Real Life Mama: True happiness isn’t in the wedding

On January 27, Lee and I planned for an Ice Cream Formal to celebrate one entire year alcohol free. We did it up pretty big – hired a DJ for the event and had my mom secure a place with a gym so that we would have plenty of room for a dance floor and tables and chairs. We invited all of our friends and family – those who supported us throughout our journey and love us dearly.

Building up the fun and importance of it, and being a formal and all, we let the kids help pick out their outfits. Because it is the color of recovery (and, well, my favorite color) my only request was that they chose something purple.

Maylie and Mia went full out with prom style dresses exactly matching their girly personalities. Preferring anything but a dress, Lyndsay and Reagan picked out two different rompers complete with tennis shoes. Helping the boys out, I ordered three light purple button down shirts and blue and purple bow ties – then finished off their outfits with jeans, belts and cowboy boots (which happened to match Lee as well).

Wanting to dress up the event a bit, I met with two friends over table decorating ideas and came out with table runners with a pattern of sprinkles (how fitting for an ice cream party) and the most beautiful centerpieces created with flowers complete with cones on the bottom and sitting in a glass rectangle that was half filled with sprinkles.

I slowly ordered different pieces of the ice cream bar – apparently misreading the description on cones and winding up with enough for about half of Lima to have one. Ha! While not quite as bad as the cones, we ordered way too much ice cream as well.

On the night before the event, my parents and a few friends helped us put everything together – putting out tables and chairs, creating balloon arrangements, placing an ice cream area and a photo booth area complete with a triangle arch that Lee built (triangle – being the symbol of recovery). Collectively, we decorated each table not only with the crafted centerpieces, but also little cups and scoops for each topping (that we could quickly open and put out the next day. Chocolate chips, sprinkles, and marshmallows as well as chocolate, caramel and strawberry syrups and, of course, whipped cream were a part of every table.

On the day of the event, after three basketball games that our kiddos took part in, many of my friends and their daughters met at my house to get dolled up. Curling irons and wands were being twirled in three different rooms while blending brushes and eye pallets were in full utilization.

By 3:30pm or so, everyone was looking beautiful and ready to head over to the party which was already completely set up and inviting all for the most epic ice cream formal.

Only, to most of the guests’ surprise, it wasn’t just an ice cream formal.

Once almost all of our friends and family were present, Lee and I grabbed the microphones to thank everyone for their support on our journey. It was then that the magic happened.

Because all of our loved ones were already there, Lee suggested that we get married. This actually wasn’t too out of the ordinary for Lee as he has been openly clear for that last three years that he really wanted to marry me.

Acting the part, I told him we couldn’t get married — we didn’t have anyone to marry us. Then his brother stood up to proclaim that he recently became an ordained minister in the state of Ohio.

But I bounced back stating that we didn’t have any rings. To which Lee’s best bud stood up and pulled our wedding bands out of his pocket.

Oh, but I needed flowers – for myself and for my girls. As our parents snagged the beautiful pieces off the tables, my bestie placed a bouquet in my arm. It was at this point that the kids eyes got really big as they figured out what was happening. Reagan began crying.

As I acted out a complaint about getting married in a gym, my sister and cousin pulled over that arch that was being used for the photo booth – which sure did make a beautiful backdrop for a wedding. And another friend just happened to have a runner for us to walk down.

Within a minute or two, as jaws hit the floor, the area and circumstance transitioned from a one year sober formal to our surprise wedding.

With tears streaming down her cheeks, Reagan flung her arms around Lee’s neck and told him just how much she loved him – and I knew exactly how she felt.

I walked down an aisle to Lee that day – as did all of our babies – in the simplest surprise (yet fully planned out) wedding of our dreams. It was short, sweet, shared with our loved ones and topped off with ice cream and dancing.

You see, Lee and I had done this before – the whole wedding thing. And through past mistakes, growth, scars, learning experiences and complete trust in God – we know that, while beautiful, the true happiness isn’t in the wedding. It’s no surprise, the real beauty – the joy, work and Jesus — is in the marriage. And we couldn’t be more excited to start this wonderful married journey together.

Sarah (Pitson) Shrader was born and raised in Lima. She is a Lima Central Catholic and Tiffin University graduate. Sarah is a full-time working mama who enjoys writing about her somewhat crazy, always adventurous life as a mother. She lives in Bath Township with her daughters and writing inspirations, Maylie and Reagan.