Our Fifteen Year Anniversary Celebration – The Outer Banks, North Carolina


May 16, 2017

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This post has been a long time coming! It is very dear to my heart. This coming October marks fifteen years of marriage for my husband and I. So we decided to celebrate early at the beach. Late last year, my parents suggested a group of us renting a large beach house for all (including my brother, mother-in-law, best friend and friends) to vacation for a week in the Outer Banks. YES. Great idea! Since our closest peeps would be there, we thought that this is the perfect time to celebrate our 15 years together a little early…closer to our proposal date…at the “pink house.”

(Photo: Stephanie Messick)

Fast forward to May and here we are, enjoying an amazing week together at the beach. My parents, brother, mother-in-love, best friend and her son (while her hubby and daughter were with his parents at Disney World!), and more friends. Early May isn’t exactly hot but it was just warm enough to enjoy the beach, the heated pool and the hot tub. The first half of the week we had perfect weather with the best day being Wednesday, the day of our celebration. After that, it rained the rest of the time…(but don’t worry, we enjoyed the aquarium and more indoor fun activities).

(Photos: Yours Truly)

We had a lot of fun preparing for our day and I made most of the preparations before we left. And it was also so much fun to watch my friend Alyssa put together bouquets for my bestie and I the night before…I had the bouquet with my favorite stem since I first saw it in a Hawaiian photograph years and years ago..the King Protea. And did I mention that Alyssa was with us on this trip as well as my friend, Stephanie Messick (our amazing photographer) and Jess, Jon and Luke Brose of Main Street Weddings? Having such creative friends makes for a fun trip! And of course, our dear friends, the Moberleys were with us…we were actually at the beach with them when Angela was pregnant with their oldest daughter, Ava years ago! It was like a reunion. And of course, having my best friend and her amazing son with us for the week (her birthday week!) was a dream come true…

(Photos: Yours Truly)

Wednesday was perfect. I had planned to treat myself and my bestie to something I didn’t do at my own wedding…professional hair and make up. Now that I’ve experienced it (I’ve only done it once before for my maternity photos), I would NEVER do without it on a wedding day! I am not a super “pamper me” type so this was pretty special. And what a job Diana did…she is amazing.

After hair and make up, I had some special letters and gifts for my bestie, brother, parents and mother-in-love. I also had a little surprise letter and gift for Ben. And then before heading to Manteo for Part Two, I had to have my biggest request of the day…to have a first look with my son and husband. Seeing Judah all dressed up in his suspenders and bow tie was just the best…right alongside his incredibly handsome daddy…looking as dapper as ever and I dare say, even more handsome today than when we were first married. And Judah was amazing the whole day! I think he may have had as much fun as we did.

(Photos: Stephanie Messick)

Then we were off the the ceremony site…the beloved Elizabethan Gardens. Might I add that the folks here were absolutely wonderful to work with, as was each vendor! The cost of an event here is remarkably affordable and we all sat in gold chiavari chairs rented from Renee Landry Events.

I love the gardens…and it was here where we reaffirmed our vows in front of family and friends. We also read names from a clear acrylic “book” I had made and repurposed from grad school. The names were people we love who couldn’t be there because they have already gone from here into Heaven. D.J. Moberley was our “officiant” and did an amazing job with our service. I am including them at the bottom of this crazy long post because I had such a hard time finding good wording online for vow renewals and just wrote our own from scratch…to better reflect us and our family. And I am taking a pause in writing now to share our affirmation vows here (but then read on for more!):

Ben’s words to Michelle:

“Michelle, Here we are, almost 15 years later, and I have the opportunity to say ‘I do’ to you and to our marriage again. In the past 15 years, you have loved me unconditionally. You have cared for me; you have encouraged me; you have been faithful to me and to God. You are a fantastic mother to our son and you are a fantastic wife to me. I promise to do my best to be the husband you deserve, to love you, to care for you, to provide for you and for Judah, and to be the man God made me to be. I love you with all my heart and I say, ‘Yes. I do.’”

Michelle’s words to Ben:

“Ben, I remember when I first knew I was in love with you. I was driving by your house and saw what looked like you running carefree in circles in front of your parents’ house. I thought you were just being ridiculous and I laughed out loud and felt a strange sensation in my heart and I knew that I wanted to marry you then. And then sometime after we were married I told you about it and you told me you were just running from your house to your parents house. So basically you tricked me into falling in love!

And here we are 15 years later, and I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t married you. So thank you, Linda (and Leonard), for raising the man of my dreams. Thank you mom and dad for encouraging me to marry someone who would love God and family. Thank you Diane and all of my friends and family who have encouraged me along the way to not ‘follow my heart’ but follow God’s and marry the person who would be the most faithful, loving husband and father of my little boy.

