I woke up the morning of May 2, 2008, with a headache. For months I told myself that I wouldn’t have a drink at our rehearsal dinner, because I didn’t want to be dehydrated or feeling less than perfect on our wedding day. But after a hot, chaotic rehearsal where the little boys wanted nothing to do with anything wedding (herding cats!), I needed a margarita.
Earlier that night, at 12:01 a.m. to be exact, I got a text message from Aaron asking where I was. In bed, I wrote back, where are you? At your door, he answered. I thought he was kidding, but then I heard light knocking. I went to the door and he told me he’d just dropped off one of the groomsmen and he just wanted to say “Happy Wedding Day,” officially.
So after I awoke on our wedding day, I laid in bed for a while (chugging water), I got up and put on my gym clothes. As I was about to walk out the door, my dad called from the downstairs restaurant, asking me to come down and help them entertain Michael while they waited for my uncle and family. I grabbed another bottle of water and went down to Sunsets. I walked in and saw my mom, stepfather, stepbrother and his wife. I laughed and asked where my dad was and she said they were sitting outside. By the time I got there, my uncle and his family were there, as was my brother and sister in law. I kissed Michael and hugged my cousin Scott and his gorgeous, teenage daughter and went off to the gym.
I hopped on the elliptical, set my iPod to my worship playlist and within minutes, I was crying. Right there in the hotel work out room. I was so overcome with emotion and gratitude. I bobbed along, lip syncing to “How He Loves,” and tears rolled down my face. I felt ridiculous, but I needed that alone time to just reflect and worship. I am truly humbled by the blessing and love that was poured out on us that day. It was beyond measure, and it was worth the wait and worth every heart ache and set back to get there. He is faithful!
Before heading back up to my room, I stopped back by the restaurant to find my mother and ran into her sister, my cousin and her husband. It was so wonderful to just bump into all these people I love all in one place. Just beyond where they were sitting was my dad and family – a table full of Merrills.
My mom came upstairs with me to wait in the suite for the hair and make-up artists while I showered and then the whirlwind began. The bridesmaids arrived one by one and the stylists went to work and I took pictures and ate Chick-fil-a and laughed and held Teri’s baby Sylvie, my honorary bridesmaid. Aaron and I texted back and forth; he was at the house his mom rented eating shrimp and hanging out with his friends. He came back by the Don with gifts for me; my mom met him in the lobby and said he seemed rushed, but excited. I opened them while my hair was pinned all crazy around my face and laughed at his cards. The first gift was a white envelope with “adoption papers,” written on the outside. Contained within were two heart-shaped dog tags with the dogs’ names and my new last name, along with Aaron’s cell phone number. (Of course that sent me into crying again.) The second gift was a navigation system; the card read, “While you’ll always know where my heart is, you might not always know where you are.”
Before I knew it, all the bridesmaids were dressed and the photographer was there. I put my dress on (and freaked out a little because it got caught on my veil and I was stuck inside for a few minutes and my poor short mother couldn’t get me out!), and we headed downstairs for photographs.
Aaron and I had decided to meet before the ceremony to take some pictures and I’m so glad that we did. I stood in the lobby and his best man Mark led him through with his eyes closed to outside the front of the hotel where the photographer was waiting.
I then walked up behind him and he turned around to see me for the first time. We exchanged gifts. I’d made him a scrapbook with pictures of us and e-mails we’d exchanged and all the ticket stubs from concerts, Braves games, Thrashers games etc. He gave me a beautiful sparkly bracelet that I love.
The ceremony is a blur, but certain moments stand out. Standing with my dad, the girls and Adam at the edge of the courtyard waiting to line up and Adam didn’t want to give his mom his cat crackers, so I got him to pass crackers out to all of us until they were gone. My dad was putting his in his pocket and I was tossing them on a table and Sarah said, “Wait. Am I the only one EATING the cat crackers??” Walking up the aisle with my dad and seeing all these faces of people I love smiling at us. Holding Aaron’s hand as the pastor welcomed our guests. My aunt winking at me after completing one of the readings. Holding Melissa’s hand as she prayed for us. Saying our vows, my voice clear and strong. Hearing the pastor announce us husband and wife and practically skipping back up the aisle.
After the ceremony the wedding party went out to the beach to take pictures and our photographer got us to do some pretty crazy stuff, like play beach volleyball. It was hilarious. (A few more minutes and Colleen would have whipped us into a real team!)
Then it was on to the party where it was food, champagne, dancing and Aaron’s high school friends commandeering the DJ’s microphone for do-it-yourself karaoke.
I’m not sure who had a better day: me, Aaron, my mom or Aaron’s 16-year-old brother, who was one of the guys all weekend. It was a spectacular party and everything came together just as I’d envisioned. Sometimes I can’t believe I actually pulled it off. But the ring on my finger confirms it, as do the four dogs that are sleeping on the floor beside me, here in Minnesota.