“What’s with all the chairs under the tent?” Tobin’s sister Perry asks as she looks out of the patio doors to the yard.
“Ah, I thought we’d play this cool game before we start cooking,” Tobin replies easily, “I played it at a conference and it’s a super cool ice breaker,”
“Huh,” Perry nods, satisfied with her answer. It’s not at all out of character for Tobin to do something like that.
People are mingling in the house and outside on the deck with drinks in hand and nibbling on the few appetizers Christen and Tobin had put together last night. The Press and Heath families met with ease, making jokes about if they were royalty in their past lives too and it didn’t take long at all for Christen and Tobin’s siblings to gather around and start telling embarrassing stories from childhood. Becky arrived with Zola and a tray of cupcakes she had offered to make, Ali and Ashlyn brought a few bottles of champagne, claiming that champagne after eating was calorie free. Syd and Dom brought some chocolate covered strawberries for a dessert. Megan and Sue arrived with some appetizers and more champagne. The only person missing was Alyssa, who was busy getting to know her soulmate and politely explained it was too soon for meeting friends just yet. Jrue and Lauren arrive with little Jrue and homemade cookies to share. Amy, Adam and the boys enter with a veggie tray and dip. Everyone had offered to bring something and wanted to help cook and Tobin graciously asked them to bring either appetizers, booze, or desserts to keep it easy.
The kids are enamored with the dogs who behave wonderfully with the excited children, patiently greeting them and then bolting outside to play fetch with them. Their parents minded them outside, laughing and taking photos.
Christen slides the last tray in the oven and catches Tobin’s eye and smiles at her, giving her a knowing look and slight nod. She’s proud of Tobin, for all of her worrying, she’s been completely calm today. Once she calls the dogs inside, she hears Tobin whistle loudly and the group quiets down.
“Okay guys,” Tobin says, “Chris and I want to thank you all for coming here today,” she begins, “we’re going to play a little game today, outside under the tent. If you could please head out that way, that would be awesome. Mom, Dad, Cody and Stacy, if you hang back here, Chris wants to go over the game with you guys. Oh, leave the seats open in front for the parents, okay?” The two catch their sisters and Tobin’s brother on their out and have them go into the living room as well.
The group shuffles out, grabbing drinks and appetizers, completely unaware of the events about to unfold. Megan and Sue pop outside, claiming they want to film this game for the documentary, Megan using some flimsy, but believable, excuse of humanizing the Tobin and Christen for the dorks they are for an episode of her podcast and promising to blur out anyone who didn’t want to be in it. Sue gets a tripod set up and swiftly gets a camera mounted to it while Magen roams around and takes photos of everyone, easily joking around them all.
“Are you checking to see if there are topics that are off limits?” Stacy chuckles, putting an arm around her daughter, “Cause we’ve got no secrets honey,” she squeezes her.
Tobin enters the living room from the hallway carrying a cardboard box. “Is that doughnuts?” her Dad asks, reaching for it and Tobin taps his hand away.
“No,” she replies with a smile, “they’re flowers,” she opens it and sets it on the coffee table.
“For you guys to wear when you walk us down the aisle,” Christen beams at them.
They erupt with surprise, hugging the two and asking if they’re serious. When they assure them are, they all grow emotional, so incredibly happy for their daughters.
“So,” Tobin looks at her sisters, “you guys wanna be my bridesmaids?”
The squeals erupt when Christen asks her sisters the same question as they agree and retrieve their small bouquets.
Tobin approaches her brother, “Hey bud,” she smiles at him, “would you uh, want to do a short reading?”
Jeffrey smiles and hugs her, “It would be an honor, sis,” he squeezes her tight, “I’m so happy for you,”
She pins a boutonniere on his sweater and slaps a piece of paper in his hand. “Ali will give you the heads up,” He nods and starts reading the verse.
Tobin asks them to hang out for a couple of minutes and her and Christen duck into their bedroom, slipping on their outfits. They had already done their hair and make up so they were quick.
“Ready for this?” Tobin asks as she zippers up the back of Christen’s dress.
“You know it,” she smiles at her, giving her kiss when she turns to face her. Tobin takes her hand, “Let’s do this,”
Ali was lingering by the patio doors and Tobin pokes her head around the corner and gives her a thumbs up. Ali nods and gives a thumbs up to Ashlyn who is situated at the front of the chairs with a low table next to her. She pulls out her phone and soon music is flowing from the speaker on the table.
Jeffreys walks Perry and Katie down the aisle and the three smile as the reactions of everyone when they figure out what is going on. He escorts them to stand by Ashlyn who is up at the head of the tent facing the crowd and then he sits down in the front row.
