Every little girl goes through stages of dreaming of Prince Charming. She fantasizes about the person she is going to marry—who he will be and how he will be. Mostly at this age, she is more concerned with how he looks rather than his personality traits or how she feels when she is with him. It’s a time when she isn’t aware of what true love or real life looks like.

And then she turns to planning the celebration. She decides what her wedding dress will be, where the ceremony is going to take place, what sort of flowers and colors she’s going to choose. As she ages, she finalizes her decisions about what she wants, sometimes without regard to cost. She will plan her whole wedding before she even meets Mr. Right.

I did.

By the time I met my husband, I had so many ideas of what I wanted to have for my wedding.

I didn’t get any of it when my wedding day came around: no dress, no color scheme, no church, no reception. We ended up going to our local courthouse and standing in front of a judge. We couldn’t afford the wedding I had always envisioned if we wanted to be able to have a home we dreamed about. I ended up getting nothing I dreamed about.

I got something better.

I married my best friend and soulmate. I never could have imagined marrying a man I love this much. I didn’t even know this kind of thing existed.

I may not have had the wedding of my dreams, but the man of my dreams was all that I needed.

It’s not about the wedding, it’s about the marriage.

It’s not about how you feel in that white dress coming down the aisle. It’s about how you feel when you are standing next to your partner.

It’s not about how he looks at you when he sees you dressed in white. It’s about how he looks at you in the unrehearsed mornings.

It’s not about spending thousands of dollars for people to eat dinner. It’s about being together for family celebrations with those closest to you.

It’s not about picking out flowers and colors for something that lasts one day. It’s about picking out where to live and how to decorate something that lasts a lifetime.

It’s not about feeding each other cake. It’s about taking care of each other.

It’s not about dancing with each other in front of hundreds to see. It’s about dancing in the kitchen with the kids watching.

And now that we understand what a strong marriage looks like and how hard it is, we are renewing our marriage with the celebration of my dreams, with the husband of my dreams, and the children of my dreams.

I’m glad we waited. Not only was it best financially for our situation, but now that we know what marriage is, we can celebrate all that we’ve overcome, and what we have to look forward to.

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Anastasia Smothers

Anastasia is a mother of four children under four and a proud wife to a veteran. When not with her children, she works full -time and also has a part-time position as a substitute teacher.