What I know now that I wish I knew then
Words by Christina Shepherd McGuire, Photo by Hannah Hardaway

I never thought I’d marry my best friend. In fact, I thought it would be that guy from college who drove the Volvo. You know, the one who was mind-blowingly handsome. I believed that the feeling I got from our couple-night stand—when my heart felt like it was about to explode—was what love was all about. How great would it feel to have that adrenaline, those endorphins pumping through my veins, once married, for the rest of my life?

Fast-forward twenty-some years and I’m so glad that scenario didn’t come true. I’d probably be divorced, with a couple of kids, working some dead-end job in suburbia. Not very romantic, huh? Instead, my husband (my best friend) and I left our hometowns to embark on an adventure-filled career path together, one that landed us in the Mountain West with two outdoor-savvy kids and a home we built ourselves. It’s my happily-ever-after story, but—trust me—it didn’t come without it a few overblown relationship expectations and some wedding-day drama.
So, what do I know now (post-wedding) that I wish I knew then?

It’s a burning question that can only be answered once the suits are off to the cleaners and the honeymoon phase is over. And, after fifteen years of marriage, with six years of courting prior, I have a book-long list of answers. But, to gain a fresh (and more modern) perspective, I searched for heartfelt advice from local newlyweds. What they taught me was—love is love is love, whether you’re a millennial who just got hitched, a Gen Xer who’s in it for the long haul, or a baby boomer who is enjoying the golden years.

Teton Creative Visual

After the Ceremony
Mollie and Tyler Wetzel (pictured above), of Victor, Idaho, really “get” each other. After spending most of their college years together, they tied the knot on August 6, 2016. “We knew each other so well and knew what we wanted out of the wedding,” says Mollie about their planning efforts. They decided that there needed to be an open bar, and because Tyler doesn’t dance, Mollie knew yard games were a must. So, she spent hours trolling the Internet for wedding ideas that suited their vibe, toiling over the details. She landed on cute s’mores wedding favors that paired well with the outdoorsy feel of the celebration. But, just days before the wedding, the Forest Service issued a fire ban, causing a full redirect on this after-hours festivity. Looking back, Mollie admits, “I wish I didn’t get caught up in every little detail I saw on Pinterest.” And her advice to others: “Don’t check the weather [especially for a mountain wedding], because you’ll have to load up on Xanax.” Despite the s’mores debacle, Mollie says that everyone still had a blast, and that Sarah Hartman, the wedding coordinator at Grand Targhee Resort, fulfilled all of Mollie’s expectations. “And, she did it flawlessly,” Mollie says.

A wedding, or any event, really, never truly goes off without a behind-the-scenes glitch, like what Mollie and Tyler experienced. Most of the time, these small mishaps go unnoticed by attendees, yet are all-consuming for the event hosts—in this case, the bride and groom. But Jeff Larson and Jane Lecount Larson (both professional chefs, pictured below) have mastered the art of making lemonade out of lemons. Only days before their July wedding, their cake designer and baker crashed her mountain bike, separating her shoulder and breaking ribs. This forced Jeff and Jane into a last-minute hustle to make their own wedding cake. As a mature couple, now marrying in their fifties, they took this in stride, realizing it was more about the relationship than it was about the wedding. “It was actually really fun,” Jeff says of their unexpected culinary improv in the kitchen of Marigold Cafe at MD Nursery in Driggs. “And, what I learned: Don’t have an extreme athlete lined up to bake your wedding cake.” (As tongue-and-cheek as this may seem, it’s no joke in the Tetons where bakers, photographers, and wedding coordinators are often athletes, too—but don’t hold that against them.)

In retrospect, Jeff would’ve played the family card a little differently. “Let your family [and friends] help, because they want to. That way, you can free yourself up to enjoy the day,” he says. With most of his family traveling in from out of town, Jeff also advises couples to get the visiting out of the way before the wedding, and to make sure that they book separate accommodations. This way, your honeymoon doesn’t turn into a family vacation.

Amelia Huffsmith

After the Courting
While the honeymoon phase should seem like rainbows and butterflies, once the thrill of the celebration settles, most couples realize that the feelings they have for their spouse and the routine they’ve established together remains the same. “Everyone assumes that there’s this big change after you get married,” Mollie says.
“But the only thing that really changed was my last name.” Mollie and Tyler survived college together at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, where their group of friends shaped their relationship. Mollie graduated first and moved to Jackson (where Tyler grew up) to establish her career. Once Tyler moved back, they both realized that they needed to start their adult life. “We bought a house together and have a dog together; we’ve been together since we were nineteen years old,” Mollie explains. “When people ask me how it feels to be married, I say, ‘There really is no difference.’ ”

And sometimes the most obvious things are right in front of you. Jeff and Jane knew each other for eighteen years and were in different relationships at different points in their lives before they got together. When I asked Jeff if he would have done anything differently regarding his relationship premarriage, there was no hesitation in answering that he would have cut the courtship time. They knew each other so well as friends that they fell head over heels in love once they started dating. “Now, I’m not the funniest person in the room anymore, or the best cook!” Jeff says. “But, that wouldn’t change anything.”

The Long Haul
When you’re in the thick of it, it’s easy to intertwine the planning and your emotions. I get it—I’ve been down that road myself. But knowing what I know now, I’m glad I picked my best friend over my heartthrob. The thrill of sharing an adventurous lifestyle together—one that solidified our love, our respect for each other, and our importance as individuals—truly couldn’t be replicated with anyone else. And, this accomplishment of building a life together had nothing to do with the wedding cake, the weather, or how long we dated.

A self-affirmed “chowderhead” with a western soul, Christina Shepherd McGuire shares her Teton home with a husband, two children, dog, cat, and seven chickens. She believes that traditions shape people and strives to balance life’s craziness with moments of slow living. When she’s not hanging out with local farmers—milking a goat—or gaining inspiration for the next best read, you might find her deep in some singletrack with a flat tire. Catch up with her at or when you pick up a copy of Teton Family magazine.

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