SHE DANCED UNTIL MIDNIGHT By Lori A Alicea

She danced until midnight.

In the arms of her prince, she danced and she danced.

In the crowded ballroom, no one seemed to notice two young loves swaying in slow circles, as seen from the inside of a little girl’s music box.

When midnight came and interrupted though the story of this fairytale,
She still married her prince and
They lived happily ever after.

Once upon a time and twenty-five years ago, two lonely people found each other and fell in love.
gifts treeAfter eight short months of dating, and thanking God for remembering their empty arms after a five year wait for her and three year wait for him, they married and lived happily ever after
as a blended family of six.

Twenty-five years later and like written on the pages of a fairytale, this married couple decided to celebrate their milestone anniversary in grand fashion, surrounded by their closest friends and family in a 25th Wedding Anniversary Vow Renewal.

Dreaming began immediately.

Coming to life were their visions written on paper.

The humming of busy bees circled around the preparations.

Colors decided. Linens, silk wildflowers, lace and ribbon ordered.  Centerpieces designed.   Caterers and venue reserved.  Detailed lists of all kinds documented.

Save the Dates” are mailed six months in advance of this gala event, to give their special guests enough time to reserve this anniversary date on their calendar.

The music box has been wound and now opened.

Though many months stand between today and their anniversary celebration, in their hearts this sweet couple steps onto the dance floor and “cheek to cheek” they sway together in slow circles as the music box quietly plays.

They dance and they dance. Two people in love and overwhelmed in estatic anticipation for their anniversary dream to unfold.

The stroke of midnight is months and hours away.

Excitement is beyond euphoric.
The preparations continue.
The months quickly pass by.

The stroke of midnight is ever closer, yet still are many songs on this couple’s dance card to enjoy.

The calender reminds that six weeks remain before the church doors open for this Wedding Vow Renewal, a reminder for the beautiful invitations both color and theme coordinated with the save-the-dates are to be mailed.

This anxious couple will wait with bated breath for the return of the RSVP’s found in the invitation, confirming each guest who will be in attendance of their anniversary event.

Soon after the invitations were mailed, RSVP’s began secretly waiting in the mailbox for this couple’s discovery. Joy is filling the air as the unfolding of this Wedding Vow Renewal is finally a dream coming true.

Twenty-five years ago, this couples four young children walked down the wedding isle together with them, sharing this life-changing day as a family on stage.

Now their four young children are grown and three of them are married with children of their own.

Walking the Wedding Vow Renewal isle with this couple will now be their ten adorable grandchildren, though their four military youngin’s will walk the isle being carried as a picture by their cousin, as they recently moved to their next duty station located in Hawaii.
IMG_3115It is this couple’s prayer during this milestone anniversary event, that their love for each other, their pursuit to live and have a God centered marriage, be depositied in the hearts of their children and grandchildren as part of their inheritance.

That they will leave behind a legacy,
their breadcrumbs in the forest to follow
when seeking the way to go.

The prayer of this two is that their children and grandchildren always see the signs to follow Jesus,
as He is the only way,
He is the way.

This music box continues to play for this anniversary couple still deeply in love.  The ballroom floor remains open, though no one seems to notice these two still swaying to the songs playing from the inside of a little girl’s music box.

A wedding vow renewal picture is framed perfectly on every guest table, painted with its color choice linens, tableware, and wildflowers appearing freshly picked and arranged on lattice work and wisteria vines, mid-air atop two Eiffel tower vases. The isle lined on both sides with wildflowers winding up the height of the standing lattice work affixed on shepherd hooks, completing the portrait of stepping into a secret garden.

Canvasing the details of her vision displayed throughout the room, this bride making a renewal walk down the isle with her groom of 25 years is pleased to the moon and back.
rehearsal lori overlooking roomAll that waits in this ceremony and dinner reception room are its guests and wedding couple.

This music box still plays ever so faintly in the background.

In each other’s arms these young loves continue to dance while the music plays in their joyous hearts.

While this glowing woman is having her flowing red hair curled and arranged to cascade to one side of her neck.

Patiently waiting to complete the look of this bride is an exquisite dress to match her handsome groom she is so in love with. Sparkled jewelry and heels with its glittered rhinestone strap, with a bunch of wildflowers appearing recently picked to hold await also.

