Tuesday, March 12, 2019

How I Chose to Celebrate My Birthmark on My Wedding Day

My whole life, I've received comments about my facial difference (a birthmark that also causes symmetry issues). Some kind, some not. One recurring comment? That I need to hide it, or get it "fixed" – when in reality, getting it "fixed" is not as simple as most would think.

As my wedding day approached, my excitement naturally increased. As did my plans.

And then the unavoidable happened.

Someone made a comment, indicating it would be better for me to cover my birthmark for my wedding day.

"Oh no she didn't," I thought.

Being one who has always embraced her appearance, I already had plans. Boy, did I have plans. 

Glam my birthmark with glitter? Check!

Find a wedding cake topper with a birthmark? Check!

But this comment? Oh, it made me up my game...and then came a purple fog machine photoshoot idea.

Because here's the thing...

No one should ever have to hide their natural appearance that God gave them to make others more comfortable. And makeup? It should be used to enhance the beauty we naturally have – not hide it! 

Have a birthmark? Glam the heck out of it.

Have freckles? Flaunt them.

Is your hair curly? Let the curls be free.

You can even let your creativity partner with your beauty, like I did on my wedding day, and find unique ways to highlight what makes you, well, you!

You are beautiful. You are one of a kind.

And no matter what anyone else says, you deserve to feel like a queen. Whether it's your wedding day, or it's your everyday Monday. You deserve to shine.

Please – never feel less than because of someone else's empty words.

You, my dear, are beautifully and wonderfully made.

For me? Honoring my birthmark was so much more than honoring a bit of purple on my skin, and all that goes with it. It meant honoring me and who I am – from the inside out.

It meant celebrating the day and being myself. It meant adding little touches to the day that fit my personality, from my dress to the wedding favors.

But more importantly? It meant marrying the man I love – a man who loves me just as I am. It meant inviting people I love to celebrate along with us – people who have never asked me to change. People who have never made me feel less than because of how God knit me together.

Here are some of the photos from our special day.

My maid of honor glamming my birthmark with glitter!
(Keith Hartman Photography)
It was such a sweet surprise to receive a scrapbook from my mom
full of letters from people in my life the night before the wedding.
She even had one for Richard too. I'm not an easy one to move to tears,
but she got me on this one.
(Keith Hartman Photography)
Photo by my bridesmaid, Anna Forlines.
Photo by my bridesmaid, Anna Forlines.
Keith Hartman Photography

Keith Hartman Photography

Keith Hartman Photography

Keith Hartman Photography

Keith Hartman Photography

Seeing myself in my gown, wedding ready, for the first time.
(Keith Hartman Photography)

Our wedding was vintaged theme. And both my mom and grandmother saved their
wedding dresses, but neither my sister or I used either one. So, I chose to display
them both – honoring the heritage of their marriages and the examples
of their love. Each dress has a photo of their wedding next
to the dress, and my mom's has her veil next to hers.
(Keith Hartman Photography)

Married to the man of my life, again.
(Keith Hartman Photography)

Our wedding cake topper! But instead of cake, we had donuts.
It took weeks to find this cake topper option. When I Googled "wedding cake
toppers with birthmarks," I got naked mole rats with veils and top hats. Then my
friend recommended me to Little Clay Land on Instagram. And oh my lanta, am
I so glad. You can also visit her website directly here.
(Keith Hartman Photography)

Not only did Laura include my birthmark in my cake topper,
but Richard's bowtie matches my birthmark. And there's glitter
on my birthmark.

Also, each tile in the mosaic behind my cake topper was painted
at my bridal shower!

(Photo by my friend Naomi!)

