You might have noticed I didn’t have a new column last weekend and that was because I was in Southern California for a wedding and vacation. My family and I spent a week between Los Angeles and San Diego, seeing the sites and seeing my sister Ashley marry her husband John.

At the end of it all, my stepfather asked me if I was going to write about the trip in my next column. I responded by saying, “I think this week has given me enough material for several columns.”

In total, we spent about two days in Los Angeles, about five days in San Diego, and several hours in between. It was certainly a trip I won’t soon forget and I have lots of things I want to share with you all over the next few weeks, but of course I have to begin my story with the aforementioned wedding.

The rehearsal and ceremony itself were toward the end of our week on the west coast, but they were by far the biggest two days for all of us during our time there.

The proceedings kicked off around 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 25, with the actual rehearsal. It was my first chance getting to see where the wedding would take place, and I have to say Ashley picked an absolutely gorgeous location.

It was held at the La Valencia hotel located in La Jolla which is right outside of San Diego. The hotel was magnificent and the seaside city of La Jolla is a lovely place to spend a few days.

The spot where the wedding was to be held was also the perfect spot on the grounds of the hotel. It was a little outdoor garden-type area that overlooked the pool and also had a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean.

As we arrived to the hotel, we found the staff to be very friendly and helpful as they parked our car and escorted us right where we needed to be. Then as the family and wedding party were all together, the rehearsal got underway.

As per usual, the party rehearsed the ceremony a couple of times so that everyone knew what they needed to do and where they needed to be for the big day.

My role was to live stream the wedding ceremony on Facebook Live. My mother and several other close family members and friends were unable to make the journey across the country, and so Ashley wanted to make sure they had a way to watch it live as well.

Thus, during the rehearsal, I spent a few minutes testing out my phone and Internet connection to make sure it was all stable enough to broadcast the wedding the next day. I walked around the garden area for about seven or eight minutes, testing it out while also showing my Facebook friends what the hotel looked like.

Mom was on standby during the rehearsal so she could watch my video to let me know if there were any issues on her end. Thankfully, everything seemed to work great, meaning my little role in Ashley and John’s big day was in good shape.

After the rehearsal, everyone who was there met up with several others a couple miles away at an Italian restaurant called Piatti. This was the rehearsal dinner, and we were all treated by John’s parents to a delicious three-course meal.

The next day, Sunday, May 26, was the big day.

My wife, stepfather and I arrived a few hours early to take photos and to help with any last-minute preparations. As the clock got closer and closer to wedding time, guests began to pack the garden area where the ceremony was about to take place.

Then, promptly at 4 p.m., the event got underway.

Marching out first was the groom John in his tuxedo and also his dog Lula who was dressed with flowers. Up next was the entrance of John’s parents, Russell and Joan. They were followed by John’s brother Patrick and sister Heather who stood next to him during the ceremony. Then came out my little niece Sophie and John’s niece who were serving as flower girls. And right before the bride made her grand entrance was the entrance of my oldest sister Amanda who was carrying her little 1-year-old girl, Grace.

But of course the woman of the hour was my sister Ashley. She made her way down the aisle with her mother Claudette and my stepfather Tim. She looked absolutely beautiful in her dress and she just had such joy on her face as she was about to get married in front of a crowd of loved ones.

The ceremony got underway with the official asking everyone to take a moment and let it all sink in. Then he told the story of Ashley and John and how they had gotten to this special day.

After that, Ashley and John each had a chance to share “words of love” before they recited their vows. Since the beginning, Ashley has been keeping track of their number of dates, and she mentioned that Date #562 is what brought them there to the wedding day. That special date was then concluded as the groom kissed the bride, and the official announced them for the first time as husband and wife.

Of course, if you’ve ever been to a wedding then you know the fun is just getting started with the ceremony itself. From there, everyone moved up a flight of stairs to the hotel’s Veranda Ballroom where the reception was being held.

It was also a beautiful spot on the premises, with an indoor ballroom and an outdoor veranda where you could look out over the water.

The guests enjoyed refreshments while the wedding party and family took photos. Then after the party arrived, everyone made their way to their designated tables.

Dinner included a choice of soup or salad, and then a choice of either pasta, ribs or salmon for the main course. For the sweet tooth, there was a “donut wall” which was exactly what it sounds like — a wall of donuts for everyone to come grab. And if all of that wasn't enough, they had the traditional wedding cake, too.

After dinner wrapped up, several members of the family got the chance to deliver toasts to the bride and groom. First up was Amanda, then Amanda and Ashley’s mom Claudette, who was followed by my stepfather Tim. Up next was John’s parents Joan and Russell, who was followed by John’s sister Heather and John’s brother Patrick.

Finally, the night wrapped up with a couple of hours of dancing before everyone officially sent Ashley and John on their way off as newlyweds.

From start to finish, it was a wonderful day for a wonderful couple. The venue and ceremony were beautiful, lots of people were in attendance to share the special time, and the two who were no doubt made for each other got to make it official.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”

I want to say thanks to Ashley and John for allowing me to be a part of their special day. It was a celebration I’ll never forget and will always remember fondly.

Even though we live over 2,000 miles apart, you both will always be in my thoughts and I’ll keep you in my prayers as you all begin your new lives together.

Congratulations on becoming husband and wife. I look forward to seeing what’s in store for you both, and I love you all very much.

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