When everyone sees Tobin at the patio door with her parents on each side, a gasp is heard.
“No way!” Syd yells out, realizing what is about to occur.
“Will you please rise,” Ashlyn issues, giving everyone a knowing smirk.
“I can’t believe you pulled this off,” Cindy says to Tobin, linking her arm around her daughter’s elbow, “I’m so excited!”
They walk onto the patio and down the ramp, smiling as the they pass their friends and family to the front where Tobin hugs and kisses her parents, and they stand by their seats. She gives Ashlyn a knuckle punch as she stands to her side, beaming when Christen approaches with her parents.
Cody and Stacy hug and kiss their daughter and then exchange hugs with the Heath’s before standing near their seats.
Ashlyn fades out the music. “You may all join me and be seated,” she snickers and chuckles. “Tobin and Christen,” she begins, “first, I’d like to thank you for giving me and Ali the honor of officiating these proceedings. I’ll have you know, we went online and got ordained that night after you asked us when you got engaged.”
“Second,” she says, smirking at them both, “I feel I speak for us all with much gratitude for how neither of you insist on being address as your royal highness or doctor,” The group assembled snickers and chuckles.
“Seriously though,” Ashlyn continues, “we are gathered here today to not just celebrate your union in marriage, but to witness a soul bonded couple find one another again. You both have had incredible journeys in this present life to get us to this point and it’s a privilege to be here today and see you profess your love for another, once again.”
Tobin beams at Christen, giving her hands a squeeze.
“Tobin and Christen have a profession of their love to say to each other.” Ashlyn states and she nods at Tobin.
Tobin swallows, suddenly aware that this it and her eyes widen. Christen smiles and squeezes her hands, giving her an encouraging smile. Tobin nods and takes a deep breath to calm herself.
“We’ve been blessed,” she states, “by our families and friends, surrounding us with so much love and support that we know what it’s like to give and feel love. I promise to always love you, be there for you and support you in all of your goals and dreams. I promise to listen always, speak my mind and communicate my thoughts and feelings, and to make you feel loved every single day with my words, actions, and my heart. You’ll never have a day without knowing how much I love you, even if we are separated by miles because you’re off somewhere, digging up old bones or something,” she smiles and the crowd chuckles. “I promise to be yours and yours alone, for today, tomorrow and eternity.” She lets out a breath and smiles at her.
“Tobin,” Christen smiles lovingly at her, “we’re so blessed with our love, for we occasionally get glimpses of our past to show how truly we were meant for each other. I promise to love you fiercely, be vulnerable and authentic with you and respect you every day. I promise to listen, be patient, and always communicate my feelings to you. I promise to support you, to follow your hopes and dreams and stand by you always. I promise to be yours and yours alone, for today, tomorrow and eternity.”
Ali steps forward and looks at them excitedly,
“Do you, Tobin Powell Heath, take Christen Annemarie Press to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish all the days of your life?”
Tobin smiles broadly, “I do,” Ali smiles and looks at Christen.
“Do you, Christen Annemarie Press, take Tobin Powell Heath to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish all the days of your life?”
Christen is nodding her head as she smiles, “I do.”
Ashlyn holds up a ring and Tobin takes it. “Today I say ‘I do’ but to me that means ‘I will’. I will dedicate myself to your happiness, I will cheer you on with your successes, I will support you through the hard times and I will always remain by your side.” Tobin says as she slides the ring on Christen’s finger. “I will love you forever,” she says, breathing in deeply and exhaling with a huge smile. Christen lets her fingers wiggle before accepting the ring from Ashlyn.
She turns to face Tobin. “I promise to be your navigator, best friend and wife. I promise to honor, love and cherish you through all of life’s adventures.” She slides the ring on Tobin’s finger. “Wherever we go, we’ll go together.”
Tobin beams at her as they join hands together once again.
Ali steps forward and gestures to Jeffrey. “Jeffrey will do a reading for us,”
Jeffrey stands up and moves next to Ali and gives everyone a smile before speaking. “Let us pray: Dear God, thank you for this joyous day. Thank you for Your Light that has entered Tobin and Christen’s life. Thank you for all the miracles and blessings you’ve bestowed upon them. God, bless them with the inner gifts of trust, compassion, forgiveness and truth that they may live and grow together in love and peace. Amen.”
He gives Tobin and Christen a wink and sits back down.
“As the married couples here can attest,” Ali smiles at the two, “not every day will be easy. There will be tests of patience, times of disagreements, times of disappointments and sadness.”
