**Photos courtesy of Daniel Peter Photo, www.danielpeter.com.**
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Welcome to the wedding! Our wedding, to be precise. As our guest, you enter a large, industrial warehouse on the Southwest side of Chicago. You are probably thinking, "Where the heck are we? Why did Carly and Justin drag us out to a random warehouse? This is crazy."
Upon entering the building, you are lead to a large freight elevator. Here, the first signs of a party begin. Gold orbs hang from the ceiling and the elevator is dimly lit.
When the doors to the freight elevator open, you finally understand what it's all about. You're in a huge, loft-style warehouse space with bright, natural light and panoramic views of the city of Chicago. To your left, you find seating for the ceremony. At the front of the aisle is a large, wooden cross, adorned with succulents.
As you take your place, you find a program on your seat. To the side, a man begins to play guitar.
And now the fun begins...
Just before the ceremony started, we were in a private room with our wedding party, parents, and grandmothers. Our pastor, Kurt, had everyone to put their hands on us and pray together for our marriage and life together. He encouraged us to enjoy every moment, and to allow the emotions of the grand occasion of marriage to sweep us away - whether that meant tears of laughter.
The musician began playing an instrumental version of The Beatles' "In My Life" as our favorite people in our lives began to walk down the aisle. Our Grandmothers were seated first, followed by our parents, both fathers in matching tuxes. Both mothers carry a simple glass vase filled with sand.
After our parents were seated, my future husband walked down the aisle.
Next, the processional continued with our groomsmen and bridesmaids!
Once our wedding party had made their way down the aisle, it was time for my dad and I to make the trek. If you read my post about the gift I gave him, you know that this walk was extra special. At this point, my nerves were a complete wreck. Despite being extremely calm for most of the day, a few events transpired to leave me in a very vulnerable mental place (a dog getting loose, running at me, then almost getting hit by a car, then getting locked out of the event space with my bridesmaids and having to find someone to get a key to let us in), so let's just say I was already shedding some tears before we even walked down the aisle.
Having walked my mother down the aisle, my dad had come back to stand next to me as we watched our bridal party walk down the aisle. Once my dad and I rounded the corner to make our own way down the aisle, I caught my first glimpse of how the ceremony space looked fully decorated, and it took my breath away.
My processional song started - an instrumental of "Here Comes The Sun" - and our caterer slash wedding extraordinaire, Donna, fixed my train as my father and I took our first steps down the aisle.
As we walked down the aisle, I felt myself almost immediately overcome with emotion. Making eye contact with our guests and seeing the encouraging and supportive looks on their faces made me start to cry. I could feel my dad, beside me, tearing up as well. I put my head on his shoulder as we walked and really leaned on him for support.
Seeing Justin before the ceremony really allowed me to cherish those moments of walking down the aisle instead of just being nervous about what he thought. It allowed me to really sink in my last unmarried walk with my father.
We got to the front of the aisle and my dad and I stopped. With tears in his eyes, he kissed me on both cheeks and, as he hugged me tightly, I rubbed his back. He looked me in the eyes, then turned and shook Justin’s hand. Then, he put my hand in Justin’s and took his seat.
Our pastor welcomed everyone and kicked off the ceremony. I felt like I was floating, and was willing myself to slow time down and enjoy every second. Behind Justin’s head, I could see the skylights that let sunlight pour into the room, and it truly felt like God was smiling down directly on us.
One of my favorite moments was when our pastor encouraged us to take a second and turn and face our guests, to look out on their smiling, supportive faces. They were all there for us, to celebrate our love and help us start our life together. There were a few faces in particular that stood out to me, but I wasn’t purposely looking for anyone – just soaking it in and seeing the people I loved!
Our pastor introduced my Aunt, who came up to do a reading. She read a passage from Romans that was absolutely perfect, and her wonderfully soothing voice made the reading even more powerful.
After a few more remarks, our pastor then invited our mothers to come up. Justin and I are from opposite sides of Lake Michigan – he is from Holland, Michigan, and I am from Chicagoland – so our mothers walked up with vases of sand from each shore. The pastor explained how the mixing of the sand symbolized the blending of our families.
Next, we each hugged our new mother in law. I will never forget my new mother in law whispering something like “My gorgeous new daughter in law.” I was so touched by it that I couldn’t even whisper anything back – it was all I could do to not start bawling.
Once the mothers sat down, it was quickly time for our vows. We chose to do vows that were a modernized and more emotional version of the traditional vows.
I was first. I really allowed myself to feel the depth of each word that came out of my mouth, to really experience it, and to really mean what I said. Within the first few lines, I felt my heart swelling inside me. Tears came to my eyes, and my voice broke.
I let myself cry through some of my vows, and Justin smiled at me and whispered, “It’s okay.”
I willed myself to pull it together, and finally, I did. My vows suddenly turned from tear filled and broken voiced to joyfully confident. I could hear the change in my voice, and I felt like it was symbolizing my transformation from being alone as one person to being confidently and joyfully united with Justin. I felt his strength – and God’s – oozing into my heart and out through my words.
Justin’s vows were next. We stared into each other’s eyes as he spoke, and squeezed each other’s hands the whole time.
Back in our private room, I felt so utterly overjoyed. There was no more nervousness, no more tension, no more fear. I truly felt like I had just been fused by God to another person, and it made me feel complete, stronger, and full of confidence.
Once we got our bearings, my mom, bridesmaids, and brother all helped bustle my dress while my sister helped me take off my veil and switch to a small accent piece for the reception.
We signed our marriage license, with our Best Man and Maid of Honor as witnesses, and then waltzed into cocktail hour!