I spent 15 months planning my wedding – 15 months gathering my own body weight in visual inspiration (Pinterest didn't exist back then so wedding magazines it was, RIP the small forest I'm probably responsible for having eradicated for my addictive magazine purchasing habits), 15 months obsessing way too long over the right size of perfume bottle wedding favour, 15 months of excitement and fun and making new contacts online as I shared my plans and the countdown towards the wonderful day on Friday 20 March 2009 when I married the man I love.
It's been 4 years and 6 months to the day since I tied the knot. For the record, that's 1,645 days. 1,645 days of being 'wife'. 1,645 days of being 'Mrs'. 1,645 days of marriage that has provided plenty of ups and downs and everything in between.
Photography Copyright (c) 2009, Karen McGowran
See more photos from my wedding here
I've come to learn a great deal about the value of marriage and a whole heap of stuff about life and love during this time, and I've come to realise a few things about marriage that I didn't realise before. Maybe I was too naive, lacked life experience, or had a blinkered view that marriage meant perfection (let's get married, it will be perfect and we'll all live together happily ever after! You know the score). But real life isn't acted out on the Disney big screen and occasionally, it likes to throw the odd curve ball your way – situations and challenges that test your values, your commitment, and ultimately, your marriage.
I have a good, strong marriage. A marriage that I truly believe in and that means the world to me. I'm in a job where I can't help but reflect daily on the commitment I made when marrying, and through seeing other people's beautiful wedding photographs, that commitment is reinforced every day. Maybe I'm lucky in that sense. I'm reminded daily of how lucky I am to be married to someone I love, someone who has gifted me with two precious children and experienced all lives highs and lows with me. What I'm trying to say is that what I know now, that I didn't know back then when I officially 'tied the knot', is that my understanding and appreciation of marriage is, well, it's richer, deeper. I have a much better understanding of what the commitment of marriage means, what a marriage requires to be healthy and and how I can call on my marriage when life throws you one of those pesky curve balls.
I sat pondering over all this the other night and found myself scribbling thoughts in to my note book. I found myself asking the question, 'if my readers were to ask me what marriage was like, 4 years and 6 months on, what would I say', and 'what advice would I give to those planning on marrying? What pearls of wisdom have I learned in these past 1,645 days that I could share with others'? And so this post is a bit of an attempt to share the inner workings of my heart, and mind, as I pause to consider the role of marriage and meaning it has in my life today.
So often, we're swept along in a visually impressive array of weddings through blogs like Love My Dress; vintage weddings, quirky weddings, country garden weddings, all that pretty can be as overwhelming as much as it can be inspirational. It risks overshadowing the really important aspects of the planning process, like, pausing to consider the reason we're marrying in the first place, choosing thoughtful, loving words to have read during your wedding ceremony, making vows that truly mean something to you both – that make your heart
explode and the tears spill over when you think of saying them in your
head, keeping the whole crazy wonderful day in perspective and not losing your marbles over the right size of perfume bottle favours. Then we get married, and it is wonderful, a day like no other, dreamy and exciting, and in a flash it's all over, and we have the photographs and maybe the film and our precious memories to remember it by. And so follow a heady, almost surreal few days and weeks where we reflect fondly on that wonderful day where two human beings committed the rest of their days to one another, so strong is their love.
The rest of their days.
A lifetime commitment.
How do we know what's going to happen in our life times when we get married, when we commit the rest of our days to loving, respecting, supporting someone else? We don't and our eyes are filled with a rose-tinted perspective when we tie the knot. But marriage equips us with a resource for life from which we can draw strength, hope and optimism when we most need it. It is a wonderful source of support for turning to when life throws you those curve balls.
So, getting back to my musings – 'if my readers were to ask me what marriage was like, 4 years and 6 months on, what would I say', and 'what
advice would I give to those planning on marrying? What pearls of
wisdom have I learned in these past 1,645 days that I could share with others?'.
This much, dear readers, I have learned:-
1. Marriage is like a flower – show it regular love and it will grown and blossom, and set it's roots deep and firm. But it may suffer otherwise. Make your marriage a priority in your life. As the days, weeks, months and years pass after your wedding day – don't slip in to the habit of neglecting what you tied the knot for in the first place. After your amazing wedding day, it is your love and your marriage that will see you through for life. Look after it.
2. Commit to protecting your time together – Make that date night when you down tools and don't check any social media for the night once every week – at least do the same thing once every month! Nurture it, feed it, help it grow and no matter what is going on in your life, no matter what exciting new opportunities or distractions might be occuring, make your marriage, and your family, a priority. Always.
3. Marriage is a resource of strength and hope when the going gets tough - I'll be brutally honest. Marriage is not always easy and it's always easier to be committed to your marriage when things are going great. But your marriage gives you the best reason ever to fight and try all the harder when things aren't so good. Use your marriage to get things back in to perspective. Remember those vows you said on the days things might be really tough. Let's face it, all couples have their ups and downs, married or not. There are days we see nothing but sweet, sweet love, and days we couldn't want to be further away from the other half if we tried. But I believe marriage makes a difference in these situations. If you ever find yourself in a particularly challenging place, remember the promises you made, remember that no good was ever served from bearing grudges and not being able to forgive and move on.
4. Marriage is the most amazing resource of happiness, fun and joy – You have a partner who has committed to you – for life! Make it the best life. Have fun! Watch goofy movies together, make jokes at each other, relax, laugh, dance like no ones watching, take baths together, go on long walks and reminisce together. Make home movies, print out photos and create precious albums. Don't let life distract you – take a moment to pause and smile at all the good stuff your marriage brings you.
5. You can never say 'I love you' enough – I've heard people say that if you say it too much, it devalues the meaning. To that, I say 'rubbish'. Tell your husband/wife every single day that you love them.
6. Marriage is a great reason to learn to make decisions together - I've been a bit rubbish in this department, I'm quite an independent person and for years was used to having my way. I've learned through my marriage that its kind, considerate and ultimately so much more fulfilling and rewarding to work with your spouse to make decisions together.
7. Your husband/wife will never, ever tire of receiving breakfast in bed. It's a marital fact. Set your alarm and get up when it goes off and get those eggs on the hob. Mine's poached on hot buttered toast. Thank you.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on your perspective of what marriage means to us modern-day couples. For all those newly (and longly!) wed, what are your thoughts? Have you thought beyond your wedding day plans about what marriage symbolises and means to you on a long term basis?
Have a gorgeous Friday afternoon everyone.
Much love as always,