Not A Fairy-Tale

Nine years ago today, we clasped hands and walked down the aisle together, beginning our wedding as we wished to approach our marriage: as a team, together.

I’d like to tell you a story about how everything was simple and perfect and utterly seamless on that lovely fall day in Williamsburg, that it was a fairy-tale wedding, but, well, that’s just not really true. 

For example:

I forgot about the time change, so what I’d envisioned as a golden, sunset ceremony in the garden ended up happening in the pitch black night.

My hair stylist spent my appointment on her cell phone and my make-up artist, while talented, didn’t really know what to do with me, so I ended up with prom hair and make-up that bore a close resemblance to 1984 Brooke Shields (without the context or her fabulous eyebrows).

I was wearing a gown that I’d loved when I purchased it three years prior to getting engaged (possibly as a tool to pressure Justin into proposing? Ya think? Because that’s always a good idea…), but loved a lot less when it actually came time to get married (ummm, we call that karma, by the way).

I stayed up very late in the nights prior to the wedding as a result of deciding that it was a good idea to make my own wedding cake (WHO THINKS THIS IS A GOOD IDEA?????) and as a result, was completely exhausted at the actual wedding and have a crystal clear memory from rather early in the evening of thinking, “I wish all these people would go home so I could go the bed…oh shit, it’s my wedding…I should get some coffee…”

Our ring bearers argued as they walked down the aisle and one of them tried to throw the pumpkin he was carrying (you know, the one with one of our rings attached to it…).

My brother’s suit never got altered and the button on his pants popped off when he gave me a congratulatory hug. Hysterical. He had to hold his pants up for most of the night.

The champagne meant for our toasts got served during the cocktail hour and there wasn’t any more.

The cocktail hour musician didn’t show up.

I left the menus that I spent an all-nighter making and printing and gluing earlier in the week in our hotel room and they never made it to the wedding.

My family drank a bit too much and one of them ended up in the airport lock-up after a gigantic miserable scene at the airport at 5am the next morning (did I mention that it was Thanksgiving weekend? The airport was jam-packed at 5am that Sunday…).

Someone stole some of our wedding gifts from the reception, which not only sucked, but also made for awkward phone calls later as we tried to figure out to whom to send thank you notes and for what. 

When I woke up in the fancy, special hotel room we had for our wedding night, I realized that the only clothes with me were the ones I’d arrived in…you know, the freaking ball gown I’d been married in, the one with the boning and corset straps that had left my entire ribcage black-and-blue. No way was I putting that thing back on. Oh, and I had zero idea where my car or car keys were.

When we went to file our paperwork on Monday, we found out that the state of Virginia required a “letter of good standing from the church” from our officiant, which we didn’t have because our dear friend who married us had been internet-ordained for the event. So we ended up going to the courthouse in North Carolina (where we lived at the time) on Friday to get married again in the JP’s very messy and claustrophobic office while he cracked jokes about not taking calls on Monday about how to get “un-married."


Good times, right?

But it was, actually. 

No, for real, you guys- I seriously mean it.


It was messy and exhausting and a bit crazy and sure, we might do a few things differently if we had it to do over again. But the same can be said of these nine years of marriage. And the five years we lived together before that. And will likely be true of all the years we are gifted between now and “death-do-us-part.” Because, as it turns out, life simply IS messy and exhausting and there are always a few things we’d do differently if we could do them all again. 

But nine years ago, a bunch of people we loved showed up for us. Like, really showed up for us. They traveled from all over the country on Thanksgiving weekend, many of them skipping the holiday with their families, to be with us, to a place none of us lived. They sat through a cold, dark outdoor ceremony uncomplaining- even smiling and crying and genuinely engaging. They held candles lit in love and said “We do” when asked if they would be a community of support for all the years to come, through the hardships and joys that come with a lifetime together. They toasted with whatever they had in front of them. They took over the music so that people would stay and dance and celebrate with us. They ate seconds of the ridiculously enormous cake that I’d stayed up so late baking. They ran interference so that we didn’t have to deal with any of the hiccups. They woke up and delivered comfy clothes to my hotel room. They found my car. And my keys. They dealt with the airport lock-up situation so that I could spend a day or two in wedded bliss before finding out and worrying. 

And, you know, we got MARRIED. We walked hand-in-hand down that aisle despite the dark and we made promises to each other. We vowed more than just fidelity- we vowed to listen, to see things from the other’s perspective, to "make love a verb,” to do the work required to continue to truly see each other, to approach our life together as the team that we are. Justin and I didn’t have a fairy-tale beginning (suffice it to say that I was diagnosed with cancer a mere month after we moved in together…), so perhaps it was only fitting that we didn’t have a fairy-tale wedding either.

But the thing is, we were never after fairy-tales to begin with. Real life is just so much better. Real life calls on us to connect, to support, to forgive, to listen and also to be heard. It requires us to grow and adapt and dig deep to find wells of strength and compassion and love that no fairy-tale would ever require. It asks us to work every day toward being the best versions of ourselves, and to do what we can to support our people as they work to be their very best selves as well. It is rigorous and mysterious and downright terrifying sometimes. But the rewards of living in real life can be absolutely breathtaking in ways no fairy-tale could ever deliver.

So that is the life we choose. That is the marriage we choose. Imperfect and sometimes raw, full of love and the ways that love makes us vulnerable, the ways we sometimes cope with that vulnerability. With each year of this marriage, I see facets of sharing a life together that I didn’t know were there when we clasped hands and said those words all those years ago. Sometimes those facets reveal “flaws” (what’s the line from the movie, Seabiscuit? “Show me something that’s perfect and I’ll show you something that’s not…”), and part of partnership means that we choose not to hide from the “flaws” but that we do whatever work is required to acknowledge and own them so that true healing can take place. Sometimes those facets reflect the light of our life together so that it illuminates my days and makes my world sparkle. I will take both kinds of facets, thankyouverymuch. 

Nine years ago today we said, “I do” and “I will” and “I promise.” I can’t imagine spending this life with anyone else. I can’t imagine having a better teammate. If this were a fairy-tale, the wedding would be the ending. Thankfully, this is real life, so it was merely a beginning. And definitely not our last. 

So grab whatever is in front of you, a steaming mug of coffee or your glass of water or the Diet Coke you snuck from the vending machine because it is just that kind of Wednesday, and raise your glass for a little mid-week toast: To Real Life, y’all.


The ever incredible and extraordinary Cait Bourgault shot some photos for us right before we left Maine last year and it occurs to me that I never shared them with you guys! It was so much fun to spend an hour with Cait in the little state park that we'd grown so attached to in our years of living in Freeport. Be sure to visit her website, follow her on Instagram, and check out the amazing collective she began with her BFF...after you smile at the pretty pics she took of our little family, of course!