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18 years of marriage vow renewal

The Biggest Lesson I’ve Learned in 18 Years of Marriage

March 3, 2021

Let me tell you a little story before I spill the biggest lesson I’ve learned in 18 years of marriage.

18 years ago today, these two doe-eyed teenagers walked into a courthouse hand-in-hand. Behind them were her parents, eternally grateful that she had found a true life Prince Charming just seven months before. Behind her parents was his mom, who was gritting her teeth and wary of her baby boy marrying a girl who came with baggage and a baby boy who lit up their world.

courthouse wedding with a grumpy officiant

He wore a short sleeved button up white dress shirt with a tie that they had to Google how to tie. She wore a pink flowery dress that she bought for $18 and a jean jacket to cover up the body she was so ashamed of, still carrying an extra 40 pounds from her delivery five months before. After what seemed like hours, they were invited in to the ceremony room where the world’s grumpiest officiant stood waiting.

The officiant was a hundred feet tall and from the moment these two kids walked in, was judging and looking down on them. He knew they’d never last, that they were making a mistake like every other young couple he saw; in fact, he even asked the boy if he was really sure he wanted to do this. Without skipping a beat, the boy enthusiastically said absolutely. No doubts.

The two teens held their sweaty palms together, him rubbing the top of her hand with his thumb as they faced each other. Neither one of them was really listening to what the grumpy officiant was saying, because each of them were so nervous and excited and not really believing this was really happening.

When it came time to exchange the rings, the boy dropped the ring and it rolled around on the floor – breaking the tension. Everyone was so nervous; were they making a mistake? But when he ran to pick up the dropped ring and slid it not-so-gracefully on to her still-swollen ring finger, it all made sense.

No. They weren’t making a mistake. Was it scary? Absolutely. Did they have any idea what was coming for them in the future? Of course not – they couldn’t have.

18 years of marriage vow renewal

Out our vow renewal in 2003. Photo by Julie Paisley.

The Biggest Lesson I’ve Learned in 18 Years of Marriage

They had no idea they’d face cancer, life-altering surgeries, multiple miscarriages, or be torn apart by war for 194 of the worst days of their lives. They couldn’t even possibly fathom the stress of debt, mortgages and student loans. That they would lose his big brother and mom, or she’d lose her grandma. That they’d face unimaginable heartache during their kids’ teen years or that they’d never live in the same house for more than 3 years over the next two decades. That they’d struggle with things like debilitating anxiety and PTSD, as well as both pre- and post-partum depression.

On the other hand, there is no way they’d know they would welcome three more incredible children into the world. That they would travel the world together, run a successful business together, or live out her childhood dream of a real life Charlotte’s Web life on a farm. It’s impossible that they could have foreseen a reluctance to faith turn into a personal relationship with God.

These two had no idea what was to come, but they did know one thing.

They wanted to do it together.

And that’s the biggest lesson we’ve learned in 18 years of marriage: doing things together is what has kept us together. Even when war tore us apart – we went through it together. We held hands and cried together during the worst times, and held hands and cried together during the best times. We make all the big decisions together and all the small ones, too. There’s never anything that is mine or his – it’s all ours: money, tools, responsibilities, even our hoodies.

I realize that not every marriage will work like ours – but ours works for us. Mundane things like grocery shopping is just better together.

To My Favorite Farm Daddy

Randy, you are my rock and my world, my moon and my stars. If I had known 18 years ago when we stood together under those dusty fake flowers in a terribly lit room getting judged by the world’s grumpiest officiant, that we’d be where we are today – I’d still choose you, over and over again.

Happy 18th wedding anniversary, love.


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Heyyyy ... I'm Ashley Durham and I'm a luxury wedding photographer in Phoenix, but I travel all over Arizona and the desert southwest to hang out with the most incredible people. I am obsessed with puppies, extra hot coffee, sunrise and firmly believe that love conquers all.

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