A few months ago my friends kept telling me how Instagram is their preferred social media site. I wondered what I was missing, so I spent some time finding new people to follow, and that has led to some wonderful new friendships. One of the people I began following is Gretchen Saffles, who started the Life Lived Beautifully brand and created the Give Me Jesus Journal (which I'm giving away over on Instagram--@achristcenteredwedding). On a recent trip I was able to sit down with her over iced coffee and get to know her heart, which is just Jesus-saturated and so encouraging.
Today I'm so thrilled to feature her wedding on the blog, along with her wisdom and insight on the planning process. Enjoy her words, along with the beautiful images from photographer Nancy Ray.
It all began at middle school camp. Months before this camp, God had led me to uproot my life from Georgia and move to Tennessee to work at Long Hollow Baptist Church. Little did I know, I would meet my husband in this move and life-change. I was a camp counselor, he was working with the lighting and production crew. In the 7th grade I committed to the Lord that I would wait on my future husband rather than date around. That led to years of singleness where I learned to seek God rather than the world and to trust Him with my love story. I had never dated before I met Greg, but I had prayed for years for my future husband. When I met Greg Saffles, my heart burned (literally, he has this ability to make my heart melt when he’s around) and I knew there was something so different about him.
Greg began to pursue me and pray for me, but I was hesitant to date. I wanted to honor the commitment I made to the Lord and wait until He made it very clear that this was the man I would marry. Then came the frost of 2012. That winter was a cold one and each morning I would wake up and go out to my car, only to notice my windows were scraped clean. Two weeks later I found out that Greg was the mysterious person who was waking up early to scrape my car windows and serve me. In this moment, it was as if the Lord whispered to me, “This is your husband.” We began the adventure of dating and were engaged four months later.
I was visiting my family in Texas for my niece’s first birthday when Greg proposed. My sister had planned on us taking “family pictures” Friday night in their church’s chapel. Little did I know, Greg was waiting in that room with a beautiful display of mason jars, candles, our favorite music playing, and a Bible on the podium. When we walked into the church building, Greg was standing there and invited me into the Chapel. Shocked would be an understatement to how I felt. He walked me into the Chapel and up to a podium with a Bible that had my new name, Gretchen Saffles, on it. He read our favorite Scripture from it, told me he loved me for the first time, and then got done on one knee and asked me to marry him. I jumped into his arms and said YES! We were engaged in June and married in November. The five months of wedding planning was full and fruitful all at the same time. We learned a lot about ourselves, the Lord, and the true meaning of marriage.
Editor's note: For more on Gretchen and Greg's story, check out their e-book, A God-Sized Love Story.
If you could choose one word to describe your wedding day, what would it be and why?
If I could choose one word to describe our wedding day it would be celebration. It was a day to celebrate God’s faithfulness and the beauty of marriage. In every step of the process, we sought to make Jesus known by telling our story, sharing the Gospel through our ceremony, and honoring the guests who attended. Our heart in planning the wedding was to bless those who would celebrate with us and, most importantly, to bless the Lord. Our day wasn’t about us, but about what God had done and would continue to do. From start to finish, we celebrated God’s amazing grace and the beautiful love story He wrote for us!
What was your favorite part of your wedding day?
Greg and I chose to see each other before our ceremony, and it is a memory I will forever cherish. This moment was sacred. I’ll never forget seeing him stand outside. His back was turned facing the other direction and I slowly walked up behind him. As I walked, I prayed for our marriage and praised the Lord for what He had done. It was so surreal that I was about to see the man I had waited 22 years for! I tapped on his shoulder and he turned around to face me. The look on his face was priceless. Tears filled both of our eyes as we embraced. Greg spun me around to see my entire dress and I felt like a princess. Our photographer, Nancy, captured this moment so beautifully! These pictures will forever be a treasure!
What were some of the unique challenges you faced in planning your wedding?
