Wow, what an intense past six months! If you know me well (or at least follow me on Twitter or Facebook), you’ll know that I got engaged in April, bought a house with my then-fiancé in the end of July, and got married in late September to the former Jennifer Laurin. And only by the grace of God were we able to pull all of that off together in 6 months! We’re crazy…we know.
So, let’s go back about 7 months, and if you haven’t read about The Proposal, be sure to do that. Jen told me that she wanted a “good proposal story” to tell, so she got one!
The Engagement (Wedding Planning)
What an experience! This period of time caused the most significant changes in our relationship. Almost one to two days following my proposal to Jen, a new dynamic in our relationship formed. We were no longer a dating couple, looking to see where the Lord would guide us (bluntly speaking: marriage or a breakup); we had now moved to a point where we had to learn how to rely on each other for our future lives together. The largest factor to this new dynamic was the wedding planning experience. We knew we needed to set a date, pick a location, and determine if purchasing a new home or renting would be for us.
The first order of business was to set a date. We quickly narrowed down our time-frame to September, October, or November of 2011. However, picking a location was not nearly as simple. It probably didn’t help that I went down to Florida for a week on business, only after being engaged for one week. This ultimately left Jen alone to search for a location that pleased us both. Major…disaster. Tears flowed, tensions rose, anxiety began to set in. You see, we never discussed what we each had in mind and continuously nixed each other’s suggestions. Our lives never focused on somebody else before, it was always on ourselves. A huge learning curve began to occur. We eventually picked a location for the ceremony (Impact Christian Church) and reception (Fairview Sunset Room) and the process of lining up all the other details began to work themselves out. Business was underway.
Business, that’s how our relationship could be summed up at times. Our relationship seemed to focus on “getting things done” rather than “spending time together”. We talked about this openly and how we couldn’t wait for it to end. Many times we got frustrated. There seemed to be less love and more work. Nobody ever told us this hidden secret. Fortunately for us, we went to Pre-Marital Counseling with Pastor Herb Shaffer, Jen’s pastor since she was little, and we began to put into context our new dynamic of a relationship. Herb challenged us each session with various books to read and other Christian insight. This time with Herb helped us focus on each other, understand ourselves better, and most importantly, learn to understand each other better. This was the perfect way to begin our Christian marriage. This was a great way to push off the business relationship Jen and I had unwillingly formed, and begin growing to work towards the other person’s needs, not our own.
If I could give a single piece of advice to any engaged couple, it would be to go to Pre-Marital Counseling. If you truly love your future spouse, you will put aside your proud attitude, begin to desire to learn about your future spouse and yourself, and be willing to focus on their needs and not yours. Don’t be selfish, give yourself to them!
Through our prayers and discussions, we felt purchasing a house was the Lord’s current will for us. We narrowed our area to the Pittsburgh Airport area. Thanks to my buddy Tom, he hooked us up with a great realtor, Laura Palmer, and the search was on!
From what I’ve heard, as with all first time home buyers, our “wants” for a new home continued to change as we continued to see houses. A few things never did change for us though: 2 car garage, outdoor living space (porch/deck/etc.), flat yard, 3 bedrooms, 2+ bathrooms (1 master). We told our realtor those requirements from the start and she later told us that she didn’t think we’d find all that in our price range, even though she worked super hard in helping us find those items!
Somewhere around our sixth or seventh house viewing, Jen and I stepped into our current home. It was PERFECT! It had everything we wanted, plus more (pool, flat driveway, not in a neighborhood, wood trim throughout)! Laura even thought this house was perfect for us. And to top things off, the home was in our price range already!
Everything Jen and I discussed about what we wanted our relationship to consist of, it focused on following Christ. In this instance, we believed setting up a permanent home and being good stewards of the money He’d given us was what He wanted.
Therefore, coming up with an offer based upon our principles would need to be made. Based upon our extremely limited knowledge of home prices, we felt the current asking price was too high. This view was strengthened when we found out the current owner’s initial purchase price and what enhancements she had made since buying the home. So, obviously, we put in a lower offer and it was countered. We countered again to a price we felt was fair. It was not the top of our budget and we could have gone higher. However, we didn’t feel the house was worth the top of our budget. We were prepared to walk away if the seller asked for more because we didn’t want to overspend the Lord’s money. Then a second offer came in and we were asked to get into a bidding war. We decided it was worth it; however, we decided we weren’t going to raise our offer! We were sticking to our principles and weren’t going to budge, despite our extreme interest in the home. As it turned out, the seller rejected both offers and everybody walked away! Jen and I could have gone up in our offer but we had been in continual prayer and felt we hadn’t prayed about more money and to go higher was not the Lord’s will, as it would be to overpay. We were extremely comfortable with our decision, as we believed (and still do) we were following the Lord.
