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A Bride’s Reflection

This was written on my two month anniversary. Now as I celebrate twelve whole glorious, crazy beautiful months of marriage I thought it would be appropriate to share these words here.

Sixty days ago my life changed forever as I was joined in marriage with the man of my dreams: Tanner Oharah. It was an incredible day, filled with all the beautiful memories my romantic dreamings had hoped for. Everything was shimmering with a fairy tale sparkle and each moment was tinged with the rosiness that brings a glow to each bride. I look back on those hours sixty days ago, seeing nothing but a haze of supreme joy. The days have gone by quickly since that monumental peak of my life. Many more memories and joys have come my way, and each day is alive with its own graces and beauties – each captivating and invigorating. Suddenly I found myself celebrating a month of marriage, and then two. And those precious memories made on May 20th become fogged over as I revel in the joys and struggles each day here has. I am always in favor of living in the moment, to the fullest capacity one is able, but before the sparkle of that day when dreams came true and my new life began becomes further back in the recesses of my memories, covered up by all the new memories made, I want to take a few hours to relive that day. Such life altering moments will forever be in my heart, but all that was stored up in my heart on that day must come forth into writing before the words are jumbled up with the words from today. So here are the memories of a bride on her wedding day…the luckiest bride on earth.

 

There’s nothing quite like waking up in the morning and realizing that this is the day of your wedding. I looked over at tImagehe countdown I had on my white board. The one could be changed to zero.I sat up in bed and grabbed my journal. “Today is the day I will marry my best friend,” I wrote. “I cannot wait to commit my life to Tanner Oharah in front of 250 witnesses and enter into covenant relationship before God. For the rest of our life we will be husband and wife. I am beyond ecstatic. God has blessed us so richly, I cannot wait to celebrate! It is with great honor, privilege and delight that I get to partake in the noble calling of reflecting the picture of Christ and the church. I begin today – only by grace – and will strive

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each day of our marriage to honor and glorify God in this union.” These final moments journaling in my bedroom before beginning the day were profound. I had spent many hours, hundreds in fact, in this exact place. Journals had been filled and prayers spoken. Today I was leaving it – my childhood bedroom – and as I finished packing and put my journal into my honeymoon bag it symbolized my departure from this childhood, from my status as a Johnson kid, and the beginnings of my new life.

 

After a long shower I zipped up my white bride sweatshirt that Stefanie and Sammi had got for me and went upstairs. ImageMy sister had brought me a venti iced caramel macchiato from Starbucks with bride written on the side and I got the sharpee and wrote maid of honor on the side of her venti chai. Image I enjoyed the coffee and a leisurely breakfast, trying to stay calm as the minutes ticked on to departure time. I gathered all the things on my packing and wedding list, checking and rechecking everything. After the dress had been loaded and the cars were ready to head downtown I went inside to say goodbye to my Dad. Next time I saw him would be minutes before he was to give me away. The girls were loaded in the cars and I ran back in to deliver all the goodbye notes I had written to my little siblings that they would find after the wedding. I was almost in tears as I set the note on each of their pillows…as ready as I was to be on my own with Tanner, these moments were marking the last of us all being Johnson kids together, the last of being Daddy’s little girl. I cried every time I thought about it, and I still tear up months later. Image

 

After running back inside to get my nearly forgotten veil we were on our way. Blythe and Sylvie in the Acura and Tessa and I in my car. I called Blythe to make sure Sylvie had everything (she’s the forgetful bear of the family) and chatted with Tessa all the way downtown to the church – using the time at the stoplight to practice writing Oharah in cursive for my signature on the marriage license. We arrived at the church with plenty time to spare, found parking spots, and sat down in front of the church to wait for Sandy – the church coordinator – to come unlock the doors. ImageMy bridesmaids soon arrived and we went inside to begin getting ready. We were lead into the bride room – the nursery adjacent the sanctuary – and curling irons were plugged in, bobby pins pulled out, and wedding day music put on (thanks to my wonderful friend and hair stylist who had compiled a ‘getting married’ mix). I was seated in front of my mirror that I had brought from home and the curling began as other friends began working on the bridesmaids and flower girl’s hair. It all seemed a little surreal. I was getting married. My hair was being done for my wedding. It took Erin close to two hours and at the end of it my hair had been transformed into a mixture between Christine from Phantom of the Opera and Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Meanwhile the laughter and giggling and chatting among my dearest friends and sisters kept me smiling, and as I looked around I realized that the women and girls that had meant the most to me through the years were all in that room. My blessings are many. About 3:30 a girl came into the announce the groom’s arrival – my giddy levels shot up and I wanted everything to hurry up so that I could see Tanner. The girls laughed at my eagerness. When hair was done Sammi knelt down in front of me and began to do my make up. There were probably 15 people or more in and out of that room, the time for being done was approaching quickly, Ian had been texting Blythe to say he didn’t have the songs for the father/daughter dance or the mother/son dance, and my nerves were at a high level. Tears came quickly to my eyes – and for about five minutes I was on the verge of a breakdown and fighting it hard so that my tears didn’t smudge the makeup being applied. I composed myself fairly quickly though, and was reminded that everything would be ok. I think it was just a rush of excitement and realization that everything that I had been planning for the last three months was about to happen. Food showed up at some point and I tried to eat, but I think I got through a quarter of the sandwich and drank a little water. I couldn’t eat anymore than that.

