I knew when I shot Levi and Marie’s engagement session that their autumn wedding at Skyview Presbyterian Church in Littleton, Colorado, would be one of my favorites.
These two have the most loving, supportive families and friends — in fact, their families are their friends. So it was really no surprise when Marie told me they were expecting to celebrate with 250 of their closest family and friends.
And if you can have an intimate wedding with 250 guests, Marie and Levi most certainly had one!
Every detail of the day was sentimental and meaningful, from the box of letters Marie gave to Levi, written by dozens of people who know and love him, to the ring bearer carrying Levi’s Bible to the front of the church; from the hydrangea Marie’s Aunt Lois picked from her own yard and lovingly made into bouquets, to the best baklava I’ve ever tasted, handmade by Marie’s mom in the weeks leading up to the wedding.
Friends and family decorated the sanctuary and worked tirelessly to transform the church’s largest room into a reception area for dinner, toasts, and dancing. Ruth, a dear friend of the family, flew in from Oregon to help with the elaborate setup, and another friend, Kathleen, made gourmet food to feed 250 — and on top of that baked a naked spiced pumpkin cake with a caramel pecan filling, decorated with sugared wintered fruits. Groomsmen and bridesmaids gathered around Levi and Marie before the ceremony to pray fervently for their marriage. Marie’s father read Psalm 121, a Song of degrees, during the ceremony. And Marie’s sister, Anna, sang Tenth Avenue North’s Beloved with the sweetest voice to her sister and new brother.
I asked Marie and Levi what was most special to them about their wedding day (since there were so many sweet moments to choose from!).
Marie talked about what it felt like to walk into the ceremony with her dad, seeing all 250 people stand up for her, and knowing they were there because of how much they loved and wanted to support Marie and Levi in their marriage.
Levi said standing at the front of the sanctuary and watching all of his closest friends walk in to stand by and support him and his new wife was a surreal moment for him.And the two of them together couldn’t stop marveling at how all of their closest friends and family were together in one place to rejoice with them, something that likely will not ever happen again. There is something so amazing and special about a wedding at bringing people together who otherwise might never be in the same place at the same time, to celebrate the covenant of two people for a lifetime.
Finally, both Marie and Levi couldn’t get over the toasts — the most amazing toasts they’d ever heard! Every wedding has toasts, of course, but in the history of toasts, there were never toasts like these toasts!
Marie’s and Levi’s brothers and sisters took the time to write from their hearts, evident by both the laughter and the tears that accompanied so many of their sentiments.Josh, Levi’s older brother, spoke first, and this was his bit of advice for his brother: “Be courageous in your pursuit of our Lord, be kind to your wife, and look out for the needs of your growing family.”
Anna, Marie’s little sister, said this about Marie: “I’ve never thought of my sister as a hopeless romantic before, and yet in the past few months she’s told me countless times she gets butterflies every time he kisses her, and that she misses him even when she knows she’ll see him the next morning….”
And then sweet Anna added this bit of 19-year-old marriage advice: “The best example that I have of a godly marriage are my parents, John and Debbie Melkonian. Growing up, I had parents who prayed over us, made time for one another, and put Christ above all else. So I advise you, above everything else, whenever you have questions … just call them.”
David, Marie’s brother, talked about how in his first two years at college, Marie became his best friend. “She is absolutely the most selfless person I know…. She loves absolutely unconditionally, and if anyone ever wrongs her, she is quick to forgive and to love. She is one of the few people I know who genuinely loves other people more than herself. So, Levi, take care of my best friend for me, because she deserves the absolute world.”Shiloh, Levi’s sister, said this about Levi: “He is the man he is today because of his devotion to the Lord’s service and because of his passion to pursue the truth forever and always. You have always been a knight … you are a knight in the Lord’s army and you have proven that over and over again and that is beautiful. I am so proud of you, and so proud to see you up here today, beside your beautiful bride….”
And Marie’s dad, John, gave 17 toasts. Why 17? Because, he said, the record number of toasts was 16, so for his daughter’s wedding, of course it had to be more than that.
And in honor of their families’ Armenian and Danish heritage, 250 voices responded after all 17 toasts with shouts of “Genatzt!” and “Skoal!”
“Tonight is a celebration of God’s faithfulness,” John began, “a night to celebrate God’s faithfulness to our families…. And Levi, we are really thankful for you and the providence of God that has brought you and Marie together here.
“I know that you will love and support and care for our daughter over your life, and I also know that you will continue to seek God for his wisdom and his direction in your life as a couple. And really, what more could a father want for his daughter than a man who loves God and loves his daughter?”John went on to quote from a host of wise souls, from Ben Franklin to Homer Simpson, with bits of wit and wisdom the newly married couple (and all of us who are married, or plan to be one day) could put to good use:
“God, the best maker of all marriages, combine your heart into one.”
“Being in love is not merely a feeling, it is a deep unity maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God.”
“In sharp contrast with our culture, the Bible teaches that the essence of marriage is a sacrificial commitment to the good of the other, and that means love is more fundamentally action than emotion.”
—Tim Keller Most of all, Levi and Marie’s wedding was a reminder to all of us to pray for each other’s marriages, to be there to stand by each other and encourage one another, and most of all to celebrate marriage, never forgetting that it represents the everlasting relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ.
To which I say, in my best Armenian and Danish accents, “Genatzt!” and “Skoal!”