I’ve been asked plenty of times why I haven’t written a blog entry about my wedding. The answer’s simple: a girl needs time. A wedding is only the most epic event of your life other than the birth of a child or finding the perfect parking spot in NYC. I couldn’t just write about it the day after I said “I do”, I needed to process. So now, more than 100 days later, I’m ready, or at least as ready as I can possibly be…
There’s something I can admit now, that I couldn’t admit to anyone the week leading into my wedding: I highly doubted all the prep, all the expenses, all the stress, could possibly be worth it. How could one weekend even things out? How could one weekend be so symbolic of my relationship? Up until that week I’d put my wedding weekend on a pedestal… and days before the big day, I was ready to tear it down.
The morning of April 18th, I laid back in the spa chair at my local salon while my toenails were painted the perfect royal blue, with these troubling fears of unnecessary planning and spending raging through my brain. In the end, I took a deep breath and prepared myself for having a mediocre weekend. Just get through it, Lauren.
Hours later, Matt and I began the drive into New Jersey, our car packed full to the brim with all my DIY projects and my dress. My dress, that’s a whole other story. The short version goes… at my 2nd fitting it was perfect, not a cinch to be made. But I returned for my 3rd fitting just to be safe, and when I did I quickly learned I’d lost about 5 pounds (all from my waist and hip area -hello stress!) and because of that, the dress had to be taken in TWO more inches all around, just about a week before the wedding. This rarity, me losing weight without trying, sent me into a psychotic dance with my diet for the following week – should I eat more? Should I eat less? Will I gain? Will I lose? I’m pretty obsessed with watching the scale to begin with, imagine what this did to me… Anyway! When I picked up the dress and took it home, it fit perfectly and I exhaled…but not too much because it was perfectly snug.
So back in the car, on the way to the venue, it wasn’t until we hit route 80 that suddenly things became very real. “This is it, we’re getting married,” Matt said to me. And though it was the most obvious statement anyone could have made in that moment, the weight of it was surprising. This really was happening… And that was when the tide of my internal conflict began to change.
We pulled up to the entrance of the Olde Mill Inn, right behind a car filled with my relatives from Virginia. Within moments of exiting our car we were embraced, kissed and fawned over. I felt my skin tingle, my smile broadening and noticed something was happening, and then I realized that something was me getting excited.
We continued our way into the hotel and I quickly retreated to my suite. It was the same suite we’d toured almost a year before, but this time it was mine and that made it so very different. As I primped and gathered myself for the rehearsal dinner, Matt came to check in on me from his own room. “There are so many people here tonight. I didn’t realize how many we’re coming in a day early,” he said. I peaked out the window that overlooked the courtyard which would host our ceremony, and saw various members of both of our families wandering about. I looked back at him and we were both smiling.
Forty of us headed to The Grain House for dinner that evening, and all forty of us were enamored with its charm. The historic building set the tone for the unique weekend that would follow. Our guests table-hopped to mingle as our nieces and little cousins found a little corner to call their own.
Plates were filled, glasses clinked and a couple of hours into the gathering, Matt and I took the spotlight at the front of the room. We thanked our guests for joining us and then I introduced a video I’d produced specifically for the event. Yes, a photo collage set to some sentimental song would not have taken me months of coordinating, filming and editing, but I do this for a living, I couldn’t help it.
The video was a collage of interviews with our parents, friends and family. It was our story told through their eyes. And though I’d spent hours upon hours producing this video, when I played it for them it’s as if I had never been involved, as if I were seeing it for the first time. I realized a few minutes into the viewing that I was crying. “It’s a great story. We’re a great story,” I whispered to Matt.
A delicious dinner behind us, we all returned to the Inn where room parties began popping up around every corner.
No matter what sleep aids you take (my go to is melatonin) brides won’t sleep well the night before their wedding. I doubled my dose and at 2am was still wide awake. I kept myself awake further by worrying about the under eye bags I’d have in the morning thanks to my insomnia. But at some point I blinked and sunlight was peaking through the bedroom window. My wedding day had arrived.
As my hair and makeup team arrived, and my bridesmaids filled my suite, I began to feel more excited than any other moment I could possibly remember. I smiled as my hair was pulled and pinned because the videographers and photographers were catching every minute, but also because I was happy.
(All photos from this point on were done by AL OJEDA PHOTOGRAPHY – fantastic duo!)
My mother-in-law stopped in for a hug and wishes of good luck. Her eyes teared up as she expressed her own happiness that her son and I had found each other. I hugged her tight because I knew how lucky I’d been to not find just him, but his family as well.