Not only did I have Little Clay Land make my cake topper, I had her make a small
version of my topper – and ornaments for my bridesmaids. And oh, their reactions
were the sweetest.
(Keith Hartman Photography)
Keith Hartman Photography 
Keith Hartman Photography

Photo by Nerris Nassiri
Keith Hartman Photography

Keith Hartman Photography
Keith Hartman Photography

Keith Hartman Photography

Keith Hartman Photography

Who doesn't love a few glow sticks?
Keith Hartman Photography

Keith Hartman Photography

Keith Hartman Photography

Keith Hartman Photography

The woman who raised me, who taught me how to be myself. She taught me to find
joy in all things, and helped me find ways to always embrace myself – regardless of how
others reacted to my unique appearance. She has always made me feel like a queen.
(Keith Hartman Photography.)

My girls, my support system. They were there in my single years and when I fell in love.
They've been there in my ups and downs, and I'm here for theirs. Together we've laughed,
cried, celebrated and danced. They are magnificent, and I'm so thankful to call them
my friends.
(Keith Hartman Photography)

Do you guys remember my friend Naomi? She has the same type of birthmark
on her face that I have, and has undergone the same kind of medical treatments
I've had to undergo. She followed me on social media for a while, and then last
year during a road trip, I surprised her in her school's hallway! One of my biggest
highlights was having her at my wedding. She and her parents had to drive quite the
way to join us, and it meant the world that they were there. Growing up, I never saw
people with the same condition – let alone couples with one of the people having a
body difference. So for her to sit there, and see that you can get married and glam your
birthmark and be fully embraced by your spouse? And for it to even be included in our
vows? Wow. What a highlight of my day to know she was there, and to celebrate with her.
Yasssss queens.

To the left: Katelyn Hartman, the beautiful photographer's daughter. She
lives with Goldenhar syndrome.

To my right? My beautiful friend Naomi, who like me, also has a port wine stain
birthmark on her face.

And oh, how we danced the night away.

(Keith Hartman Photography)

Mother/daughter duos – there's nothing more powerful.
(Keith Hartman Photography)

Keith Hartman Photography

Our amazing video team and photography team!

Thank you for celebrating with us!
(Keith Hartman Photography)
The Travelin' Chick,

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Why My Husband and I Had a 'Pop Up Wedding'

Whew. What a whirlwind.

In the last several months, I've unintentionally disappeared from my blog, but if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook – you know my life has had many changes. I had a pop up wedding, the originally planned wedding, moved across the country, and bought a house!

Yeah, I know. That's a lot.

I know I have a lot to catch you up on, but let's start with the pop up wedding. You may be asking, "What is a pop up wedding?" Or, "Why did you guys get married twice?"

Great questions. Let me fill you in.

On June 1, 2018, Richard and I got engaged. Looking at venues, we set a time and place: February 15, 2019, at the Branch and Vine in Madera, California.

Then, our plans were thrown for a loop.

Shortly after we got engaged, Richard then got a job interview in Franklin, Tennessee. Richard started the process of talking with the company and interviewing with them. Before we knew it, several weeks later – he had a job offer.

A senior electrical engineer at 27? Wowzers. He and I were in agreement. He needed to accept the position.

While I was excited, and I was even the one who encouraged him to look in the Nashville area...Richard was now moving to Tennessee. I live in California. And our wedding was still three to four months away.

Then it dawned on me...

I didn't want him to go without me.

After Richard got the job, I was driving to the coastline where he was waiting for me. Mom was there, and my friend from Nashville would be joining us too.

As I was driving, I kept having flashbacks to the last several weeks. During our whole engagement process, because of different stressors, I kept making jokes about us just eloping. Mom would give me the, "Don't you dare," stare. Richard would laugh. And while I was partially kidding, I was also partially serious.

While I drove the three hours, the idea hit me.

What if we did elope – but in an inclusive way? What if we had a POP UP WEDDING?

Then the plan started to unfold.

What if we had a wedding during a church service – but no one knew it was a wedding, except those who had to know? What if grandpa gets up to give a sermon – but instead, "Surprise! Here comes the bride!"
A bride looking into a mirror.

