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Surprise Vow Renewal – Tracy and Justin

“ALL I knew about this trip was that we were headed to Mexico to celebrate 10 years of marriage.  Little did I know that Justin had stuffed my wedding dress and veil into a suitcase for the trip, too.”

Tracy and Justin’s surprise vow renewal was a true passion project for us. Del Sol co-owner Matt Adcock photographed Tracy and Justin’s wedding a decade ago. When Justin contacted Matt about doing something special for their 10 year anniversary we were excited at what we could do for them – our legacy clients. Matt convinced Justin that instead of a simple portrait session, we could blow Tracy’s mind and surprise her with a trash the dress session. Then, on the way to the trash the dress: BOOM surprise number 2 – they were actually on their way to an incredibly beautiful and elaborate vow renewal.

None of us were prepared for the impact the surprise vow renewal experience would have on Tracy. Or indeed her and Justin’s marriage. All the care and detail that went into the preparation and execution of this idea may seem frivolous, even self indulgent – but living the scenario that Matt and del Sol prepared was the best investment they could have made in their relationship.

We love challenges, many things that we believe to be impossible simply are not. To find, once again, that sensation of you and your partner being the only thing that matters in the world, that deep connection of a brand new couple in love after 10 years and 3 kids together for example.

“The most important thing we can do for anyone is see them. Really make them know how valued they are. That’s human nature that we want to that we’re worthy. And in a marriage, after 10 years, it’s easy to lose sight of that.” – Tracy

“I’m a very, very lucky bride.  I’ve said my vows to Justin THREE times.  After meeting him, I knew I’d either marry him or have my heart crushed, but after our 1st date, I was all in.  This would end with marriage.”

“Before we even booked the church for our wedding, I called Matt Adcock to book him, the energetic photographer who had blown me away at a friend’s wedding.  As my mom and I listened to him talk about photography and love, I remember thinking how great it was that this guy had truly found his passion.  No wonder his pictures were so good.  He was showing us “Trash the Dress” pictures, and I remember thinking, “that’s completely INSANE, and I totally want to do it!!”  I made a mental note that day.  Truly, that’s when a “trash the dress” session with Matt Adcock  became a dream of mine.”

“Over the next few years, I casually mentioned the “trash the dress” idea to Justin a few times.  Before we had kids, I even had this crazy idea to renew our vows and THEN do a trash the dress. It was a DREAM.  Yes, I actually wanted to do it, but did I really think we would?  Probably not.”

“The truth is that my reality, my every day, is better than my dreams could even allow.  I don’t mean that in a way that suggests that there are no struggles.  We have 3 kids under 7, life is loud, messy, chaotic and hard. Days come and go… I look in the mirror and wonder when I’ve last washed my hair.  I often have crumbs and kid spit on my clothes, definitely dog hair, and there have been days in a row when we just haven’t left the house at all.”

“There’s no glamour in my every day.  Zero.  But there IS beauty.  The faces of my children.  Watching them grow into the people they were born to be.  Bearing witness to life through their eyes.  It’s a privilege and a gift, and it has given me such purpose. I live with my passion, my work, and my love.”

“Being the best mother to Olivia, Abby, Benjamin and the best wife to Justin, ALL AT THE SAME TIME, remains my biggest challenge.  There has to be a sacrifice.”

“It’s a constant inner-struggle; feeling pulled in so many different directions and then prayerfully determining which way to go. We choose our kids, NOT because we choose them OVER our husbands but because our husbands are adults.  We justify that they don’t really NEED us. So we choose “best mother” over “best wife” and make a mental note to plan a date night.  Not so glamorous or romantic, eh?”

“Thank God, I’m married to a man who gets it and truly appreciates what I do with our kids and has never made me feel like I’m shorting him.  But mamas don’t need anyone to point it out, that’s what mommy-guilt does…”

“Justin and I talked a few times about what to do for our 10 year anniversary.  At one point, he even said, “remember you said you wanted to renew your vows…”  I cut him off and was like, “ohhh, no.  Gosh.  Nah, not NOW.  Maybe one day, that would be so amazing.  That’s too much, though.  Let’s just escape this cold for somewhere warm.  Time together.  Time away.  Perfect.”  

