Thursday, June 21, 2018

Our Wedding, Part Six || The Vows

As promised, here are John's and my vows. We each wrote our own, drawing portions from various ideas/examples, and then shared them with each other the week of our wedding. It was very special having our own personalized commitments that were such a big party of our wedding.
JOHNS VOWS
"I, John, take you, my girl Chelsy Renee, to be my wife, on this most exciting day. I am so grateful for all that the Lord has done in our lives. God has been good and as Proverbs says, He has given me a good thing - you. Your price, Chelsy Renee, is far above rubies. I have found a virtuous woman, my heart can safely trust in you. I have always admired your heart for others and how you serve.

I promise to love you unconditionally and love you as myself. I will guide you and be your leader according to the Word of God, sanctify and cleanse you with the washing of water by the Word, support you in life's tough moments, laugh with you in life's happy moments, have you by my side as we make memories together, and work as a team to serve the Lord.

I will always be your safe place, your closest friend, and most importantly, your man. I take it as my responsibility to provide for you, and protect you. I vow to be faithful to you until death do us part. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord! 

I love you, sweet cheeks."
Chelsy's Vows
"Today it is with JOY that I take you, John Steven Maxwell, to be my husband. From the moment I met you, I admired a certain something about you that I couldn't then pinpoint. Later, as I got to know you, I discovered just what that "something" was. It was so many things, really-your love for people, your passion for truth, your ability to solve nearly any and every problem, and your incredible heart for Jesus.

Throughout our relationship, you have displayed to me a beautiful picture of the unconditional love of Christ. You loved me before I fully trusted you, and you won my heart by sacrificially choosing love even before I responded. This is the picture of Christ's love for his bride, and this picture gave me so much joy and peace throughout the past year. Thank-you for waiting patiently while I learned to trust. You have won my heart completely and today I give all of myself, without any reserve, in complete confidence that you are the man with which God would have me to spend the rest of my life.

Before Jesus and all of our friends + family gathered here, I commit to being your helpmeet, your lover, your best friend, your closest confidant. As the need arises, I am also happy to be your partner in crime. =) I will go where you go, serve where you serve, and, by God's grace, I will work alongside you to change our world for Jesus Christ. If God chooses to bless us with children, I will join with you, as a team, to raise them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. By God's grace, I commit to living out Joshua 24:15 with you in our home. I promise to give of myself wholeheartedly, as a woman of God, to follow your vision as a man of God. With His help, I will be there for you in times of sickness and health, of lean and plenty, and of sorrow and joy. I will go with you every step of the way as you seek to lead and guide our home for the glory of God. I promise to honor, respect, trust, love, and submit to you. My heart's desire is that, as a team, working together, we will always look to Jesus to guide us, and that we would run with reckless abandon after all the dreams that He has placed on our hearts. I can't wait to adventure through life together with you.

It is my unspeakable honor today to join with you in marriage before God, and all these witnesses. I am the most blessed woman on earth to be your girl, and to become your wife.

John Steven Maxwell, I love you."

Would love to hear your thoughts-do you prefer traditional vows, or individualized vows? 
Which did you do for your wedding?
-Chels

