11 is a very special number to us. In marriage, it represents the synergy that we intentionally create as a couple because 1+1 is not 2 but 11 (our whole is greater than the sum of it's parts).
11 has shown up a lot in our life as a couple...shortly after setting our wedding date for the 11th (because we love the symbolism of that number), we discovered that we are exactly 11 years and 11 months apart in age. It also worked out that Jeff's oldest son got home from his mission on May 11th (2017) the year before we got married on May 11th (2018) and that same son married his sweetheart on May 11th the following year (2019). My first niece was born on the 11th about a year later (2020). The year married my young boys were 7/11 and now that 7-year-old is 11. When picking up birthday food from the grocery store for his festivities (including these 11 candles), the change was $11.11. 💕 How awesome is that!?!
We see divine design in symbolism and such synchronicities as a sign from heaven that we are loved and being watched over.
HaPpY SaBbAtH DaY from our home to yours. It's so exciting to attend all of church again! We enjoyed a full 2-hour church service with our entire ward this afternoon for the first time in over a year. Since Covid-19 hit Utah in March of 2020, it hasn't been an option to attend most of the time (we did it at home for many months and then started rotating Sundays for 1 hour to keep numbers low and contact limited). It felt very special to be with everyone again and NOT wear masks. The following week we were able to attend for the first time as a family (with the kids).
We have renewed appreciation for what we used to take for granted. So happy to have church back in session!
On our most recent anniversary, Cathy suggested this hand photo. We are each wearing our "kelibet," which is the Ethiopian word for engagement. In Ethiopia, the first phase of the wedding is the kelibet ceremony where rings are exchanged. At this stage of proceedings, you are engaged to be married, but not actually married yet. Since we got engaged in Ethiopia, we bought rings and began to wear them immediately. These rings were not expensive, but the memories they evoke are dear to us, so we only wear these rings on special occasions. We have other wedding rings that we wear at other times to remind us of the covenant we have made to each other.
Thankfully, my sealing clearance went through the first presidency quickly. Even so, we only had a month before our intended wedding date to plan the wedding. I think it took us approximately two hours of discussion.
We decided on the Provo City Center Temple because it is near my hometown, it is splendidly elegant and, most important, its history represents how lives can be burned to the ground and rise again with a higher and holier purpose, and even more beautiful than before. At the wedding we enjoyed the presence of loved ones on both sides of the veil. My oldest son was my escort.
Instead of wearing a wedding dress, Cathy chose to wear her temple dress. Coming out of the Temple, she wore a beautiful Ethiopian celebratory dress that we bought on our engagement trip. We had our couples pictures taken the day before on the temple grounds because rain was forecast for our wedding day. But we had a great little window of time right after we came out of the Temple to take some great group pictures. We splurged a little bit on the photographer. He gave us a great deal, and he was very experienced and affordably priced.
After the wedding, we had a lunch of all you can eat fajitas at Los Hermanos, which our guests loved -- and it was a third of the price of catering a brunch at the nearby Marriott. Something fun and festive was more our personality anyway.
The next day, we had an open house and many of our friends and relatives came to congratulate us. We planned it for the next evening partly because we had both been through weddings where all of the festivities were on one day, and it was hectic, running from one thing to the next all day. Planning it as we did, we were done with our wedding luncheon by mid-afternoon. We got to spend a lot of time relaxing together in our hotel room and having a quiet, private dinner together at Market Street Grill.
For our open house, Daniel Coburn made wings for our guests as a wedding present to us. We had other trays of meat and cheese, vegetables, and other food that we bought and friends put together. Instead of wedding cake, we served cake bites from Sweet Tooth Fairy. We served each other bites of a giant wedding cupcake. Throughout the evening, a mix of our favorite love songs was playing on the stereo.
We had circles of chairs set up in a few places in the house, so groups of friends or family could sit down together and talk. The whole mood of the evening was festive and happy.
I don't say this to either boast or sound cheap, but we did the wedding for around $1000, including dress, rings, and everything. (A client of mine who owned a hotel donated his presidential suite for the night -- so that was a nice freebie that we very much appreciated.) We splurged for lunch for our sealing ceremony guests and the photographer, but all in all did our wedding inexpensively and with almost zero stress. And guess what! It was amazing! We just got to relax and enjoy our day (and the next evening) together with loved ones.
I remember my first wedding, which was a financial stress for my parents and my former wife's -- not to mention that my former wife had all kinds of dreams about her wedding day that would have cost millions of dollars to fulfill. No matter what we did, it seemed like we were disappointing someone. It was stressful, and the focus really was not on the sacred moment in the temple -- which Cathy and I chose to focus our wedding on. (To my former wife's credit, when she remarried in a simple ceremony at the university library where her husband worked, she walked down the aisle to a favorite Beatles song. I respect the fact that she also learned valuable lessons from the stress of our first wedding -- and did something simpler and more reflective of their personality as a couple.)
I bring this up because many in our group will marry in their middle or mature years as we did, and I hope this perspective might help you to create great memories around your wedding, without breaking the bank, and without creating an undue amount of stress for yourselves. It won't be exactly like ours. It will be your own creation. It can reflect your personality, even if you don't choose to spend a lot of money or are unable to. The thing I do hope is that it will be centered on the covenants you are making, and that your guests will understand how important that is to you.
ABOUT GRATITUDE. Yesterday Cathy
and I went to lunch as part of celebrating our third anniversary. I remarked to her that one of the advantages of being a divorcee is that I take our marriage less for granted.
I got married the first time when I was 26 years old. We had a child 11 months later. To some degree, I was going through the motions of what American Latter-day Saints do. I graduated from high school, served a mission, went to college, and got married when I was in graduate school. It's kind of the life plan we all expect to follow. I loved my first wife and my family, but I think I kind of just expected it would always be there for me. I took it too much for granted. Perhaps I thought what I was doing and the way I was living was just normal. But normal isn't special.
Having a lengthy marriage and then getting divorced woke me up to the fact that we are not simply entitled to marriage. Our spouses ALWAYS have choices. Even if you feel really solid with someone, that is partly a result of their devotion and conscious choice to be with you. That is a great blessing and a high honor. We should really never take it for granted. We should celebrate it every day, and not just on anniversaries.
Cathy and I dated for a good chunk of 2016 and were "just friends" for all of 2017. At the end of that year (literally the last day of the year) I wrote her a letter and asked her to date me for marriage. I didn't know it at the time, but she was dating two good men, who both had serious intentions, and trying to decide between them. So I complicated her life. Even with the great options she had and even though we had stopped dating a year prior, Cathy chose me. I don't take that for granted. She could have chosen otherwise. So I consider it a great blessing that she chose me.
Before I even met Cathy, I learned that we can only enjoy something to the extent that we are grateful for it. Our enjoyment is directly proportional to our gratitude. I enjoy my marriage and the love that we share so much because I am deeply grateful for it. I am grateful for another chance at life and happiness in marriage. I am grateful for someone to love everyday in a special way. I am grateful for the kind of family life that I once took for granted as being "just normal." Because I feel abundantly blessed, I feel abundantly happy. That is the secret my friends.
Be grateful for what you have. Be happy for others when good things happen to them. Be enthusiastic and embrace your life for its possibilities. Life is not merely to be endured. It is to be lived. So take chances, have adventures, love deeply, and live it well.