Unseen is a fountain overflowing from a heart spilling and splashing her happiness, this bride is marrying her man all over again in a Wedding Vow Renewal twenty-five years from their original wedding day.

It’s a windy fall day in October at noon, and the church doors have finally opened to receive the guests of two people about to say “I Do” again.
churchThe ceremony sanctuary doubling as a reception hall, a remodeled version of the same reception hall that held their wedding reception twenty-fives years ago, is bustling with conversation between arriving guests greeting those they haven’t seen for awhile. Guests are finding their tables and seats specifically assigned and chosen with those sitting next to them in mind.

Secluded in another room, the bride and groom and bridal party of grandchildren with their parents present for the family portraits are photographed for their wedding album to come, a lovely gift given by the generosity of their children.

Taking mental pictures of her own, this bride is soaking in the moments that are passing by so quickly. Her groom.  Her children.  Her grandchildren.  All dressed to match the secret garden theme of the reception hall.  All beautiful and taking the breath of a woman so thankful to God, her husband, her children and others for giving her this spectacular day.

Thirty minutes away and while the pre-arranged music plays for the guests leading up to the ceremony and is in earshot of this bride a room away, this bride is whisked to Hawaii in a sentimental text message from her daughter ‘n love who recently moved there with our son and grandchildren.

Happy 25th Anniversary.

Today is the big day.

Everyone is gathering together to celebrate the love of two amazing people.

 You both have accomplished in 25 years of marriage what most hope to accomplish in a lifetime – raised 4 amazing children, always put those around you first, serve others with unconditional love and are creating a lifetime of memories for your grandchildren.

Because of you both, everyone around you knows true love and happiness does exist. You have set high standards for how a marriage should be and held yourselves accountable.

I love that you both are still so in love with each other after 25 years. We appreciate you and everything you have done for our family.  We know no matter what is going on, we could call on you both day or night and you would drop anything to help us – having that security is one of the most amazing things.

 We are so thankful for God’s perfect planning and timing in bringing you two together. When you look around today take a moment to soak it in and enjoy the fact that everyone is there because two people fell in love 25 years ago.

 Happy Anniversary.

Wish we could be there to celebrate with you and honor your marriage.

All my love, Crystal.

Like a kiss from God in heaven, Crystal’s words played a mother / daughter song quietly for the two of them, stirring a few tears and emotions of a mother’s heart.  Crystal’s thoughtful timing was perfect and overwhelming, all because a daughter chose to hug and share a moment with her mother, even though the ocean and its million miles stood in the way between them.

The music box still plays ever so quietly.
The clock will still strike at the midnight hour.

Until then, a princess and her prince will soak every memory on their dance floor ‘till the very end.

The clock though signals the start of the three o’clock ceremony.

An instrumental rendition of Endless Love plays in the background, and a wedding album is opened from twenty-five years ago in a video montage displayed on a full screen in front of the room, for guests to enjoy a glimpse of when the love of two people began.

Click on the arrow button
to revisit when two people fell in love, when two people said “I Do” for the first time on their wedding day twenty-five years ago.

 Walking once again to the version of Endless Love featuring Mariah Carey and Luther Vandross, who serenaded a bride and groom twenty-five years ago, ten grandchildren catching the smiles of so many guests in their cuteness, walk the wedding isle and take their place on the church pew, with four from Hawaii who walked the isle carried in a picture by their cousin, is placed on an easel so others can see them on stage.

Guests stand to their feet in their cheers for the bride and groom making their second walk down the isle in great celebration of this 25th wedding anniversary milestone, a moment unexpected and taking a bride and groom emotionally off guard.

Side by side again at the altar, holding hands as they’ve done all these years.
Love so evident in their smiles could write a romance novel with many sequels.
david and lori at altarGiving God first the praise that is due Him, this couple and guests are led in worship with the song, “The Goodness of God”. A song that tells the true story of why and how two people have stay married for twenty-five years, through the good and the not-so-good, all because of the faithfulness and goodness of God.
worship-song.jpgNext, their oldest granddaughter Brooke reads from 1 Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter. The Love Chapter scriptures depict the theme of all marriages, the theme of this wedding day, depicting the character of God in love as He is all love.
IMG_3104 The Love Chapter

1 Corinthians 13: 4-8, 13.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails…..

13 And now these three remain:
faith, hope and love.

 But the greatest of these is love.