“Taking a moment in those times and remembering the vows you’ve pledged to another,” Ashlyn states, “that helps get through those rough times. Plus, being soul bonded means you can’t escape one another,” she smirks at them while the group chuckles.
Ali rolls her eyes at her wife and then shakes her head, smiling at Tobin and Christen. “May this home keep you grounded and always be filled with laughter and love. From this day you are officially committed to one another. You’re souls are joined as one, forever entwined and burning brightly within each other. May every blessing rain down on you both.”
“It gives me great joy to be able to say these next words,” Ashlyn grins at them, “By the power invested in me by the great state of California, I now pronounce you married. You may kiss,”
The group applauds as Tobin wraps her arms around Christen and dips her, holding her tightly as she looks down at her, “I love you so much,” she says, her eyes blazing with heat and love.
Christen looks up at her, her hands on Tobin’s shoulders to hang on even though she knows Tobin wouldn’t ever let her fall, she smiles at her, “Don’t you drop me,” she smirks and Tobin dips down and kisses her passionately. It’s a pretty short but hot kiss and Tobin hauls her up, kissing her softly before taking hold of her hand and then raising them over their heads. “We did it!” she yells to everyone that’s now on their feet.
After accepting hugs and kisses from everyone, Tobin and Christen posed for photos standing in front of the grassy sand dune. Then they took photos with their parents, siblings and friends. Sue gathered everyone together and set the camera on a timer and raced to join them for a series of group photos, complete with Morena and Khalessi.
Tobin and Christen profusely thanked Megan and Sue for taking photos and shooting video during the ceremony. They thanked Ali and Ashlyn heartfully for making it such a special ceremony. The whole group shared a long hug that was broken up by Perry shouting that they need to do a toast with everyone.
They pop open the champagne to cheers and fill up glasses and pretend they don’t notice that Syd isn’t drinking alcohol. When everyone has something drink, Tobin stands on a chair and helps Christen up next to her. They hold hands and the two beam at everyone.
“We just want to thank each of you for being here,” Christen begins, “you’ve all played a major role in our lives and help shape who we are today. Mom, Dad, thank you for always encouraging me to follow my dreams, to support me when I needed to understand my soul mark and for always supporting me, even when I was traveling to far off places. Channing and Tyler, thank you for loving me and always giving me the best sister ever. To my friends, I’m so happy you’re here today. You’ve talked me down when I thought I was going crazy, you’ve encouraged me when I was insecure. To Ali and Ashlyn, we can’t thank you enough for all that you’ve done, the ceremony was beautiful. Megan and Sue, thank you for taking photos. You’ve all made our day so much more special and we’re grateful to have photos to look back on.”
Tobin nods and licks her lips before speaking. “Thank you,” she says heartfully. “I’m so grateful for you all, for how you helped me throughout my life and got me to a place where I’m happy and content. It wasn’t always easy, it wasn’t always fun, but I’m so lucky to have you all here witness the absolute best day of my life. Family comes to us in many different ways: through birth,” she smiles at her parents and siblings, “through marriage,” she smiles and nods at the Press family, “and through those you’ve chosen as family,” she smiles at their friends. “We planned on doing this as a surprise because we wanted to keep it low key and have the people important to us here. You mean the world to us and we love you very much. Your attendance here is the best gift we could ever have. Chris and I want to serve you dinner as an act of our love and gratefulness to you being here. So, don’t ask to help,” she smirks and they chuckle.
“All we ask is for four things,” Christen says, “the first one is if you could bring the tables out and move the chairs around them, that would be great. The second is that you eat up the rest of the appetizers while we cook for you,” she smiles at them, “the third is for you to feel welcome in our home,” she smiles at the group and then at Tobin, “and the fourth is to enjoy yourselves.”
Tobin lifts her glass, “This toast is to you,” she smiles, “to our parents who modeled what a successful marriage is supposed to be, our families who are the best ever and to our friends who we love very much. This is to you,” she nods and takes a drink and the group joins her and Christen.
There are toasts from their parents, their siblings and from Ashlyn, Syd and Lauren. By the time they get ready to begin cooking, Christen and Tobin are both feeling a little tipsy from the champagne and the glow of the day.
Tobin removes her off white sweater, rolls up the sleeves of her white cardigan and pulls her hair back into a pony tail. She puts on an apron and gathers the kindling to start the fire in the grill. Christen also dons an apron and twists her hair into a loose bun, preparing the tray of the water glasses for the tables. Once the fire catches, Tobin and Christen chat with everyone while they deliver the place settings to each of the four tables, pleased that their parents as all sitting together and left two spots for them. Ashlyn has some dinner music playing from the speaker and she has their table roaring with laughter about a story of one of her and Tobin’s mishaps in college.
