Well, in case you missed it… we didn’t win the wedding giveaway. There’s a lot that could be said about it, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. I’m here to say thank you to everyone who has watched, shared, and been inspired by our story. You gave us a purpose that was so much more important than winning this contest. Finding out last Thursday morning that we didn’t win was absolutely devastating. I really didn’t expect to cry as much as I did, but that’s what happened. I bawled my eyes out on the phone with a good friend of mine who told me it was okay to feel. I was feeling guilty for being upset, for being angry, for feeling like it was taken from us, for being sad about it in the first place. I mean, is it really that big of a deal, Megan? I was beating myself up over this! I didn’t know how to respond to the hundreds of texts, comments, emails, phone calls, and FB messages so soon while the wound was still so fresh and new. So I didn’t. I gave myself permission to feel, permission to be angry, permission to close my laptop and hide my phone and watch my favorite Drew Barrymore click flicks all day as I ate Chinese take-out in bed. Because my emotions, for the first time in a long time, were literally too much for me to handle. I felt humiliated for putting something so private out in the open and feeling like it was tossed to the side because we weren’t good enough. I felt let down by a system we had trusted to work, and I felt like I let our entire network of friends and family down with it. I felt so much pressure to explain to people why this didn’t happen for us if they believed God was going to bless us in this way. I felt like I had started something I couldn’t finish and had disappointed a lot of people in the process.
It was nothing short of a horrible, overwhelming, and just an all-around awful day. I had been on an emotional roller coaster… from the first week we were engaged and finding out it was going to be another two and a half years and mid-2017 before we would get married, to having this chance to break through that barrier, to having it within our reach, then out of the realm of possibility, and then back in our hands again, and then completely taken away for good… I felt like my heart had been placed inside a glass observation tank for everyone to come see. Our love story inspired hundreds of people, but it had also been laid out there for people to judge, poke, prod, and talk badly about. And this was just the tip of the iceberg for Thursday… I didn’t know how to process ANYTHING. So I didn’t. I took a few days… only spoke with my best friends and Justin… and unfortunately, sometimes when you don’t talk at all, people talk even more because I guess they feel like they have to speculate and put the pieces together and work with what little information they’re given. This post was a long time in the making, but it came at a good time to respond to this entire situation, put the truth in one place for people to find if they really care enough to know, and close this door once and for all. I don’t want to spend our entire season of engagement talking about this giveaway. What started off as the tiniest little snowball at the top of a hill rolled into something of monstrous proportions that I’m trying to tame. So, I’m just going to lay what I think needs to be said out there, and then try not to care about what people are saying about my character because I know, my loved ones know, and Jesus knows where my heart is. So, here goes.
- First and foremost, we have no ill will towards the sponsors of the giveaway. What’s done is done and there’s no reason to endlessly ponder and question the way everything was conducted. The prize was never ours to claim because it wasn’t ours in the first place. It was an opportunity to be given an amazing gift, and if we keep that in mind – that it was a gift – we won’t be consumed by negative emotions about the outcome of the contest.