 

The photographer arrived a little before 4:30 and was there as Shea, Blythe and my Mom helped me get into my wedding dress. Something about all that white tulle, silk and beading coming on over my head thrilled my heart and I couldn’t stop smiling as the girls laced me up (like Scarlett O’Hara? No, how about Greer Oharah!) ImageI pulled on the garter, slipped my feet into the shoes, put my jewelry on and looked in the mirror. I loved the dress more than the day I first tried it on, or when I decided it was the dress. I truly felt like the princess that Tanner always told me I was. I couldn’t wait to show myself to him.

 

All the girls were gathered up and we went to take pictures. It was raining a little so we had to stay inside but she opened the doors to take some looking into the church and painted vividly in the sky was a double rainbow, a beautiful reminder of the grace and beauty continually given by God. Image

 

After finishing pictures we went back in the bride room to do final hair and make-up touch ups. A favorite moment at this point was when my bridesmaids all gathered in a circle and joined hands and lifted me up in prayer.

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Each girl’s prayer reflected our relationship and their love for me and for the Lord and I was overfilled with excitement and joy as we lifted our hearts to the Lord in the final minutes before the ceremony began.

 

At about 6:15 my Dad was retrieved from the grooms room where he had been hanging out as they all got ready. The girls left me in the room by myself and I heard my dad’s voice and then he knocked on the door and came in. He has always called me princess and told me I was beautiful, but his expression on his face spoke that to me in a whole new way. ImageHe hugged me and we laughed and teared up a little. He told me I was just as beautiful as my mother was on their wedding day. He also had a dice that he said was from inception that we could use to see if this was a dream or not. Good thing he had that, it seemed so much like a dream, I could hardly believe I was fifteen minutes away from getting married. I also showed him the strand of pearls I had wrapped around my bouquet. The strand’s was my grandmother’s – his mom – who had passed away when I was six. I still remember her so well, and wish she had been there to revel in the fairy tale likeness of this special day. We both were about to cry again. I opened up the door to the other room where the bridesmaids were and we all enjoyed the last few minutes together, laughing, taking silly pictures, and squealing in delight as we anticipated what was to come. (Side note: These were seven of the greatest girls in the world. I was, and still am, so blessed to have each girl in my life. Their support, service, and selfless joy for me was a continual encouragement to me through the whole wedding process and now in the marriage.)

 