“But the truth?  My heart skipped a beat when he mentioned the renewing of vows.  YES, one million times over, YES, I so wanted to renew our vows!  But saying yes seemed frivolous and selfish and excessive.  It seemed wrong to say out loud that I wanted to do all of that for ME, for US.  I would not hesitate to speak up for what’s best for our kids, but when it was for us, in my mind, it’s, ‘We are adults.  We will be okay.  We don’t really NEED this.”

“People keep asking if I knew.  How did I not see the additional suitcase?!  Of course I saw it!  Did I wonder why we were lugging another suitcase to Mexico?  Yes.  But I guess in ten years, I’ve learned that part of what brings him so much joy is surprising ME, so I wasn’t going to bug him about it and risk stealing some of his joy.”

“Did I think he had some sort of surprise up his sleeve?  Yes.  Did I imagine in 10,000,000 years that it was my wedding dress in there?!?  Heavens, NO.  Had that been a thought in my head, I assure you that I would NOT have been shoveling chips, cheese dip, and crown royal into my face as we were, what I thought was simply, vacationing in Playa Del Carmen.  Did I imagine that we would be renewing our vows???  Are you kidding me, NO.”

“We’d stopped for food when Justin casually mentioned, “so babe, you’re going to have an early start to your day tomorrow.”  With chips hanging out of my mouth, I was like, “huh?”  He went on to say, “At 7am, someone is coming to the room to do your hair and makeup.  Then you’re going to put on your wedding dress.  And you and I are going on a photoshoot.”  

“My reply is a little fuzzy, but was something like, “OKAY, WHAT?!?  MY WEDDING DRESS?! HAIR and MAKEUP?!  What?!  Justin, WHAT IF MY DRESS DOESN’T FIT!?!  It is totally NOT going to fit.  Oh, dear God.” 

“Sipping a beer, he casually said, “oh babe, it’ll fit.  You want some more chips?” “UM, HELL NO, are you joking?!  In fact, finish up, we gotta get back to the room to see if my dress fits.”  He giggles.  “Hold on, wait.  A photoshoot??  Like with the resort photographers we’ve seen walking around?”  He looks at me and laughs.  “No, with Matt.” “Matt?  MATT ADCOCK?!!??!”  Looking around me, “HE’S HERE?!?!?!?!”  

Husband grinning.  “OH MY GOSH, IS THIS A TRASH THE DRESSSSSSS??????” Big smiles.  “Yes.” “Ohhh my gosh, BABE!  OH MY GOSH.  Okay, eat up, dude.  My dress is waiting.  OH MY GOSH, I AM FREAKING OUT.” 

“I’d worked it out in my mind that if my dress didn’t fit, at least I’d be underwater, so maybe no one would notice.  Little did I know…”


“I barely slept a wink that night.  And Justin was right, at 7am sharp, there was a knock on the door.  Sara and Esther came in with more makeup than I’ve ever seen at one time in my life.  They were kind and compassionate and loving.  And they just doted on me.  ME.  I’m a stay at home mom with three kids. No one is ever asking what I need.  Which is fine.  I love that about my life, my days.  In fact, I CHOOSE that. But there’s always a need.  Always.”

“I remember sitting in the chair, being completely pampered and thinking, ‘holy crap, this is awesome.’  I offered them drinks and they giggled and said, “this is about you, dear Tracy.”

“Thank goodness, the dress fit.  It was tight.  Not gonna lie.  But, it was ON… which was absolutely amazing, by the way.  Ten years and three kids later will make you appreciate something like that even more than ever.  I stood looking in the hotel mirror and kinda started to sway a little.  Reminded me of the way our daughters sway from side to side when they’ve put on what they call “fancy clothes.””

“It was really the first time I’ve ever genuinely felt led to do that… to adoringly look at MYSELF in a mirror and sway.  But in that moment, I felt like I’d earned it.  It felt… different.”