Hours later, my mother helped me step into my dress and I had surreal deja vu of when she’d helped me do the same on the day of my sweet sixteen. Half my life had passed since that day and so much had happened between us. Though she was hysterical with happy tears and I had to coach her into calmness for photo-taking, I was so happy to have her there.
My bridesmaids returned fully dressed and absolutely stunning, and I looked around at them with such admiration. I hadn’t asked these women to be a part of my wedding just to fill a quota. I’d asked them because they’d loved me since birth (my cousins), they’d supported me through years of friendship (my besties), and they’d welcomed me into their lives with open arms (my sister-in-laws.)
Somehow hours had flown by though I’d felt like I’d only just awakened, and it was time to meet my groom for our first look. My bridesmaids blocked the hallways and I escaped through the back door of the Inn and into a getaway car driven by one of my MOHs.
Leading up to that weekend, the weather had been completely unpredictable. I think it even snowed earlier in the same month. And up until the day before, I’d been refreshing my Weather Channel app religiously, fearful I’d have to bring every aspect of the wedding indoors. But the moment I stepped out of that car, I was engulfed by the sunshine and soft breeze that awaited me. It was the perfect day, I couldn’t have asked for anything more beautiful. I was so distracted by the weather that it took me a moment to realize my photographer had appeared, waving me out of the car – it was time. My heart desperately wanted to beat its way out of my chest.
As I rounded the corner and saw Matt turned away from me, I took my first deep breath of the day, and moved forward. I paused a few steps from him and said his name. As he turned around and his eyes fell upon me, the look on his face is one I’ll never forget and it reminded me of the first time we met. His smile was full, his eyes a bit teary and he told me “You look beautiful.” And the world felt more right than it had ever been.
We posed, we walked and then we called in the troops.
And before we knew it, it was time to split up once more. The next time we’d see each other we’d be saying our vows.
After the guests had been seated in the Inn’s beautiful courtyard, I joined the wedding party in our waiting area as the entrances began. The string musicians began playing “Falling Slowly” and with it, the bridal party began their walks down the aisle. When my flower girl left to make her way outside, I felt my stomach doing flips. I wasn’t nervous about getting married, I was nervous about being the focal point for 150 people all at once. Then “Canon D” started, my dad kissed my cheek, and I took a deep breath. Game time.
The moment I cleared the corner that rounded into the aisle, I looked straight up at Matt and everything else sort of melted away. His smile made me smile and those smiles got me to the altar without shedding a tear. I wish I could say I got through the ceremony without smearing my makeup, but that would be a blatant lie. We’d chosen to steer clear of religious traditions and had my cousin, who is a lovely and spiritual woman, marry us. She spoke of us and our relationship as she’d come to know it firsthand. Her words were original and true. We couldn’t have asked for a sweeter, more unique ceremony.
From that point on, my words won’t do justice in remembering the rest of our day. Every precious moment of that experience was beautifully captured by my videographer Jose and his team at DeliaStudios. Hiring them was one of the best decisions we could have made. So here it is, a 23 minute long short film that will show you exactly how my wedding day looked and felt.
As you may have gathered from watching the video, our wedding was full of a magnificent energy from start to finish, which is why the party didn’t end when the ballroom lights came on. My family and their instruments, along with some of our bridal party and numerous onlookers, took the party further into the evening and even into the lobby where one of our groomsmen made use of a grand piano, tickling the ivories to some classic tunes. There were more room parties and gatherings at the bar across the lot. It was as if no one wanted this night to end.
The next morning, a mess of hair and makeup, I made my way into the shower while Matt left the room to gauge the overall feel of our overnight guests. Wedding hair should come with a warning label: WILL TAKE HOURS TO DETANGLE WITH POUNDS OF CONDITIONER. It was the longest shower I’d ever taken and when it was done I emerged a wife.
We joined remaining family and friends for coffee as they spoke passionately about the fun they’d had. And that’s what made Matt and I feel the best, knowing we weren’t the only ones who had had the best day ever. That feeling grew deeper as I packed up our treasures in the suite, accompanied by my friend Jonathan. While he reminisced about the previous night, real joy lighting up his eyes, I saw his visit to my room as deeply symbolic. Jonathan, like many friends and family who attended the wedding, aren’t people I get to see very often. Life usually gets in the way, but the love is always there. To have him there, reliving such a precious time with me made me almost as emotional as saying my vows did. It wasn’t just the venue, or the food, or the DJ that made the weekend so perfect (though they were all fantastic!) it was the energy and love of those around us.
Hours later, when the last box was packed, the last kisses and hugs given and a final goodbye was said, Matt and I headed home. In the car we couldn’t stop talking. Various memories from the weekend rolled off our tongues and in the end we both agreed on one thing – it had all been worth it.