Part 1: CollegePlus and first meetings
Stephen’s Story: Part 1 – Noticing a Proverbs 31 woman
Part 2: Second meetings and big decisions
Stephen’s Story: Part 2 – A deepening friendship & surprising messages
Part 3: When 1,935 miles apart gets cut down to 15
Stephen’s story: Part 3 – Becoming an Arkansan
Part 4: A boy, a girl, and a ring
Stephen’s story: Part 4 – A Proposal and a Resounding “Yes!”
Part 5: How I orchestrated our own engagement pictures
Part 7: Our Honeymoon
Welcome to the story of the best first day of our lives. Our Wedding Day. The day I forever joined myself to my best friend. I hope you enjoy hearing the little details and the why behind what we did. It’s one our favorite stories to tell. And it’s just beginning. 🙂
As many of you may know, my original dream was to get married out on our family property. We spent all six months of our engagement getting the land ready for a wedding, only to have the forecast predict 100% chance of rain all day Friday. The Monday before our wedding, we decided to stop at the Hangar, which was just down the road from our house. We met with the owner who showed us around the renovated airplane hangar and I knew if we had to change our location, this would be my next choice. The owners were such a blessing to us during this last minute change, being super flexible with our last minute changes, cleaning and taking all of the sports equipment out of the way, and giving us free reign to decorate and move things around however we wanted. We were even able to open the hangar door to give the look of an outdoor wedding. I could go on, but you can be the judge of how perfectly rustic everything turned out.
This was one of our favorite decorations at our wedding. Soon after Stephen arrived in Arkansas, we found out that Canadians have some different words to describe a few things. There were moments of, “What did you say??” and “what are you talking about??”. that always dissolved into laughter and goodnatured teasing. So we knew we had to incorporate these fun differences into our wedding.
Oh yes. Quite the story. I already had a low budget for a dress (why pay so much for a dress you’ll wear once? Practical might be my middle name…) but we went to Lows in Brinkley, Ar. to have fun looking and trying on dresses so that I would get an idea of what I would want. So after spending 3 hours trying on ~14 dresses, we decided to stop in at a Goodwill in Little Rock to see if there was anything décor-wise we could use in the wedding. And we thought, “why not go ahead and just look at their dresses?” My mom pulled out a dress that had lace, was an A-line shape, and was my size. I was mostly just tired of trying on heavy dresses, so I wasn’t thrilled when she excitedly held it up. It was ok, it wasn’t my dream dress, but it was close. I went to the dressing room, and as I pulled it on and looked in the mirror, I started to get excited. It looked a LOT better on. It didn’t fit me exactly, since we couldn’t zip up the back entirely. It was also strapless, which was not on my list as a possible neckline. But my mom is a master at the sewing machine, and she was fairly confident that she could do something about that. We walked out laughing at the fact that I said “yes to the dress” at Goodwill. There’s even a picture to prove it. But that’s for another time. 😉 Long story short, this job of re-making my wedding dress was quite the ordeal. My mom ended up completely cutting the bodice off, making a pattern to fit my measurements, buying fabric and re-making a bodice, attaching it to the dress (which was the most impossible part of the entire process), and then dealing with puckering, stays and seams that didn’t align, etc., etc. Finally, we ended up ordering a lace jacket/bodice that looked like it might fit the style of the dress. It came in March, and it fit me perfectly. It even looked like it had been made for the dress. My mom then sewed a belt to complete the dress and to tie everything together.
My veil was also a special creation. I wore my mom’s veil from her wedding, but my mom helped create my own vision by completely taking it off her comb and re-positioning it so that it would just hang behind my back instead of over my shoulders. She also hand-sewed lace all along the edges. She’s pretty much amazing.
Let me just start off with, flowers are ridiculously expensive. I always knew I wanted fresh flowers, at least for our bouquets. It’s even crazy how much they charge for fake flowers. Thankfully I have a bargain shopper mom, and she found a grab bag full of flowers at Michael’s. Then Facebook Yard Sale provided a lot more flowers in the colors I wanted. I decided to play risky and wait until the week of the wedding to find out what flowers Kroger had in their floral department. (Seems to be a theme, doesn’t it??) Thankfully, the Kroger floral lady was so nice to hold back some greenery and flowers for me when I went in a few days before the wedding. I picked up 6 bunches of baby’s breath, 5 bunches of greenery, special ordered 1 bunch of pink carnations, and lucked out with some clearance flowers that included the exact colors of my wedding.
