“Promise to stay wild with me. We’ll seek and return and stay and find beauty and the extraordinary in all of the spaces we claim. We’ll know how to live. How to breathe magic into the mundane.”
– Victoria Erickson
Buckle up, it’s about to be a long one folks. Get ready for ALL of the gushing. Or just skip to the pretty images, that’s cool too.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE big fancy weddings. The details thought through months in advance, perfectly placed and coming to life in one magical celebration. Rows and rows of the most important friends and family of that couple, people traveling from all parts of the world to witness this one, perfect, breathtakingly wonderful declaration of love. I’ve made a career of photographing days like this. But when you strip it all down, my favorite thing is the power that is held within the ceremony itself. Beyond all the bells and whistles, fancy cakes, dance parties and exquisite dining, is the most important covenant one person can make to another.
To me, as a Christian and a follower of Jesus, marriage is a BIG deal. It is an outward expression of the inner love and devotion two people have for one another. Perfectly placed, perfectly orchestrated by a God Who loves those people even more then they love one another.
So yes, I love the parties, but I love the promises more.
We all have a person, or people in our lives who quickly come to mind when someone says, “good friend”. These are the people that you know will always look out for you, who have time to listen to your problems and will walk through all of life with you, not just through the good times.
Cue Paul and Carly.
I met Paul 8 years ago when I first began attending a then-small Philadelphia church called EPIC, where services were held in a movie theater . If you ask any person who knows Paul to describe him, you will surely find that he is characterized as one of those truly good friends. Loyal to his bones, he has a way of continuing to challenge those in his circle of influence. He has this unquenchable thirst for growth and a faith in Jesus that is inspiring. Somehow he always makes time for those important to him.
I continually tell him I owe him all of the favors…for presenting my thesis show to a magazine to be featured (in which I got a job later), to the time I messed up my back and he got my keys from a second story window and then covered my role as worship leader (on a Sunday he was preaching none-the-less). Paul Heggie is one of the most quality human beings you’ll ever meet.
So to say the bar was set high for his life-partner, is an understatement.
Then Miss Carly walked in.
They met at an EPIC Church event (naturally) called Night-to-Shine, a prom for special needs. I remember a group of us hearing about her for the first time shortly after. He loved her authenticity and her quirky side that quickly surfaced. They literally brought note cards to their date just like a scene out of Parks and Rec. (PRESH.)
Allow me to digress, If I had to use one word to describe the year 2017 for me, it would be community. The people closest to me know that 2016 was one of the hardest years I have had so far. I worked too much, didn’t prioritize what was most important, and by the end had lost all sense of community. But by the closing of the following year, God had answered my prayers so tangibly by bringing some of the most amazing people into my life. People who challenge me, who push me to be better and who continue to point me towards Jesus. Carly is one of those people. We have had countless times in the last year where we have asked “HOW THE HECK HAVE I ONLY KNOWN YOU FOR SUCH A SHORT TIME?” She’s one of those you’re-stuck-with-me-forever kind of friends. So Paul, thanks for continuing to be awesome and introducing me to one of my now dearest friends.
Back to the couple of the hour, almost exactly one year after their first date, they met by that same park bench just moments before they said “I-do”, Paul turning to see Carly for the first time that day, with a grin reaching from ear to ear. Some people would say that meeting, dating, getting engaged AND getting married in the span of year is insanity. But the truth is, preparing for marriage is about being intentional. It is putting in the time to learn about one another’s strengths and weaknesses, embracing the good but also diving into the not-so-fun, messy parts. Paul and Carly are perfect examples of putting in the work. Plus, I’m fairly certain Paul has a superpower in which he can make possible things that take other people years to accomplish.
February 18 was a seasonably warm afternoon and after a brief couple session in Rittenhouse Square, Paul had a surprise up his sleeve. Carly thought they would wed at a friends home nearby, surrounded by their closest friends and family. Paul lead Carly on a detour to pass the pop shop that they went to on their first date and convinced her to step inside quickly. Little did she know, he had orchestrated the ceremony to take place there. They walked in and Carly then realized the surprise, her jaw dropped. Romantic music was playing and tears already were forming in the eyes of those attending.
The ceremony that followed was one of the sweetest things I have yet to witness; stripped down, authentic, and real. They promised to be one another’s best friends and biggest fans. They vowed to love one another, to support, trust and encourage each other. They declared that they would help each other move towards a deeper faith and God, even in the darkest times. And in Carly and Paul fashion, Paul stated;
“I promise to be your best friend, your confidant, your biggest fan. I promise to love you like Ben loves Leslie, like Luke loves Lorelai, like Jim loves Pam, like Jalil loves Rihanna.
You’re the one who never leaves my mind. You’re the one I want by my side, on the road, underneath the stars, on this coast or the west coast or halfway across the world. You’re the one who’s become home to me.”
Kent Jacobs, who is not only the pastor of EPIC church but also a dear friend of Paul’s, lead the ceremony. Kent has walked beside him from the dreaming and beginnings of a new church, through the following good days and bad that life surely brings. And then again standing beside him on this very, very good day.
He said it best,
“…sometimes God brings two people together in a way that no one could have predicted. No one could have called it. No one could have planned it. And there’s something almost magical about that…”
He went on to describe their wild story of God bringing two people together. Closing with,
“Now I’m not much for magic, but I do believe in miracles. One thing I know for sure, because I’ve lived it, and because I’ve watched it happen with the two of you. The promise of the scripture is true… God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”
This was an answer-to-prayer kind of day. This was an all-your-dreams-come-true kind of day. This was a good day.