This weekend, I had one of those rare privileges normally relegated to close relatives or the wedding party. I attended the rehearsal dinner and wedding of a close friend's son to a phenomenal young woman. From this experience, I formed some impressions that I hope I can adequately share here.
Weddings have become more common in my life now...after a drought of years. Beginning with the wedding of my nephew on 7-07-2007, I have also attended the weddings of my two maternal cousins since that time. Another nephew just proposed to a fabulous girl...and we will be attending that wedding next May. Over the years, I have viewed weddings as wonderful and exciting culminations of whirlwind courtships or sweet stories. These were normally reserved for young people far older than my children. I am beginning to realize that this is quickly changing.
The bride and groom both graduated in the Class of 2001 from the same K-12 school that my children attend...or in Jill's case...attended. The graduating class had approximately 70 people in it, which meant that everyone knew everyone else. They did not date in high school and went to college in different states. Their contacts were intermittant and the spark between them was not evident to anyone...even themselves. He was her date to her debutante presentation when they were twenty years old. Otherwise, the threads of their lives would cross from time to time as they lived separate lives in different cities. The details of exactly how everything transpired is a bit fuzzy to me because I remember details of the past year that may or may not be pertinent. The bottom line is...he pursued...she accepted...which is the most important detail after all.
The rehearsal dinner was held on the 21st floor of one of (if not the) tallest buildings in downtown Montgomery. The weather was perfect - in spite of three rain-soaked weekends preceding this one. The afternoon before the rehearsal dinner was spent busily assembling flowers and getting equipment to work and arranging placecards and candles. Just before the guests arrived, the 149 candles were lit (yes, I counted while left alone there for an hour enjoying the beauty and the view of downtown Montgomery instead of going home and relinquishing my parking space) and I made friends with one of the servers, who was probably one of the most helpful and hardworking young men I've seen. I listened to the squeak of him hand wiping the stems of the glassware although I was on the other side of the divider caught up in my own thoughts. The noise finally got my attention and I walked around to see what it was. Nobody was watching him...and I wasn't the host...so I found this to be more a testimony to his work ethic than anything he could gain by impressing me with his diligence.
The flowers for the evening were white roses and lilies combined with magnolia leaves and greenery. The arrangements were gorgeous and so appropriate with the black napkins, dimmed lights, and the room flooded with candlelight. The God-given talents of a small but determined and efficient group of friends combined to transform the space into an amazing combination of bridal elegance with a masculine air. On the table in the center of the room was a photo of the bride and groom when he escorted her to that debutante ball...their official "first date."
The food was delicious...the company was upbeat and the night quickly moved along from pictures and appetizers through dinner and dessert and on to the standard rehearsal dinner toasts.
The first was from the bride's sister. Her sister...separated by less than two years in age...and her best friend. The sister who was in virtually every picture of the bride in the rehearsal dinner video because they were inseparable. Her love for her sister and the emotion of those feelings spilled out in words of gratitude for their relationship and deep respect for her sister's qualities and goodness. Her brother followed with words that also showed the close relationship that the family has as well as his impressions.
For the next thirty minutes or so, different parties stood and toasted the bride and groom...the brothers, parents, and grandfather of the groom, and then other bridesmaids and groomsmen. And then the father of the bride rose to speak.
I'd like to stop right here, because this particular speech made an incredible impression on me. He had written notes...and does have a certain ability to speak in public due to natural aptitude and profession, but that was not what was so moving. What was so amazing to me...was that you not only heard his words but that you saw his heart.
The speech started out in gratitude to the hosts and moved to his wife of over 30 years...and the mother of his children. He spoke of how they met, their life together, and how he credited any success he has in this life in large part to her. I felt that this laid the foundation or provided the backstory for those of us in the room who were not familiar with those details. The foundation of a family. The knowledge that a godly family begins with a couple completely devoted to each other and to God.
He then used songs that reminded him of certain aspects of his life and that of his daughter's. He spoke of her strengths and challenges, of his proud moments tinged with a wish that he could relive some of those that in retrospect now seem so precious. He spoke of the depth of his love for his wife, his family and his Lord. It was a father's blessing to his daughter and her intended. A blessing that his daughter had to hear without the benefit of watching her father so that she could manage the emotion. There was a bond of love evident. A bond that every girl should have before she tethers her life to another man as a husband. A bond that provides a foundation for her to have an above average to excellent chance in life and in marriage.
It is my belief that if nothing else had happened after that moment...but a trip to the justice of the peace and a honeymoon in their new home...it would have been enough for her. The knowledge that you are loved is more important than a gala wedding, beautiful singers during the ceremony, or anything else. Her father's words to her were the most beautiful part of the weekend for me. The video was shown thereafter, and chronicled a beautiful little girl quietly growing up into the beautiful woman that she is today. We saw the rough-and-tumble little boy that was a football player and tough guy...who showed the perseverance to turn his bride's head. Through the pictures, it was seen that the personalities of these two are indeed completely different...but also wonderfully complementary.
