"Life has been tough, but the marriage hasn't. That's what's held us together."
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on August 13, 2021. It has since been updated.
Just a month before Rachel Friedman Chapman was set to get married to the love of her life, Chris Chapman, in 2010, she held a bachelorette party. One of the bridesmaids playfully pushed her into a shallow pool, but that playful shove caused a lot of damage.
Rachelle ended up fracturing the C6 vertebra in her neck, which paralyzed her from the chest down and caused her wedding to get postponed while she focused on her recovery with Chris by her side, according to PEOPLE.
At the time, Rachelle's story was shared and reshared, and while people sympathized with her, the Chapmans noted that there were people who doubted their love, suggesting that there wouldn't be a marriage and even if there was, it wouldn't last long.
A year after the unfortunate accident, in 2011, Rachel and Chris tied the knot, proving people wrong. She focused on her physical strength, and the couple welcomed their daughter in 2015 via surrogacy. Now, to celebrate a decade of being in love, Rachelle, 35, and Chris, 38, dressed in their best clothes and renewed their vows to celebrate their love and all they've been through, TODAY reported.
The ceremony on July 22, 2021, was held at Fearrington Village in Raleigh, North Carolina. Due to the pandemic, only a small group of their friends and family, including their 6-year-old daughter Kaylee, bore witness to the event as they reiterated their commitment and love to each other. The pair had Kaylee serve as flower girl and later had her join in during their first dance to I Won't Let Go by Rascal Flatts.
When we first got married, we wanted to show the world true love did exist," Rachelle said. "We did this one for us, to celebrate our love 10 years after a lot of people doubted that it could last forever." Chris added, "I would put our marriage up against anybody else. Life has been tough, but the marriage hasn't. That's what's held us together."
It was like a success story for them, given how people criticized and spoke ill about them. With time, things have changed too, and Rachelle is now stronger than ever. "Ten years later my body and my mental state are so much stronger," said Rachelle. "My arms are bigger, I look healthier, I'm driving now and getting in and out of bed on my own now. It's such a stark difference."
But, she added, "People will come up to him and thank him for taking care of me and say he's an amazing person. I'm not like a charity case after 10 years. We're in this together for a reason, we just want people to stop looking at it like it's this public service. He's a great guy, but if he wasn't in love, he wouldn't be here."
Rachelle also revealed she's cut ties with most of the people she was friends with before her accident, including all her bridesmaids, noting that none of them attended the event.
The family hopes that the ceremony will show people just how much their love has endured. "I do need help, I'm not 100% independent, but there's so many ways [Chris] needs help, as well," she continued. "He has more anxiety than I do and gets a little overwhelmed, and I'm a very chill person, so I'm able to counteract that for him."
"People see disabilities and automatically assume the able-bodied person is doing more than the person in the chair," Rachelle added. "It's a totally equal relationship between what I give him and he gives me."
Cover Image Source: Facebook/Rachelle Chapman