For months, I had been anxiously awaiting the release of The Vow (to which every preview gave me chills) starring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum. I looove Rachel McAdams and honestly, what isn’t there to love about Channing Tatum? But I digress… I finally got to see the movie. And, at first, I was a little disappointed in the ending. It wasn’t the way it ended necessarily but the fact that it just ended. I wanted more. At least another seven minutes or so. Time enough for one more kiss… a look at their future… a happy ever after… something. And then it hit me. Happy ever after isn’t a one-shot-boom-your-done type of thing. (We can blame Walt Disney for sinking our teeth into that one.) A happy ever after is ongoing. It’s a continuing process.
There is this common misconception that after you meet someone, after you fall in love, after you get married, it’s happy ever after and the end. But it’s not, it’s not the end. Books, movies and Walt Disney have it all wrong. Meeting someone, falling in love, getting married, these are all incredibly happy moments, but they’re not your happy ever after. In fact, these moments are just the beginning. The beginning of your relationship, the beginning of your love, the beginning of your marriage and life together, in that order. Happy ever after isn’t a destination, it’s a journey. And watching Paige (McAdams) and Leo (Tatum) walk away arm-in-arm down the road together in the gently falling snow, I realized that. Because somehow, someway, despite the odds, they found their way back to each other. They received a second chance at their journey
to happy ever after of happy ever after. (You see what I did there?)
Now, I want you to take a moment and think about your love. Whether you’re in a relationship, engaged or married. Think about your journey of happy ever after, your love story, the two phrases of which can now be used interchangeably I guess. Think about how you first met, your first date, your first kiss, your last. What if (and perish the thought) those memories were taken from you? What if you couldn’t remember that the person standing in front of you was your husband/wife? What if you couldn’t remember the details, the little and the big? What if you couldn’t remember your life together? What if?
The story of The Vow (and no, this is not a spoiler) revolves around a woman, whom after a horrific car accident cannot remember her husband, their marriage, their life together, the fact that she’s a vegetarian, or the last five years; and a man, determined to make his wife fall in love with him again.
I asked those scary questions above because memories are wonderful. But memories can also be taken from us in the most awful and unfair ways imaginable. Brain trauma, old age, dementia, amnesia, Alzheimer’s disease. There are so many ways in which memories can be ripped from your brain, from your heart. It’s awful and completely unfair, but it can happen.
What would you do if your memories were just gone? What if you couldn’t trust the people around you to tell you about them because you don’t know them? In the movie, Paige (McAdams) asks Leo (Tatum) if she kept a journal, to see proof of their life together. She didn’t. Too bad Paige didn’t have the foresight to write all of those important details down like Allie (also played by McAdams in The Notebook) did. But Allie knew her memories were going to fade, Paige had no way of knowing hers would just vanish one day.
All of the air left my lungs during that scene where she asks him about a journal. When I started this blog it was because I wanted to know what was behind the shared looks and soft smiles of every bride and groom. I wanted to know their love story. Every real wedding or engagement I feature, I ask the couple to fill out a love story questionnaire. Sometimes they come back to me fully detailed and many pages long. Other times I get bullet points. Sometimes I get an email from the bride that says oh, our love story is boring or we don’t really have one. Hearing that breaks my heart. Because you do, you do have a love story. Every couple does. Whether you are a celebrity couple, or one of royalty with a fairytale love story like Will and Kate, or just your average Jane and Joe; your love story is great because it’s your own.
It’s why I do what I do. Weddings are not about the details. They are made up of details, which can be pretty amazing and insanely gorgeous, to which no wedding is complete without them. But weddings are about love. They have always been and always should be about two hearts becoming one, about the beginning of a life together, about taking that next step on the journey of happy ever after. It’s why I live to share the details of your love, of everything that led up to that very special day, and why I always will.
I encourage you now to do a couple of things.
First, I encourage you, either on your own or with your significant other, to write down your journey of happy ever after, your love story. Get a notebook and write down all of the details, the little and the big, that you can remember. It doesn’t have to be in chronological order (you’ll probably remember something one day that you didn’t remember the day before) and it doesn’t have to be all at once, but do it. Write down how you first met, what you did on your first date, how you felt after your first kiss. Write down how it feels to be in that person’s arms, going to sleep in and waking up in them. Write down all of the events (the big) and the moments (the little) that brought you to one of the happiest days of both of your lives. Write down how he proposed. Write about how you felt. Write down all of the details leading up to and everything about your wedding day. Write down the vows you read to each other that day (especially if you wrote them yourselves, which I HIGHLY recommend you do). Write down all of the things you want to remember in ten, twenty and fifty years from now.
I’m not saying to do this in case something awful and unfair happens, I’m saying do this because you owe it to yourself and your love to do so.
Second, I encourage you to continue that journal throughout your lives together. Remember, your happy ever after is a journey, not a destination. Your love story doesn’t end on your wedding day. So keep writing. All of the little and the big things, whatever they may be. In fifty years from now, I can almost guarantee you are going to love rereading those events, those moments, those memories of the two of you. Almost as much as you’ll love looking through the photographs of your life together, your wedding album. Almost as much as you’ll love sharing both of these things (your words and your photographs) with your children and your children’s children and so on.
Most of all though, I encourage you to never doubt your love, to never believe it ordinary. Your love story is extraordinary because it’s your own. Remember that yours is a once in a lifetime love. Remember that happy ever after isn’t a destination, it’s a journey. And it’s just beginning…
*These are movie still from the original motion picture: The Vow (2012). Found here.