Nathan and Jenni Rae have been married for over 20 years. They lost a child 16 years ago and it wrecked them. Their four week old baby boy never woke up from a nap and their marriage and their family struggled to recover from this loss for years. It was hard on their other children, it was hard on their marriage and it was hard on them individually. After years of tension and struggle, things got worse and two years ago, Nathan and Jenni Rae were separated and filed for divorce.
This is when things got crazy. Instead of moving further down that path, Nathan felt like God said to ask Jenni Rae for 60 days to date her and try one more time. She agreed.
They dated and went through coaching and incredibly hard work and eventually, Nathan proposed again. This past weekend, they were re-married and re-committed their lives and their family to the Lord. They stood in front of a room full of friends and family who had seen them walk a very dark road together. Many of the people surrounding them on this day were people who were in the trenches of this journey with them. They were there for hard conversations, they never gave up on them, they supported them when it seemed like it was over and hopeless… and they were there when they started over again.
Michael and I stood there and just cried through the whole ceremony. I can’t explain how powerful and beautiful it was to watch a couple be authentic enough to publicly talk about their downfalls and their struggle and then also invite others to witness their new beginning. I have photographed over 350 weddings…. and this one was the most impactful. Why? Because these two weren’t just renewing vows. Their old marriage is gone and a new one has begun. They know everything about one another… the good, the hard, the unflattering, the brokenness, the insecurities, etc…. and they still chose to commit all over again.
I shared a sneak peek on Tiktok and Instagram from this day and 99% of the comments were so affirming… but one comment stood out and the person said:
“Marriage isn’t hard, imagine having zero secrets”….
Here’s my feedback on that….
Marriages don’t always fall apart because of “secrets”. Sure, that’s one storyline…. but it’s a very naive perspective to think that’s why all marriages crumble. Marriages crumble because we’re broken people. We’re ALL broken. No one is exempt. We all have flaws. So, when you take flawed people and put them together, you are going to have issues eventually. Maybe their aren’t obvious, maybe they are minimal, maybe they don’t emerge until you’re in a traumatic situation…. but the bottomline is, there are no perfect people and no perfect relationships.
Marriages crumble because of so many different kinds of brokenness. You can commit to love someone for life but if you don’t love yourself, you will struggle to fully love anyone else in a healthy way. Marriages crumble because some people get married to “fix” their life and expect their partner to make them “happy”…. and that’s not the purpose of marriage. Marriages crumble because we’re blind to our own insecurities and we get in unhealthy patterns that involve tension, judgements and painful arguments.
The list goes on.
You can have a healthy relationship, but not a perfect one. Nathan and Jenni Rae’s Celebration of Restoration wasn’t about having a perfect relationship, it was a celebration of two broken people recommitting to be in the battle together. Healthy marriages have to overcome hurdles just like unhealthy ones do…. they just tend to do it as a team. Nathan and Jenni Rae committed again to being team players for the rest of their life.
I could talk about this for hours… but I want you to get to this blog post and see a visual representation of what it looks like to start over when you’re in your 40’s and have teenage children and a lifetime of pain and burdens together. This day was filled with so many beauty. It was an honor to capture it all!!! Enjoy!
The balloon was for Hosea, their baby boy that they lost.