Wedding planning was both joyful and overwhelming. Greg and I met at a church in Hendersonville, TN and decided to get married there. Our families were from Nebraska and Georgia, which meant we would have to plan the wedding without much help from our parents. During that season, my mom had various health complications, Greg was in school full-time as well as working full-time, and I was also working full-time at our church. We had so much on our plate, but were thrilled to get married quickly! We were engaged for 5 1/2 months. It was easy for us to slip in wedding planning mode since our engagement was relatively short, but we kept refocusing our hearts on what truly matters in marriage. The wedding day would only last twenty-four hours, but the marriage would last a lifetime. We were intentional about reading books to prepare for marriage, going on dates and adventures together to take our minds off of wedding planning, and letting go of things that truly weren't that important.
What did you want your wedding to mean and represent? How did you present that meaning?
We wanted our wedding to represent a Gospel-centered marriage. From the wedding website, to the invitations, the programs, the music, and reception, we wanted people to know the Gospel and that Jesus was the center of our wedding and marriage. We called our wedding “A God-Sized Love Story” and used our program as an opportunity to share our story and share the Gospel. We wrote our own vows based off of Scripture and the picture of marriage that Christ modeled for us with the church. Our ring-bearer walked down the aisle with a sign that said “hallelujah” to give praise to the Lord! We also had a display at our reception of our heritage, including my Pawpaw’s old Bible. My best friend wasn’t able to be in the wedding because she was serving in India as a missionary, so we had the guests take a prayer card for her. Our prayer was that every detail would point to Jesus, our Savior, and honor God, because He writes incredible love stories!
What songs and Scriptures did you include in your ceremony?
Music is extremely important to us! We chose a playlist of songs before the wedding ceremony started that were our favorite worship songs. A few of those were “How Great Is Our God,” “Take My Life,” “It Is Well With My Soul, and “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty." We wanted the room to be filled with worshipful, Christ-exalting songs from the moment the guests walked in! I walked down the aisle to “Before The Throne of God Above,” sung by two of our dear friends. Greg and I took communion together in our wedding ceremony using our everyday dishes to represent living our life to honor Jesus everyday together. During this time, our friends started singing “Your Love Is Strong” by Jon Foreman. The song continued to play throughout the rest of the ceremony and we walked out to it! Our first dance was to Jimmy Needham’s song he wrote to his wife, “Unfailing Love.” We wanted the music to have meaning and we still cherish all of these songs!
What advice would you give Christ-following couples as they plan their weddings?
If I could sit and have coffee with other Christ-following couples planning their wedding, I would tell them to focus on the main thing - their future marriage and the Lord. It is the societal norm for couples to get so wrapped up in every little detail of wedding planning that they completely miss what it’s truly all about. Marriage is a display of the Gospel in our lives. It is a blessing, and it is sanctifying. I would tell other couples to make the day special and meaningful not only for them, but for their guests who will be attending. Most importantly, I would tell them to honor the Lord through each step and seek to know Him more through the process. It is all
What do you see as the relationship between the wedding and the marriage?
Marriage is a picture of Christ and the church. It is created by God to point to the Gospel. We wanted our marriage to be a display of what that would look like for us everyday. During our ceremony, we took communion using our everyday dishes. The wedding should be a tiny glimpse into the beautiful display of love that comes in marriage. As Christ-followers, we are called to focus on the beauty of the marriage that begins at the wedding. It is kind of like salvation. You are saved once, but your entire life is changed after that because of that one decision. In marriage, you commit your life to your spouse on your wedding day and then everything changes after that. It is a beautiful picture of how Christ continues to work in our lives!
Any other thoughts or things you want to say about your wedding?
One last thought for my friends who are planning weddings! Be sure to plan your wedding with your fiance. A lot of girls coming into engagement with Pinterest boards full of what they picture their big day looking like. Involve your future husband in this process. Let him help you make decisions and seek his counsel as you plan. This is good practice for submitting to him in marriage and will make your day even more special because it had special parts of you and parts of him in it.