- It wasn’t as much about winning a “dream wedding” as it was about getting married. This is a lot more complicated than one paragraph can sum up, but in short, planning out our timeline for starting our life together has always been one of the most difficult things about our relationship. Justin is still in school. He is still in college and working on a very difficult degree. Neither. of. us. have. full-time, salaried jobs. That could change tomorrow… I have a BS in business and graduated with honors and I’m confident that I could get at least some sort of full-time job that pays more than minimum wage. But right now, I’m just doing photography (which is a full-time job in itself!) yet it doesn’t pay much. I made $15,000 after taxes and expenses last year. Granted, it was my first true year in business… but still….. it’s not the glamorous, $2500-checks-every-other-week kinda job that it probably looks like. Even if I was getting those checks that often… after business expenses, taxes, etc. it’s not really a viable source of income unless you work at it and you work HARD. That’s what I’m trying to do this year! And that was the plan. Justin and I weren’t even going to start wedding planning until after he graduated. Before this giveaway was announced, we were all, okay, let’s take this slow. Let’s dive into you finishing school and applying to jobs and me working on my business. We can make it another year. It’ll be okay. And then the giveaway was announced and we were all “WHAT” and “WOW A FREE WEDDING!” and in my head and my heart I’m thinking… Oh my god we could get married THIS YEAR. The vendors, the planning, the experience of it all would have been great, but the BEST part would have been walking down the aisle this September and living with Justin just 7 months from now. After so many years together… that was my biggest dream I’ve ever had in my entire life being dangled in front of me. Things wouldn’t have been ideal… but we would have made it work in the name of a “free” wedding! (After an estimated $8,000 in income taxes on contest winnings and likely another $8,000 in other wedding costs like catering, flowers, deposits and rentals, etc. it wouldn’t have been free, but we were ignoring that… haha) Regardless, the day we watched the announcement video about the giveaway Justin’s mom and I were ready to start moving furniture around in Justin’s basement to make room and make it work. We weren’t sure how it was going to work, but it would. It would probably be pretty stressful and I was actually kind of concerned about the timeline, but I thought, if this is God’s will… He’ll make it clear to us that now is the time, and that we’re ready to get married. So imagine after 5 years having THAT CHANCE. Being able to fast forward what you thought would be a much longer wait and have everything you’ve ever wanted with the person you love- to live with them and love them with no boundaries and no inhibitions… that’s what it was about at the end of the day. That’s what I lost when we didn’t win. I felt like I lost time with Justin. Forget the vendors, the dream wedding, the $30,000. The fact that we had to close the door on a 2015 wedding day was by far the most painful part to come to terms with.
- The door on a 2015 wedding really is now closed. I know people are coming from a place of love and kindness when they say we could still get married this year- we totally and completely could. But just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. 2015 was never even a consideration when we got engaged. The wishes of both sets of parents were to wait until after college, and we 100% respect and agree with that, especially since our parents paid for our college education. We are honoring our parents in this way, and when people tell me that it’s not smart as a Christian to have a “long term engagement,” it makes it a LOT harder to be respectful and stick to a commitment we have made not only to each other but to our parents to wait until next year. Again, if we had won that wedding… we would have crossed that bridge when we got there. I know it sounds like we’re contradicting ourselves… and it’s because we really didn’t know what we were going to do if we won. We had talked about living in the basement, me going and getting a full-time office job so we can get an apartment, and believe it or not, we even talked about giving it away to the couple we felt deserved it most out of the other 9… and guess who that would have been? The winners. Now, these were all just pieces of conversations about ideas that might not have had any credibility or likelihood to them. But the point is, at the beginning of this giveaway we had said, “We’re going to try this out, see what happens, and when the outcome reveals itself, we will cross that bridge when we get there.” And now we’re here, and we are 100% sure from what we know right now that a wedding this year is not a part of God’s plan for us. That we know of right now. Always keeping open hearts and minds to where He leads us, but we really don’t think he’s leading us to that.
- We meant it when we said we didn’t know if we could have a wedding. That was the truth. We are paying for the bulk of the wedding ourselves. Our parents might chip in for little things here or there, but what we know right now is that we don’t want my dad taking out a loan for our wedding, and we would rather spend thousands that we will have worked really hard to save on necessary expenses like me buying my own car (that I still don’t have), Justin buying a car when his 2002 Buick Century craps out in the next couple of years, purchasing health, life, renter’s/homeowner’s, and car insurance, buying a house, furnishing wherever we live, starting an emergency savings fund, etc. etc. It’s an entirely different ball game when you realize that the money being spent on one day of your life is coming from your own pocket. Until we got back from Europe, I believed otherwise! We thought we were going to have to put in a max of $5000-$7000 on our wedding day. But we found out that wasn’t the case and that was a very private and challenging struggle to go through. I’m a wedding photographer! I’m one of those vendors that brides or their families are spending thousands on. I want a wedding! I want to walk down the aisle in a white dress surrounded by people who love us and I want to stand up in front of those people and proclaim how faithful God has been to us and how much I love Justin… and I don’t want it to feel like some joke of a wedding! I don’t want to be tacky or tasteless… I don’t want to have people travel to come to something that they feel wasn’t worth their time… so we came to the conclusion that if we can’t have a wedding that will be enjoyable and memorable for people, then we probably won’t have one. That’s where we were coming from when we made our video. We were truly in a place of not knowing if a wedding would be possible for us, and the giveaway sounded a lot like our only chance at our dream of having a wedding.
