Weddings: Focus on the Marriage, Not the Wedding

Carmen Myer and Aaron James have made it through plenty of storms together, and many more over the years as children, including Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Gustav.

The most recent, and perhaps most nerve-racking, occurred just three weeks before their wedding. A fierce February storm brought freezing temperatures throughout Texas, taxing the state’s electrical infrastructure and leaving the couple without water or power in their Houston home for days.

“A pipe burst, covering 60 percent of our home with water and leaving a giant hole in our ceiling,” said Ms. Myer, 32.

Fortunately, just two days before the storm hit, Ms. Myer made plans to travel to Baton Rouge, La., the city where their wedding was scheduled to take place, to attend a bridal shower and drop off items stored in Houston for the wedding at her parent’s house. She brought with her their marriage license and her wedding dress.

“I left for Baton Rouge after work on Friday and got back Sunday around 2 p.m., right before it started sleeting,” Ms. Myer said. “We went to the grocery store for supplies, and we lost power that evening.”

Ms. Myer remained upbeat through it all. “Life constantly chooses to test us,” she said, “and we continually come out of the other side maybe a little bit worn down, but more in love and more connected.”

Ms. Myer, who grew up in Baton Rouge, is a Montessori teacher for an in-home Montessori pod. She attended Louisiana State University and later received an early childhood credential from the American Montessori Society at the Houston Montessori Center. Mr. James, 31, is a design engineer with Daikin Global in Waller, Texas, outside Houston. He grew up in Lafayette and graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

The pair met Feb. 9, 2017 on the dating app Bumble. But after dating for just a few months, they decided to take a break. That break lasted only 16 hours. “I picked her up after a parent/teacher mixer her school was having,” Mr. James said. “We went to get sushi, and I knew then I didn’t want to spend any more time away from her.”

This feeling only intensified when Mr. James moved to Houston from Lafayette and his rescue dog, Bahn, ran away. “Carmen was still living in Baton Rouge at the time,” he said. “She called around to local shelters and sent his photo out to different vets’ offices. Because of her, we were able to find him within two hours. Having her in my corner, and care for me in this way, to drop everything she was doing made my heart melt for her.”

For Ms. Myer “after a year of dating, I realized Aaron was the person I went to for advice, for comfort, for laughter, and for a good cry. I wanted to be around him no matter what mood I was in and felt like I could be myself no matter what was going on.”

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In 2019, on the day after Thanksgiving, Mr. James proposed to Ms. Myer in Lafayette, while the couple was in town to celebrate Mr. James’s grandmother’s 90th birthday.

“With a turkey carcass for Aaron’s dog in hand, I walked into a room lit with candles with Leon Bridges’s ‘Beyond’ playing, and I knew what was about to happen,” Ms. Myer said. “I immediately put down the carcass and slipped off the rings I had adorning my left ring finger.”

Storms haven’t been the only challenge for the couple. There was also the issue of distance.

When they began dating, they both lived an hour apart in Louisiana. She was in Baton Rouge, he in Lafayette. In August 2017, Mr. James moved to a place of his own in Baton Rouge, where Ms. Myer joined him five months later. Just seven months after that, he moved to Houston for work.

“For the next 21 months we were long distance,” Ms. Myer said. “I had a school where I really wanted to work alongside my mom, and he had an amazing job opportunity in Texas. We would see each other every two to three weeks and would take turns driving back and forth.”

The drive from Baton Rouge to Houston is about four-and-a-half hours. Sometimes they would meet in Lafayette so they could visit his family. In May 2020, she moved to Houston.

Mr. James said they learned a lot about one another through their long-distance relationship. “The trials of trying to make a relationship work while being in two separate states really allowed us to experience the ups and downs of life together,” he said. “It allowed me to learn to communicate in a way that is effective and helped me step up to the plate when showing Carmen how much she means to me.”

The couple had already planned an outdoor wedding in the plaza of the Capitol Park Museum in Baton Rouge, so no venue change was required because of the coronavirus pandemic. They did, however, downsize from a 250-plus guest list to one with fewer than 50.

“The celebration of our marriage through a wedding will be amazing but our main goal is to get married and begin our marriage, not to have a wedding,” Ms. Myer said.

From a pandemic to the strengthening of a national racial justice movement, wedding planning was more complicated than usual in 2020. As a teacher, Ms. Myer said she sees herself as an advocate both for her students and for marginalized communities. “It’s part of my nature to stand for what’s right and to educate others in a way they will understand.”

Ms. Myer’s grandfather, Oscar Allen Armstrong Sr., died in May 2020. Having faced the pandemic, losing a loved one to it, and seeing so many suffer, “My focus became less on the outward appearance of a wedding and more on beginning our marriage,” she said.

Planning her wedding was important to her — but Ms. Myer said, “Creating lasting change for generations” was important too.

The couple were married March 6 by Mr. James’s father, Antoine James, an Assemblies of God minister. Another 158 people on Zoom joined the 42 people present. After the ceremony, the couple said hello to their family and friends attending remotely and then enjoyed a few brief minutes alone to sign their marriage license and take in the moment. A reception was held at the museum plaza.

It was really great seeing our vision for the day come to life,” Ms. Myer said. “It was great seeing our families merge together.” But, she added, “nothing compared to just looking at Aaron and feeling the love and joy flow between us.”

When March 6, 2021

Where Capitol Park Museum Plaza, Baton Rouge, La.

Brain Drain “Although I did enjoy planning a beautiful wedding with Aaron, we both realized it took up a lot of our ‘brain space’ as we call it,” Ms. Myer said. The couple said they are happy to have that “space” back to spend their energies to work against hatred and racism.

Money Well Spent Through it all, Mr. James said the best money they spent when it came to their wedding was the $71 for their marriage license. “Even if everything else fell apart we would still have that and we would still have been able to get married,” he said. “That is what matters the most.”

Family Flashback “I was able to get ready with my bridesmaids in my childhood home,” Ms. Myer said. “That was very special to me. We had so many people bring food for us to eat that the table was covered in delicious treats!”

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