When a couple get hitched, they are typically inundated with presents from guests at the ceremony. And Brandon and Kathy Gunn were no different, as they too received a number of gifts on their big day. However, close to a decade on from first tying the knot, the pair still had one wrapped item from the celebration in their wardrobe.
Residents of Northville, Michigan, Brandon and Kathy got married back in September 2007, with hundreds of guests attending the ceremony in Jackson, MI. And as you may expect, the couple were given plenty of gifts to commemorate the happy occasion. In among all those presents, though, one was particularly memorable.
Kathy’s great-aunt Alison had handed over a box with some very specific instructions attached to it, you see. “Do not open until your first disagreement,” read the accompanying note from the bride’s relative. The couple respected her request, too, and left the gift unopened. And as time went on, the contents of the package remained a mystery.
In fact, some two years after the wedding, Kathy and Brandon still hadn’t opened the box – and this fact had left Alison somewhat surprised. “[My aunt] looked at us like we were crazy,” Kathy told ABC News in September 2016. “[And] my mom was like, ‘Kathy, what if there’s food in there or something?’”
“We did ask [Alison] to make sure there wasn’t anything perishable in there or time-sensitive,” Kathy added by way of justification. Yet even following that conversation, the present remained unopened for another few years. And the couple became parents during that period; they moved house a number of times to boot.
Despite any stresses and strains that may have arisen from these developments, though, Kathy and Brandon refused to open Alison’s gift. And Kathy would go on to explain why she and her spouse had been so reluctant to discover the contents of the box. “My husband and I are both very competitive people,” she divulged.
“We love a challenge,” Kathy continued. “The presentation itself was very unique, and it’s not the typical gift. We kind of set it aside because it was special to us.” However, in May 2016 and so close to a decade on from their wedding, the couple finally relented and ended the mystery once and for all.
Such was the significance of this decision, in fact, that Kathy took to Facebook to recall the moment in great detail. And in an interesting twist, it turned out that the unveiling had been prompted by a conversation about another wedding ceremony. “Tonight, we tucked our kids in bed, and my husband and I enjoyed a glass of wine on the deck,” the mom wrote on the social media site.
“We were talking about how excited we were to attend an upcoming wedding in Kalamazoo – where we met and went to college – and discussing what would be the perfect gift for the newlyweds,” Kathy continued. “So, I thought back to our wedding day… and tried to recall the gifts that had meant the most to me.”
At that point, Kathy added, she had remembered Alison’s mysterious present. “The funny thing?” the mother of two wrote. “The gift that meant the very most [to me] was still sitting in a closet… unopened.” She then described the box and its accompanying note.
And after sharing the contents of Alison’s message, Kathy made a frank confession. Her marriage to Brandon hadn’t been without its tiffs over the years, she revealed, but those moments still hadn’t swayed the couple to open the box. In their minds, though, there was an important reason for that decision.
“Now, there had obviously been plenty of disagreements, arguments and slammed doors throughout our nine years [together],” Kathy wrote on Facebook. “There were even a couple of instances where we both considered giving up… but we never opened the box. I honestly think that we both avoided turning to the box because it would have symbolized our failure.”
Kathy then elaborated on that latter point. “To us, [opening the box] would have meant that we didn’t have what it takes to make our marriage work – and we’re both too stubborn and determined for that,” the Northville resident continued. “So, it forced us to reassess situations.”
Subsequently, Kathy touched upon her thoughts regarding the right moment to reveal the contents. “Was it really time to open the box?” she wrote on Facebook. “What if this isn’t our worst fight? What if there’s a worse one ahead of us and we don’t have our box?!”
Indeed, Kathy added, “As my great-uncle Bill would say, ‘Nothing is ever so bad that it couldn’t get worse.’” Even despite such apprehension, though, she and Brandon finally pulled the box out from their closet – curious as to what they would find.
And when Kathy and Brandon ultimately opened the box, they discovered two more notes inside as well as some money. But that was by no means all; the couple also unpacked a collection of bathroom items, two wine glasses and a vase. Yet while the true purpose of the gift’s contents may have been hard to understand at first glance, the handwritten messages provided some answers.
In fact, the two notes that Kathy and Brandon found both contained different instructions for the pair from Alison. The message for Kathy read, “Go get a pizza, shrimp or something you both like. Get a bath ready.” The note addressed to her husband, on the other hand, stated, “Go get flowers and a bottle of wine.”
And in her Facebook post, Kathy described her initial expectations prior to uncovering the contents of Alison’s present. “All along, we assumed that the contents of that box held the key to saving a marriage,” the mom wrote. “An age-old trick unbeknownst to us rookies.”
“After all, my great-aunt and uncle had been married for nearly half a century,” Kathy continued. “So, we thought the box would save ‘us’ – and in a way it did. That box went beyond what I believe my great-aunt had intended. It was by far the greatest wedding gift of all.”
Kathy went into some more detail on that last point, too, as her Facebook post came to an end. “For nine years – and three moves – that box sat high on a shelf in various closets gathering dust,” she wrote. “Yet it somehow taught us about tolerance, understanding, compromise and patience.”
