This past year, I married the man I was born to love twice.
I said “I do" for the first time on October 9, 2015, and then again on October 10, 2015. About a year earlier, we got engaged on my husband's birthday.
I have to pause for a second as I write “husband". Our commitment to being forever bound to each other came long before those days, long before that title, long before I answered "yes" to his proposal. As far as I'm concerned, it was through our daughter that we made our first and most important commitment to each other.
Realistically, you can marry whoever you want, divorce that person, and move on with your life. However, when you procreate together, you are forever bound to each other through that child and that is a very serious lifelong decision. Commitment in any relationship should come before you ever decide to procreate or legalize your union. It is something that a person displays to you through their actions and not their words. It is something that creates comfort and peace in your home; not destruction and chaos. True love is about security, stability, honesty, loyalty and freedom.
The freedom to be yourself and to grow organically.
You will not have to question, analyze, or decide if someone is truly committed to building with you, you will know.
And I knew.
I always knew.
What happened those two days back in October was just adding another layer to commitments Bryan and I already made. Our daughter, Amirah, was a seed we both planted and from her and within her, grew a tree of love in great abundance, deepening love to something even more eternal if at all possible. Our weddings were absolutely perfect, mostly because I went into those days with the mindset that they would be. I wasn't going be the bride who spent energy stressing about little things. I would be the bride focusing on the actual point, celebrating our love.
For me, it was simply a day to celebrate what we had already been doing for 7 years prior to our wedding date. Marriage for us is an extension of our already existing bond, a way for us to enhance one another's lives, as well as striving for our own individual greatness. In our time together, I've found that you don't need to get married to create this bond with another human being and you don't have to have a super expensive wedding to prove anything to anyone either.
Our wedding was by ourselves and for ourselves.
Our wedding was officiated by two of our friends, Kalonji Nzinga and Najib Kamagate, who got ordained online and created a personal ceremony that really touched our hearts. My Aunt Joyce made the broom we jumped over and my friend, Ashley Simpson, sung me down the aisle. Our wedding party consisted of thirteen bridesmaids, thirteen groomsmen, and three flower girls. I went into my wedding day with so much pride that we had made it to this moment together.
Our budget was on the lower end of the expense scale at $15,000, paid for primarily by me. I thought it would be a nice gesture to my husband because of how much he sacrifices for our family as the financial leader of our home. The Strongwater Food and Spirits based in Columbus, Ohio acted as our venue of choice and was the perfect backdrop for our minimalistic wedding.
DIY home and jewelry designer Nalo Wise doubled as my matron of honor and decorator, providing most of the eco friendly décor of the celebration, including planter beds with succulents flown in from California that guests were able to take home with them.Our favorite foods of fish tacos, jackfruit tacos, falafel, macaroni and cheese, kale salad, and a table of our favorite desserts of: oreos, sour patch kids, donuts, and chocolate cakes were offered in abundance to guests in attendance.
The day after my second wedding, which was a traditional Cambodian wedding to honor my husband's culture, I was lying next to my husband and looking at this beautiful man that I fell in love with so long ago.
And I realized that I didn't really feel a difference after being married. I had always loved him, honored him, been faithful, and committed. I realized at that very moment that we can have everything we want in life, with or without titles. Happiness is a mindset, something you have to be willing to accomplish beyond others' ideals.
Yes, our wedding was beautiful and yes, those two days were a great way to create memories that we will never forget. But, if there were no ceremonies and we had decided to take that money and travel with our daughter instead, we would have returned home to the same reality.
We are in love, we are committed, and I now realize that marriage is something that happens long before the wedding.
Bride: Ashley Sirah Hinton Chea @watermeloneggrolls
Groom: Bryan Chea @_chea
Wedding Planner: Lindsey Collins
Wedding Décor: @PeytonNile
Makeup Artist: @Noonebeam
The most beautiful takeaway I have about marrying my husband was the news we learned in the months that followed. Two months after the wedding, we found out we were having our second child.
After suffering a miscarriage last year and it being such an emotional experience, I believed I might never have another child. Conceiving is difficult for me because I do not ovulate regularly and I wasn't willing to take any medication to fix the problem I was having. I am a strong believer in letting things happen naturally and organically.
We were able to conceive our second child on my sister's birthday. The irony of that date is not lost because my sister passed away 8 years ago. I always feel like she finds a way to remind me she is still with me.
Our daughter now acts as another beautiful reminder of her.
Click here to read Ashley & Bryan's Proposal Story
Ashley Chea is the founder of Beautiful Beautiful Me, a children's book and beauty campaign. Follow her journey on Instagram at @watermeloneggrolls