“The first time I wore the dress, it felt like a dress.  An accessory.  A gorgeous accessory and one I loved, but I’d had no life in it, yet.  It was a dress.  But it wasn’t a dress anymore.  It now adorned wrinkles from it being shoved into a suitcase by a husband who was to surprise his bride, and I could still see crown royal stains from spilling from my glass on the dance floor at our reception.  I thought of the pictures I’d taken of our daughters playing dress up in it, and the giggles from my nieces as they had also put it on to twirl. “

“In this moment, it didn’t feel like an accessory at all.  It felt like love.  I felt seen and valued and worthy, and all of that made me emotional in a way that I was not expecting.”

“It makes me emotional thinking about the way Justin looked at me after the girls left and we were standing in our hotel room as bride and groom.  That alone, was an incredible experience.  I’ve seen LOVE in his eyes from the moment we met.  But in that moment, it wasn’t love.  It was devotion and commitment and honor.  I saw gratitude and adoration and truth.  Holding his arm as we made our way to the lobby was unintentionally, a very memorable part of the experience for me.  Guests at the hotel, as well as the staff, stopped and watched us as we walked by.  They smiled and said things like, “awwwwww” and “congratulations,” and I remember feeling a sense of pride I’d not experienced 10 years prior as we walked arm and arm this very same way.”

“When I saw Matt outside of the van waiting on us, had my dress not been so tight, I would have squealed louder and hugged harder.  Made me so very happy.  We felt a connection to Matt immediately, but grew to trust him, not to mention respect his artistry to the millionth degree.  My dream of a trash the dress was becoming a reality.”

“Listening to Matt go into the history behind a cenote was crazy interesting.  He told us so many fascinating things about the Mayan culture.  His passion was evident.  His excitement was palpable.  All of which made us, the bride and groom inside the van, feel very valued, as well as equally as excited to experience the day that was unfolding before us.  Matt told me about how Justin had contacted him months prior and that they’d been planning something very special.  I was beaming imagining our trash the dress session.”

Then Matt said something like, “this isn’t just a trash the dress, Tracy.  We have a ceremony planned.  You’re going to renew your vows today.”

“I feel like there should be a long pause here because my world stood completely still.  Justin’s face was so innocently happy in that moment, it was almost childlike.  I’ll never forget the look on his face as he watched me react to hearing that the dream I’d harbored, and even tried to say was no longer a dream, was coming true.”

“We turned down a dirt road and drove for what seemed like forever.  We finally stopped, got out, I could hear music, organic and raw and beautiful.  As Justin and I walked I looked at him off and on and remember thinking how strong and steady he seemed.  He’s always that way, actually.  That’s who he is.  I could see him so well in that moment.”

“We stopped because we saw Erika standing at the bottom of the hill holding a gorgeous bouquet of flowers and matching ones to be pinned on Justin’s tuxedo coat.  The flowers blew me away.  Who thinks of flowers?!  A small detail that completely meant the world to me.  That sentence was pretty much the theme of the day… no detail was missed.  MANY more thought of than I could have scripted had you asked me to script the perfect scenario.”

“We continued walking, with each step the music getting louder and the smell of incense, stronger.  I was determined to not try to fast forward and imagine where we were headed, but instead stay right where I was; step by step with Justin.”

“I knew this was going to be magical,  I could feel it already.  I knew I didn’t want to miss a single second of it,  I was intentionally going to be in each and every moment.”

“We came to the opening of the cenote, which I would describe as a cave of some sort.  There was a man facing us with his hands behind his back, and as we approached him, he didn’t say to stop, but we did.  He called us by name and introduced himself as Tom. More than his words, I remember that he just felt so calming.  He was so peaceful, he looked me in the eye in a way that felt very safe.  I trusted him right away, and I knew he would be leading us on this journey.  I was totally okay to follow.”

“We listened to him talk about the Mayan culture; specifically, that they would come to these dry cenotes as a cleansing or sacrificial ritual. I understood it as a way to pay respect to their path thus far, offer a piece of themselves they felt may be holding them back in some way, and come out cleansed and renewed and committed.  Powerful.”

“We were told about the importance of the 4 elements; earth, sky, wind, and air.  We took off our shoes and continued into the cenote barefoot as a way to pay respect to the earth.  Small detail with lots of impact, with every pebble, we were more mindful of respecting the ground.”

