Weddings & their joys are truly beautiful and amazing, but what comes next–the actual marriage–is quite the journey. As I’ve been told, and have read about, marriage is tough. It’s not all the fun and games movies and books make it out to be. Yes, love is beautiful, but it’s not always easy to love someone, & put their needs & wants before your own.
Not too long ago, I had the amazing opportunity to photograph a couple whose story truly blessed me just as much, or even more, than any wedding I’ve covered. & Let me just say, I’m pretty sure I always tear at weddings because I find the decision two people make to become one SO beautiful! I’m always blessed by the weddings I’ve covered. Why was it that much of a blessing? Because they admitted that marriage was tough, and while it could have potentially gone a very devastating route, they chose to work at it & keep true to the sacredness of marriage. They pressed on to remain faithful–to one another, and to God. I am so grateful that they let me and John witness and photograph their vow renewals, and for sharing with me, & for allowing me to share, their marriage testimony!
Let me introduce you to the amazing couple I had the pleasure of photographing for their marriage renewal: Marie & David (whom I will now call Auntie Marie & Uncle David out of respect!). The story of how this lovely couple met is cutely funny! Which definitely matches my impression of their relationship once I finally got to meet them! :) Auntie Marie and Uncle David met one another at Uncle David’s chiropractor’s office.
“I‘m a pharmacist and the nature of my job requires me to stand for an extended long period of time. On top of my bad posture, my back went out on me in March 1998. At that time, my mom was seeing a chiropractor who was David’s senior associate. She recommended me to go see her chiropractor (please note: David was not my chiropractor.) Being a recent graduate and not having too many of his own clientele, David had to perform most of the medical history note taking and x rays. As a result, he did my initial examination on March 3rd, 1998.”
According to Auntie Marie, however, Uncle David asked her a question that was somewhat inappropriate for their work profession: “Are you married?” Auntie Marie kindly said “No” but she shared that she would have said “None of your business!” if she “wanted to be a real mean Hong Kong-nese girl”. Little did she know that this question would pertain to their future. ;) She continued to tell me the rest of the story:
“After that off-the-wall question, the next thing I remembered he said to me was, “Smile….” while taking my x ray! That whole session was filled with laughters, even though my back was hurting. Even the receptionist asked us afterward that what were we doing inside, because we laughed so loud, that the outside could hear us. My first impression of him was, “Boy! This doctor is not very professional, but he’s surely funny!” You can’t help but notice his big smile on his face all the time! He’s also very humorous! (I used to and still do tell him that people are NOT laughing at your jokes, they are laughing at YOU!) But regardless of what I laugh at, he makes me laugh! And that’s a good thing, right?!”
Uncle David shared with me his first impression of Auntie Marie, too: “The first impression I got from her was her soft and loving voice. She was so well mannered and respectful.”
So Uncle David asked Auntie Marie for her email to inquire about a special diet… but Auntie Marie claims that he never ended up asking her about it as they talked! ;)
“The first time he asked me out for dinner, I assumed it was a date, turned out to be a group gathering. The second time he asked me to lunch when he saw me at his clinic while I was waiting to be seen. He didn’t know I was with my mom, who was inside the treatment room already. When I told him my mom was with me, without hesitation he invited my mom to come along for dim sum. While we were eating, my mom asked him if he’d seen ‘Titanic’ yet, and he said, “no”. Then I answered “I’ve seen it twice already!” A dead silence …. for at least a minute. Then I broke the ice and said, “I guess I can watch it one more time.” From there, we went on our third date, watching the movie with my mom literally sitting right between us! (It wasn’t planned that way, it just so happened!) We could write a book about “dating mishap” ! LOL… By now, you have probably sensed/noticed his “unique” way of handling our relationship. God surely picked an odd ball for me! Then he asked me to attend a wedding with him! Being young (actually I wasn’t TOO young) and just being ignorant with all the social etiquettes, I went with him! We weren’t exactly even boyfriend and girlfriend yet at this point! He couldn’t wait to introduce me to all his friends and families. Within the first three months of our dating period, I must had already met all of his friends and family.”