Monday, June 18, 2018

Our Wedding, Part Five || The Ceremony

Our wedding ceremony really was one of a kind. As is evidenced by the pictures, we smiled a lot, laughed a lot, and really just had so much fun. It was a beautiful day and one that was made possible by so many people, and we couldn't be more grateful!
Enjoy the post!
Our wedding program was designed by this dear friend who I have worked with for several years now in doing all the graphic design for my family's band. She is so incredible, and I loved how she took my ideas and put together our program. 
We loved our bridal party! 
Fourteen bridesmaids, eleven groomsmen, and ten "little people" made for  thirty seven of us, including John + I. 
We asked our groomsmen to help with the ushering, and we told our entire bridal party to fe free to mingle and talk to guests as much as they wanted, up to just ten minutes before the ceremony was to begin. John and I knew that there was no way we would be able to personally talk to every single guest that came (its just not a feasible option to have a receiving line when you have a wedding of this size!) and so we asked our siblings specifically (which ended up being most of the bridal party) to be our ambassadors and make guests feel special and welcomed. It was one of the best things we did for our wedding and I still hear from guests about certain conversations they had with various members of our family, during that pre-ceremony time.
From 12:30-2pm, people were coming, coming, coming...and the auditorium grew in numbers + noise! One of my very favorite things about my brothers and my weddings has been how they are really just like a big reunion of sorts for so many of our favorite people. We've also found out later about many many new friendships that were formed, either at our weddings or at other events we've hosted. We've loved that-getting so many of our special friends + family together and then watching them either reunite with old friends or meet new people they hadn't met before. 
At about ten minutes til 2pm, all of the bridesmaids, the mothers, the grandmothers, and the little people were assembled in the back room...
And the groomsmen were assembled off to the side of the stage. 
Wonderful sound guys!
My musicians were AMAZING. So many people commented on the incredible music. These three girls are close friends of mine and I was so honored to have them come all the way from Ohio and perform at our wedding. I had a variety of styles/types of music I wanted, and they did such a lovely job of using my arrangement ideas and adding their own personal flair. 
My handsome groom-to-be welcomed everyone to the ceremony, right at 2pm. Amongst other things, he told them how we were very grateful to have each of them at our wedding. It just so happened that we knew of TEN other weddings going on that very same day, across the USA and Canada, all of which prevented various people on our invite list from being at our wedding. It was pretty wild to think that eleven different couples that we knew of had chosen that rather unusual date for their weddings!
Walking in the grandmas. This is one of my favorite pictures. Our grandmas are so special to both of us, and one of the things that has been so very fun is having their 110% full support from the very beginning of our relationship. I think part of the reason they were so happy to see us together was that they both felt like we had waited a long time and that it was about time that we got married! =) And besides that they just both totally approved of their specific grandchild's choice, which was pretty fun for us!
Love this one too! Their smiles say it all!
And this!

The grandmothers + mothers were walked in to "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring" which has been a long-time favorite of mine and was probably our most traditional piece used.
After John seated them, our mothers carried the jars for the unity sand up to the front.
Next, out came all those good looking guys....
And then in came all the girls! They walked into the processional of "Lovers Waltz", one of my favorite old folk tunes.
After all the bridesmaids were in, then came the cutie factors of the whole wedding. =) I got the idea for "bell ringers" back over fifteen years ago, at a wedding I'd attended. The bride had five flower girls and five little boys who were "bell ringers". (one of them was my brother Josh) I remember at the time thinking it was the cutest thing ever to hear those little bells right before the music started up. 
Fifteen+ years later, as I was planning our wedding, the idea came back to me, and I knew it would be perfect. We actually had four bell ringers, not just these two, but the youngest, Benji, was still a baby, and little Danny felt the long walk to the front was just too overwhelming, so last minute he ended up getting to hang with the groomsmen instead. =) 
Their bells ringing at the back was the musicians' cue to begin their processional song, "For the Beauty of the Earth".
(The little boys rang these bells, and the girls carried these pails filled with fake rose petals)
The little flower girls all followed on behind, very seriously dropping their flower petals. =)
Simply adorable!
After all the little ones were up and seated, the brides processional began.
I love the look on his face!
I actually arranged my own processional song, which was so fun for me!  I really wanted to use a worship song, but I wanted it to be big and dramatic as a processional. So late one night last fall, I sat down at my piano at home and put together an introduction and approximate overall flow idea for one of my favorite old worship songs, "He Is Exalted". I envisioned a building intro with a grand glissando built into it. I put together a sample of what I was thinking, took a video of me playing it, and sent it to my musicians. They listened to it, copied it, and added a few ideas of their own. The result was my processional song. The audio for it isn't very strong on the livestream, but in person it was just PERFECT.
My walk down the aisle went by in such a blur. But it was so wonderful. I loved that last moment with my daddy before he gave me away.
Waiting for the music to end.
(and I love how all the little ones look so unsure of what is going on!)
Hugs all around as my father gave me away.
We wanted to start off our wedding ceremony with worship. I absolutely love playing the piano, and I so wanted to play at my wedding, so John and I joined our pastor in leading the congregation in worship. It was such a beautiful beginning. We chose two of our favorites-In Christ Alone, + Holy, Holy, Holy.
After the worship was concluded, we came over to the stage and my father began to share. I love my father more than life itself. He has been my hero, my cheerleader, my supporter, and the greatest man in my life for twenty-six years. Having him speak at our wedding meant the world to me. When we had asked him beforehand about sharing a challenge, he asked us if there was anything we wanted him to talk about. We said we wanted him to talk about the blessing of children + a godly legacy, because that is something that is a very deep part of both John + myself. Other than that, we asked him to share whatever was on his heart.

