What happens when your wedding video is broadcast across the country for everyone to love, hate, judge, and hashtag?
“Love is patient, love is kind, love requires longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, and faith.”
This biblical reference proudly proclaimed by my father nestled quaintly atop hundreds of dancing flames scattered throughout a candle-lit warehouse just moments before my husband and I exchanged vows and my father pronounced my best friend and I husband and wife.
Standing eye to eye, I remember feeling as if Chris, my future husband, had embraced my readily steadfast heart with his bare hands. It was a “God, sis, you are showing off,” type of moment. Just over my left shoulder stood my two brothers, while my five bridesmaids sat emotional, yet patient.
Behind Chris stood his two sisters, while his groomsmen mirrored my bridesmaids. We opted for our siblings to stand with us to symbolize just how important and close we are to our siblings. My brothers are my best friends, and his sisters play a similar role in his life. After all of the relationship advice, shoulder crying and undying support, we agreed that they deserved a piece of the spotlight on our big day.
A few sentences short of finishing his vows, Chris buckled over in tears, crumbled paper of vows in his hand, while his two sisters consoled him.
In that moment, I saw a beautiful, vulnerable, Black man sharing an unforgettable moment with two people who undoubtedly had served as shoulders to lean on all of his life. I saw a man whose soul had reached the epitome of euphoria, and he couldn’t help but rejoice. With the utmost respect for his sisters, I stood composed, one hand resting within the other, and smiled. I thanked God that this was the family I had become a part of. I smiled at the strength of his sisters and how their placement at the altar by his side had superseded superficial optics and instead portrayed an outpour of the same love and support they’ve always shared with one another. I remember feeling lucky.
Shortly after the wedding, I began to receive a slew of follower requests on Instagram. A member of my bridal party called almost simultaneously to let me know that the cell phone video of my husband crying while reciting his vows had been posted to a popular inspirational Black Love page and told us to check it out.
Prior to our wedding day, Chris swore over and over again that he would not become one of those men featured in a viral wedding video who broke down in tears during our wedding ceremony. Low and behold, we became just that.
Before we knew it, the video had been posted to another Black Love page, then another, then another, and after viewing the video on far too many other pages to count, it landed on The Shade Room.
Shortly after, the video jumped from Instagram to Twitter, to Facebook and God knows where else. Judging by the direct messages and interview requests we began to receive from around the world, my husband and I had become an instant international topic of conversation.
Video Source: The Shade Room
But the topic was not the love and respect that moment meant to me, my husband, and our families. The narrative had shifted from a personal celebration of young, Black love into a dog-pile of rhetoric and toxicity. Almost immediately, strangers made up stories about us including marital regret, infidelity, physical abuse, cheating, divorce, a mediocre sex life followed by unsolicited altar etiquette and an abundance of insults disguised as meritless blessings towards our marriage.
I was being dragged forward and backward across all social media platforms. I began receiving threatening messages from women who felt that my failure to reach out for my husband at the altar while he cried portrayed an ungrateful, undeserving bride. Women casually asked me if they could have my husband for themselves. Women thought it was appropriate to send me direct messages to let me know that I was spotted in the market, at the mall, at a bar, and even at church. I have never been called a Bitch so many times in my life. I wasn’t mad, I wasn’t angry, I was in disbelief, and I was disappointed. I couldn’t believe that so many strangers felt entitled to tell me that I didn’t love my husband correctly, based on a 15-second, blurry cell phone video with no knowledge of our five-year relationship.
Our initial reaction was to laugh. We made jokes about throwing a ‘The Shade Room’ party where we’d read the comments and drink whenever we came across an original thought. We would quote some of the funnier comments around the house for fun. After a few days of madness, the reality of the situation began to set in. Unbeknownst to one another, my husband and I began looking at the situation differently. Millions of people had joined a conversation about us that eventually excluded us. These millions of people did not know that showing respect for my husband’s family is a direct reflection of the level of respect that I have for my husband. They used the anonymity of the internet to gain the authority to make nasty, egregious statements with no supporting knowledge of our relationship.
It felt like people began to unpack their own heartache, insecurities, and disappointment on our timelines while inserting my husband and me into their scenario.
This type of disinhibition made us consider that our detractors could be victims of their own trauma in their real lives outside of their pseudonymous Internet profiles. Within the first few days of the viral video, we were asked by a world-renowned Black publication to discuss how trolls ruined our marriage so early on. After declining yet offering to discuss the obvious rearing issue of online personas fueled by audacious alter egos and narcissistic, status-enhancing motives, I was shushed like a child who had no business joining an adult conversation. Ultimately, our assumption of pain was more attractive than our reality of happiness.
Trolls did not ruin our marriage. Our marriage did not begin or end at the altar, no marriage does. My husband and I never focused on judging other couples based on pictures or 30-second videos online. We never saw another couple as “relationship goals” or thought, “They look great, so they must have it all together.” During the viral video viciousness, we became obsessed with ‘us.’ We became so focused on our own fun and our own growth as a team that the maturation of our love was inevitable, and that has proven to be essential to the success of our relationship.
Our love became therapy in a noisy world full of suggestions from family members, expectations of friends, and opinions from strangers online and in real life. We focused so intently on what makes us happy that we eliminated all options other than happiness. We don’t care about the opinions of others because we are so comfortable with who we are at this point as husband and wife in real life.
If I could offer one piece of advice to other newlyweds, it would be to find comfort in your unified ’voice.’
It should be the loudest voice in any room – meaning that the needs, desires, and wants of your marriage should overshadow any existing meritless opinions or concerns outside of your relationship. Find that voice. Fall in love with that voice. Trust that voice. When you go to bed each night, that voice will be the only voice that really matters. And that voice will be the light that guides you through.