A wedding is temporary. Marriage is forever.

Did you know that the national average cost for a wedding falls somewhere around $33k? Arkansas is on the low end at $18k, and California on the high end at $47k. That's a lot of money for two people, just beginning their lives together.

I know what you’re thinking—this is another anti-wedding blog, but I promise it isn’t.

I grew up like most other little girls—picking my entire life out of a JCPenney catalog, daydreaming about who I would marry, where we would live, and how many kids we would have. I always imagined some variation of a beautiful, elegant wedding similar to the one you’d see in Father of the Bride.

Of course, when you’re eight years old, you don’t really give much thought to the difference between a wedding and a marriage and how one of those is so much more important than the other.

I met my husband in college when I was twenty years old. He sat in front of me in a theatre class. For an entire semester, I sat behind him, just hoping for a reason to talk to him. I’d even concoct scenarios in my head where maybe we were in a group project together, and we would HAVE to exchange phone numbers. That never happened, but I did finally work up the courage to befriend him on Facebook, and the rest is history.

My husband and I dated for four-and-a-half years before he asked me to be his wife. There were many times during our dating relationship that I would get impatient with him and wonder if he was ever going to propose to me. When I would think about marriage, I only thought about the wedding and eventually—kids. I never thought about the in-between. I didn’t know it then, but God was preparing me for marriage.

My husband proposed in January, and after a few weeks of planning, we finally decided on a date. We both knew that we did not want a long engagement, but we needed time to plan our wedding, so we settled on November 5. We started how all couples do—pricing everything. We priced venues, catering, DJs, flowers, cakes, dresses—you name it, we got a quote for it. We quickly realized that everything is so expensive. So we decided to regroup.

Eventually, we settled on a destination wedding—a no muss, no fuss affair with some of our closest friends and family. It was a perfect day. My husband and I stood before the people we love most and vowed to love each other eternally. I look back on that day now and feel so many emotions. I feel an overwhelming sense of happiness and love, but also feel sadness and dread.

After the ceremony, we went to dinner with our friends and family to celebrate our marriage and new life together. Afterward, we walked around the small town, taking in all the sights and sounds the area and surrounding mountains had to offer.

We retired back to our cabin. My husband and I were both asleep before 11:00 p.m., not knowing life was about to hit—hard.

I awoke to my phone ringing and soon realized I had several missed calls and texts from my brother-in-law. I then decided to wake my sleeping husband. As I am trying to wake him, I received a devastating text message: My brother-in-law informed me that their uncle had passed very unexpectedly.

Here I was, staring into the eyes of my brand new husband on our wedding night, forced to tell him that someone he loved dearly is gone forever.

A wedding is a beautiful representation of a couple’s love and union. A wedding is the joining of two families. A wedding is promising for better or worse, and only expecting better in that second. A wedding is a beautiful moment to be forever cherished and remembered… but it’s also just a moment.

Marriage is having to deliver terrible news to the person you love most in the world and being there for them when they fall apart. Marriage is neglecting any honeymoon plans because you know you aren’t going to enjoy yourself. Marriage is leaving for a six-hour drive at 3:00 a.m. so you can get home and be with your family. Marriage is comforting your brand new husband when he can’t bear to walk up to the casket and say goodbye to someone he loved and admired. Marriage is being there during every sleepless night. Marriage is putting aside your own needs to care for your spouse. Marriage is a lifetime.

I will never forget the emotions I felt that night. Our lives went from carefree happiness and euphoria to sadness, panic, and heartbreak in an instant. There was not a single venue, expensive wedding dress, or a beautiful cake that could have prepared me for this moment in time. I had to forget about our perfect, intimate wedding and be a wife.

I had to run head-first into marriage.

In the grand scheme of things, a wedding is like a 100-meter dash in that it is breathtaking and majestic to watch, but a marriage is a marathon. Every hurdle, every cramp, every ache are opportunities to become stronger together. Our society puts so much emphasis on big, extravagant weddings. Still, we lack when it comes to understanding what actually goes into a marriage.

Like I said, I’m not here to convince you not to go all out and have the wedding of your dreams. I would, however, encourage you to spend an equal amount of time thinking about the marathon that comes after the sprint. Because the goal of marriage shouldn’t just be the participation trophy, but the gold medal.

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