I brought them all home and I’m so thankful I had the help of my new sister-in-law, a cousin, and my own sister to create all of the bridesmaid bouquets, boutonnieres for groomsmen and Stephen, the grandparents and parents corsage/boutonnieres, and table decorations while I focused on my bridal bouquet and the flower crowns for me and my flower girl.
I actually ended up using a mixture of real and fake flowers in my bouquet, (the secret’s out!!) but I loved how it turned out.
Once again, I went non-traditional. I searched and searched for comfortable shoes that were still cute and didn’t break my budget. My final choice? Tevas. To make them a bit more dressy, I had fun re-creating a Pinterest idea and wrote my new last name on the backs of the shoes. They are to-date the most comfortable pair of shoes I own, except for my Teva sandals. 😉
Guys. I can’t describe how amazing Jon and Lauren were. They did an phenomenal job, and everyone I’ve shown our wedding photos to have commented on how I must have had the best photographers. And I completely agree. Every time I have clients inquire about weddings, Jon and Lauren are always on the list of photographers that I recommend, and they will be for the rest of their photography career. I love our wedding photos SO MUCH and it’s mainly because they captured our story, love, and genuine emotions so clearly.
Stephen and I decided very early on that we wanted to handwrite our vows. We also thought it would be cool if we kept them a secret from each other. To keep our vows close to the same length, we gave each other a 600 word limit, and agreed to make them into more of a conversational style. For all the romantics out there (or for people who maybe didn’t hear every word at the wedding), here are our vows, which are soon to be framed in our bedroom, next to our wedding photo.
Today, I am making one of the easiest decisions of my life. Stephen Allan Johnson, on this day, I willingly and excitedly take you to be my husband, my leader, my support, my best friend, my confidant, and the father of our future children. From the start of our friendship, you never left my side. You consistently gave without receiving, and stayed my constant friend, even when I turned you down. You teach me by your example how to be a better servant of God and others. You are the most selfless, patient, and hardworking man I’ve ever known. Because of who you are and all that you are, I can easily make these promises to you.
I promise to give you my heart, my entire being, and my love every day. I promise to trust you with my life. There is no easier promise that I can make, because I trust you completely. You are my best friend, my rock, and God’s greatest blessing, besides the redemption of my soul.
And because you have chosen to love me unconditionally – even in the moments when I am most unlovable – I promise to respect you unconditionally. I promise to show you that respect by being a woman of virtue, building a reputation that will crown you with the honor you deserve. I promise to respect you with how I handle your provision for our family, managing your home with wisdom and discernment. I promise to make our home a place of rest and a haven for you and our future children. I promise never to usurp your role as the head of our home and spiritual leader of our family, so that through my submission our children will every day be reminded of my love for you.
I vow to be your support and lifetime love and to show you Christ’s love in my actions, thoughts, and attitude by loving you unselfishly, unconditionally, without restraint, and without ulterior motives.
Today, I promise to be your helpmeet and work beside you as your constant companion, through whatever comes our way, and for as long as God gives us to work in His service. I will always be your safe place where you can voice your dreams, concerns, and thoughts.
I promise to help you fulfill the calling of God to be man of valor in His service. Your Biblical namesake is described as being a man full of faith and grace in Acts chapter 6, and he was also not afraid to speak out and spread the Good News. You have these same characteristics and I could not be more thankful to be standing in front of you today, and to be standing by your side for the rest of my life.
As we journey through life together, I promise to communicate effectively to you and to take the time to work out disagreements in a peaceful and constructive manner as a team.Through blessings and struggles, you will always have my hand to hold.
These vows of mine are not only promises, but privileges. I get to be the one that you come home to, I get to laugh with you and cry with you; care for you and share with you. I get to run with you and walk with you; build with you and live with you. And I promise to let my thankfulness for these blessings continually increase my commitment to you for the rest of my life.
Finally, I promise to make God the center of our marriage and home, and to put your needs above my own. I promise to challenge you to always become a better servant of our Lord, and I ask you to do the same. With all of these promises, I vow to be yours and yours only forever.