The wedding was at 6:00 in the evening in a beautiful gothic style Methodist church with a long aisle. The music started earlier, but on the hour, the chimes rang, and the wedding party started down. Groomsmen in traditional tuxedos with tails, and bridesmaids wearing a beautiful emerald green color...carrying flowers of pink and white. Floral arrangements in the wedding colors were on the altar and around the sides of the church. A precious ring bearer - the nephew of the bride - was dressed in white with ivory lace. His younger brother, similarly dressed, watched from a pew a few rows back on the bride's side.
The senior pastor who had recently retired spoke at this wedding...just as he had for the bride's brother and his wife in 2002, and the bride's sister and her husband in 2008. The current pastor performed the ceremony.
To say that the bride was beautiful would be an understatement. She was absolutely, positively...gorgeous. Her dress was elegant and perfectly suited to her. Her external beauty framed her inner beauty in such a way that there were few dry eyes but a host of smiling faces. She looked like everyone's vision of the perfect bride. The look on her groom's face was that of awe...just as it should have been...and just exactly what you hope to see.
Although the adornments of the church, flowers, music and attendants enhanced the ceremony, the beauty of the bride was impossible to eclipse in any way. Her arrival on the arm of her father took everyone's breath away...such loveliness. Her groom and the bridal party were adorned to complement her...and as the pair climbed the steps to speak their vows and exchange rings, it was not only a holy moment, but one of incredible beauty.
We left the church and arrived at the home of her parents for the reception. Golf carts were employed up and down the street ferrying guests to and from cars. The house was alive with light and flowers. Roses in every imaginable variation of the color pink greeted us over the front doorway. The home had various arrangements throughout the interior and onto the back terrace. Upon exiting the back door, there were two huge white tents to the left and right, with the multitiered bridal cake highlighted in the center.
Servers offered hors 'doeurves of crabcakes and brie cheese in pastry, and every detail from the lights in the treetops to the monogrammed napkins added to the ambiance of the evening. Even the restroom facilities - portable - were suitable and believe it or not...even attractive. (Apparently someone started a company to provide these when a good ole fashioned "port-a-potty" just won't do.)
A beverage area was set up to the direct left of the back door as well as in another location in the rear of the yard and in the tent to the left just beyond...the band was warming up to play. A full band with singers, backup singers, brass, and guitars. A band that belted out songs beginning with the 1960s. Directly across from the tent servers were offering wonderful food ranging from beef tenderloin and salmon to shrimp and grits, grilled vegetables, sweet potatoes, and tomato and basil salad. Lamb was grilled in an adjacent area by the other refreshment center. Tables were set up throughout the yard including in the garage...where a large television was broadcasting the Auburn-Tennessee football game. Heaven knows, this IS the South, and if the SEC is playing, then the SEC game is on.
The cakes were later cut...and were delicious. The bride's choice of green as a wedding color was reflected in the pale green of the icing on the bridal cake. From a distance, it looked white and ivory...but up close...a neat surprise. A gorgeously decorated cake with fabulous white cake inside...just as a bridal cake should be. The groom's chocolate cake was also served and was also delicious.
As the evening went on, some of the guests began to thin out. It was possible to walk from the football game to the food and around by the band and see a number of guests enjoying the evening. The wedding party was having a wonderful time on the dance floor and the football enthusiasts were happy that their team had emerged victorious. Everyone was dancing and enjoying themselves immensely. The parents of the bride and groom were on the dance floor and were having a wonderful time...as much so as the younger set that had graduated to singing with the band and dancing with everyone's mother.
At eleven o'clock, the bride threw her bouquet, and the groom tossed the garter. This was followed by the bride and groom's exit in an antique automobile after being showered with rose petals by those of us who hoped that it was just the beginning of wonderful things that they find themselves showered with throughout their lives together.
As they left, the impression that remained with me was that of happiness. The bride and groom had a wonderful weekend of celebration. The parents were phenomenal hosts whose primary aim was the comfort of their guests. The goal was not to impress people...although the parties were impressive. The weather was perfect, the settings were magical, and the love was evident. Even the Auburn Tigers pulled it out.
There is something special that happens when you realize that you have been tapped to share the joy of others as you cannot help but enthusiastically claim some of that joy as your own. Watching from my vantage point during this weekend...I have found that I saw not only the beauty of a wedding...but many other things as well that were not as obvious.
For me, the wedding was a series of reminders: the faithfulness of God in bringing together two parties at the proper time, the solid foundation of long term marriages when God is the center of the home, wonderful southern hospitality, and the importance of a father's blessing. By being a part of this weekend...I was immensely blessed...beyond measure.