a week before his 29th birthday and he had already had a trip planned with some friends. I think we both felt that we needed to see if this is something we could make work together.
We had a great time and our relationship was 1000 times better in person. We decided then and there that we were going to be together. We left Vegas wanting so much more of each other but we each had lives we were in the middle of. I was finishing my senior year of college and he had just bought a house.
The following weekend I flew out to surprise him for his actual birthday. The next weekend he flew to L.A. to see me. Then I flew back a week later so that we could spend Valentine’s weekend together.
Little did I know I would be coming back to L.A. engaged and eager to start my life with the man I was in love with.
When I got back home I dealt with a lot of criticism. I was living in my sorority house at the time and a lot of the sisters could not understand my decision. They thought I was crazy and had gone off the deep end. They had no idea how I could be engaged when they had never even seen me with a boyfriend. I was told that I was rushing into everything and making the biggest mistake of my life.
But I knew better.
To the rest of the world who did not know our love story, I’m sure we did seem crazy. But to us, why would we wait any longer when we knew what we wanted.
We were confident in what we had built together. Even though we were in separate states, we built a friendship that could withstand anything. He was the person I would tell everything too and I was his. And that was all before love and intimacy entered the picture.
When I think about my husband I don’t think about him as my better half or the one who completes me. I was already complete before I met him. That's what he loves about me. At the time we didn’t need each other. We both could have gone our separate ways and been just fine.
But we choose each other. And that has made all the difference.
Time and time again we chose each other. Not because we have to or because we need to but because we want to.
As our 10 year anniversary approached we knew that we wanted to renew our vows.
With so much going on in the day to day, we wanted to take some time to recommit to each other and celebrate all that we have been through and the life we have built together.
When were first talking about what we wanted to do, a lot of ideas came to mind. Some were extravagant. Some included just us on a romantic getaway. But we always came back to wanting to celebrate our anniversary with family and friends.
We wanted to celebrate with the people that have been by our side from the beginning. Our moms, our best friends, our family and our kids (even though they came later).
We felt that it was not only a celebration of our marriage but a celebration of our friendship to each other. And we wanted a way to honor and thank everyone.
Matt’s best friend was the best man at our wedding. He was also one of the guys that came with Matt on the cruise when we originally met. My best friend was my maid of honor at our wedding. We have been friends since high school and there isn’t a story from before I was married that you can tell that she isn't apart of.
Our moms were also a huge part of us wanting to renew our vows. We could not have built the life we have if they had not been by our side helping us with the many, many things they do. They have been there every step of the way and have become best friends themselves.
Our siblings have also made a huge impact on our marriage. When you marry someone, you don’t only marry them, you marry their family. We have both gained new siblings and have become one big family.
As we always say “We come as a pack” and anyone who has heard us coming knows this to be true.
With all of that in mind, our 10-year vow renewal was intended to be a celebration for everyone to enjoy and be included in. A day we could all intentionally reconnect and share how much each member of the pack is appreciated. It was designed as a day to reflect on the past and to look forward to what's ahead.
When we were planning where to have our vow renewal, one location kept coming up. It is a place that has grown near and dear to our hearts. A place where you can’t help but stop and reconnect. A place where Zack wants to visit every year until he is 100. And a place that we visit annually as one big family. We decided to have our vow renewal at Mono Village in Twin Lakes, CA.
If you have never been there, let me be the first to tell you that the views are spectacular. And years prior to renewing our vows I often wished we had gotten married there. I had dreamed of photos of us standing in the meadow below the mountain peaks and overlooking the crisp blue lake.
So it seemed perfect to host our ceremony there. I envisioned a half circle of chairs surrounding Matt and I as we read our newly written vows to each other. I pictured handing our moms’ white roses as a sign of love and gratitude just as we had done on our wedding day. And I knew we needed our best friends, family, and kids to take part in the celebrations. Without a doubt, I also knew that I wanted amazing pictures from this memorable day in our life.
The ceremony was perfectly imperfect.
I had forgotten my wedding ring at home and there was no way of getting it before everything started. Only I could manage to design, plan and host a 10-year vow renewal complete with a champagne toast, cocktail tables with white linens in the middle of a campground, yet forget to put my wedding ring on as we were rushing out the door to pick everything. But to my surprise, Matt had gifted me a second wedding band so that worked itself out.
The kids couldn't understand why we were getting married again because we were already married. They spent a lot of time running around the meadow and came up to hug us a lot during our brief ceremony. Then they all wanted a turn to talk in front of everyone and share their heartfelt gratitude to all who came. Which we gladly let them because this day was as much about them as it was about us.
We both unexpectedly cried through the entire vow renewal part and I was not wearing waterproof mascara. Oh, and the entire campground was watching us and clapping as if they were apart of our intimate ceremony, which they weren't and it was a little awkward.
But it was a day well lived. A day well loved. And a day well celebrated.
Looking back I wouldn’t change a thing. I truly believe that it’s all the little random details that integrate a story and make it worth sharing. And while every love story is beautiful...ours is my favorite.
Photography: Harmony Hilderbrand Photography
Flower: A Floral Affair
Table/Chair Rentals: Elevated Events