- Just because we weren’t sure if we could afford a wedding on our own doesn’t mean we are dirt poor. PLEASE understand where I am coming from on this one. It is not at ALL that I care whether people believe I’m poor or not. I grew up with very little money and I was none the wiser. The Bible actually says it’s better to be poor than rich (“But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort” Luke 6:24). Actually being poor is an awful burden to bear and it’s not something to claim when it’s not the truth. That’s where I’m coming from as I write this. I am so terrified of people calling me a liar and believing we are deceptive and purposefully misleading everyone. After putting our story out there, I feel like my every move is now being watched through a magnifying glass. I stopped editing our Europe pictures because I was so scared if I shared a single one after entering this giveaway, someone would accuse me of trying to trick the world into believing we were poor and need money when we clearly don’t since we just went to Europe for 3 weeks. A person like that doesn’t need any explanation, but I’m going to give one anyway to settle this for people who might just be harmlessly curious. Our Europe trip between the two of us cost approximately 8% of what the average wedding in our area would cost us to pay. And we spent YEARS saving for that trip. It was my graduation trip!!! And our 5 year anniversary trip together! And my family’s Christmas vacation spent with my grandma in Germany that my dad has ALWAYS wanted to go on! So if that was years and years in the making… and it was only 8% of a typical wedding’s cost… it would take us that many more years to cover the cost of our wedding day if we wanted it to be like an average wedding! So I am going to keep editing and sharing my Europe pictures because the $2,000 I spent on those 3 weeks of my life is perfectly okay and I shouldn’t feel guilty for that. I had no idea we would be coming home and looking at paying for a wedding. So please don’t judge us for that! And remember that we stayed with family and friends in almost every country we went to and we were very blessed with having meals provided for us and finding really cheap plane tickets! What I’m trying to say is… this is a classic “you can’t judge a book by its cover” situation. My beautiful Neil Lane diamond ring, the trip I’m going on to Hawaii next month, all those things you see pictures of and probably thing “OMG, she’s loaded” but what you don’t know is that underlying it all are just opportunities that God opens up to us and we just jump in. Like getting to go to Hawaii to visit one of my brides for 12 days next month for literally $540 total trip cost… car included. If you’re really curious about it I would love to sit down and grab a cup of tea and tell you all about it. But those are the things I think I would only be sharing publicly because I felt the need to defend myself for living my life a certain way, and it really doesn’t need an explanation… unless you suddenly have a GoFundMe page with your face on it asking for money. If you feel led to serve us as we get married, please know that your acts of giving are absolutely appreciated and needed. It goes so much deeper than “do they really need this $5” … one act of kindness can resonate for years and years to come. No matter how much or how little money we have to spend on a wedding, the loneliness of not having a mother around when you’re engaged to be married to the love of your life is a pain that never goes away. And I can’t begin to describe how wonderful it’s been to have had women in my life step up and say “Megan, I will help you plan your wedding.” For someone to say that and actually mean it is a gift whose value can’t be put into words. And that leads me to end with this…
- The love and support we have felt during our first two months of being engaged was completely unexpected and an overwhelmingly beautiful and wonderful surprise. We never would have imagined having close to 12,000 votes by the end of the voting portion of the contest. We had no idea that our video would get over 6,000 views. I never in a million years would have anticipated the number of shares, comments, and – best of all – new friends that would come about as a result of entering this giveaway. We had people FIGHTING for us. The day we found out that we lost in the panel round and didn’t win the wedding despite everyone believing we would from having the majority of the public’s votes… I could literally feel people’s anger and disappointment. I couldn’t respond with even more of those emotions, so I didn’t respond at all, and I think it opened the door to people guessing and speculating. What we’re feeling now is just so much joy from being surrounded by so many people that love us and still want to make our wedding dreams come true. There are still moments of being sad… like scrolling through my feed and seeing a photo of the winning couple (and obviously wishing that was us!)