Perhaps it wasn’t the smoothest start, but it worked ended up working well for this fun-loving couple! :)
Uncle David and Auntie Marie had a beautiful, big wedding when they first got married. Uncle David shared with me that it was both American and Chinese styled, with lots and lots of people! Some of Auntie Marie’s friends even came from Hong Kong!
“We had a wedding in a beautiful church, which we couldn’t call our spiritual home, by a minister who didn’t really know us (but he was a super nice pastor, we just never went to the church he pastored), in front of a God we didn’t have a relationship with, and with over hundreds of guests, some we didn’t even know names of. I honestly didn’t put much thoughts into the vow we took, it didn’t mean much to me on that day. It was just a routine thing every couple said in a wedding.”
Years later and they are now a family with their two children, Clarice and Abel! It was such a beautiful and sweet moment to see them praying as a family before their ceremony with Pastor Wong!
I loved seeing how happy they all were walking down the isle in their backyard! :)
Auntie Marie and Uncle David allowed me to share with you all the reasoning behind their renewal of their vows.
“We decided to renew our vows because we were growing apart emotionally. She was so busy with church and meetings, and I had to find things to do to occupy my time. As time went on, we just did not connect emotionally. We sought therapy and it really helped us accept each other even at a deeper level.” – Uncle David
Auntie Marie expanded on their decision to renew their vows:
“14 years ago, Jesus was just a guest in my wedding, we didn’t let Him be the Master of our marriage. Entering a marital relationship WITHOUT Jesus is a guaranteed disaster! Ours took 14 years to reach its “last straw on the camel’s back”! It wasn’t infidelity or bankruptcy or any other major event in life that caused our turmoil. It was the resentment that built up day after day: the un-satified soul from discontentment, self-centerness that focused on how the other person could change for you, and ungratefulness with a mind set of entitlement, which didn’t see the need of showing appreciation that put the gigantic iceberg between two hearts. The recent conflict from Jan 2014 led to a cold war. For the first time in 13 years, I took off my wedding band from my ring finger…”
“I felt so much despair that the “D” word finally surfaced up in my head! I felt like divorce was the only option. But I knew this option didn’t please and honor God! I continued praying to seek God’s will, and believed that He had nothing but blessings for me through this trial! My days were literally sustained by my daily PB&J (Prayer, Bible and Jesus). I had a close walk with my Lord daily and relied on His strength to carry me thru each and every moment! I really experienced “when I am weak, He is strong!” His presence gave me peace during the darkest moments, and I finally understood what it meant by “carrying your own cross daily”! It didn’t always mean you must die for your faith, like a martyr. But to put your needs and wants down and see others as if they are more important than you! One day as I prayed to seek God’s will, the term “marital counseling” popped up. God led us to a very experienced Christian counselor. To make a long story short, it took us 7 sessions to help us learn how to communicate effectively with each other. It was during the drive to one of the sessions that “vow renewal” popped up in my head! (“Popping up” seems to be the way God talked to me during this trial!) When I first told David about this idea, he rejected it! But as we used and practiced some of the skills we learned from the counseling sessions, we finally agreed that this was an opportunity to honor and glorify God! It’s not about us anymore, but it’s all about our Creator! We want others to know what we’d gone through, and that God gives hope and has resurrection power to revive even the most broken relationship.“
While John and I photographed their ceremony, we hadn’t known the struggles and the trials they had gone through in their marriage that led them to their marriage renewal. But hearing their vows and the songs they chose to play during the ceremony truly shed light to me on how they truly desired to spur one another in love towards God, and to really work selflessly in their relationship out of love for one another.