Interestingly, the “man of God” officiating the ceremony, is their brother, an elder of their church, the one who introduced this man and woman twenty-five years ago. He knew their story and revisited in great and hilarious detail the journey of how their love came to be.

Twenty-five years ago these two were married by their beloved Pastor, who had shephered them and their church flock those five years prior to that day, and leading up to one year ago when God called him to his Heavenly home.

Missing their Pastor terribly and would have wanted him to officiate the renewing of their vows, was still present in the suit coat that our brother had worn standing on this wedding altar, a coat of many given to him when our Pastor continued his journey in heaven.
Pastor preaching at weddingGod cares so deeply about the details.

As a writer, the vows of this bride embodied great honor of the man who has shared life with her through the last quarter of a century. Before God and her guests, she wanted everyone to hear and visually see through her words, a true picture of what a husband, father, grandfather and man looks like in marriage.

HER VOWS

(An excerpt from the original five pages,
condensed to three,
when a bride spoke her Vows to her groom)

Twenty five years ago, I married the man of my dreams.

Little did I know how my dreams would unfold,
spending every minute,
every hour,
every day
and every year
of these twenty five years with you.

 If I could say anything, at least for us, marriage is wrapped up in the little things.

We aren’t rich, live in a fancy house or drive a fancy car.

 The reason our twenty five years together have been so magical, is because
we have embraced and mined
the love and gold
in the little things…
……….

 It’s been like Christmas every day for the last 25 years.

You have given me gifts wrapped in glittered paper topped with sparkled bows.
You have given me gifts that money could never afford to buy.
You have given me gifts that have made me feel loved from the moon and back.

 You have given me gifts that are
wrapped in the little things.

 I will love you forever.
I will dream with you forever.
I will be by your side forever.
Thank you for the most amazing 25 years.
I can only imagine and can’t wait for the next 25.

I love you.
lori reading vows
As the groom takes his turn to share his vows in word and in song, the crowd leans in to hear the greatly anticipated voice of an angel singing to his bride, “Truly” by Lionel Richie of Warner Chappel Music.

A few lyrics of the song “Truly”, echoing from a husband’s heart in love:

Girl, tell me only this,
That I’ll have your heart for always
And you want me by your side
Whispering the words, “I’ll always love you.”
……..

Because I’m truly,
Truly in love with you girl.
I’m truly, head over heels with your love,
I need you, and with your love I’m free,
And truly, you know you’re all right
With me.

Having a thankful heart for God giving us Jesus, they celebrated communion together.
communionLooking on, grandchildren blush in their innocent smiles and giggles,
as a man kisses his bride, for the second time in their Wedding Vow Renewal.
kiss the bride Mr. and Mrs. again, they take their remaining photographs as re-newly married husband and wife.

The details that were planned so many months ago, are now displayed in every corner of the reception hall.

So much to celebrate.
So much to give God honor and glory for.

A guest sign-in-book and memory picture of those who left this couple too soon. Pictures of those not forgotten, a reminder of those who sat and watched this day from their view in heaven.
memory sign in

A vintage legacy window displayed the story of two people who fell in love. Their wedding picture from twenty-five years ago, their grown children and their weddings and all of their ten adorable grandchildren wearing their wedding clothes for their Papa and Gaga.
legacy wall 1The guest table seating cards individually affixed a small book of poems written from the love of a bride she has known with her Lord, wanting to share them with those who decided to share this most magical day with her.
guest 1

(a small excerpt)

Love is…..

Dedicated and written
for the one…

Who knows us best…
Who sees the best in us…
Who believes the best in us..
Who wants the best for us…
Who gives His best to us…
To the one who loves us most..

To You Our God…

That we might know you more..

Your Devoted Daughter,
Lori A Alicea

Dear God,

Before the stars had filled the sky,
Before the land and sea.
Before the days were one of them,
Your thoughts, they knew of me.

A dream, a detailed plan my life,
Revealed, my heart would burst.
I long to give away this love,
Because you loved me first.

Your only son you gave to us,
Your sacrifice and his.
To trace your heart, I’d find my name,
Since you are love, Love is.

In knowing you,
Might we know true love…

 1 John 4:8 NIV …God is love.

 Psalm 139:16 NIV
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book before one of
them came to be.