Richard didn't have long before he had to go to Tennessee. He had a month. And if we wanted to have time for a honeymoon, pack up his life, my life, and then move – we'd have to get married in two weeks. 

By the time I got to the coast, I basically had all the details ironed out.

I parked my car, went inside the oceanfront condo, ran up the stairs and exclaimed, "I have the best idea."

They all looked at me with curiosity, maybe even a little bit of skepticism.

My poor husband got the wedding idea at the same time my mom did. But I knew he'd be on board. He would have married me weeks earlier, had I had the idea then.

I threw out the words "pop up wedding," and gave my road trip definition and concept as quickly as I could.

And the curve ball I threw my mom? I asked her to plan it.


Weddings are meant to celebrate the bride and groom, yet they often stress over every little detail to make so many other people happy. They stress and exhaust themselves. I decided that while I knew we had to help to some extent (especially with the ceremony), I wanted a party thrown in our honor. After all, we decided to keep February 15 as our big wedding day that would fit our personalities. That's the one we would dive in deep to help plan.

For the pop up, I literally wanted to just show up and celebrate our love. I wanted to celebrate us.

Plus, mom knows me. She's one of my best friends, and one of my biggest cheerleaders. And she was so onboard with this plan. In fact, she was thrilled with the idea.

She knew I loved sunflowers. Our February wedding would be vintage, and we were OK with using the same decorations for both weddings and venues. And instead of cake, she already knew donuts were my choice of post-wedding celebration. After all, we did get engaged on national donut day!

She's my mom. She gets me.

And the day turned out beautiful.

I found a white dress on sale at Torrid, saving my yet-to-be-altered dress I found at David's Bridal for the bigger wedding in February – per Richard's request. After all, two different days deserved two different dresses.

I found a special perfume to wear on the wedding day, so whenever I wear it, the smell can take him  back to that special moment of me walking down the aisle to become his wife. As I got ready, my best friend and maid of honor did my hair and makeup, just like she did for my first date with Richard – and for the day we got engaged.

a bride in a lacy dress holding sunflowers, which has a stick of gum in the front.

Richard and I picked every single worship song that played in that service that day. Each song meant something to his heart or my own, and I made sure to honor our first date by borrowing gum stick for my sunflower bouquet. I knew I wanted a moment of prayer with Richard during the wedding, and we picked the song I walked down the aisle too. For this wedding, we went more traditional and basic since we had two weeks and decided to go all out for February.

Oh, and we went live on Facebook.

Yes, there were stressors involved. No, the process wasn't perfect.

There were family emotions and situations. There was a heartache. I was adjusting to a major medication for migraines, which through the whole process and everyone involved for a loop. In addition, we were getting ready for a big move, and I was getting ready to leave the life I knew. I was getting ready to leave my family.

But, now that we've gotten married twice – I've learned that whether you have less than two weeks to plan a wedding, or you have months...every wedding has it's curve balls and stressors. The bloopers, the nerves, the "imperfections" of either day, the things and people out of our control...Psh. Those things don't really matter in the end.

Every wedding is so beautiful in every single way.


Because love.

From the moment I got engaged, my biggest mantra was to make the process as stress-free as possible. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't perfect at it. But at the end of the day? As long as I was married to Richard, that's all that mattered.

And now we've double sealed the deal.

So why did we still get married on February 15, in addition to our October anniversary? That was the dream venue, dream dress, dream ceremony. That was the ceremony where we go to invite all of our friends who have supported us as individuals and as a couple. We also got to take our time planning every detail for this fun party...a celebration of our love!

Love deserves to be celebrated. It should be celebrated. It's worth celebrating!

I waited a long time for Richard, and he waited for me. Two weddings? It's just an extra excuse to celebrate the gift God gave us – each other.

Why not get married twice?

The Travelin' (and Married) Chick,

PS: Stay tuned! Pictures from the next wedding are to come, and we did something a little extra special with those. You won't want to miss those – I guarantee it!