At first glance, I was pretty certain this wedding took place at a far away French chateau. But after reading the sweet words from the bride (you must read their love story!) I learned that instead of a destination wedding, they brought their dream destination to Ohio. Complete with a soft palette, romantic calligraphy and an elegant garden setting, this day shot by Justine Milton and filmed by Little Tree Studios is an absolute dream come true.
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From The Bride… I met Michael in the 7th grade, I must have just turned twelve.
Michael walked in the side doors at our church group and I knew he was new. He had big “mushroom” like hair and a lanyard out of his cargo shorts. I welcomed him to the group and left before he was swarmed by the other middle school girls. That was the start of our friendship.
My Teta, grandmother, told me once that the beautiful relationships start as buds and then bloom. I can tell you she was right about ours, except that maybe the blooming part took a little longer than Michael might have liked.
Michael and I’s relationship consisted of me dodging his throws during dodge ball (unsuccessfully) and visiting Steak and Shake on Wednesday nights until my parents sent me to Worthington Christian for high school. Michael was one of the two people I knew at the school. Michael walked me to class on my first day and nearly every day after that.
During our first class together (Spanish), we talked about guitar, Michael told me how he only played electric and he’d never sing in front of people. I told him that I liked acoustic and he should sing and play, I told him I’d play with him. A week after, Michael was playing acoustic and singing “Better together” with me before school…I should have known.
Slowly, we became best friends. We studied together, challenged each other, distracted each other in class, called one another with broken high school hearts, sang in choirs, planned each other’s dates, debated theology, played in bands, attended each other’s sporting events, grew to love the same friends and ate lunch on the floor of the hallways together.
Michael and I were teased by everyone in the school. The girls on my soccer team would spot us and giggle. At our senior gala everyone clinked their glasses as a friend started a toast by saying, “Dearly beloved we are gathered here today…” (I was so embarrassed that I can’t remember the rest). It didn’t help that I wore a white dress and Michael a black suit… (Note: Michael asked me to spring gala the first day after Christmas break).
Two days before graduation, as we were sitting on the front of my car after his baseball game he looked at me and told me he “loved me and wanted to marry me”. I responded by telling him I didn’t feel the same way and I wanted to forget he’d ever said anything so we could just keep being friends (ouch, I know. Michael doesn’t remember this so either he blocked it from his memory or I thought it instead of saying it out loud. You might say that moment is a bit of a blur for both of us.) Yes, graduation was awkward.
Michael says this phase in life should be titled, “The escape from the friend zone”. I’m stubborn but Michael is persistent. Soon flowers would show up in my dorm room, letters would be sent, and no matter what function I went attended – Michael would be there too.
The phrase “distance makes the heart grow fonder” couldn’t be more true.
Michael moved to Terre Haute, Indiana – 254 miles away – our first year of college while I stayed in Columbus. Before the first month of undergrad was even over, I realized I missed him terribly. Michael became a constant pixelated face on my computer screen. We’d talk till 2 in the morning, meet each other’s new friends, and of course – study. Michael played baseball at his university and I made a visit to him in Indiana. When I got there to see him, he picked me up and spun me around, I knew something had changed.
November 23, we starting dating outside of La Chatelaine, thus began our four year long-distance relationship. (And there was much rejoicing by all of you). During those four years, Michael grew a beard, cut his “mushroom” hair and learned to eat spinach. I finally got my A in calculus and learned an umpire wasn’t called a “ref”.
We studied on Skype for hours on end (sorry for all of you who’s internet connection suffered as a result). We decided that we wanted to love Jesus most and each other second. We drove to each other’s universities for weekend trips. We had picnic dates on the river bank in the summer. We started ONELIFE, now POINT, together. We hiked. We grew with the Lord. We danced on top of the roof. We lost loved ones. We (I) tried to make Michael mad at me, but it never worked. We invested time on our campuses. We jumped the fence and snuck onto the baseball field after dark. We valued our friends. We built things, Michael a robotic foot- me a company. We learned about each other’s cultures. We looked at mountains we wanted to visit. We began to love each other’s families. We traveled. We learned how to cook.
We wrote letters. We prayed together. We fell in love.
Remember those mountains? On the morning of my birthday, Michael gave me a map with the mountains circled in it. We headed out to Colorado a month later. There on the last day of the trip, in a valley quite like the photos we exchanged in college he said, “Remember I told you I loved you and wanted to marry you? I mean it more today” and with that he asked me to marry him. (And obviously I said yes, though I just stood there in shock for a few seconds and forgot there was a ring involved). (And yes, he asked my dad first).
Growing up together is an odd thing. The boy I met in middle school isn’t the man I’m marrying today. And, I’m positive I’m not same girl either. This has been our first year living in the same city as a couple. Michael is back in Columbus at Ohio State for his doctorate in biomedical engineering and I’m trying to change how society connects with charity through a social media app.
