Crystal Adair-Benning – RESILIENT A.F.: Stories of Resilience


Girlhood dreams don’t always go according to plan… even if you are the world’s best wedding planner, writer, or… whatever.

A sucker punch to the gut. The wind rushed from my ribcage, expelling out my cheeks faster than the car could slow.

“What happened?” echoes in my ears as my husband maneuvered our rental car across a dangerously narrow strip of pavement onto a side street marked DO NOT ENTER in angry red caps.

We stop, and I try to find my breath. It’s as if the pavement under our car is swallowing me whole. I’m beginning to see stars; the multicolored floral lupin blooms are spinning before my eyes.

“I didn’t get the Visa. They won’t let me on the flight. I’m stuck in Melbourne,” I hear our award-winning photographer express in a rapid outburst to my husband.

“I won’t be there. I can’t make it. She [meaning the Flight Attendant] won’t let me on the flight. I don’t know what to do.”

It’s my worst nightmare. Okay, our worst nightmare.

My husband has meticulously been planning this dream wedding for me for no less than four and a half years, ever since my vision of the perfect wedding was expressed over a glass of 2016 Two Sisters Vineyards Reisling and a daydreamy far-off stare caught him straight in the heartstrings.

Now, we’ve been married no less than eight times before. Yes, eight.

There was our original elopement. The unicorn vow renewal for family. A Shaman in Mexico. Naked underwater in Fiji. Rainstorm in the Scottish highlands. Playful summer heatwave vows in Bath, England—late-night party shenanigans in Croatia. And yes, New Zealand even had a vow renewal atop The Remarkables.

But, it was never THE wedding. The one I’d been dreaming of since the idea of meeting my person and getting married ever formed in my over-Disney’d brain. You know, the wedding you dream of, think of, fantasize about… this was that wedding.

And now, with a phone call, it wasn’t happening.

I was crushed.

Okay, backstory time. I had been a luxury wedding planner for over two decades, planning romantic dream celebrations for couples madly in love since I was in my 20s. I’d travelled the world following love, celebrating love. I’d been married and divorced, and only four and a half years ago… married again. To a dimples-for-days-dude, I met and married in only a month.

When you know, you know. I knew.

But on this hot summer day, along a mountain cross in New Zealand, feeling the dream slip through my fingers, I felt the crush of disappointment worse than the day the doctors told me I had cancer or even the time I ended up in Palliative Care with pancreatitis. This wasn’t facing death. This was a total dream disappointment. I had made peace with death in my 20s when it knocked and again in my 30s.

The only dream I had both times was…

this elopement

this dress

this day

this moment

this memory.

And now, while I would not die from a missed wedding, I would face the disappointment of a dream unrealized.

I shook my head at my husband as I wiped back the tears. Big girl panties and all, right, babes? I’ve got this. I’ve been disappointed before. My wedding dress (the only true wedding dress I’ve had with any of our weddings) also didn’t make it. It was rumoured and confirmed the dress designer was going out of business. The dress hadn’t arrived. The vision was already tarnished.

I stabilize my voice and hear myself say, “It’s okay. These things happen. Guess this dream was just too big.” A little piece of my soul wavers and withers.

It’s true. It’s just a wedding. Another in a grand lineup of weddings. It may be the wedding, but it’s just a day, a moment, a memory. If not now… sometime later, right?

I mean, sure, the lupins won’t be in bloom, and the weather may not be as spectacular as it is right now. Sure, our friends won’t be there, and maybe the dress will be different. The dream will have to shift, but it’s doable… right?

My heart sinks for the childhood fantasy that’s kept me going this long – through health scares and breakups, bankruptcies, and business shifts.

The car whirls around and heads into town. We park up at a spot across from the water, and I stare off into the abyss of glittering sunbeams bouncing off the water. “Maybe some dreams aren’t meant to come true,” I hear myself saying out loud.

“I promise you, one day, this will happen. I will give you your dream wedding,” my husband mutters into my freshly washed chestnut brown hair. “Someday.”

“Maybe it’s time to give up the dream, babe.”


We opt instead to renew our vows with friends on the ground in a closet-found dress, a plastered smile, and a sense of adventure. Wedding number nine was filled with so much love.

Sixteen days later, on a perfect summer day, wearing the dress of my dreams and holding my husband’s hand, our photographer met us at the airport. “Let’s do this,” she exclaimed. We clamour into the backseat of a jet-black helicopter and head up, up, up into the mountains, landing deep in a hidden pass accessible only via rugged hikers brave enough to venture here… and us. We climb over mountains and scurry along valley trails. We end up, just us, on Roy’s Peak at sunset, whispering vows to each other that are forever etched on my soul.

He found the dress. He got it here. It fits like a glove. He organized the photographer’s Visa and got her on another flight. He changed our heli schedule. He ordered a stunning bouquet. He made the dream a reality.

It took two decades, some cracked dreams, and a husband who wouldn’t back down from a challenge to make my childhood dream come true. The dream needed help. I married a Helper. Turns out the dream wasn’t a wedding… it was a partner that would help make my wildest dreams come true.

Resilience is a drive. A passion for overcoming obstacles, finding new pathways, and finding help along the way. May you find your own Resilience Drive, too. 

Just breathe. A ‘dream shift’ isn’t a ‘dream death.’ It’s a moment to pause, reconsider, and reflect… then ask for help. Always look for the Helpers. If you’re lucky, you’ll marry one.

If I could leave you with a piece of advice when faced with resilience, it would be to choose faith over fear—interest instead of outrage. Resilience is holding the vision so strongly in your heart that even if it does not happen as expected, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen… eventually. Faith is knowing that it will unfold exactly as it should. Always.

Are you ready to share your story of RESILIENCE? You can do that HERE.