IS IT POSSIBLE TO REDEFINE WHAT A WEDDING "SHOULD BE"?

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On October 14th, 2015 I sent Todd an email. It said: 

My sweetest friend, 

I won't text you because I don't want to wake you but I can't seem to stop myself from sharing something with you in this very moment in time. I am so madly in love with you Todd Maki. I can't focus, can't concentrate, can't keep my mind on anything else other than you. I know I should be enjoying my last days here (in Italy), but it just seems to empty without you. So dull and unfulfilling unless I have your voice in my ear and your arm on my shoulder. I don't ever want to be without you.

Your Chelsie

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I came across that email early in our trip. During a jet-lag induced sleepless night pouring over old photos and emails. I paused when I read it remembering the longing; the trepidation and uncertainty in our situation. 

Then a smile crept over my face. Sleeping next to me was the love of my life. And in an instant that resurfacing anguish evaporated, vanished my from mind. Replaced only with the warm comfort that I would never have to be without him again.

And while it could hardly be considered his choice or mine, our paths converged. When that happened it became clear a beautiful space existed between us. A space filled with love, time and a feeling we had been here before - together. Even when we fought to deny it, our love was bigger and stronger than both of us. It was patient and it was kind. And when we did finally open our eyes it was the only thing standing in front of us. 

That night, I thought about how grateful I was. For him. For the way he loves - so fiercely, selflessly and pure. For our life. And how perfect it felt in that very moment. I became so intensely overcome with emotion I had to fight for my next breath, and eventually laughed out loud. Trying, somewhat unsuccessfully, not to wake him. There is something ridiculous about catching yourself so emotionally aware. To realize you are so happy, you can't do anything other than laugh at the miraculous idea of it all. 

When he awoke the following morning, I whispered in his ear that I didn't want to wait. He didn't either. We began planning and were married less than two weeks later in the South of France. 

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Historically an elopement meant running away secretly with the intention of getting married. And while that meaning still stands, there was definitely no parental or governmental objection to the exchanging of our vows. Rather, we wanted to merely escape. Escape the chaos, the expectations, and the frustration planning a wedding can, and too often, brings. 

It seems to me that weddings have become an event with clear expectations. Diamond rings, bridal parties, long guest lists, and over-priced white dresses. All of which put extreme amounts of pressure on two people who just want to declare their love for one another. Is it possible to press the reset button and redefine what a wedding "should be"? How do we shift the focus in the right direction again? 

For us, we wanted to start our lives together, truly together, just the two of us. Make our commitment to one another in the most intimate way possible. To say the things meant only for each other's ears. Without shifting our focus to seating charts, expensive decor and lofty expectations from family members about what our wedding should be.

And while we also decided to have a bigger celebration with friends and family, planning as husband and wife has lifted the stress associated with it. Our wedding is no longer a highly anticipated milestone, but a mere party to celebrate our love, and the support of our friends and family throughout our journey to finding it. 

Photos by the lovely, talented Elodie Winter

REFLECTING WHILE TRAVELING

It’s now been 15 days into our 110 day trip. More than 10% done, which feels surreal on both ends of the spectrum. That it’s already been 15 days, and we still have 95 to go. Continuing on to the French Riviera last week solidified the feeling this isn’t a vacation, quite oppositely it is life for the next several months.

People keep asking me where we live and I want to say New York, but that isn’t true anymore. We don’t live on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, but we also don’t yet live in LA either. We live right here in this moment. Which is beautiful and strangely bittersweet at the same time.

When I left San Francisco to travel and then move across the country, it was an overdue transition. The city breaking me down slowly each day I overstayed my welcome. But I wasn’t done with New York. And I know New York wasn’t done with me.

Our last night in town we sat at dinner in the West Village. A cozy Italian spot with more empty bottles than glasses on the table. Old friends and new interlaced around us, forming the most abstract and illusory family. Our love for each other and this city never grew stagnant. Always in constant motion, growing and transforming as boldly as the seasons do there. It’s the thing I miss the most right now and the reason I still respond with “New York”, anytime anyone asks where we are visiting from.

I find comfort in the fact that leaving early means the city will always remain elusive in my mind. A perfect home and a place I yearn to return one day.

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BECOMING MY MOTHER

It’s funny, the things in life that force you to recall the past and trigger your deepest memories. Just the other day I was flipping through photos from our recent trip to Sedona, Arizona and I couldn’t help but notice just how much I looked exactly like my mother.

Over the years I’ve noticed the ways in which I have started to become her. I even catch her in the mirror sometimes as I walk by. Many women in their mid to late 20s say the same. It is a seemingly unavoidable part of life. I, however, believe my transformation transcended her incomprehensible crazy side, adopting only her most acceptable traits. Including, but not limited to: her cynicism, her creative and curious fashion sense, her ability to plan a killer event, her love of antiques and constant procurement of them, her bold color palette and ability to see beauty in even the most distressed things in life. Fortunately, her temper, irrationality, favoritism towards my younger brother and dramatic phobia of heights have, so far, been happily avoided. At least in my humble opinion. Todd may argue otherwise.

But when looking at those Sedona photos, I didn’t see her face or her mannerisms. Instead, I was immediately taken back to a middle school dance. It was 8th grade and I was madly in love with Tucker Leverton. Grossly overdressed in a tulle tea length black dress, but still invisible to a majority of my thirteen year old classmates. As the evening wrapped up, my mother emerged from the metal double doors that connect the gymnasium to rest of the outside world. She had been instructed to wait in the car, but incapable of sending a quick “I’m here” text to my non-existent cell phone, and her curiosity brimming, she decided to sneak in.

I saw her out of the corner of my eye and died a little inside. She looked like an extra in a period piece starring Keira Knightley. From the waist down she wore beige jodhpurs with dark suede knee patches and riding boots. (Important side note: we lived on a busy street in an urban neighborhood and my mother has never in her life ridden a horse). Up top she donned a puffy white blouse contained only by a plaid single button blazer. With ruffles exploding up to her chin, it was embarrassingly similar to the blouse we have all seen on Jerry Seinfeld in the infamous “puffy shirt” episode.

Before I knew it, Tucker Leverton was approaching. Perhaps he wanted to grab the last dance. Maybe compliment me for actually putting on a dress, which a majority of my female classmates had failed to do. Instead, he walked over and said with a smile, “It looks like your mom forgot her horse.” Too insecure to respond with a witty comment, I did what every helpless teenager would have done. I laughed awkwardly and decided to never come back to school again.

I never did thank her for that. For being so unapologetically herself that it made everyone stop and stare. Including the 8th grade love of my life.

It is her uniqueness that I appreciate most as I get older. She was never restricted by societal norms and defied the rules elegantly, perhaps unintentionally proving them wrong. So every time I gravitate towards the boldest, puffiest sleeve I can find, I think of her. And look forward to the day I can embarrass the hell out of my own children. Hopefully, reminding them to never hold back from being exactly who they are. Even if it takes a few years to realize it.