He got the audience laughing right away with a great illustration of Proverbs 31 and the current value of a ruby. His point was if a ruby is worth so much per ounce, (thousands of dollars) then John would just have to ask me my weight to discover my technical "ruby" value. =) Of course he also talked about the biblical meaning behind that verse, just that illustration was pretty funny!
During the middle of his challenge, he had John's siblings come stand in front with John and I, and he shared how if my inlaws had not made a decision to allow God to bless them, how those five Maxwells wouldn't be there today. Even though I had heard this story before, it was very sobering to think about how one little choice could've made a difference in who I married, because my husband very nearly was not given that gift of life. It really was a beautiful tribute to what God has done-a special moment to reflect on His goodness and thank Him.

Our wedding florals were done by Petals Floral Shop in Kalona. They were SO GORGEOUS. (I would highly recommend Petals to any Kalona area brides-to-be reading this---they did an incredible job crafting the exact style I wanted. I couldn't have been happier with them!)
We had a full house of guests with over 600 attendees. We also had a number of out-of-town friends who were unable to attend last minute due to the ice/snow and sickness.
After he spoke, John and I both talked for a few minutes. No, brides don't normally talk much in their own weddings, and neither do grooms, but then, anyone who knows John and I knows that "not talking" isn't really who we are. =) Besides, "traditional" and "normal" were really the last things we were striving for in our wedding anyways! John had the idea to take a few minutes to thank our parents for their investment in our lives. I had seen roses given to mothers at weddings before, but that was all as far as some kind of a statement, or thank you type thing. I LOVED the idea of a verbal thank you/blessing. We each thanked our own parents, and then each spoke to our new parents-to-be as well. We didn't plan out ahead of time what we were going to say-for both of us we wanted it to just be very simple + from the heart. It was also really special to totally surprise them, as they had no idea we were going to do that.
John also took a few minutes to share the gospel, directly following our thank you time for our parents. The gospel is such a huge part of our lives and who we are, and we wanted it as a part of our ceremony as well.
Next, both sets of parents came up on stage to pray a prayer of blessing over us.
While they were praying, my pastor + his wife (also one of my bridesmaids) and my brother and sister-in-love, sang a beautiful rendition of the song "I Just Want To Please the Lord." John and I had both been familiar with this song for years. Several months prior to our wedding, John was in Iowa for the wkend, and we had a special music group that was visiting from out of state, perform at our church. This was the song they sang, and as they sang it, John and I both just instinctively knew we wanted it sung at our wedding. Right after the song was finished, John had leaned over to me and said "I want that sung at our wedding!" and I whispered back "I was just thinking the same thing"! 

We both loved how the song was a type of commitment to the Lord for the kind of life + marriage we wanted to have for our future. It was so perfect for that portion of our wedding.
John giving his vows to me. They were so incredible + I loved how he ended them with his special nickname for me: "sweet cheeks".
Now, if you've heard anything about our wedding, than you most likely heard about "the vows". Not many people get their wedding remembered by a blunder, but I'm pretty sure the main reason people might remember ours is because of this story right here, haha! 

Since there was a little more to this story than what met the eye, and since many of you either weren't at our wedding or weren't able to watch it,  I thought I'd tell you what happened from my perspective. 

I was just proceeding along with everything, soaking in the moments and enjoying myself to the fullest...until I was jarred to an uncomfortable reality as I heard my pastor say that word "vows".

My mind went into instant panic mode.
Vows.
VOWS.
What? NOOOO.
I don't have my vows.
I FORGOT MY VOWS!!

I couldn't believe it. Here I had been SO PREPARED and printed them out at 11:45pm the night before! I mean, really, how more on top of things could've I been? (ahem-don't judge) And now I didn't have them! I remembered the night before, having them all ready and carefully packing them in one of my little toiletry bags. I remembered so clearly. And I thought I  knew right where that bag was too, inside a duffel that was back in one of the side rooms of the church. At least, they should be in that duffel! If they weren't in that one...then they were in one of my other nine bags that were already packed in the truck!