Auntie Marie assured me towards the end of their ceremony that their story wasn’t cutesy, nor was it that they wanted to renew their vows because they were “so in love”, but that they had struggled in their marriage and really wanted to rededicate their marriage to the Lord and remind themselves of the vows they made before God. Hearing her share this with me before I even knew the full story made it even more of a blessing–I saw how great God’s grace is, and how as Auntie Marie said, when we are weak, He is so strong, and so much greater! It also reminded me of Romans 5:4-5 and how God truly uses our struggles and trials to help grow us more and more in His likeness, and grow in our hope in Him. :)
As they exchanged their rings once again as a symbol of their love for one another, and the vows they had made for one another, I couldn’t help but smile at how sweet the moment was–even when Auntie Marie had a bit of a difficult time trying to get the ring back onto Uncle David’s finger! ;)
Just as people often do in weddings, Auntie Marie & Uncle David decided to do Unity Sand to help symbolize their family and their foundation of Christ.
As opposed to their very large wedding, they opted for a smaller marriage renewal ceremony.
“We only invited two couples. We wanted to make it for us, not a show or for others like the first time. We wanted our closest friends and that was it. We didn’t even invite our families.” -Uncle David
“I have a few (less than a handful) trusted sisters in Christ who prayed for and with me during this trial. I thank God everyday for their love, care and support! I surely see Jesus’ love through them. They are angels sent from Heaven! They were with me every step of the way to defeat Satan, and claim victory in Jesus’ name! They are not only my guests, they are my teammates, my confidants, my prayer warriors, my shoulders to cry on, and my family! I was so blessed to have them in my life! They fought with me, and it was my honor to have their presence in witnessing the victory over Satan!” – Auntie Marie
Needless to say, I teared during their ceremony. They told me they weren’t super “lovey dovey”, but I could truly feel and clearly see the love they had for one another and for God throughout the entire time I was with them. It was beautiful. :)
After they renewed their vows, food was being prepared and for their intimate party! Before we could head off to do a session with their family, their son, Abel, didn’t hesitate to make a bee line to the cupcakes and assure himself at least one cupcake! ;) Boy, were they delicious too! As if I wasn’t already blessed enough by witnessing their ceremony, the generous couple gave John and I one of each flavor to take home and sample! :)
They are such a beautiful family! We took a photo or two in their backyard, and then headed off to a local park for the rest of their session! :)
Before we left, Auntie Marie mentioned to me that she wanted a fun photo with the customized guns Uncle David made, and “the Beast”, an amazing camper Uncle David made from scratch! You’ll read more about “the Beast” later! :) Uncle David assured me these photos were Auntie Marie’s ideas! Haha
As I got to see how Clarice and Abel were throughout the shoot, I could truly see what a fun-loving family they were! I asked both Uncle David and Auntie Marie to describe to me what they thought of their children! Uncle David’s reply made me laugh: “That is another 10 pages I’d have to write. One word: “Weirdest”
Auntie Marie went on to describe Clarice and Abel to me in sweeter detail! :)
“You met them both, I’m sure you have an idea! Therefore, I can’t lie and say Clarice is like a princess and Abel is really shy! Haha….Clarice is probably one of the prettiest tomboys you will ever meet… A few descriptions I see keep coming up on her FB comments from her friends are cute, friendly, cheerful, always smiling, fun, funny, silly, outgoing, sweet, nice to everyone. But the number one word is WEIRD! “Weird in a good way” one friend described! She has a carefree spirit, (good or bad … Depends on how you see it) and she doesn’t really care what others say! I wish I had that kind of confidence when I was her age!Abel….. Oh boy! He is amazingly and wonderfully made! On the outside, he’s active (nonstop hyperly active), chattering-mouth, silly, naughty, naughty and naughty. But on the inside, he possesses most of the spiritual fruits (truly). Love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness. (I guess as his mom, I need to nurture his patience and self-control, which are what he lacks. ) He is full of compassion (he especially has heart for the homeless. One time, there was a homeless man around our neighborhood, he asked me while i was driving if we could get some food from our house and drive back to give to the man.) He’s also very generous. He doesn’t have much allowances, but one time he gave ALL he had in his wallet to a person who stood in front of Target collecting money for abused children. The one thing I learn from my son is his unconditional forgiveness. One time I accused him of doing something he didn’t. He was mad! But after I found out the truth, I apologized to him and asked for his forgiveness. Within a second and without a second thought, he hugged and kissed me again, and told me I was forgiven! Abel helps me to be a better person, really! I thank God for him everyday! “
As I interacted with Clarice and Abel, I could definitely see their humorous qualities! They were so much fun, and they always had me laughing! Haha :) Reading Auntie Marie’s descriptions of them was really sweet, and it opened up my eyes to see their other wonderful qualities! I was so touched to hear about Abel’s giving heart for the homeless and those in need!