We are more than happy to have put Skype to rest and be 10 minutes away from each other again. This year we’ve ran races, hosted dinner parties, made business plans, explored Columbus, planned our wedding and best of all – seen each other every week.
So when you see us walking down the aisle, I hope you feel the Lord’s blessing as we do.We have been blessed these past ten years with a story that has turned into the most beautiful bloom.
My favorite moments of the day were simple. After we walked down the aisle, Michael and I walked in the gardens by ourselves and hid under a tree. That moment seemed to stand in time and in my memory. I loved standing in the dressing room with my bridesmaids looking at them all dressed up! It felt surreal! When everyone was dancing, the dance floor was so crowded Michael and I danced in the grass together, I was barefoot and my hair was flying everywhere but it was a perfect moment. We loved that Michael’s groomsmen and my cousin provided live music for our first dance. I loved running out to the car together, tossing my bouquet and getting to see everyone who had stayed to send us off. As I write these out I know there are more favorite moments that I’m forgetting!
My grandmother, who we called Teta, would have loved to be with us on our wedding day. Growing up in Egypt and attending a French school, she loved French fashion and it’s no surprise I do too. We chose our venue because of the French Provincial Architecture and honestly, the hand painted wallpaper in the dining room imported from France. It’s sometimes the small things that trigger your memories.
While I was getting ready Michael sent over his wedding gift to me. It was a pendent to fasten to my bouquet that held my grandmother’s wedding picture with a note that said “So that she can be with us on our special day”. We all cried, but it was a beautiful reminder of her. As I write this now I still tear up.
Michael and I must have been thinking along the same lines, because I asked the flower girls to deliver his grandfather’s pocketknife, which he kept in his jacket pocket during the ceremony. Along with the knife was a journal with my thoughts and prayers for him over the last 5 years. I started it addressing the entries to my future husband before Michael and I had started dating.
The musicians were all friends and family. What a blessing they were! My sister’s friends, 14-year-old twins, Isaiah and Daniel Wu, and my friend, Stephan Spottswood from college played during the ceremony. Michael’s friend, Caleb, played “You are My Sunshine” for the parents’ dance. My cousin, Lauren, and Caleb play “Better Together” (the first song Michael and I played together in the 9th grade) as our first dance.
We were married on May 23rd at half past four, on our four and a half year dating anniversary. Clever right? The officiants were three of the pastors that have we have known in different seasons of our lives. My uncle flew from Egypt to be with us on the wedding day and give the sermon. One pastor was from the church where we first met and the other from where we attend now. We chose to have Song of Songs 8:6-8 as our reading:
Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm.
For love is as strong as death,
its jealousy as enduring as the grave.
Love flashes like fire,
the brightest kind of flame.
Many waters cannot quench love,
nor can rivers drown it.
If a man tried to buy love
with all his wealth,
his offer would be utterly scorned.
As per Egyptian tradition, we gave sugar-coated almonds to our guests as a small token of thanks! To practice my new initial, I painted gold “B”s on the bags. After 300, I think I’ve got a cursive B down. I tried to bring bits of my family and heritage into the day in my own way.
I was a romantic little girl growing up. I loved dresses, lace, big open blooms, gardens, books like The Secret Garden and movies like Robin Hood. I think that romantic side resurfaced while preparing for our wedding. I chose soft open white blooms for our wedding day. We were blessed to have that as our family and friends arranged the flowers for our day. Even the greens were selected with love, my mother-in-law searched the whole city to find one maiden hair fern for my bouquet. It was such a special gift to have loved ones play a visible roll in our wedding day.
I had always heard the search for bridesmaid dresses was difficult, but I wasn’t prepared for how challenging it would be. For bridesmaids of different heights, body types, and skin tones we gave up trying to find the right dress ready-made. I’m sometimes too ambitious for my own good, and I decided that I would design the dresses myself. I’ve never spent so much time in a fabric store in my life. The dresses came to life with the skills of Cloty Julca and Christine McWherter, who stood with me for hours in the middle of the fabric store and sewed for countless hours more.
I designed the tablescape with inspiration from many fine art workshops I’ve seen. My mom and I made the table runner and the place settings were to have pops of gold in the flatware, plates and thin-stemmed candle holders. Our place settings had thin-rimmed glasses which I collected before the wedding!
It’s been a record summer for rain in Ohio. Our weather is known to be temperamental to start. When we told our parents we wanted to marry outdoors in May, they weren’t enthusiastic. We didn’t even have a back up tent but the weather was the most perfect day it has been all year. So forget the dress, the weather was the most talked about detail of the wedding and still is.
We couldn’t believe how many guests stayed to see us off! Our guests cheered and lined the front of the house as we neared the car I tossed my bouquet. It was simple and exciting, a perfect way to end the night!
Photography: Justine Milton | Cinematography: Little Tree Studios | Event Coordination: Umbrella Barrel | Bride's Shoes: Schutz | Makeup: Columbus Wedding Makeup | Band: Stephan Spottswood | Venue: Kingwood Center | Event Planning + Styling: Birds & Honey