“Our marriage strengthened as we became best friends, partners and teammates,” Kathy added. “Today, we decided to open that box, because I finally had a realization. I realized that the tools for creating and maintaining a strong, healthy marriage were never within that box – they were within us.”
Kathy reiterated that sentiment a few months later when she reflected upon everything that had happened that night. And the Northville resident also spoke about Alison’s reaction to the news; unsurprisingly, it seemed that her relative had been left delighted by how much the gift meant to the couple.
“I felt if we haven’t opened [the box] yet, we’ve got everything we need to make this thing work,” Kathy told ABC News in September 2016. “When you’re young and learning to be married and compromise and all of that, we often thought the contents of the box would reunite us.”
“I think the true story was working it out for ourselves: [that] there wasn’t any gift that was going to reunite us or make it better,” Kathy continued. “It was something that we were going to have to do ourselves.” The mom then mentioned Alison, who lives away from the family in Ohio.
Given the distance between them, Kathy chose to phone Alison right after the married couple had opened the box. “[Alison] thought it was amazing,” Kathy added. “She also thought it was a great story, but she thought we were crazy. She knew it was a special gift but didn’t realize just how special it became to us.”
Then in August 2016 – some three months after the Facebook post had been written – Kathy and Brandon’s story took another interesting turn. Lifestyle website Love What Matters picked up on the tale, you see, and shared it with their followers on social media. And when Kathy’s words were subsequently reposted, they drew a big response from online users.
Thanks to Love What Matters, in fact, the Michigan native’s post earned more than 20,000 likes and in excess of 4,000 shares on Facebook, with people clearly connecting with the message it contained. In addition to that, her words also generated close to 1,000 comments. And as a result of that incredible surge in popularity, the story went viral.
The vast majority of the comments reacting to Kathy’s tale were positive, too. “I think [the gift] worked just the way your aunt intended it to,” wrote Facebook user Susan Davies. “You didn’t open it at your ‘first disagreement’ but left it on the shelf where you had to see it every time you opened that closet.”
“It was a silent reminder to you both and probably in some ways acted as a set of brakes when you did disagree about something,” Davies added. “Keeping the anger level to a slow burn instead of a volcano.” Elsewhere, fellow user Bob Wiegmann hailed Alison’s gift and the thought that had gone into it.
“WOW!” Wiegmann wrote in the Facebook comments section. “This is the wisest, kindest, most loving gift your aunt could have given you! This is brilliant and wonderful, and I hope you know how very much your aunt loved you to do this. Thank you for sharing this precious gift with us.”
What’s more, there were several Facebook users who felt compelled to share similar stories to Kathy and Brandon’s after reading the post. Indeed, while Alison’s gift may have been unique, the message behind it was familiar to a number of other people. In those instances, though, the role of the mysterious box was played by different items.
“We had the same kind of gift,” wrote user Tracey Sikula. “The minister that married us almost 16 years ago gave us a bag of M&M’s. He told us if we ever argue, we are to open the bag together and savor one at a time, letting it slowly melt in our mouth while we reflect on what we have built together.”
“The bag still sits in my husband’s dresser drawer, unopened 15+ years later!” Sikula added. Those words were somewhat echoed by fellow Facebook user Pauline Wyer, who wrote about a gift that she had received from her grandma. And much as was the case in the previous stories, the item had come with clear instructions.
“My grandmother gave us two precious teacups and saucers with several kinds of tea to sip whenever we have struggles,” Wyer explained. “Unfortunately, we had to throw out the tea before it was ever used due to expiration, and still we have the beautiful teacups and haven’t fought yet.”
By contrast, Facebook user Cheryl Stemple revealed that she had once contributed to a thoughtful present of her own. And while there were some significant differences between that gift and the one given by Alison, the motivation for both was similar. “Two years ago when my niece got married, we did a little something along the same lines,” Stemple wrote.
“We had written [down] all the comments from a Facebook post to the happy couple,” Stemple continued. “And everyone that attended the wedding was to write on strips of paper a special memory of the couple, words of advice or something GREAT about the day they [got] married. I folded the strips into lucky origami stars.”
At that point, Stemple then revealed the purpose behind her actions. “[I] placed [the messages] in a HUGE jar with a card on the front,” she wrote. “[It] said, ‘In this jar is lucky stars made lovingly just for you, so that when you wish upon a star, may all your dreams come true.’”
“When [the couple] were having an argument, they were to sit down together and open a star and focus on the words that people gave them on their special day,” Stemple added. “They keep it on a stand by itself in the living room. They say that in times when they are feeling angry or hurt, it helps them to remember what brought them together.”
As for Kathy, she reflected on her marriage during an interview with HuffPost in September 2016. And during this discussion, the mom spoke about the vital role that Brandon plays for her. “Life throws so many twists and turns at all of us outside of marriage, and dealing with those problems can be difficult without someone to count on,” she said.
Kathy added, “Brandon is my constant. No matter what struggles I am faced with, I know that I can always count on him to be in my corner and me in his. It’s so much easier to get through life when you have someone that will always be there for you and that would do anything for you – no matter the day or time.”