The moment came, a little past 6:30, the wedding coordinator came and told me it was time for us to go. We walked through the many odd hallways that church had to get to the entrance of sanctuary.Image I was about to go up the stairs and suddenly all the girls pushed me back down – frantically whispering that Tanner was right there! (He told me later he saw the back of my dress as I hurried back down). I heard his entrance music begin, the epic overture to The Phantom of the Opera, and – hand in hand with my sweet flower girl Noel – started going up the stairs to the sanctuary. I very consciously locked this moment in my memories, looking deliberately at the mason jar lanterns in the windows, feeling little Noel’s hand grasp mine, holding my dress up so as not to trip. And the feelings of giddy joy and twitterpated anticipation heightened with each second. ImageI envisioned each groomsmen walking down the aisle – remembering the late night at the music building Tanner and I timed the song to fit the number of guys he had. Phantom of the Opera always reminded me of him before, and it was easy to envision him in his tux walking down at that moment. Then the Bridesmaids song started with the Piano Guys version of Can’t Help Falling in Love. This was the song I’ve always sat down to play at the piano when I had too many emotions to express as Tanner and I were falling in love last summer. Dr. Menth played it beautifully and I watched each of my friends and sisters walk up the stairs and begin to progress. I was next, I was next! Nate, our great ring bearer, went, and I let go of Noel’s hand and gave her a little nudge to go. Then it was just me and my Dad. I stood a ways back arm in arm as the song before finished so that no one would see me. The music finished and there was a pause. And then the first few notes of the choral song “I Carry Your Heart With Me” – a poem by E. E. Cummings set to music – began. I tried to wait, and then the violin and viola began in place of the original vocalists, and I began to walk. I saw a glimpse of Tanner and then everyone rose and I began to walk quickly…I couldn’t wait to see more of him. And then I got to the aisle and we made eye contact. I remembered to slow my pace and then made my way slowly down the aisle toward my groom. There are moments in this life that are unforgettable. Sometimes because of strong emotions connected with them, sometimes its more to do with the decision that is being made, sometimes it is just beautiful and you can’t help but remembering it for all of life. It was for these reasons and one other that I made this an unforgettable moment in my life. Image Tanner’s face captured my full attention, I saw nothing else, and I will never forget what he looked like. My groom was crying. I had seen him cry only a few times before, and always from sadness. But I looked down that aisle as I saw tears coming down his face I saw also a look of tender affection and deep love. I could tell he was enamored with me. He wanted me. He loved me. And he thought I was beautiful. And I saw nothing else but him. I couldn’t wait to take his hand. My dad told me later he thought I’d pass out I was trembling so much, and I received multiple comments that I was the most excited bride those had people had ever seen. I don’t doubt it. I was more excited than I had ever been in my life. I was the bride walking down the aisle, the bride I had always dreamed and hoped to be. It was me in the white, it was for me that everyone stood. But it wasn’t just the mere act of being a bride that got me excited. It was really whose bride I was that thrilled my soul and resulted in trembly ecstasy. I had wanted to marry Tanner for three years, and for most of that time it seemed as if it was an impossible dream of mine and that it would never come to fruition. I tried to let go of the dream over and over again, I had seen it die and be resurrected multiple times. And so to realize that I was really walking down the aisle toward this man – Tanner Oharah – who I absolutely adored, respected, loved, and enjoyed – was what made my heart so glad and my face so radiant. I truly see myself as the luckiest girl in the world to be the recipient of this man’s love and lifelong devotion. And I was walking towards him to become his wife. I will never forget that moment.

 

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I reached the end of the aisle, the pastor asked who gave me to Tanner and my father answered “her mother and I”. Dad put the veil that had covered my face over my head, kissed my cheek and I told him I loved him.Then my hand was placed in Tanner’s. This is a significant moment in every wedding ceremony but especially for me. My dad has always been my supporter – financially, emotionally and spiritually. “Call Dad” is usually my go to answer for any problem. Suddenly he was sitting down, and Tanner held my hand. And I felt so secure. I knew he would always take care of me. I trusted him with all of me. Image

 

 

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We bowed our heads in prayer (I peeked at my groom a few times just to revel in the moment), and then the pastor began his sermon on marriage, on the gospel, and on covenant relationship. I held Tanner’s hands and looked into his eyes as these solemn and joyous words were being spoken. I was Tanner’s bride, as we all as Christians are the bride of Christ. He was becoming my head, as Christ is the head of the church. I was overwhelmed with joy to begin the journey of representing this picture.

 

We shared in communion and footwashing following the message. It was a special moment, signifying for us our desire and commitment to loving each other in the way that Christ loves – sacrificially and with servant’s heart. ImageAs he broke His body and poured out His blood for us so we will for each other and for others. As He kneeled over in humility and washed the feet of his disciples so we also will for each other.
We had practiced, but not with his dress socks and double knotted shoes, so there was a little humor as the beautiful song All I ask of You played by the strings and piano finished and we were still struggling to get his sock on. But it was endearing and the pastor made us laugh as we waited.

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We joined each other again at the alter, ready to commit to each other for life through solemn vows spoken before God. It was surreal to have this man speaking the words to love and to cherish me, in sickness and in health, in richness and in poorness, foresaking all others, til death do us part, and to speak them back to him. Pastor Dennis reminded us the severity of this covenant, the absoluteness of it, and we committed to it. We are committed to each other, with no option for unfaithfulness or divorce, for all of life. It is a tremendous thing to enter into this with another human. It is a daily reality and I regularly look to the moment where it began with incredible awe and pleasure.Image 

We then got to exchange rings as an outward sign of this inward reality. Dennis held our box open for us to pull the rings which we had so carefully picked out, and as we pledged our life to each other with all that we were we slid the rings on to each other’s fingers.Tanner Greer-2 Ceremony-0138We have not taken them off since.

