The Best Gift I Got On My Wedding Day (that wasn’t on the registry )

I won’t leave you hanging here – the surprising gift I received is: a huge boost of self-esteem realizing I’m surrounded by zillions of wonderful, accomplished, diverse, loving people who traveled from far and close just to see me marry my wonderful fiancé who’s wholeheartedly confirmed, “yeah, I want to spend the rest of my life with you!”

Let’s unpack that. If you read my blog, if you’ve heard my TEDx Talk, you know I basically raised myself through those critical formative years of tween to teen, making a myriad of pretty terrible mistakes along the way, culminating in my dropping out of high school.

Remember those tween/teen years? You were certain everyone was looking at you and judging you for what you wore, for what your hair looked like, for what you said, and I, like many kids, judged myself even harder. Figured I’d get it out of the way before you could win at it. Without any responsible adult or mentor to show me the way, I was left to figure it out on my own.

As such, I ended up accepting and embodying some pretty unbecoming labels and wore them with a thick layer of shame. I saw myself as a bad person, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not skinny enough, not perfect enough, not funny enough, certainly not confident or cool enough and I was just getting started.

I know, I know. I’m a TV Anchor now. I bared my soul in a TEDx Talk. I give inspirational talks at prisons and non-profits and I emcee charity events. I mentor dozens of journalists. But, even though I’ve come so far, I still struggle with getting stuck in old beliefs. Not all the time. But, when I’m stressed, or not taking care of myself, like during those months of intense wedding planning (what the hell can I borrow that’s blue?), the old thoughts come rushing back: I’m not worthy. God, I hope I like my hair on my wedding day, it always looks so bad. Why didn’t I start this workout plan weeks earlier, you’re supposed to look the best you’ve ever looked on your wedding day. Stuff like that It makes NO sense. But, sometimes our head can be a nonsensical place.

It’s all because this stupid thing called fear lives there. You can try to evict it. But, it’s like a pervasive weed, it always tries to find it’s way back. For me, the best defense is self-care. Reading self-help and spiritual books, watching inspirational videos, doing yoga, eating right, looking at the abundance of my life rather than the lack, doing all the things that tell me I’m worthy. And with all the stress a TV job brings in today’s environment, plus planning a dang wedding, let’s just say self-care went on a vacation, and fear unpacked it’s crappy bags.

Well, on my wedding day, a miracle happened. I felt confident! I looked my best! Seriously! It wasn’t because I did an extra workout. Hell, I didn’t get near a class the entire week. It’s because I accepted. Accepted that if I stand up straighter, I’ll look skinnier, and that’s good enough. Accepted that it’s ok if you aren’t perfect, and don’t have abs. I also let go of the notion that only I can do my own makeup and only I know what looks best. I have a lot of worries about giving up control to other people – but I learned that if I trust my gut, it always leads me to the right place. For example, a friend gave me a recommendation for a makeup artist, and when I checked out her website, I saw a beautiful picture of a friend of mine there and her makeup looked gorgeous! With two recommendations, I decided to set aside my ego and need for control, let go and let God.

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Then THIS happened. I put on my dress and while it was snug, it looked fantastic!  I could have chosen to view it as being too tight, but I chose to look at it as form-fitting. I was shocked to see that I loved what the person in the mirror looked like and that person was me!

Then, the wedding. It took place at this industrial-looking event space and restaurant called Malmaison in the Georgetown section of D.C. I had worked on this wedding and wore my hard work on my sleeve like a badge of honor. I will admit I cried over the growing guest list, got testy over the expanding list of needs (why do we even need flowers?) the to-do lists, the fact that I was doing it all myself (although my fiancé was doing some of the work, but that’s just a detail).</div

With the dress on, and hair and makeup done, my friends came to our hotel room to help pre-celebrate. The photographers came and took stunning photos of Josh and I before we arrived at the venue. Then, we had to hide in a little storage room while waiting for everyone to get seated for the ceremony so as to not ruin the surprise. There were 9 of us and a dog in there (a dog, because our rescue pup Murray was the ring bearer, of course). Then the music started, and it was time for everyone to walk down the aisle. It was time to #GetMurrayd! (uh huh).

I looked at Josh and saw the love and admiration in his eyes, and how happy he was that he was marrying me. (ME!) I knew it was all going to be ok. I walked down that aisle and as I did, I made eye contact with people, smiling as if to say ‘thank you for being here.’ The ceremony was funny, warm, and totally us. Murray started barking when people clapped, as if he was shouting to the world how happy he was to be part of this new family.


The rest of the day was a whirlwind. We took pictures with everyone under the sun. We took pictures with the photographers here, there and everywhere. We danced, we cried, we caught up with people, we had a “moment” about the music selection (not a good one), we ate, we drank, we danced some more, and mostly we marveled at this eclectic array of people who had come from far and wide to celebrate our big day. They were truly happy for us. And there was no place on earth they’d rather be.

Josh and I tried to sleep that night but we were amped up on adrenaline. The whirlwind completely swept us up. We tried to digest what had just happened – this amazing, incredible night we spent months planning for actually worked and was wonderful! It brought us closer together but it also brought us closer than either of us had come to realizing we are good people and we are worthy of a great future, free of worry, and full of abundance.

Every one of the people who wished us well had reflected back to us how they saw us. They saw us as good people of strong integrity, who planned a great party and whose love story was worthy of much love and celebration. A couple with great things ahead of them. And that helped us to see it that way too.

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Truth be told. before the wedding, we had spent a lot of time worrying how our life was going to be. We knew we loved each other, but we were caught up in that space in our heads between fear and the future, not sure how we were going to ever afford a house, not sure what the future would hold for us career-wise. We were caught up in the details, and how it looked right now.

Do you ever do that? And now, there’s one thing we know – the greatest gift has been seeing ourselves as others see us – as two people beginning our lives as a team with an abundance of possibilities and options just waiting for us. Our friends and family can’t wait to see what we build together. We can’t wait too.
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One Comment Add yours

  1. Kenny says:

    What a wonderful post, Debra. Congratulations and all the best.

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