In a distant memory, Ryan and I made promises to one another surrounded by hundreds of our friends and family one chilly November eve. I wore a white dress in a church glowing with white candles while dozens of our friends stood at our side. It was everything we had dreamed and planned it to be, which is all a bride could ask for. We were so young but unaware of that fact, which makes me grin to think about. That night we read words we had penned for one another, pledged our love, made promises and shared our hopes and dreams for the future. And, then, ten years later, we read those same vows to one another, revisiting our words and reaffirming our commitment. This time around, though, everything was so different, because, well, life is so different.
To celebrate our 10th anniversary, we wanted the intimacy of it just being the four of us, each other and our daughters — no seated dinners, schmoozing guests or dancing the night away. The girls ran around the open field in their fancy dresses like little fairies, collecting dandelions and making wishes. Their hair was tousled and a bit ragged, barely half-up and only half-done by the time we were ready to take pictures. Ryan and I had set them loose purpose, happily trading perfect curls and mud-free dresses for a moment to ourselves. Once again, oh how life has changed! Their glittered shoes (an insistence of Emma Vance) caught the light of sunset at just the right moments, and the golden haze of night falling made watching our children seem a bit like a fading dream.
In the midst of that field there was a tree where we set flowers in a ring, the perfect symbol of eternity. Ryan and I stood there in the middle, dressed up for once, for each other. His slate-colored suit made his ever-changing eyes to settle in a watery blue for the evening, and I…well, I just wanted to wear something that sparkled a bit. Our talented and generous friend made me the bouquet I wished I had carried at my wedding — wild and delicate — and I didn’t want to put it down. And of course the girls carried flowers of their own, just as equally as wild and delicate. It makes me a little weepy when I think about all of the implications there, of their own wildness, of the delicateness of raising a family, of their growing up and of their own one-day weddings. *sigh*
Over a decade ago I had practiced and practiced and practiced my vows, poured over each word, carefully writing and rewriting what I wanted to say. This time, in that wild-grown land on the outskirts of Nashville, I chose to cold read them. We both did, and it was…raw. I had to fight getting choked up, try to joke and grin a bit so as not to break down in tears. Right before I started Ryan surprised me with a lone speaker and the music I walked down the aisle to. I can’t take my eyes off of you, I can’t take my eyes off of you…I was a mess. Reading my vows was like stepping back in time, seeing that wide-eyed 22-year old Talie and the beardless, frat guy she married for the first time in a long time. My words and promises were sweet and innocent, but truer today than ever before. I was happy to find that decade later, I still meant everything I had said that November night.
And then it was Ryan’s turn. He was more confident than I was, and his words made us chuckle a bit here and there. His passion is still as intense as it was on our wedding day, and seeing that made my heart turn within my chest. I was on the verge of tears when tiny feet scurried into our floral altar, relieving the emotional intensity for a moment.
“Mommy, here’s a dandelion for you!”
Life IS different now — in the best way possible.
I scooped up my firstborn and held her on my hip while Ryan finished. I didn’t mind one bit. In truth, E.V. and Cricket make our family whole, and so having them with us to celebrate ten years of marriage was only natural. And even though E.V. won’t remember those last few words her dad said to me, I know she’ll remember him dressed up, as handsome as ever, looking into my eyes the way only a loving husband can.
We walked a bit on the property to catch the last bit of sunlight, warmed in its glow as a complete family. When the sky lost its light, we turned around, a bit starry-eyed like newlyweds — and giddy that we had pulled it off with two kids in tow, of course. As we headed back I handed Ryan my gift — a compass in which I wrote “I will follow you anywhere.” And I mean that whole-heartedly.
As we trekked back to reality, I looked over at Ryan and joked, “I’m glad we got married before we had kids,” and he grinned back at me and agreed. It was beautiful and memorable, and I wouldn’t trade the chasing of children in a gown and cries for mama mid-shoot for anything. After all, life is different now…wonderfully different.
People have asked why we visited Nashville recently, and I’m not sure quite what to say. I hesitate to say we renewed our vows, because, well, there was nothing that needed renewing. Over the past ten years Ryan and I have loved one another to the fullest, honored each other, built a life around us that we love. We’ve been true to our vows beyond measure. I suppose, then that our time in Nashville was more to celebrate, to remember and to remind one another that even today, after fourteen years together, we would make the same choice again if given the chance. In fact, we’d make that same choice a million more times if we could.
Thank you to the AMAZING Brandon Chesbro, who captured our vows (mostly on FILM!!). We will always cherish these images and are so thankful for your talent!