 

ImageAs Steve Taylor – the Dean of the School of Music at CCU – passionately sang Andrea Bocelli’s beautiful Italian song Con Te Partiro (With You I will go) We symbolized our union by pouring two sands into one jar, and then placing a candle in the jar and lighting it with two separate candles that our mother’s had lit.Therefore a man should leave his father and mother and cling to his wife and the two shall become one. 

ImageWe also had planned on signing the marriage license at this point, something Tanner had forgot as he very deliberately poured the sand. Suddenly the song was almost over so I signed very quickly the marriage license – in the wrong spot. I realized this as Tanner was signing below mine – also in the wrong spot. The expression on my face during these pictures definitely shows the mistake. But the pastor told us we would fix it, and Riley and Blythe signed as our witnesses. We laughed and went on with the ceremony.

 

Ever since I was little Great is Thy Faithfulness has been one of my favorite hymns, and early on in Tanner and my relationship I began to see it as our hymn of thankfulness for the continual grace of God as He worked so faithfully in our relationship. He sang it for several special events last year and the day we got engaged he sang it as I accompanied him during the church service at Cripple Creek Baptist Church. I knew it needed to be sung at our wedding ceremony, and I wanted to be part of the singing so I decided to have it as a congregational hymn. I had my piano teacher Dr. Menth play it on the keyboard as Mr. Dorn – one of our other favorite CCU teachers – played the trumpet. We led it from our spots on the alter and it remains a favorite memory from the wedding. God has been so faithful to us, we have been given so much grace – always undeserved and lavish. I was overcome with gratitude as I held Tanner’s hand on our wedding day, and looked out over two hundred and fifty faces that loved us and supported us continually. I glanced over at Tanner to enjoy the moment and saw tears streaming down his face. His expression of the gratitude for overwhelming grace and faithfulness was a beautiful sight. Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside! Image

 

And then, all the ecstasy and joy at its peak, we were pronounced man and wife and Tanner kissed his bride. Image The audience cheered, and the magical music from Beauty and the Beast began as the pastor introduced for the very first time Mr. and Mrs. Tanner Oharah. And like a real fairy tale with the stained glass behind us we looked into each others eyes and sang: Two lives have begun now, two hearts become one now, one passion one dream one thing forever true, I love you! We exited as the Beauty and the Beast main theme played, and we were husband and wife, with our whole lives ahead of us! Image

 

We went up to the balcony to escape the guests as they exited to the Jurassic Park music, many smiling and waving to us as they did. The photographers got some great portraits as we waited, and once everyone cleared the sanctuary we went back down to take family and wedding party pictures. It was a little chaotic, but some great pictures were captured as we enjoyed the families gathering. All but the wedding party was dismissed, I got my dress bustled and then we headed downstairs to enter the reception. Waiting to be introduced by Ian – my brother and DJ – we heard our favorite Relient K song playing: This is the best thing that could be happening, and I think you will agree, the best thing is that its happening to you and me. “And now for the second time tonight it is my privilege to introduce you to Mr. and Mrs. Tanner Oharah.” ImageThe guests cheered and it was a delightful moment to be so enthusiastically greeted as we took our spots at the head of the banquet table. My Dad opened things in prayer, and then spoke several minutes on his observations of both Tanner and I and blessed our marriage. It was a great speech, full of my dad’s great humor but also very sweet as he added some very touching words to the moment. Tanner’s Dad also spoke and presented us with a beautiful poem of his observations on our relationship (His lack of glasses resulted in Tanner reading it.) It was amazing to see both the insight and pleasure both our father’s had in watching us grow together to marriage. We are very blessed to have such wonderful and godly parents. Following the fathers our matron of honor (my best friend Shea), maid of honor (my sister Blythe) and best man (Tanner’s brother Riley) all gave toasts – each beautiful and very in keeping with their personalities. We are so ImageImageImageblessed by these relationships.

 

The plan was to try to eat some while we were seated at the table, but as soon as the toasts were over friends began coming to greet us.

ImageIt quickly became impossible to eat anything, and it being a Monday evening many people were inclined to leave early to make it home before it got too late. So we decided to move into the next scheduled event: cutting the cake. Neither of us really knew what we were doing, so ended up with a rather uneven, very small piece cut from the bottom of our three tiered cake (appropriately topped with Belle and the Beast) and shoved a bite into each others’ mouths. Other than the one cracker I ate after the toasts it was the only food I had all evening.