 For the next eight pages, this bride inspired by God penned small poems depicting the love of God,

Written and based from the
Love Chapter
1 Corinthians 13

Since He is Love, Our Model for Love,
That we might know and give love.
Following His lead,

 Because,
He is patient, He is kind.
He does not envy, He does not boast.
He is not proud, He does not dishonor.
He is not self-seeking.
He is not easily angered, He keeps no record of wrongs.
He does not delight in evil, He rejoices in truth.
He protects, He trusts.
He hopes, He perseveres.
He never fails.

The reception room boasted a hidden secret garden, a place to retreat where God’s handiwork is on full display.
flowers centerpieceThe desert tables beckoned the attention and sweet tooth’s of their guests.

Off limits though was a specially made wedding cake top for the bride and groom to share on their getaway.
honeymoon cabinGod still showing off in the details, provided a heart cake topper when the bride was unable to find one. This gift came in the mail unexpectedly from two guests unable to attend, who had no idea of this bride’s desire, a gift significant of two hearts with God in the center of their lives.
cakeThe desert menu included professionally decorated filled cupcakes with wildflowers and butterflies, homemade heart-shaped sugar cookies, homemade chocolate chip cookies for the kids at heart, and homemade candy coated pretzels. All of this served with hot coffee and love from a bride thinking of her guests from the oven of her kitchen, assisted by her daughter who helped decorate these confections and all the other craft items needed by her mother.  Lasting memories created when a mother and daughter shared a few moments over sprinkles and glitter.

Though it was a brisk wedding fall day in October, a bride and groom were showered by the generosity of their guests represented in gifts and in cards.
card boxThough a bride and groom, yet still parents and grandparents, both had requested speeches from the hearts of their children and grandchildren, especially their Hawaiian family unable to attend.

Believing no videos were sent, a pre-dinner surprise of speeches from their grown children, including the Hawaiians desperately missed yet wanted to be included on this special anniversary day.

Here’s a small glimpse and view of those amazing guests who paused their day to celebrate the marriage twenty-five years in the making.

 The sacrifice of those family members who spent their money and miles on the road or in the air to share a few moments together with family.

All that delicious food, more than enough for seconds.

 The tables that gathered together as friends and family, over dinner and conversation. The best part of the day were those faces who know you by name, that are part of your story, those faces that have shared years of life with you.

The bride looks up at the clock and midnight is closer than it has ever been.

She wants to dance until midnight.

She wants to soak up the moments which will become memories after a few short hours that remain.

She wants to stay enveloped in the arms of her groom for as long as the night continues, and to live happily ever after with him again when the last song is played.
kids Cova 1This bride is so thankful for the DJ, her brother ‘n law, her next door neighbor and landlord, who gave so much of his time, gifting and patience, to sit with her over the hours putting the reception playlist and entertainment together; even managing to save their relationship in the process.
IMG_3099And then this happened.

A couple’s first dance as a re-married couple, dancing cheek-to-cheek to the song, “Look at Us” by Vince Gill, when a little girl named Ayva Presley, their sweet granddaughter innocently took hold of their hands and decided to join them. They both held back a few tears when a little angel wanted to share this moment with them.  This princess of ours followed us throughout the night.
dance David and Lori and AyvaSelecting a song with their Hawaiian son in mind who loves Vince Gill for their first dance, and wanted a piece of him to be in their service, they thought of him when the country music played in an excerpt of the lyrics:

Look at us,
After all these years together.
Look at us,
After all that we’ve been through.

Look at us,
Still leaning on each other.
If you want to see,
How true loved should be,

Then just look at us.

The children and grandchildren joined the bride and groom on the dance floor to dance as a family to the song, “Forever Mine”. Part of the legacy this couple wanted to leave for them is a promise that marriage can be forever, that the seeds of these words be planted in their lives as a reminder that marriage can be for a lifetime.
family dance A bit of fun for the children under fourteen, dancing to the song “Twist” while using their Skip-its, or Footsies, as they were called when this couple were their ages. Such a highlight.
kids skipitsEven had a gift card raffle for one child and one adult.
IMG_3102 Couples and line dances for those willing to take a step onto the dance floor.

Elvis even made an appearance to everyone’s delight and request. Moved with curosity, the kitchen help stopped what they were doing to enjoy a few songs from this icon before he left the building.

This long-distance guest made these most thoughtful woodworking gifts for the family. He will never know the impact of these treasures.
IMG_3103The clock is about to strike midnight.

A bride and groom’s day is about to become a memory.