I have thought many times about something Becca Stables told some Younglife girls once…that the one of the most important questions you should ask yourself about the person you are marrying is ‘So is this person someone I can go through the struggles of life with?’ And I can firmly say ‘yes’ to that. We have been through many trials. And though you have suffered, you have been a rock of bravery, courage, strength and humility. You have taught me that the apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 4:12-13 are one of the greatest truths I could begin to comprehend…’I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.’ Your strength has never been in yourself, what you can do or how you can fix things, but in a quiet steady confidence in the one who made us.

And while other wives may worry about unfaithfulness, unforgiveness, greed, jealousy, meanness, etc….I don’t. You have never once, not once called me a mean name, shunned me or disrespected me. Yes, we have argued. But I think we both know that you are the more level-headed and wise one in our relationship. Your integrity, your kindness and your commitment to your family shines bright in a world that becomes dimmer. You are faithful, kind, welcoming, and you choose to put others above your own needs consistently. You do things for your co-workers that they would never do for you and you realize that life is not about avoiding tragedy and staying in your own comfort zone. You encourage others and all you have to say is valuable. Any time I have ever asked to open our home, time or anything else for someone you never say no. You have supported me in all the hats I have worn. You have respected and loved me more than yourself.

In all of our adventures together, I remember how you always try to make the best out of every situation. I remember the great things in our lives together and I can barely remember life before you most days…I remember when you proposed and you looked so cute in your skinny tie! I remember our early trips to the OBX, Arizona, Florida…and our tenth anniversary week in New York! I remember our concerts together and our bed and breakfast trips. I remember when you first tried Thai food and you liked it…and then you moved on from Pad Thai to curries! I remember our ‘camping’ adventure in the back yard with the dogs and how we lasted until 3:00 in the morning. I remember building our house together and both of us having the same taste in everything! I remember when Judah was born and how indescribable the moment was.

And I love how you bring me surprise coffees. I love the way you show Judah a fun-filled day when I have a wedding. I love the fact that during my dinner break at a wedding I can look at my phone and see the pics and videos you send me of Judah. I love the way you don’t like your grey hair while I love it. I love how you visit your mom regularly. I love how you hate the sand but love being at the beach. I love the way you are almost always right, but don’t rub it in. I love the way you have to have the most expensive TP. I love the way you send me texts during the day. I love the way you sing and play the guitar. I love your sense of humor. And I almost love the way you flip shoes. I love the way that you don’t just keep talking like I do, but you get to the point!

So while I know there will be more trials, I also know that God still leads me through the valley and He has paired us for this road ahead and for however long we have together until (as Howie says)…we pass from life into real life, I couldn’t be happier to do so with you. You are the man of my dreams. You give me a deeper understanding of Christ’s love for the church and you make Philippians 2:3 a reality for me every day. ‘Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.’

I love you and I can’t wait for more adventures together!”

(Photo: Stephanie Messick)

After our service, we had time for photos with sweet Stephanie and then we went back to the house for our outdoor reception. Of course we had to have our favorite…Bad Bean…a staple of ours since coming to the beach years ago to visit with friends. When I arrived and looked out the window, I choked up immediately…I literally couldn’t believe what Alyssa, Jess and Jon had created…it was a beautiful outdoor sanctuary for us to dine together outside. Oh my goodness was it special. And Alyssa is a floral genius!

(Photo: Stephanie Messick)

We all ate under the cafe lights in what was a volleyball sand pit transformed into this beautiful space! Eating Bad Bean together as a group was the perfect way to celebrate. And then Diane (my amazing bestie) had the best idea…to cut the cake together! Umm…how about a new tradition…best friends cutting the cake! Some of us also shared drinks in the hot tub and a late night run to the beach!

What an amazing day and week. Thanks to my friends and family, we celebrated in the most incredible way. And thanks to Stephanie, I have photos of our family I will treasure forever, compile in an heirloom album, hang on our walls…these are the most important part of our inheritance for our son! They are just priceless!

I am overwhelmed with these images…scroll down to see many more by the talented Stephanie Messick!!!!

In case you are wondering about our wonderful vendors, look no further and wonder no more!

Photographer: Stephanie Messick Photography

Ceremony Venue: The Elizabethan Gardens

Reception Venue: A Private Beach House

Florals, Decor and Planning: The Posey Detail

Cafe Lighting, Linens and Decor: Main Street Linens

Farm Tables, Chairs and China: Renee Landry Events

Hair and Make Up: OBX Hair and Make Up

Cake: Great Cakes OBX

Catering: Bad Bean Baja Grill

Bridal Shoes: Betsey Johnson

Bridal Gown: Renz

Bridal Sash: That’s My Dress!

