Trevor and I met on my birthday in 2006 and officially became a couple in June 2006 (I was not in the mood for a real relationship at the time, but it happened eventually). He deployed in June 2007, proposed while on leave from that deployment, and came home "for good" (rather, "until next time") in July 2008. I don't remember exactly when I found out one of my very best friends, Michelle, would be deploying, but I for sure knew she would be leaving at the time of the proposal. She left in June 2008 (that month overlap before Trevor returned was not fun). There was no way I would be getting married without Michelle standing next to me, so when planning the wedding date, we decided to wait until September 2009 to be safe. Keep in mind, nothing is ever for certain with the military, we have quite a few friends who got extended and extended resulting in a 22-month tour shortly before that, but we did the best we could.
I did not like wedding planning. I was very excited to be getting married, but not to be planning a wedding. We started with traditional plans (getting married at a local park, reception at a local hotel) and it was a mess. Our guest list was out of control (476 to be exact) and I was begging Trevor to just go to the courthouse with me. I wanted to marry him, I didn't need a huge wedding. He refused, telling me I would regret it (he was probably right), but we both agreed we just couldn't have the huge wedding that was in the works. We shifted gears and started doing planning for a destination wedding to Jamaica. We would use our wedding budget to help our bridal party pay for the trip-it would still be expensive for them, but everyone seemed excited. I won't get into the reasons it didn't work out, kind of grumpy about that, but we needed to find a compromise somehow. I looked into not-so-extravagant destination weddings and went from Jamaica to Florida to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago to the aquarium area at the Minnesota Zoo, when they still had dolphins, of course. I've been a huge dolphin nut since I was about 7, so it seemed like a really fun, unique venue for us (that's what got me thinking about Chicago/Shedd Aquarium prior to the MN Zoo idea).
The capacity for the MN Zoo area we wanted was much smaller than our original venue. Some of the cuts were very hard to make, but we just had to do it. We ended up going from 476 to under 200. We invited many people to head to Sneaky Pete's with us after the festivities, but there was just no way to do it all and still fully enjoy it. We have a lot of friends and I would have loved if we could have included every single one of them, but it just wasn't going to work. It was getting out of control. Ultimately, we don't regret anything and the day was absolutely amazing!
We had friends fly in from all over the world to be there with us. After we had already had a lot of money down and arrangements made, we found out one of our groomsmen would be deployed at the time of the wedding. He was able to arrange to take his leave at that time and was there for everything, all the way from Iraq. Another friend from Spain made the trip to be there for our special day, too. It was amazing to see all the people who traveled near and far to be there with us!
Chaplain Gustafson was Trevor's Chaplain for his deployment to Kosovo and we had both gotten close to him. We were honored he was able to officiate the ceremony. Trevor is more than "just" a soldier, but it is a big part of him and our family, too. We chose not to have a full military wedding, but did ask Chaplain Gustafson to wear his uniform for the ceremony to symbolize that part of our lives.
Here is our wedding day in photos:
Trevor was so anxious and excited to see me-I think he almost passed out and/or puked. Side note: Trevor arranged for me to have a massage in the hotel before I got ready that day-total surprise!
We had the most adorable kiddos there for our day!
As part of my boycotting to traditional wedding planning, we did not require RSVPs, didn't get "bridesmaid dresses" (they were party dresses), had no decorations (other than some fairly minimalist centerpieces I shared with another bride), no flowers, and no favors. And no one cared. I did have a bouquet...made of artificial flowers and it is still on our mantle now. There were 9 calla lilies, each representing a loved one who had passed away. The blue flowers are forget-me-nots to symbolize remembrance. The red berries were to make the whole bouquet red, white and blue. The bouquet was tied with yellow ribbon, the color used to show support for our troops. So, the bouquet in its entirety was symbolic for our loved ones who couldn't be there and our appreciation for our nation's military. Much of our bridal party included veterans, their spouses and their children.
We had a lot of ushers!
I picked out my dress long before Michelle Obama debuted her one-shouldered white dress at the inaugural ball, wanted to make sure the world knew that ;)
I never got cold feet or panicked, but once everything was in place and we just had to sit and wait while guests arrived, I was flushed with anxiety. I just wanted it to be go-time! This is the only photo I have of some mild bride crazies.
Our aisle was walking through a giant shark jaw.
Rather than unity candles or sand art or whatever people are doing these days, I found this idea somewhere. Trevor and I wrote letters to each other explaining why we knew we are right for each other. We put them in a box with two bottles of wine and we are not to open it unless our marriage is seriously in trouble or at our 25th anniversary.
Then the dancing began, right there at the Zoo, too.
Here are a few more favorites from the day.
While working our wedding date around Michelle's deployment and my extreme dislike of hot weather, we weren't left with a ton of options for dates. We ended up getting married on Michelle's golden birthday and Shane's birthday was two days later. I promised her we wouldn't draw attention to her birthday. I lied. We sang and had birthday cake.
And...these are no longer our photographer's photos, if you couldn't tell.
The party bus was arguably the best part of the entire day.
The bar afterwards. Someone asked me if I was there for prom. (Who goes to prom over 21 years old? Who has prom in September? This is clearly a wedding dress??)
Knowing what I know now, I'd do it over again in a heartbeat, but I'd skip to planning a wedding we both want and not a wedding we thought we were supposed to have. It. Was. Perfect. Planning your marriage is far more important than planning your wedding.