Caitlin, you are my best friend and I stand before you knowing full well what Solomon meant when he said that two are better than one. My Mrs. Johnson, you have brought so much joy to my life and you mean the world to me. Shortly after our initial correspondence began in 2013, I knew that you were special. However, I had no idea just how much until after your Dad originally gently turned me down at the end of 2014. I had spent less than three days with you in person at that point, and yet I still felt empty. Even then I knew that I wasn’t worthy of you, however, who else would I be able to find that was even close to possessing your same amazing characteristics? You are indeed the most incredible, Godly, modest young woman I have ever met. My Proverbs 31:29 woman. The last 18 months, I can fully and confidently say, were by far the best of my life, and it’s all because you were right there beside me offering your encouragement. We have gone through so much together, which has contributed to bringing us closer together than what I could have ever hoped. I can’t even imagine my life apart from you.
Girl, your love for God, respect for His word, and your family focus is what drew me to you initially. If I were to list all the things that I love about you now, we’d be here for hours. However, a short sampling includes your unmatched beauty, work ethic, fun, silly, outgoing behavior, healthy living, etc. These are all attributes you possess which I am so, so thankful for. From this day forward however, it doesn’t matter what happens or what could change in the future; I am professing that I have chosen to love you. Period. And nothing can ever take my complete and undivided love away from you.
I heard a sermon a while back on the topic of marriage and it was mentioned as a joke, however, I am unashamedly claiming it today. He said one way for a marriage to be successful is to “marry up” and then spend the rest of your life proving to her that it was worth it. Baby, this is what I promise to do for you.
Babe, I will serve you in any way I can, faithfully and joyfully, every day of my life. I promise to listen to you first, be sure I understand, and then seek to create harmony in any disagreements that may arise. In my actions and words, I will carefully consider your feelings and perspective. I will seek your best interest before my own. I will not forget to treat you, my best friend, with at least the same thoughtfulness and respect as I would others. I will be kind-hearted and understanding, forgiving any wrong, just as Christ has forgiven me. I will provide for you. I will tell you just how beautiful you are every single day. Every week I will purposefully set aside time for us to simply enjoy each other’s company. I will tell you I love you and give you a hug every time we greet and/or say goodbye. And finally, any time we both have a free hand, I promise to grab yours and hold it tight.
Beautiful, I choose you; making your heart, soul, and body holy and set apart to me. I will always respect this great, invaluable gift and it is my duty to protect and hold dear all that you have entrusted to my care. In return, I give you all of me. I promise that I shall lead our family like Joshua led his; that is, to make sure that you and any children we may be blessed with, will be coming with me to Heaven. To accomplish this, I will love you as Christ loves this church. This is my first and greatest responsibility.
Caitlin, it is my prayer and intention that God will love you through me. I guarantee you, that if I do this faithfully, you will never be left wanting for more. Baby Girl, I love you with everything I have!
Our first look 🙂
Every time I look at our umbrella pictures, I feel like it looks like it’s from a movie. I love them so much. It just makes me think of the English countryside and we’re just out for a stroll 🙂
The one request I had for our photographers, is that we include silly photos. And they delivered. 🙂 Our silly photos may be some of my absolute favorites from the entire gallery. Maybe… 😉
That. That right there is pure gold. Framing that front and center in my home. (not really, but I might…)
And these people in the next two pictures are my life. I’m so incredibly blessed to belong to two wonderful families now, and every single one is so precious to me.
These next few photos are some of my top 100. Yeah, actually pretty serious about that number. I don’t think I could get it any lower. There are just so many good ones!!! The emotion captured in these black and white photos pulls my heartstrings.
As many of you know, we eat kinda healthy. As in, we don’t like sugar. And John David says we eat cardboard. So in the beginning of our wedding plans, we first thought it would be so hilarious to do something a little weird for the grooms cake. We planned to make a carrots and hummus tiered “cake” by standing up carrots and smoothing hummus on the top part of the cake. I was planning on going ahead and cheating a bit and having a GF cheesecake instead of a normal cake. But that was going to be slightly difficult to pull off, so the final product was an Apple Crisp for Stephen’s grooms cake, since that’s his favorite dessert that his sister, Janessa makes. His family did an excellent job on the grooms table, complete with mini servings of veggies and hummus and for decorations, a hockey skate.
My mom also made and decorated this entire cheesecake. And wow it was good.
Go on to read about our honeymoon here!!
Our Story – Part 6: Our Honeymoon