“The beauty inside of the cenote was breathtaking.  It felt like a movie scene.  I wondered if others were feeling the same way.  Was this even real?  Where in the world were we??  The light beaming through the forest floor into the cenote looked like huge spotlights that are used on stage during a play.  It was completely surreal and beautiful in a way I’d never seen.  The LIGHT.  Oh my gosh, the light.”

“As I caught my breath, I noticed that though I’d never been inside of a dry cenote before, I had a feeling that not all of them are adorned quite the way this one was.  It had so much dimension.  There were candles hanging, huge candles standing around everywhere, and little candles stuck in every crevice imaginable.  There were flowers; entire flowers, but also petals, everywhere.  EVERYWHERE. “

“It was gorgeous.  And all put out for this vow renewal ceremony.  For ME.  My mind was blown.”

“I could see that there was part of the ground that went up a bit, almost altar-like, which is also exactly where the light beams were landing.  It felt magical to me.  A fairytale kind of thing.  Standing up there in the shadows of those lights were three Mayan warriors.  The MUSIC.  That’s who was playing the music.  And the smell!!  It was wonderful.  Cleansing.  And it was coming from the goblet of burning stones/incense one of the warriors was holding.  I felt mesmerized by them.  They were very unassuming, which is interesting because they were dressed in a way that would surely stand out.  They didn’t, though,  they were part of the background and the experience, which was truly other-worldly.”

“All five of our senses were engaged and heightened, which created a very spiritual and emotional journey through that cenote.  I use the word journey very intentionally…”

“We had a pretty powerful conversation with our kids about the “gust of air” during the ceremony. Tom was talking to us about air and how it is cleansing and forgiving and makes us new again, and that at the exact same time, a gust of wind came and literally sucked the incense out of the cenote, that had moments prior, given off a smoke that had been all encompassing.”

“We explained to them that Justin and I immediately started looking around thinking, ‘whoa, is He here??? Clearly, that was God. Is He HERE?” Still gives me chills.”

“But the explanation of that “God moment” allowed me to encourage them to be deliberate in being IN each and every moment they experience – because truly, the only way to experience those magical moments, is to truly and intentionally exist in all of yours. We are constantly reflecting on our experience, and with each reflection, we are able to teach our kids the most important life lessons.”


“What has changed since our vow renewal experience?  That I now want to shout from the rooftops:”

“We DO need this!  AND THAT IS OKAY.  Marriage deserves the same INTENTION as does the raising of kids.  Marriage NEEDS time and devotion in order to THRIVE. Marriage deserves to be treated as sacred, because it IS!!” Marriage deserves respect that comes from outwardly CHOOSING EACH OTHER over ALL THE THINGS, to include our kids.  It’s crucial.  A true NEED.”

“Saying “I do” does not end with a white picket fence around your home, melting your troubles away.  Just as having children gives you a responsibility and honor, so does marriage.”

“I have a responsibility as Justin’s wife and I consider THAT the greatest of all honors.  What better way to FEED the very relationship that resulted in our children and my purpose, than to CHOOSE IT.  This experience truly left me feeling … well, renewed.  My mind is clear, my focus slightly shifted, and my heart fluttering with love for my husband of 10 years.”

“To the mamas who may be feeling the same as I was, I say this:  Speak up!  Admit it.  Say YES.  Indulge in your marriage, your husband, yourself.  You are not less of a mother because you do.  Quite the opposite.  Choosing your marriage makes you a better mother.  Not to mention the example that sets for your children.  SAY YES, mama.  GO!!!!”

“And to the husbands: You want your wife to feel SEEN?  To feel VALUED?  To feel loved and adored?  Take this decision OFF her plate.  Just do it.  Book it.  Let Matt and the team plan it.  Trust him.  Then show up and be in the moment with your wife as you both witness magic and beauty and love, and leave feeling completely renewed.  Do.  It.”

 “There just isn’t a greater gift we can give our children than a healthy, strong, and happy marriage.  Truly, there isn’t.” 


 Principal Photographer: Matt 

Second Photographer: Sol

Candle installation:  Candle Boutique

Hair and Makeup: Sara Tamargo


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