… and trying to explain to people what happened to make the contest change and why we didn’t win over and over again and doing my best to defend the contest organizers while I’m still trying to sort through my own emotions… it’s been rough! The definition of an emotional roller coaster… but everything in this life has a cost and a benefit. And though the costs were much higher than we expected, the benefits I believe are still outweighing the costs we had to pay. Even though this ended with our private financial and relationship matters being public and questioning the motives of some of our most treasured friends (people love to speak before they think!), we’ve come out on the other side with many new friends, the support of hundreds online who want to give us their time to help us plan a wedding and prepare for marriage, and some phenomenal vendors who are donating their creative talents to our wedding day. THAT was the best surprise of all!
- So where are we now? Well… let me just restate, we aren’t getting married this year! :) I’ve said it multiple times online and in person but I think my words have been misinterpreted in some way shape or form somewhere along the line… with the group on Facebook and the GoFundMe and everyone being so excited to help us plan our wedding, it probably seems like things are accelerated now and happening soon. But the truth is we have been talking together since the giveaway ended about when the best time to get married would be and that’s something we’re hoping will be mutually decided on VERY soon. Which is really really exciting… to think that we might have a DAY to count down to after all these years. Ahhh!! THAT is where the joy is, folks. What you don’t see are the countless hours spent crying myself to sleep over the years because the struggle to wait until our wedding day felt too long and miserable to keep fighting. At the end of the day, it’s about honoring God in our marriage. It’s about purity. It’s about coming home to him at the end of a long day. It’s about making him breakfast and learning everything I can about everything he is and was and wants to be and working just as hard to make his dreams come true as I do my own, no matter how difficult it gets, no matter how badly I might want out somedays, it’s an irreversible commitment for LIFE… and it’s not one that we’re taking lightly. You would think that after 5 years of learning the in’s and out’s of someone, people would stop saying you’re too young… but alas, that’s not the way of the world. So, we’re working towards it every day, AND we’re taking our time… but we’re pretty sure we can now say that we’ll already be married when the clock strikes midnight on January 1st, 2017 :)
This giveaway stretched us, chewed us up, and spit us back out again, worn, defeated, crying (okay, that was just me) but REFINED. Our story is out there. It’s been told. We’re still waiting on the Lord to provide and make the way clear to us. And at least until then, I think we’re being called to live life a little quieter and keep the private matters to ourselves. “11 Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. 12 Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12) That verse really hits home, huh?!?! We’re praying, we’re excited, we’re thankful, and we’re ready to just enjoy being engaged and start the wedding planning at a slower pace than we thought we would a few days ago. There was a lot of momentum with the giveaway and it was a huge blessing but we truly believe God will continue to provide even as we live a little more quietly and keep the wedding planning a bit more secretive! ;) We never wanted the stresses of planning a wedding to steal our joy of being engaged and having each other… and we’re seeing that’s a lot easier said than done! Especially when you have HUNDREDS of people watching you! Yikes!! So we’re going to take a little break from the detailed public posts about anything wedding related for these next couple of months. We sincerely hope that you’ll keep us in your prayers and reach out to us personally if you want to be a part of the exciting wedding planning stuff!!! We are so thankful for the amazing family and friends we’ve been surrounded with… and I am SO happy to finally say… the giveaway is OVER….. that door is CLOSED…… and we are moving on!!!!