Last weekend I escaped to Atlanta with a friend for Christmas shopping and fun. To say I needed it is an understatement.
The view of the sun rising over a neighborhood where Matt and I shared the first years of our lives together is always breathtaking. You can actually see our first building together in this photo.
While in the hotel in Atlanta, it became clear that we were placed right by the Bride’s suite. We heard the doorbell ring bright and early Saturday and “Happy Wedding Day!”, along with lots of giggles and squeals. I made a joke that I should go over and let her know the reality of what she’s about to walk down the aisle into, but I refrained. Divorce of one marriage and death of a spouse with another can make you bitter. I’m trying not to be bitter.
Instead, this is my open letter to future brides. I’m no expert on the subject of marriage, but I know things now I didn’t know then. With age (sometimes) comes wisdom.
Dear Bride to Be,
I hear your excitement through a hotel room wall. Your friends are all gathered around you and they are pumping you up for the events of the day. I hope that you have at least a handful of friends who will keep you pumped up through the events of the next few years, because marriage is work.
You may want that big wedding you’re getting, or you may not. Either is ok. The end result is what matters, that you commit to that guy you can’t stop thinking about. My first wedding came with fanfare and a fancy dress and I felt like I would throw up every day leading up to it and for months (ok, years) after it. My second wedding came in the form of a shotgun wedding at a courthouse with our official wedding photo being a selfie.
The second was the winner.
When you know, you know.
I’m here to tell you as a seasoned bride twice over, that marriage is the hardest job you’ll ever have, even harder than parenthood. You have to love your kids. You don’t have to love your husband.
You can read every self help book, take every marriage class, meet with your pastor- it’s still going to be hard. Those bridal magazines you have been delving into for over a year leading up to your big day? Throw them out. That’s not real life.
Real life is messy and ugly and beautiful. Real life is hating the thought of your spouse sometimes because you both have a temper, but also loving him so deeply that you would throw yourself in front of a bus to save him.
Marriage will test you in every way. You’ll worry that you’re losing yourself. You aren’t, but it will change you. You’ll find a new normal. You’ll learn how to live with someone else without killing them. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll go to bed mad. You’ll wake up mad. Sure, never going to bed mad is a great goal to have. But sometimes you just have to be mad for a while. Making up is the best part anyway.
If children are in your future, that’s where the real fun begins. Maybe you know what to do. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re just winging it, and that’s totally ok.
But when you see the way he loves your child, wow. You’ll wonder how much more love your heart can take. Matt loved our daughter 1000 times more than he loved me, and he loved me a whole lot.
But that’s all the good stuff. That’s the easy stuff, believe it or not. The hard stuff will come. Maybe it won’t come in the form of a life altering diagnosis and death like ours did, but it will come.
And you won’t see the hard stuff coming, but if you stick together you’ll make it through. You may be bruised and battered after, you may be jaded, but you’ll make it through.
It’s important to remember what marriage is. Marriage isn’t a fairy tale followed by another fairy tale and riding off into the sunset, happily ever after.
Marriage is showing up. It’s every day fighting the good fight for the person you vowed to love and honor. Marriage will break your heart again and again and carefully put the pieces right back where they were, but stronger than before. Marriage will test you. It will fill your heart with love but sometimes, your head with doubt. Marriage, if founded on love, will survive all of this. You’ve got this, Mrs.
Marriage is taking pictures of the happy times but also remembering the hard times behind the smiles. We were fresh off of miscarriages in these pictures but you wouldn’t know it.
Marriage is knowing that the hard times won’t last forever. Marriage is having your person, that one that instantly calms you with a handful of words or even just a look. Marriage is loving someone so much that you just want to be in the same room with them.
And oh, you beautiful bride, sometimes marriage is devastating. Sometimes it means saying goodbye way too soon.
You look in his eyes the day you marry him. You promise to love, honor, and cherish til death, but you think of death as a really long time away. That is not always the case.
Death may come way sooner than that 50 year mark you were shooting for. You may never get the chance to shuffle around the floor with your beloved in your 70s.
So my advice to you is simple- make the days count. Not just this day, everyone has fun at weddings. The normal days go by slow but the years fly by.
Love him. Honor him. Cherish him. Roast him. Hug him. Kiss him. Laugh with him. Be his lover and his best friend and the first person he wants to tell exciting news to and the last person he wants to see before he falls asleep at night.
And if that day comes that you have to dig down deep into your vows and honor and cherish even in death, take a deep breath. Hold his hand and see him through.
Because you said you would.
Now run down that aisle to the rest of your life.