I have to admit that I really remember none of what happened for the next 5-10 minutes, while our pastor was talking to us. All I could think of was how to smoothly and quietly get those blessed vows up front without creating a scene! I looked at my brothers and tried to get their attention, thinking maybe I could somehow communicate with them. (not sure what I was thinking, like one look could tell them that I had A) forgotten my vows B) needed them to get them C) where they were ?? 
My brothers are very smart but that would be a little much for anyone to properly decipher) Then I thought that maybe I could get Allison to understand and run get them, but she was behind me, and I couldn't figure out how to turn around and whisper to her without acting like a two year old who couldn't stay focused. I thought through every possible scenario I could think of and NOTHING was working. The time for my vows drew closer and closer and finally I realized that I would simply have to just tell everyone what was going on and go and get them myself! It felt like an eternity in a way but really I know that I must've processed through all of that in just a minute or two, because our pastor was still talking when the hilarity of the whole situation hit me and then it was all that I could do to not start laughing in the middle of his message!

By the time it finally got to my turn for my vows, I was just so ready to have the whole thing off my chest and DONE WITH that when my pastor said, "and now Chelsy, do you have your vows for John?" I just grabbed the mic from him and blurted out "No, unfortunately I don't...I left them in the back room, but I am going to go get them and I will be right back!"At that point my dear sister ran up to me and tried to convince me that she could go get them...and I could hardly communicate for laughing that I wasn't positive where they were in the first place, and really couldn't send her to get something that I couldn't direct her to! 
This is so typical of Allison's and my relationship---the expression on Allison's face says that she totally can't believe this is happening, and that she also CAN totally believe this is happening.
We had this little conversation back and forth in which I convinced her that I really needed to go and get the vows myself.
This whole time everyone was laughing. I distinctly do remember seeing my parents faces at some point during this little interlude and their expressions were pretty great: "This is SO our firstborn daughter!" =)
And out we went!
We left the entire room howling with laughter. I could hear everyone laughing as I rushed through side rooms, frantically going through my bags in search of those PRECIOUS PAPERS. They were simply nowhere to be found. I knew then that they must be buried somewhere in one of my many OTHER bags that my personal attendants had already loaded in John's truck. (heavy packer alert?!) I didn't know what to do...we couldn't go search the truck...until John said "wait, I have them on my phone!" Sure enough, we had written them on a shared google document that we both had access to, so he was able to pull them up on his phone. I am somewhat of an old fashioned kind of girl, and I would've definitely preferred reading off my vows from a piece of paper rather than a smartphone. But! Beggars can't be choosers! And that piece of paper with my vows was not showing up, so! Phone it would have to be!
Back we went!
This exit and return definitely weren't a part of our original program!
But we made it back. =)
If you watched the livestream then you saw how our pastor was trying to keep the attention of the crowd and stand in front of us to finish his story that he had begun when we left. Unfortunately for him, John and I were feeling in extremely uncooperative moods and kept dodging him. =)
Everyone seemed to really enjoy that. =)
It took awhile to stop laughing. To me, the whole situation felt super ridiculous and super hilarious all at the same time. The really crazy thing was when someone asked me later at the reception if we had "planned that thing with the vows?"
Oh people. You don't plan that type of thing. No, not even us. Absolutely NOT!
We shall give it the title of completely "organic". =)
The one thing that most people don't know about the ending of the "vow story" was that just as I began to finally read my vows off of John's phone, the little warning tab popped up on his screen informing me that the phone was about to die. I very nearly started laughing again at the thought of how ELUSIVE these vows really were! Thankfully his phone didn't die and I was able to get through them!
I loved writing my vows to John. (I'll be sharing our vows in my next post) I have always loved to write-I love putting thought into words and making it all flow. So writing my vows to him was something really meaningful to me.
John's smile at me while he put his phone back in his pocket, and my rather sheepish grin back of "well...I guess we won't ever be forgetting about THIS!"
And then I think I hugged him just cause I like to hug him. =)
It was now time for the rings but alas...John's brothers couldn't seem to find my ring. We then heard a small humming noise and a drone appeared from the back of the church...
This was another fun moment for us as we both really love the unusual and out-of-the-ordinary, but it was especially cool for John to have his brothers do this for him. 
The drone was definitely another highlight moment! Everyone was already in a laughing mood from the whole situation with the vows, just minutes before, and laughter came pretty easily! I think I led the cheering because I just felt like a drone should be cheered for. =)

A complete stranger found our wedding on YouTube and sent us a gift from our wedding registry. They also sent a note that said: "We randomly started watching your wedding on YouTube live and it brought a smile to our day. We're not sure if Chelsy leaving the alter briefly or the drone delivery was the highlight!" =)

