On Monday, Brandon and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary.
By "celebrated," I mean we exchanged cards in bed at the end of the day, where I had laid all day dramatically suffering from the world's worst head cold, contracted somewhere in Europe last week on the last legs of our honeymoon. We told each other some things we like about being married, and then I kissed him on the cheek (to prevent the spread of "the black lung," as he's calling it), hacked up some mucus, and fell asleep.
I do not mind the lack of a big momentous acknowledgment of our first anniversary, partly because we just spent 10 days in Amsterdam/Germany/Prague talking about it, but mostly because I love being married to Brandon and I think about that fact, and about our wedding, every single day.
The world - or at least the ESPN-watching world, some Michigan fans, and our friends and family members - already knows our story. (Did I just re-watch the video and cry a little? Maybe.) So instead of retelling that chapter, here instead is the story of our wedding day. All photos are courtesy of the amazingly talented McCartneys.
(But seriously, watch the video. I'm biased, but it's so good.)
One of my biggest concerns before our wedding day was that Brandon would have too many pre-ceremony beers and get drunk before we got married. Brandon is not a habitual drunk (except for after certain specific Michigan games) nor does he make poor life choices, so I'm really not sure where this fear came from or, actually, why I'm bringing it up now, except that there's beer in these photos and I just want to reassure everyone that he did not, in fact, get sloshed before our vows.
HE WAS THE MOST NERVOUS AND ALSO THE MOST ADORABLE.
One thing that happens on your wedding day if you are the bride is that you can't get dressed by yourself and so you end up having to get kind of naked in front of kind of a lot of people, including a photographer. (My face in the first photo is me coming to this realization.) It's kind of awkward, but then you sort of get over it because there is literally no other way to get into the dress or the shoes or any of it. And I really, really wanted to get into the dress and the shoes and all of it. After that, it's kind of fun.
My sweet dad found out three months before the wedding that his cancer had come back (he'd been previously diagnosed in 2012, had surgery and radiation, and was fine, until he wasn't). It was treatable, with a high success rate - upwards of 95 percent of people with his type of cancer are still in remission five years after completing treatment - but the doctors told him that he would have to undergo chemo this time. He finished his last treatment a week before I got married.
I did not let him see my dress until he came into the hotel room that morning. It was all very emotional.
The boys went to the church first and then the limo circled back to pick us up. I had not been nervous all day - honestly, most of the morning was a surreal blur of, "I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S MY WEDDING DAY" - but when we got in the car I started to feel the butterflies.
The church where we held our ceremony was built in the 1800s and is no longer used for regular services. It's tiny and awesome, but does not have a "holding" room where I could hide from Brandon until things were ready to get started. So when we got there, my bridesmaids went inside, and I stayed in the car with the limo driver until the guys had left the foyer to walk to the altar.
In retrospect it was nice to have a few minutes to sort of get myself together, but at the time I was mildly freaking out. My M.O. when I'm freaking out is to talk it out (at length), but everyone was gone except the limo driver, so he and I had a chat about my nerves. He was exceedingly sweet, and told me to just focus on Brandon once I walked in the church. It would all get better then, he said.
And then my day-of coordinator came and knocked on the window. "It's time," she said.
From the back hallway I could hear the music, but I couldn't see anything. We lined up and one by one my girls left.
And then it was my turn.
My knees were literally shaking; I was legitimately nervous how I would manage the (very small) stairs scattered throughout the aisle. It's the most nervous I've ever been in my entire life. I'm getting nervous just reliving it right now. It had nothing to do with marrying Brandon and was, I think, mostly about reading my vows, which were really personal, in front of a room of more than a hundred people.
But doing that - saying vulnerable, emotional things to the person I love in front of a lot of people - was the perfect way to marry Brandon, because that's what he's done for me. He opened me up and let everything spill out. He taught me that it's OK to be vulnerable, and that people are better than I had learned that they were, and that being honest wouldn't make anyone turn away from me. It wasn't easy for me to learn, and every time I pushed him away or struggled, he was always still there, loving me the exact same way.
I felt better the second I saw him.
Apparently my dad cried a lot. I have yet to get him to confirm this, but photos (and my stepsisters) don't lie.
We had a few readings at our ceremony, but my favorite was a passage from the William Shakespeare adaptation of Star Wars....because obviously. My brother-in-law Ryan read that one for us. He killed it.
And thennnnn...married! You better believe we practiced that kiss. Can't have too much tongue. (Don't want to scandalize the grandparents.)
Brandon does not love that last photo - I think he's mid-blink - but I am including it anyway because this is my general feeling about a) being married, b) my wedding, c) most things, tbh,
We went outside briefly to let the church clear out (again, no holding room), which was mostly just an excuse to be excited and hug everyone.
