So I've brought you right up to the month before the wedding. FINALLY Cuba released Chile and let him come to America. I am so grateful for all those who prayed on our behalf because I was just really, really angry. His birthday was October 11th. I had dinner with the Kisers and the Stearns. Karis and I sung him a happy birthday and made a wish that he would get to the U.S. SOON! My dad prayed specifically that he would receive his exit visa as a birthday gift.
Guess what? He DID! The very next day he received the exit visa. I immediately bought his ticket, and he made plans to move from his current apartment back home and spend that last week with his family. On October 18th he was on his way to Miami. We won't discuss the fact that he didn't call when he landed in Miami so I had NO IDEA if he'd made it to America (flight to Houston wasn't till the next day so that he could spend time with old friends) or the fact that he realized I was panicky and then called me at 2:30 in the morning. We won't talk about how happy that made (or didn't make) me.
So exactly one month before our wedding I took a half day off of work and headed to the airport to meet him. What a crazy feeling, finally seeing him in the U.S.! But we didn't have much time to think about it. This was the ONLY weekend my whole family could meet up in Arkansas so that he could meet my parents before the wedding. Therefore we got in the car, went to have a yummy first meal in America together at The Cheesecake Factory, stopped very quickly at what would become our apartment after we got married, and then got back in the car and drove 7.5 hours to Little Rock. We arrived late that night and he briefly met my parents. We spent that weekend together, introducing him to American football, football food, and family. He even tried to teach the family how to salsa.
Sunday we went to my dad's old (mega)church. Poor guy. As if America wasn't already overwhelming enough, this church is HUGE. Chile was fascinated by everything. Maybe one day I'll see if he'll write a blog entry on the culture shock (shopping, driving, cities, grocery stores, restaurants... the list goes on). But no time to be fascinated, I had to work on Monday! So we got back in the car Sunday afternoon and headed back to Houston. That night I dropped him off at our new apartment, told him I loved him and would see him after work, and drove to Sugar Land to the house I would live in until the wedding.
This was pretty much a pattern for the next month. See each other after school, I would leave and go to the other house, then work, then start again. Since Chile a) didn't have a driver's license b) didn't know how to drive c) didn't have a car and d) didn't have a work permit (he couldn't get one till after we were married) he pretty much just had to stay at the house all day long while I worked. So that was no bueno for him.
It was really hard to just sit around in a new country feeling slightly purposeless. Add his feelings to my feelings of craziness (if you've ever planned a wedding you understand this one) and you have a volatile situation. Oh, and add to the fact that you've never lived in the same country before so you have to have all your typical dating fights say, now, a month before your wedding, and you've got a situation friends. That month was HARD. We had so many, ehm, "discussions" about whether this was America Jen or Crazy-Wedding-Planning-Mode Jen. There were lots of tears. Lots of growing pains. In fact, we got into a HUGE blow out on the way to get our marriage license. Then we got the license, got back in the car and resumed the battle on the way to print the wedding bulletins. I remember pulling into the parking lot of Office Max and just sobbing. And him being unsure he actually wanted to marry me because I wasn't the same person he had met in Cuba. People, this was a HARD month.
This was a good month too though. We were finally in the same place. Yes, it was hard, but we were starting to work through important things. And we were together! So we did enjoy that too. And I knew that a lot of my crazy was about to end with the wedding, and he was patient enough to believe me when I told him it really would all be different.
So that brings us to November 18th. Rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. My family had arrived. His friends from Miami had arrived (just in the nick of time if I recall). The pastor had arrived. We were ready to go. Things were finally falling into place. And I finally got to the place of, "What ever happens I just don't care anymore." So then I was able to enjoy myself. We had a great rehearsal (poor Chile was so super nervous about all the repeat after me's in English!) and a wonderful dinner at Pappasitos. The happy was setting in.
The next day was hands down one of the best days of my life. I had a great night before sleepover with my girls. God graciously helped a very pregnant Becky not to snore, so we all got a good nights sleep. We went down in the morning to have breakfast at the hotel and then went to get our nails done. I have no idea what the guys did all day, but they all made it to the wedding and ON TIME (impressive for a group of Cubans). We went to get our hair done and before I knew it, it was time to take photos. We had agreed to do a "first look" since photos on the beach were important to me and our wedding was in the evening. I absolutely love the first look photos though. It was such a precious moment and helped both of us not to be so nervous for the ceremony.
The ceremony was wonderful. Again, I could not have better memories of the day. In between the ceremony and reception Chile and I watched a video his friends in Cuba had made him, congratulating him on the day. It was pretty emotional. But then we went back upstairs, ate BBQ, and had a party! It had been a long journey, but we had done it- we were married!
Friends praying for us and our marriage.
I LOVE this one! All of our sweet little flower girls and ring bearers. Some of my favorite memories are from those two little guys, just 6 and 8 at the time. Just before I walked down the aisle Jay, then 6, looked at me and said, "This sure is a special day for you, isn't it Ms. Jen?" It was too sweet. And then I found out later that when Gabe, 8, sat down next to his mom he teared up. She asked him what was wrong and he told her he was just so happy for us. I love those precious memories of those tough but sweet little boys.
Throwing the bouquet- check out the 2 girls in the back. I LOVE THIS PICTURE SO MUCH.
Chile was so happy because I trusted him (after practicing less than a month) to drive us the few blocks to the hotel. I'm not gonna lie, it was a little scary. And never teach your husband how to drive.
Oh the arguments that ensued the next several months...
We stayed in Galveston the next week for our honeymoon. My family stayed too, so we went over to their house on Thanksgiving and had the traditional meal with them. Then my dad took the family to Pleasure Pier, a small amusement park. Have I mentioned how much Chile does not enjoy heights? These, along with a FEW others ;), are some of my favorite memories of our honeymoon.
Chile on his first "roller coaster". That's my four year old niece in the cowgirl boots and jeans.
She's pretty relaxed. He is too, before the ride starts.
Mind you, this thing just goes up and down and is not all that high. It's a child's ride after all.
I NEVER buy roller coaster photos, but we had to get this one. This is me, my sister, and dad all screaming in delight. And poor Chile holding his breath. Now, to give him some credit, this IS a real roller coaster and it has a pretty much straight down drop. So props for riding it at all. However, the face, OOOH the face- it's a priceless memory.