At most weddings, the bride and groom are inundated with presents from the guests at the ceremony. Brandon and Kathy Gunn could certainly relate to that, as they received any number of gifts on their big day. But close to a decade later, the pair still had one unwrapped present in their wardrobe.
Yup, when Northville, Michigan, residents Brandon and Kathy got married, they had 300 guests attending the ceremony in Jackson, Michigan.
And while the couple was given plenty of gifts that were loved and carefully curated, the one from Kathy’s great aunt Alison stood out from the rest.
Great aunt Alison had actually handed over a box with some very specific instructions attached to it. “Do not open until your first disagreement,” read the note from the bride’s relative.
And the couple respected her request and left the gift unopened. So as time went on, the contents remained a mystery.
But two years after the wedding, Kathy and Brandon still hadn’t opened the box. This left great aunt Alison somewhat surprised.
“She looked at us like we were crazy,” Kathy told ABC News in September 2016. “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 explained. Following that conversation, however, the present remained unopened for another few years. The couple even became parents during that period.
And in addition to taking on that new responsibility, they also moved house a number of times as well.
Despite all the stresses and strains that came with these developments, though, Kathy and Brandon refused to open great aunt Alison’s gift.
But the Northville resident later explained why she and her partner were so reluctant to discover the contents of the box. “My husband and I are both very competitive people,” Kathy revealed.
“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, close to a decade on from their wedding, the couple finally relented in May 2016 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. In an interesting twist, it all stemmed from 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,” she 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 (nearly 9 years ago) and tried to recall the gifts that had meant the most to me.”
At that point, Kathy remembered great aunt Alison’s mysterious present, untouched since her big day with Brandon back in September 2007. “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.
After sharing the contents of great aunt Alison’s message, Kathy then made a frank confession in the Facebook post.
You see, her marriage to Brandon actually hadn’t been without its disputes over the years — but that still didn’t sway the couple to open the box. In their minds, 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. “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 felt the need to elaborate on that point.
“To us, it 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.”
Kathy touched upon the couple’s ever-changing attitudes towards the gift and when would be the right moment to discover 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?!”
“As my great uncle Bill would say, ‘Nothing is ever so bad that it couldn’t get worse,’” Kathy added.
So, after all those thoughts swirled through their heads, she and Brandon finally pulled the box out from their closet, curious as to what they would find. However, no one could’ve predicted what happened next.
Kathy and Brandon discovered two more notes inside the box, along with some money. In addition to that, the couple also unpacked a collection of bathroom items, two wine glasses, and a vase.
At first glance, the true purpose of the gift’s contents might have been hard to understand... but the handwritten messages provided some answers.
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.”
Meanwhile, her husband’s note stated, “Go get flowers and a bottle of wine.”
At that point, Kathy described her initial expectations just before she finally discovered 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-of-two wrote on Facebook. “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 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 stood by her sentiment a few months later when she recounted their decision to open the box and everything that happened in the aftermath.
She also shared how her Aunt Alison reacted to the news, after all, she had waited nine years for a response to her clever gift. Unsurprisingly, Alison was 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.
“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 and 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.”
But the young mom suddenly shifted her focus to Alison, who lives away from the family in Ohio.
Given the distance between them, Kathy phoned Alison right after she and Brandon opened the box. “She 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.”
Meanwhile, Kathy and Brandon’s story had taken another interesting turn, some three months after the post was initially written.
Lifestyle website Love What Matters picked up the tale and shared it with their followers on social media. The Michigan resident’s words were subsequently reposted, drawing a big response from online users.
Thanks to Love What Matters, Kathy’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. As a result of that incredible surge in popularity, the story went viral.
And the vast majority of the comments reacting to Kathy’s tale were very positive. “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.”
There were several Facebook users who felt compelled to share similar stories to Kathy and Brandon’s after reading the post.
Indeed, Alison’s gift might have been unique, but 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 mouths 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 received from her grandma. Much like 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 wrote in the comments section.
“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.”
As for Facebook user Cheryl Stemple, she played a similar role to Alison in the tale that she shared. While there were some significant differences, the basic message behind her gift mirrored that of Kathy and Brandon’s relative.
“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.”
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 they 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 The Huffington Post in September 2016. During that discussion, the Northville resident spoke about the vital role Brandon plays in their relationship.
“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.”