Then we went back in to sign the marriage license and make it all legal and proper and to make sure that we qualified for the married-people tax break. (We got it. Thanks Obama!)
Then we did a fist bump, and then we decided to do a "flower" bump with my bouquet and Brandon's boutonniere, and then we decided to behave like normal humans and pose with our amazing officiant Joan.
It was drizzly and kind of cold all day, and when we went outside to take pictures our friends - the bridesmaids, specifically - were freezing. I felt none of it. This, I was told, is due to the "bridal adrenaline."
We went to a bar to kill a bit of time before our reception, which was basically the best thing ever. (People are VERY NICE TO YOU when you are in a wedding dress, and they also pay a lot of attention to you, both of which are things that I like. Also, because I was carrying a preposterously tiny and sparkly purse that contained only lip gloss and my phone, I did not pay for any of my own drinks. I am also a fan of this.)
And then we headed to our party. Brandon and I did a ton of decoration stuff ourselves, but we did not set up the room (this is why you hire a day-of coordinator. HIRE A DAY-OF COORDINATOR.), so walking in was the first time we got to see all of our work come to fruition. It was incredible.
Our friends and family had kicked off cocktail hour before we got there.
That's my grandma (on the right) and Brandon's grandma (on the left), and I can tell you with about 98 percent certainty that this photo has captured my grandmother telling his, "You know, none of this would be possible without us: THE GRANDMAS." (I know this because she told me.)
Part of my ~vision~ for the reception included big mylar balloons spelling out "YAY" above the photobooth, but when we went to Party City they didn't have them. So we got this bride and groom instead. My mom was kind of obsessed with them, as were some of Brandon's groomsmen. I REGRET NOTHING.
We sneaked in a side entrance and then our bridal party got introduced. They had no fun with it at all, it was very disappointing.
We smooched a little...
...and creeped on them the best we could (which was not very well)...
...and then it was our turn!
We gave a little toast and then cut our cake immediately, which, guys. Cutting the cake was so hard. I had so many problems with it. No one warned me. Married friends, why didn't you warn me?
You can see my best friend/maid of honor Jess in the background of that last photo looking at me and clearly thinking, "Yeah, I should have warned her." That Brandon did not divorce me immediately after this nonsense is proof that I married the right person, really.
Anyway, the rest of our reception was lovely. People clinked on their glasses so I got to smooch on my husband a lot.
There were ridiculously amazing toasts.
There were first dances. Brandon and I danced to "I Won't Give Up" by Jason Mraz, which I picked back in 2013 after we had been dating for three months and Brandon told me he knew that he would marry me. I panicked - this was, for most of my life, my default reaction to most relationship milestones - and started to cry, and then later when I was driving home from work this song came on the radio and I had, suddenly, a crystal clear picture of myself dancing with him to it at our wedding. I still can't hear it without crying.
Not that day, though. That day, I mostly just sang to Brandon, except for when I was clinging to him and kissing him, because he is so stinking handsome and I love him so much.
About halfway through he looked at me and whispered, "Your face is very close to my face," which is what he says to Sophie whenever she loves him up-close, which is most of the time.
I liked this.
Then we danced with our parents. I picked "Father and Daughter" by Paul Simon for my dance with my dad, a song he sent to me when I was in college because he said it made him think of me. My dad and I do not dance together, ever, and we did not practice beforehand because the chemo was very hard on him and made him very tired and not a fan of things that were fun. Probably, we should have practiced beforehand.
I would like to tell you that these photographs are documenting lots of deep and meaningful remarks, in which CJ is telling me how much he loves me and how nice I look, but most of our dance was really just him telling me I was stepping on him. Except for the photo where I'm laughing - that one was taken right after he said, "My God, this is a long song." Sigh. CJ.
I don't know what Brandon and his mom talked about while they danced but clearly they held it together better than Team Queram.
Then everyone else danced, and drank, and an hour before the party ended I had the kitchen bring out fried cheese curds, because obviously.
There are no photos of the cheese curds because our photographers had left by then. I just felt you needed to know that they were there, and they were amazing.
Before our wedding, Brandon and I had both heard people say it would be the best day of our lives. Neither of us are very good at superlatives - if you ask us to name a favorite anything, we will instead give you a fluid top-five list - but when we woke up Sunday morning, we totally understood what they meant. Our wedding day was, by far, the best and happiest day of my life. Thinking back on it fills me with so much joy and love; it makes me feel warm and close to all of the people I adore even though most of them are far away. Though he might word it differently, I know Brandon feels the same way.
So a big forever thank you to everyone who helped us celebrate. We love you. We love each other. And we really, really love being married.
I think we'll stick with it.