Judging from the laughter, our audience enjoyed those moments greatly as well!
Ah, it was great!
Finally we had the rings. =)
Unbeknownst to me, John had planned to give me a key to our new house, as a part of the wedding ceremony. It was a very unique moment and a really neat symbolizing of our new union.
I was so surprised!
Smiles + laughter always just because!
Pouring the unity sand.
Signing the marriage license. (check out that random smartphone at the top of the picture. My brother-in-law Nathan was very creative in documenting the whole wedding even from his spot as a groomsman! He was very good at grabbing shots at the perfect time and it was quite fun later to have a selection of iPhone photos taken from a completely different angle than the photographers)
Prayer together while my mom + siblings sang (see below)
This moment right here was one of the only moments of my wedding that I had had planned out for years. I never was one of those girls who had her bridesmaids, and colors, and style, and dress, all chosen years in advance. Really all I knew was that I wanted to go barefoot, I wanted to sew my dress...and I wanted this old old favorite country song sung at my wedding.

My memories of this song go waaaay back in time to when I was a little six year old girl and attending the wedding of one of my dad's cousins. My mom had been asked to sing at the wedding and I remember her practicing this song over and over in our living room, along with that old soundtrack of guitar, electric, and percussion. I remember the forest green maternity outfit she wore to the wedding, and I remember her saying that she was nervous, and my dad telling her that she was "the best singer he knew and she would be AMAZING". And then my little six year old self remembers sitting on the edge of that pew and listening to my mama sing Battle Hymn of Love in that wedding, and being so proud because I just knew she had the most amazing voice ever. And then at some point along the way I remember knowing that I wanted that song at my wedding too because I just loved it so much.

My siblings didn't remember the song very well, so I arranged the instrumentation and vocals and then recorded the song for them so they could listen to it and learn it. (the only versions available online were...alot more old fashioned that the sound I was going for!)
Pretty happy at this moment about SOON being pronounced husband and wife!
And there it was!!
Very first kiss! We both waited almost 27 years for it and not for a minute would we trade that.
To all you singles out there---wait for it. It is pretty awesome to have such a dramatic first. You won't regret it, I PROMISE.
I was much too caught up in the, well, kiss, to know what was going on, but this picture is pretty great. Apparently all the groomsmen had some kind of little whistle blower things that they all blew right when we kissed. I have to laugh every time I look at these pictures because they all look so into their blowing and John and I look so obviously oblivious, haha!
Introduced as Mr. + Mrs. John Maxwell!
WE WERE FINALLY MARRIED!!
Our recessional song was one of my absolutely favorites from the Pride + Prejudice soundtrack. Actually the whole soundtrack is my favorite (smile) but when I was trying to find a recessional song, I was going through playlists just listening to different options, and as soon as the Meryton Townhall  came on I just had that "THIS IS IT" moment in my head! I emailed the song to my musicians and said, "think you can do this?" and they said "Yes!". I loved how their version turned out with the violin + piano-it was lively, upbeat, and just what a recessional should be.
Literally during Johns + my entire exit to get out of the church and to his truck (which took awhile because we had to run through a side room and grab a bag I needed, and then wind around down the steps and to the door) I could hear people laughing and cheering. It appeared that John and I started quite a party when we left. All the married couples (and we had seven of them in our bridal party, counting my pastor and his wife who was a bridesmaid) decided they could follow suite with anything we had done. I loved watching the livestream later and seeing them all acting just as newlywed as could be, as well! So much fun! And the crowd loved it too! 
(side note: a number of people have told us since the wedding that they'd never been to a wedding where they'd laughed so much. That was music to my ears. This was a celebration, after all! And laughter and smiles is just what there SHOULD be at a celebration!)
And that was our wedding ceremony, in a very long blog post! It was honestly one of the most beautiful + incredible 73 minutes of my life and I couldn't have dreamed of anything better! I won't  say it was perfect, cause it wasn't perfect. But I didn't want it perfect. I wanted it to be memorable and beautiful and FUN, and it was all of those and more. Full of imperfections, blessing, worship, truth, memories, tributes, and oh-so-much laughter.

It was a celebration of celebrations, and one I will remember all the days of my life.

Hope y'all enjoyed this little inside peak into our wedding ceremony!
-Chels