As a family, I asked what they liked doing together!
“This is a tricky question! There’re things my kids and I enjoy doing together, but not David, like getting a foot massage (I have very strange kids!). And then there’re things David WANTS the family to enjoy doing with him, but we really don’t, like shooting (guns, not photos) in the desert, especially if it’s overnight (no bathroom!!! ). I guess there’re two things we enjoy doing as a family (if my kids agree, because if you give them a choice, they would rather stay home and play with the computer all day long), biking and camping with the Beast.” – Auntie Marie
Like Auntie Marie said, David also mentioned their love for camping and road trips.
“We enjoy the outdoors. We do a lot of camping and local road trips. Recently, Marie is starting to enjoy shooting, which I have been doing since I was 12 years old.”
After quite a few photos with their entire family, I got to take Uncle David and Auntie Marie on a mini bridal session of just the two of them! The chemistry between them, and their strengthening love was so evident during this little mini session! It was such a sweet time! :)
Next, I asked Auntie Marie and Uncle David more about their relationship with one another. I asked Uncle David what he loves about Auntie Marie and he shared with me that he loved how kind, and loving she is, and shared with me that she is “beautiful inside and out.” So sweet! He also shared with me what he appreciated about her: “I really appreciate her being a wonderful and a cool mom. I am proud to have her as my spouse.” :)
Auntie Marie shared with me three things she loves about Uncle David:
“1. HE IS HUMOROUS!!! (He is absolutely the reason for ALL my facial wrinkles!)
2. His ability to start a conversation with anyone. (Someday, he will be a great partner of my evangelical team!)
3. His helpful heart! One time, a single mom from our church had a car problem. Called him in the middle of the night (passed midnight), he got up, went to where her car was stuck (transmission problem, it couldn’t reverse), let her drove off with his own car, and he took her car, got it fix the next day, and delivered her car back to her. What a door to door service!
“Since day 1, I felt like he he already WAS family! Maybe because of his “unique” way of mingling with my parents and friends, he was never shy or awkward! I felt comfortable when I was with him. I felt like I didn’t have to be someone perfect to please him. I’d had other relationships with others who had made me feel like I was walking on egg shells ALL the time! But with David, perhaps he broke all the eggs himself (with his non-traditional ways of handling things), therefore I didn’t have to walk on the eggs myself.” – Auntie Marie
Auntie Marie also shared with me three things she truly appreciated about David!
“1. Others may say they’re married to their best friends, but for me, I’m married to my kids’ best friend! My kids may not realize that now how blessed they are to have a dad who plays and jokes with them….crazily! My dad was the typical Asian father, who was dead serious and would never express his love verbally. I could never expect him to tell me ‘I love you’ or hug me openly. But David never deprives our kids his love and affections. 2. He is very (I mean VERY) handy! He can literally fix anything and everything! That camper is definitely a proof. I surely appreciate having an in-house handy man around! 3. He also spends lots of effort to make sure our family is safe and have what we need when disaster strikes. He is a “prepper”!!! (That’s why we have that bugged-out vehicle: The Beast)”
Now I’m sure some of you are wondering how Uncle David proposed? With much thought and effort, that’s how!