By the time Tobin has enough embers to begin cooking, the tables are ready with the centerpieces and dinnerware and pitchers of water. Tobin gets the steaks on the grill, while Christen is inside checking the trays in the oven. Since there are only four tables, Christen and Tobin had decided on serving dinner family style to make it easier and get everything out to their guests hot. Tobin signaled Christen when it was time to put on the seafood and that’s when Christen began bringing out the bowls of sides for each table.
“That was delicious, Tobin!” Stacy beams at her, “My dear, if you ever decide to stop being a physical therapist, you should consider going into catering,”
Tobin smiles, “Aw, thanks,” she blushes a little, “it’s fun to cook for crowds,” then she looks over at Christen who is sitting next to her, “besides, Chris help me lay it out and make the timeline of what to cook so it’d be all hot,”
“That’s the trickiest thing,” Tobin’s Dad Jeffrey nods as he reaches for the tongs to grab another lobster tail and put it on his plate.
“Especially if you’re making seafood along with steaks,” Cody grins as he helps himself to more as well.
“Christen,” Cindy gets her attention, “what seasonings did you put in the potatoes? It’s so good!” Christen had decided to make a cheesy au gratin that would easily heat up I the oven.
“Oh, I used some garlic and onion powder with some paprika,” she informs her. Cindy smiles, “The paprika,” she nods happily, “I always forget to use it,”
“Are you girls going on a honeymoon?” Stacy inquires, looking at the two expectantly.
Christen nods, “We’re going to Hawaii for a week in January,” she smiles and takes Tobin’s hand in hers.
“That’s a great place for a honeymoon, huh Stace?” Cody smiles broadly, “we went to Oahu,”
Both sets of parents had gone to Hawaii for their honeymoons and Tobin and Christen listened raptly to their stories about the touristy things they did while there. They spoke freely of the romantic spots they visited and how magical the place was. Both Tobin and Christen heard their parents speak of their honeymoons before, but not with these adult details. They exchanged shy glances, both feeling a little embarrassed hearing their parents speak of these things even now as adults.
“Whew!” Tobin slides her forearm across her sweaty forehead, giving Christen a smile as she catches her breath, “You having fun?” she asks as she accepts the water bottle from her wife and chugs it.
“Yes! You?” Christen asks, her eyes beaming, her hips moving to the music. She looks at Tobin, the sleeves still rolled up on her shirt, her shirttails are pulled from her pants, unbuttoned to expose her glistening skin and a touch of cleavage. She looks down, yep, still barefoot. Her feet are going to be so dirty and sore, Christen thinks to herself.
“You look so pretty,” Tobin smiles at her, she’s a little drunk and just so happy right now.
Christen gives her a smile and does a twirl, letting her dress billow, “Thank you,” she says, taking a drink of water from the bottle Tobin passed to her. They’ve been dancing with everyone for a couple of hours now. Right now they’re taking a short break to catch their breath and drink something that isn’t alcohol.
“I love how much our parents get along,” Tobin confesses to her, nodding in the direction of the table that was pushed to the side where the four adults sit talking animatedly and laughing. They truly look as if they’ve having a great time. Everyone does Christen thinks as she looks around, her sisters dancing in a circle with Tobin’s brother and Ashlyn, Syd and Becky. Zola and Dom are trying to follow dance moves Ali is teaching them. Megan and Sue are talking with Lauren and Amy and their husbands, while watching the kids dance nearby. She sees how her Mom occasionally pans her phone around, capturing the fun.
“It was meant to be,” Christen smiles at her, watching as Tobin runs a hand over hair, pulling a few loose strands from her face. Tobin takes the bottle from Christen’s hand and sets it on a chair and then she wraps her arms around her. Christen rubs her hands up Tobin’s back, feeling the dampness and interlocks her fingers behind her neck. The two sway together as the new song has a slower beat.
“You know what?” Tobin asks, giving her such a loving smile, her eyes exuding love.
“What’s that, sweetie?” Christen asks, feeling so happy, so loved, so complete in this moment.
”My love,”Tobin says, speaking in Coptic,”I will cherish every day with you in this lifetime,”
Christen kisses her softly, tilting her head to look at her, ”Me too,” she replies in Coptic, kissing her again and then arching an eyebrow and giving her a look, ”and the lifetimes after that too,”
Tobin nods solemnly and dips her, just like she did when they kissed at the end of their ceremony, hovering over her and gazing lovingly into her eyes, ”Yes, my Queen,” she says and kisses her.