 

We then had our first dance – which was Beauty and the Beast, of coursImagee.(I guesImages the subtle theme was not quite as subtle as I intended.) We hadn’t ever really practiced, and I definitely have two left feet when it comes to dancing, but it was a precious moment, rich with magical princess romance

Image as my Prince Charming spun me across the dance floor and my ball gown whirled around gracefully. After spinning me into a dip and giving me a kiss, he gave me over to my dad for a few minutes of dancing. We danced to a song called Its For My Dad by Nancy Sinatra. I had agonized over choosing what we would do, but within the first thirty seconds of hearing this song I was in tears. It spoke of the father’s great character, love and care for his girl throughout her life – certainly fitting to my thoughts of my own dad. We hadn’t practiced either, and he dances about as much as I do (so close to never) but it was a special moment with him that I was incredibly grateful for.ImageTanner and his mom danced next, to the karaoke version of a musical theater song called Love in a Home. (Remember how Ian realized an hour before the wedding he hadn’t actually got these songs from me the day before in between setting up the church and the bachelor party?) The song was supposed to have words and spoke of the warm and loving characteristics of a home, but Ian didn’t know which one to get, so it ended up wordless. Despite that it was the time Tanner had with his mom and the pictures were precious of the two together.And then the dance floor was opened to everyone else, and Tanner and I were swarmed by all of our friends and families wanting to give us a hug, make introductions, take a picture, and offer us congratulations. This was all a blur to me, I remember very little of the conversations, but it was a happy blur. So many people love us and loved the wedding, and I was overwhelmed with how grateful I was for everything. We jumped in a few dances (everyone clap your hands of course, and the Johnson classic – The Bird is the Word), Imagebut most of the evening was spent greeting everyone. Somewhere in here the pastor brought us the marriage license – the part I had signed wrong was whited out and we signed it again. We had our bouquet and garter toss (somehow both my siblings ended up with these…),Image and then began to say final goodbyes to everyone. I made sure Sammi had gotten all my things from the bridal room into Tanner’s car, and gave hugs to as many people as I could. Ian hurried over to confirm the Star Wars song that we wanted to exit to (the throne room from A New Hope, not the Ewok Celebration.)

Imageand our guests grabbed bubbles and made a line outside the doors. The epic song began and we ran to our car (decorated by Riley and Dan with things like “love machine”, “honk for monogamy”, and of course “Just Married” on the back), running through the bubbles and excited cheers.
I somehow got my seven layers of dress into the car closed the door and we drove off through downtown, toilet paper streaming across the windshield and hearts exploding with excitement for all that lay ahead. Image

 

The wedding was truly perfect. Reflecting back on it, looking through photos, and watching the video of the ceremony I am continually overcome by how exactly perfect it was for Tanner and I. Princess mixed with musical mixed with classical music mixed with silliness mixed with joyful solemnity before God. It was everything I had ever hoped for in all my hundreds of wedding daydreams. One of my greatest delights was providing an example of what a fairy tale and Christ-centered wedding could be like for all the little girls in my life that came to the wedding (sisters, cousins, friends’ children, piano students, and little girls that I babysat). I remember the first weddings I went to as a younger girl and beginning to hope and dream for my own. I am very honored to have played that role in a lot of the precious girls’ lives. We were also very encouraged by all the comments, notes, and facebook statuses  that remarked on the Christ-orientedness of our wedding. Our ultimate goal in both our wedding and marriage is to glorify God, we were so excited to begin it in such a way that pointed others to Christ. I loved every minute of the wedding, and watching all the hours of labor that I had put into it over the three months of engagement be fulfilled in such a beautiful and joyous ceremony and celebration.

 

But as I reflect back on the event and all the splendor that came with it I can say honestly that they were right when they said it was only the beginning of a grand adventure. I loved the wedding, but the marriage has been what has stirred my soul, shaped my character, and blessed me more than I could possibly imagine. My husband is truly the most amazing man on earth (sorry to all of you who think your husband might be ;)), and sharing my life with him, “each night, each morning,” has been the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced. In fact it surpasses than all that I could ever dream up, providing me with immeasurably more than all I had ever asked or imagined. It doesn’t mean that each day has been perfect and that our relationship is flawless, but God’s graces have abounded more and more each day and are manifested to me through the patience, kindness, silliness, tendnerness, affection, humor, gentleness, happiness, challenges, and unconditional love given to me by Tanner every day. Every day spent with him is a cherished moment and full of laughter, tears, and overflowing cups. The wedding sometimes seems like a faraway dream – sparkling with romance – but the joy has lasted and increased as I have journey through the first two months of marriage. They were right when they said “the best is yet to come.”

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