“I wanted to make the proposal special and unique. So I decided to have a fortune cookie company make me a cookie with a special message along with the ring. I wanted the cookie to look completely like the originals. I called many places, but they would say “Your order is too small.” Most of the companies required 10,000 cookies in order for them to make a custom order. Finally, I found a place in LA that would do 150 cookies. They stopped the whole production just to make my ONE special cookie with the ring in there along with this message “Marie, would you marry me?”. The cookie was plastic sealed just like any other.”
After Uncle David prepared his proposal, they agreed to go to Las Vegas and to the Grand Canyon. Uncle David rented a helicopter to go down to the Grand Canyon River (Along with 8 other tourists), and then took out three fortune cookies for her to pick from.
“Luckily, I picked the right one from the first try. (I guessed we are meant to be, huh?) When I opened it, the fortune paper was tied to a diamond ring and said “Would you please marry me?” Then he started passing out other cookies to people around us, which all had a fortune that said “Would you please marry David?’ Just in case I hesitated…. The others would plead for him! LOL…. But you know I said YES! And the rest is history!”
I don’t know about you, but I”m pretty impressed by his cleverness with the proposal! :) Auntie Marie was, too!
“I was impressed by all his planning! In order to make those personal fortune cookies, he found a factory, went there and convinced them to stop their regular production line to just make his special cookies. Then he kept the one that held the ring separately from all the others without crushing it. (He couldn’t have mixed it, or else he would have needed to open up hundreds of them to find the ring again!) But one thing that impressed me the most, was that he flew in that 10-people small plane. He never admitted it, but I knew he hated flying! He didn’t even enjoy roller coasters! That small plane was really unstable, and the helicopter flight was quite ‘thrilling’! But he did that for me, in order to make me feel very special! Not to mention there was a nice rose bouquet waiting for me in our hotel room when we came back. Each rose was as big as an apple!! What a huge production!”
Auntie Marie came up with some cute props she wanted to use during their session! This next prop was pretty clever! ;)
She wanted to show how they were sad when they were alone, but better when they were together! :)
I asked each of them if they had any marriage advice for the newly weds and future-to-be-wed individuals out there! Uncle David’s advice was short, sweet & to the point (with a little joke added in there): “Stay single… no, just kidding! Accept each other as they are. Don’t try to change them. Let the other do what they enjoy and work from there.”
Auntie Marie gave a pretty detailed list with verses and quotes that she found helpful:
“If you are NOT a follower of Jesus, start following HIM! Be an imitator of Jesus! If you are a Christian, remember this…. “Your spouse is NOT your enemy, Satan is!””
“After you are married and became one, there will no longer be ‘my’ problem or ‘your’ problem. There is only OUR problem! So don’t blame on your spouse alone, start working it out together!”
“Pray that your spouse will love God more than he/she will love you. “But first seek His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33″
“When your spouse did something that really upset you, remember the cross, and what Jesus said on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34″
“God doesn’t use marriage to make you happy (only God Himself can satisfy your need for love), but to make you holy! Iron sharpen iron, the process hurts…. but the result is worth all the efforts.”
“Talk openly and honestly to each other! Do not ASSUME anything! Assume only makes an a** out of u and me!”
“The following verses gave me hope and strength when life seems despair:– “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” 1Peter 5:7– “My soul is weary with sorrow, strengthen me according to your Word.” Psalm 119:28– “The Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.” Isaiah 60:20(b)– “Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” Isaiah 49:23(b)– “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” Isaiah 43:18– “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13″
I had such a blessed time getting to photograph and witness this marriage renewal! It was my first marriage renewal I’ve ever been to and covered, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience! :)
Congratulations to both Auntie Marie & Uncle David for taking this step to redeem and preserve your marriage, instead of giving up! :) Truly a blessing to witness and hear about! What a testimony!