Groom’s Attire: Jos. A. Banks

Ribbons: Harriet’s General and Anne’s Buttons and Bows

Invitation Suite: Michelle Lieb, Lieb Photographic

Calligraphy for Invitation Suite: Farmstead Design Studio

Guest Book: Michelle Lieb, Lieb Photographic

Acrylic Box of Tribute Names: Michelle Lieb, Lieb Photographic

Guest Book: Michelle Lieb, Lieb Photographic

Lollipops: Laccare Lollipops

And here is our ceremony:

Ben and Michelle’s Celebration of 15 Years of Marriage – Order of Service

Officiant: Greeting: “We gather here today, in the presence of God, family and friends to recognize and celebrate the marriage vows that Ben and Michelle exchanged nearly 15 years ago. Through the triumphs and trials of life, they have found the strength in God and in their love and commitment to each other to endure and to enjoy all that has come their way. Today they have come before God and before us to publicly affirm their marriage here in the Outer Banks, an area that has special memories for them. So now as we gather here together, we ask God’s blessing on their marriage and their family as we look to the future.

Ben and Michelle would also like to acknowledge family and friends who have passed from life into real life and are not able to be here today with us…”

Ben and Michelle: Ben and Michelle read the names.

Officiant: Prayer: Let us pray: (sample…please please please feel free to change this as God leads, DJ)

“God, for the joy of this occasion we thank you. For the meaning of this day we thank you. For this important moment in an ever growing relationship we thank you. For your presence here and now, we thank you. In the name of Jesus, Amen.”

Officiant: Charge to the husband and wife:

“Ben and Michelle, you have been married now for almost 15 years, and through all the years of your journey together you have now come to this beautiful setting so that you could renew your vows and commitment of love for each other.”

“Ben and Michelle, I remind you that marriage is a precious gift, a lifelong dedication to choose to love and a daily challenge to love one another more fully. You have already shown your faithfulness to each other and your commitment to your family in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, and for better or worse and have kept yourselves solely unto each other.

You have experienced the miracle of your son and the responsibilities of parenting. You have experienced suffering, loss, joy, humor, pain, happiness, grief, long-suffering, kindness and love together. You have chosen to grow closer together during all of these years and move forward together in life. You have not done it all perfectly but you have forgiven each other along the way.

With this understanding, do you Ben chose to continue to love Michelle as your beloved wife…the bride of your youth for the rest of your life? Will you continue to be a tender and faithful husband? Will you continue to love and cherish her, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse, and keep yourself solely unto her? Will you continue to parent and love your son, Judah in the knowledge and love of God?”

Ben: “I will”

Officiant: “With this understanding, do you Michelle continue to love Ben as your beloved husband…the husband of your youth for the rest of your life? Will you continue to be a supportive and faithful wife? Will you continue to love and cherish him, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse, and keep yourself solely unto him? Will you continue to parent and love your son, Judah in the knowledge and love of God?”

Michelle: “I will”

Officiant: “Now that you have declared your intentions to continue in faithfulness, I invite you to share some words of affirmation with one another.”

Ben read.

Michelle read.

Officiant: Exhortation:

“God designed marriage to be a reflection of Jesus’ love for His Church. Continue now in your marriage to walk closer to Him as you also draw near to each other, thus leaving a legacy of love for your son as well. Follow the example Jesus gave as we read in Philippians 2:3-8 “ Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well. You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death even death on a cross!”

“Ben and Michelle, Serve each other in selfless love. Encourage each other rather than criticize. Pray for each other. Learn and live what Christ teaches about relating to and loving each other. Focus on asking God to change your heart as you pray for your spouse’s. Remember to trust, speak the truth in love and respect each other. Keep a short account. Forgive. Resolve everything before you go to bed. Compliment each other. Use gentle words. Rejoice in every moment together…even when it’s a sacrifice. Choose each other over yourself. Do not cling to your own way. Choose to love.”

Officiant: Pronouncement:

“Inasmuch as you Ben, and you Michelle, have reaffirmed your commitment in holy matrimony and have witnessed the same before God and these friends, it is my honor to recognize your continued commitment to one another as husband and wife. Do the family and friends gathered here agree to encourage Ben and Michelle in their marriage and support them as husband and wife?”

Friends and Family: “We do.”

Officiant: “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate. You may kiss your bride!”

Ben and Michelle Kiss

Officiant: Closing prayer…

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