There was a beautiful opportunity that opened up for us to renew our wedding vows on Valentine’s Day. In three weeks, I planned a small ceremony for us with our siblings, Doug and Rachel, and enlisted a few friends and community members to help us put it together at the last minute (on a shoestring budget). It all fell together like clouds parting to let a generous slice of sunshine through–and that warmth covered us so that we felt rejuvenated as a couple. It was utterly luxurious to dress up, shamelessly invoke romance, and focus entirely upon our love and our solemn vows to one another. You can read more about leading up to our event here, where I wrote a guest blog post for Lung Cancer Alliance for Valentine’s Day.
Here are a few photos and notes to share about our special day:
I found the EXACT dress that I was dreaming of–lace, long sleeve, and short–with a quick search online. I ordered it and crossed my fingers. It fit perfectly. So lucky! Dan wore a dark blue shirt that he already had and Raine scored a sweet little gray vest/pant set, new kicks, and a pink and navy tie.
:::::: Dress (Similar) | Shirt (Similar) | Vest Target | Tie Janie and Jack | Shoes Gap // I was honored to carry a handkerchief that belonged to Dan’s paternal grandmother, Gladys Herzing and my jewelry was all very sentimental, of course! My “D” initial necklace (Cool & Interesting) via Mes Amies | Antique diamond engagement ring & band (Turtle Creek Antiques) | Heirloom gold floral pin (Similar) | Gifted opal studs (Similar) | Gifted personalized hand stamped cuff (Heart & Sol Designs) reads “Everything around is extraordinarily beautiful and luxurious now” | Gifted idiom bangle (Kate Spade) reads “Heart of Gold” // Rocco’s special bow tie (Nordstrom) // Not pictured: GAH! How did we not get a photo of my shoes!? My super rad Eric Michael boots (Imelda’s) ::::::
Hobbes stayed home to make sure he didn’t miss out on his (most important) 18th nap of the day, while Rocco lucked out and was my escort, his red bow tie chosen by Raine. My favorite hair designer, Heather West at Element Hair Artistry, gave me an updo that had so much volume, no one could believe it was really my hair (tee hee!) Rachel and I enjoyed watching her work her magic and we also treated ourselves to manicures/pedicures with the incredibly talented Elisa Wissinger. Elisa even indulged my unusual request to make a special snail silhouette on my left ring finger nail. (Dan loved it, of course!) The location of the ceremony was at Cana’s Feast Winery in Carlton, a winery that we have made so many special memories at! It is also a beautiful location with the ambiance and style of a Tuscan villa with a perfect view of the coastal mountain range and sunset. It could not have been more perfect. Floral bouquets and boutennieres were designed by my sweet friend, Katie Koenig of Pollination Flowers. An extra basket of flower petals lent a romantic touch as the kids scattered them across the floor before the ceremony. (Raine’s buddies Pax and Nexus were there to cheer him on as he walked in with me and dropped petals). Other decorative touches were provided by our friend, Teressa Hamje, who took a few ideas I found on Pinterest and made it happen–twinkling lights and garlands, Valentine’s Day inspired cut paper hearts, and LED lit metal letters to spell “LOVE.” A special thank you to our ever-willing friend and photographer, Christie Glynn of Christie Glynn Photography, who drove out to capture the occasion for us.
Our friend, Allie Meristem, played her cello for our haphazard processional (Rocco was overwhelmed and Raine was scared) and our original MC from our wedding reception made an appearance as our officiant. Patrick Chizeck has been a friend of Dan’s since his college days at ISU and mine ever since I moved to Chicago in 2002. He has also been a regular visitor at Dan’s chemo sessions, so it was special to have him with us for a more romantic and lively event. :)
Patrick shared a little bit and then both Doug and Rachel spoke. I have to admit, we gave them the option to write something to share the day before the event, and they both stepped up and knocked it out of the park. I was especially touched by both of their language that felt in a spirit of admiration for Dan and I. These things we might be required to “just know” that people close to us feel about us–strong esteem and love–but it never hurts to hear it out loud. Dan and I are weathering a mighty storm in our little cancer boat and verbal support is a gentle and calm breeze against the bow.
We started our vows just in time for Raine to begin interrupting us with joyful shrieks about his “present” from mommy and daddy –a gift bag that was a reward for his ability to walk in with mommy and drop flower petals. He opened it on the sidelines but couldn’t contain his excitement when he found the Frozen soundtrack inside. He told everyone about it and ran up to show mommy and daddy, and asked us to open it for him. It was a welcome giggle in the middle of emotional vows. We read the same vows that we wrote ten years ago for our wedding and once again, Dan’s were incredible. He wrote them by creating a comparison of his devotion to me with the changing seasons and natural cycles of life. They brought everyone to tears and his addition at the end of being grateful to have me–specifically me–to spend his final seasons with was both heartbreaking and full of such gracious love in their poignancy. I found myself about to begin my vows with the same exact thought that I had ten years ago: How do I follow that!? I wanted to just say “Ditto” and skip ahead to the pronouncement and kiss.
I love to write, but I find it difficult to write for speaking at such a moment as this. I don’t even pretend to feel able to capture the depth and nature of my love and devotion to Dan, so I end up just writing very basic, cliché phrases and feel horribly awkward reading them out loud (as I should). However, I gave it my best shot and hoped that he didn’t mind that they were not as eloquent and touching as his. In fact, he was probably just waiting for the kiss, too. :) It came soon enough–after our vows and exchanging rings, Patrick got right to it and announced us as husband and wife again.
We celebrated with a few bottles of Rosato (also our gift to each person who helped with the event) and then headed over to Main Street to catch the Valentine’s Day edition of the cocktail club at Republic of Jam (where we also ended up devouring our wedding cake–a coconut lime cake baked by our friend, Tina Johnson) and dinner with more drinks and neighbors at Barrel 47. Doug took Dan home early while Rachel and I partied into the wee hours of the night! (Look out, Carlton, the Hodel sisters were ordering Jägerbombs and Angry Balls! Eeek!) Sweet mementos from the occasion included handwritten notes of advice and love on letter pressed cards by Ink Meets Paper and our Valentine’s Day gifts to one another– For Dan, new vinyl, a card by his favorite Red Cap Cards, and an (uber practical) brand new cheese grater (for when he gets back in the kitchen! Otherwise, it is helpful for me, LOL). He gifted me with my infinite favorites– chocolate and socks. And of course! Those bouquets! I kept them on our kitchen counter for a ridiculously long amount of time. They were just so gorgeous.
Of course, it would have been absolutely amazing to have our original wedding party and family with us this day, as well as all of the wonderful friends, coworkers, and community members we have grown to love over the past ten years, but I had to keep it on that shoestring budget Dan gave me (Ha!) and time was of the essence. The latter was a turning point for me–that question, “Why Wait?” was more powerful than ever and taught me a lot. There is no “perfect” time or “perfect” day to experience life–you just do it, when you can, as you go. Sure, do your best to make it what you want, but also, just let yourself experience it. This ceremony could not have been more powerful and special to me and that just teaches me that life will honor your requests…always. They may not be what I expect or think I want—but if I let it, they will be beautiful. And the beautiful is what touches a place inside of me that is sacred, and timeless, and needs that slice of sunlight.
*Photos courtesy of Christie Glynn, Rachel Hodel, et moi!