A few weeks later, after viewing more homes, and gaining a better understanding of the market, we began to realize the house we had presented an offer to, appeared to be a very good deal. So Jen and I prayed again; could we be going back to that house and presenting more money after we believed it was best to walk away? Ultimately, we went back, and raised our offer, and it was accepted! But why the change, had we not believed the Lord’s will to not offer more, earlier? We felt the Lord was ultimately testing our faith. We initially felt we would be overpaying for this home (as did our Realtor!) and wanted to be good stewards of His money, so we walked. Through more time searching and learning, we came to believe the house would be a financially good purchase. We believed this through endless prayer and talking to our parents, who gave us great Christian perspectives! Our understanding was the Lord wanted to make sure we were prepared to be responsible with His money. Jen and I know that this house will be used for the Lord’s purposes. We’re not exactly sure how yet, but we want to honor the Lord here in our home!
So, through an extremely condensed time-frame of interest rate shopping, filling out the mortgage application, and submitting required documents to the lender, we closed in less than 30 days! Yes, amazing, nobody else could believe it either, especially on top of the fact that we were planning a wedding at the same time! Only through the Lord was this even possible. We know He has a plan for us; we just need to continue faithfully following Him.
What a day! I don’t remember most of it, other than the feeling of “fun”!
For Jen and I, our wedding day had mostly become a formality and the beginning of us not having to drive home from the other’s house at very late hours! We knew we loved each other, neither of us was scared and the only sense of nervousness was the fact we were in front of a large crowd of friends and we’d have to kiss!
We both wanted this day to be about Christ, and we wanted everybody to know it. Many people today are hostile towards marriage. Some joke but you know they’re serious, others flat out assault this covenant. Therefore, we wanted to present marriage for what it was designed for, a covenant between two people and God. We both believed that a holy marriage could bring each of us into a closer relationship with Jesus, not just with each other. Our vows to each other on this day were to support each other, to be in this until death, all through the power of Christ. We’re setting out for our marriage to be more than good times, sex, dinner each night, a clean home, and a date every Friday night. Times will become frustrating, difficult, or both; we know that, we don’t live in a box. Therefore, we wanted to express to each other and those there sharing that day with us, that Love Never Fails.
With that mindset, our ceremony was designed by Herb to exemplify those principles. The ceremony itself was great! We each shed some tears, I hopped over Jen’s train while on stage, Jason “lost” the ring, and Herb called us both accountants. Memorable, personal, and typical us; it was perfect!
Jen and I had a great group of bridesmaids and groomsmen. Talk about a painful decision in determining which people you would ask to be a part of your day. Thanks again to everybody involved!
The reception was a blast; however Jen and I hardly recall it! We talked to so many people and danced like crazy, it was just a whirlwind! The bridal party walked into, well “danced” into, “All My Rowdy Friends” by Hank Williams Jr. And Jen and I came strutting in with black and yellow Terrible Towels to the song “Black and Yellow” by the Pittsburgh native and rapper, Wiz Khalifa. We don’t think anybody expected that song from us two country music lovers!
We received numerous comments from the reception hall staff, family members, and friends that the reception was a blast. I even had one of mom’s cousins tell me that “I was the man!” because the reception was so fun! Jen and I were so happy to hear that. This was a party, let’s do it up! My biggest regret during the reception was that I never got to have anything from the dessert buffet that I had personally picked. I am still suffering from this fact.
Anyways, the reception ended and we went to our hotel for the night. Wait….I’ll stop there!
After six long months of stress, planning, preparing, and praying, it was time to finally relax and play! We picked out Maui for the honeymoon. We felt Maui was the best compromise between Jen’s beach need and my adventure need! We got to see many of Maui’s beautiful beaches, snorkeled, drove the Hana Highway (in a Mustang convertible!), toured Oahu, Pearl Harbor, and saw more beaches. It was a perfect trip after a long summer.
So where are we now? Well, Jen and I haven’t even been married two months, but we love being newlyweds. We’ve been out to New Jersey, are planning the upcoming holidays, and are doing a bit of church shopping. We want to make sure we’re attending and serving wherever the Lord wants us and so we’re just doing our due diligence there. We can’t wait to call a church our permanent home. We just need to know that’s exactly where we belong. We’re excited and very eager to jump into serving alongside each other as well. While we work through this process and beyond, we want to continue to serve Jesus through our marriage!
I can’t wait for forever with this girl!
Jen and I on the island of Oahu, on Sunset Beach.
Jen video taped me when I got selected to go on stage, bag a drum, and scream in some crazy language at the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu.
Jen video taping me receiving my award at the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu.
The oven roasting our dinner, a pig, at the Old Lahaina Luau, back on Maui.