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That morning was different. Since there were no guests and the only people there other than the professionals setting up the wedding were ones who knew me well and had either seen me at my worst or very likely would in the future, I decided to forgo that morning tradition and head down just the way I was. After all, it wouldn't be long before I'd be getting my bridal hair and makeup done, and I didn't want to go through the hassle of doing everything just to get it done again later.

I tugged a bathrobe on and headed down the stairs to check on the progress of the wedding decorations and get some coffee going. The house was filled with excited, hushed voices and the smell of flowers and something delicious. I hadn't planned anything for breakfast since I knew it would be such a busy day for everyone and didn't want to interfere with things like hair and nail appointments or simply wanting to get some extra sleep before the big celebration that night. So it was a huge surprise for me when I went into the kitchen and found not only three huge catering coffeemakers brewing away on the counter to create a massive flow of wonderful coffee, but a catering table set up and crammed with hot containers of food.

Tamara and Carmella burst into the room with huge grins on their faces.

"Surprise! Happy wedding morning!" Tamara said happily before pulling me into a hug.

"We couldn't let you even think about making breakfast for anyone this morning. Including yourself, " Carmella said. "And we know you were going to."

They both laughed as I nodded. "I probably was. Thank you so much for this."

"Of course. Every bride deserves to be pampered on her wedding day. Now have some coffee and dig into some of this incredible breakfast before everyone else can get to it. You have some time to relax before you have to get ready, and you definitely want to do that," Carmella said.

"Definitely," Tamara said. "No one ever realizes how busy weddings are, and you don't want to be so exhausted you don't remember anything about it."

I walked over to the coffeemakers and looked at each of the labels. I glanced behind me and waited until the two women were engaged in conversation between themselves before grabbing a mug and subtly filling it with decaf rather than the delicious-smelling robust blend. Then I went over to the table of food and started exploring what all the different containers had to offer. I was ravenously hungry, which I hadn't been in a few weeks, so I was excited to try a little bit of everything.

Filling my plate with eggs, potatoes, bacon, fruit, and toast, I carried it outside onto the front porch to eat on one of the rockers I loved so much. The other women came behind me just a few moments later, and we spend the next half an hour laughing and eating. It felt so good to have these women in my life. Carmella and I had gotten closer since first meeting, and I now considered these two my closest friends.

It gave me even more of an anchor in this town, reminding me of what it was like for this to be my home, even if it had only been home for part of every year when I was younger. They didn't care what I went through or the hell my ex had created for me. They forgave me my difficulty trusting and my jumpy desire to stay to myself.

They’d welcomed me, and now I felt like a true part of the community. And soon I would be something even more precious. Part of a family.

I spent the afternoon getting ready for the wedding. Ryan was off in one of the guest rooms with his guys so we could have a traditional moment when he saw me for the first time coming down the aisle. In a way, it felt a little silly keeping so fast to that tradition considering we had already been together for so long and were parents. But this was our wedding. The only one either one of us ever intended on having, and we wanted to enjoy every moment of it.

During our rehearsal, Ryan told me he didn't care what anyone thought of the way that we came to this moment, that maybe we’d built our life together backwards. It didn't matter if some people thought there was no point in us going through the whole wedding extravaganza and thought it was more appropriate if we just had a simple, quiet ceremony at the courthouse. That wasn't us. It would never be us.

We did this our way. Their views belonged in the past, and we were going to leave them there. What mattered was how much we loved each other and how excited we were to officially be husband and wife. It wasn't the same as the relationship we were in now. We were deeply committed to each other and were more in love than we had ever been, but there was significance to the vows we were about to take, and neither one of us took that lightly.

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