The months of dreaming, planning and preparing have been fulfilled and it is time to close this chapter in their story.

She danced until midnight.

In the arms of her prince, she danced and she danced.

In the crowded ballroom, no one seemed to notice two young loves swaying in slow circles, as seen from the inside of a little girl’s music box.

When midnight came and interrupted though the story of this fairytale,
She still married her prince and
They lived happily ever after.
dance David and Lori
To Her Beloved Husband,
as spoken in her wedding renewal vows:

 I will love you forever.
I will dream with you forever.
I will be by your side forever.
Thank you for the most amazing 25 years.
I can only imagine and can’t wait for the next 25.

I love you.

13 And now these three remain:
faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13: 13        

IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH By Lori A Alicea

… I take thee,
To have and to hold from this day forward,
For better or for worse,
For richer, for poorer,
In sickness and in health,
To love and to cherish,
From this day forward,
Until….

Our wedding vows;

Our sacred promises we speak from the deepest well of our soul, vowing to one another for life and before God on our wedding day.

Our heart’s oath spoken at a holy altar, promising to love and to cherish thee thru whatever comes our way, from this day forward, until…

Weddings are an exquisite “painting of a thousand words.”

Details too many for a single sentence, fill up a bride’s journal as she displays her heart in the volumes of pages.

Wedding couples experience a whirl wind of excitement in the months prior of  planning and preparation. They are overcome by euphoria when a fairy tale comes to life on their wedding day.  Sometimes though the wedding hype overshadows the sacredness and life-long commitment they are making during their marriage ceremony that a couple’s wedding vows might be glossed over as mere words mirrored back when the minister states, “Repeat after me”.

Long after the wedding dress is dry-cleaned and the thank-you cards have all been mailed, reality returns and life begins for two people who promised to

Have and to hold each other, from this day forward,
Until….

Life begins and life happens.

Real life isn’t the picture perfect moments posed and portrayed in your wedding album. Yes, married life is beautiful, wonderful and worth it all.  Speaking from a marriage kissed by God, we will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary this October.

But in real life you can’t photo shop the disagreements, the misunderstandings, the unexpected bills, the attitudes and the mundane weeks.

The hardships of real life tests your heart’s commitment to those wedding vows
For better or for worse,
Until…

It’s easy to stay married
In the better,
In the richer,
In the health,
And in the love.

Baring the extreme and justifiable circumstances, many couples give up on marriage because they have created a back door called “Until…”

They stay until
The better becomes worse,
The rich becomes poor,
The health becomes sickness,
The love becomes unlovely.

 Yet marriages surviving a lifetime are committed in the “until…”

Lasting marriages dig their heels in the tough times until
They lock arms in the “drought seasons of not enough” until
They wage war and fight thru battles of sickness, loving and holding on to each other until…
They love without condition no matter how unlovely until…
A man and woman committed in the until…
Stand as one
until….
death they do part.

Forty-plus years ago my brother married his high school sweetheart. They met and fell in love at a youth sponsored roller skating event and have been together ever since.

Forty-plus years ago my brother and his high school sweetheart stood at an old fashioned altar and vowed:

To have and to hold each other from this day forward,
For better or for worse,
For richer, for poorer,
In sickness and in health,
To love and to cherish,
From this day forward,
Until….

 My brother and his wife have enjoyed true love in marriage, though encountering their share of ups and downs.
They have rejoiced in the good times as well as the bad.
They have known plenty. They have known lack.
But through it all, I’ve never seen them more committed.

The back door of escape called until doesn’t exist in their house.
Especially when you witness them honoring their vows of

 In sickness and in health.

 Both have known serious sickness.
Sadly, sickness still wages war on their health yet they remain standing firm on the front lines, fighting for life today.
Both rejoice and hold tight to their unshakeable faith that God still heals and keeps his promises.
2019 houle mark and connie rainbowTo speak with them by telephone or by text, you leave the conversation more uplifted as they are the ones encouraging you.
2019 houle mark and connieA true testimony of love and courage in the until…

The hardships of real life tests your heart’s commitment to those wedding vows
For better or for worse.

 That bride and groom who remain in the trenches and fight those battles which wage war for their marriage,

Together will always see the better in the worse,
Will feel richer in the poor,
Will experience health in the sickness,
Will know true love to cherish,
From this day forward,
While staying committed in the
until….