I love weddings. I love the uniqueness of every single one of them and I love watching friends or family make their promise to one another. Sadly, not every wedding is as fun as others, but I love seeing what a bride chooses for her music, her food, her décor. I know the time that goes into planning a wedding: the heartache, the stress, the excitement and best, the relief when it is over. There is so much joy when it all comes together and you can finally enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Many times I listen as the couples exchange their vows, recite scriptures, pray or have a solo. They are typically short ceremonies, because let’s face it we all want to get to the reception. I have been in a Catholic wedding that was much longer, but thankfully we were allowed to sit down during part of it. And at one wedding I was in, the preacher surprised everyone with a sermon that was NOT planned. I secretly took off my heels during a prayer and shrunk two inches behind the bush that covered my legs from the knees down. Not sure if the photos captured my height difference.
The most recent wedding I attended was no different in that there was lots of planning, beautiful décor, fantastic food and probably the best cover band I have ever heard (Talking Heads!). Except at this wedding I was the officiant. My two friends asked me to marry them and although I had no experience, they were quite confident I could do it.
Not a duty to take lightly, I spent weeks thinking about what to say. I wondered somewhat why they chose me, seeing as how they had so many friends who’d known them longer. IN fact, we really haven’t known each other that long, and were friends of a friend. But when they moved to town, I hung out with them quite a bit since they knew no one else. We shared many laughs and some tears and silly nights and great conversation. When they had to move home, I was the only one not celebrating their return.
So at the rehearsal dinner, one of their friends told me the couple asked me because I knew them as “them” and not independently of one another. All of their friends back home knew them separately and had never seen them really become a couple. When they moved to Greenville, they were V&D, the couple. This made so much sense to me once she explained it. I was going to be able to report on them as two people in love and knew them as a couple better than most.
This newfound knowledge gave me a great perspective for the next day. Thankfully both bride and groom are very laid back. Still, nerves were high for everyone. The bride’s mother had just passed away only a week or so before. So she was on the bride’s mind and mine. I wanted to honor her mother as best I could. I wrote her engagement ring into the ring exchange hoping we could bring her mother into the ceremony.
The bride asked me to say a prayer with her right before we went out and I did my best to ask God to watch over us on this special day and grant peace to all those who were there. It was spontaneous but a special moment I was so glad to have with the bride.
I knew the crowd was a motley crew and told myself I had to be light-hearted to make it fun. The groom and I stood at the altar and I hoped I would not sound like a robot. To test the mic, I asked how everyone was doing. For a second I was thinking I needed to break into a comedy routine, except I know no jokes. I asked them if they were there to have fun. At least in my head I think I asked them that. I don’t really remember it all. Then I looked out into the crowd and in an empty seat on the front row was a large photo of the bride’s mother. I immediately began to cry and knew the bride would be there at any minute. I had to stop and get my composure. Typically people cry at weddings but I needed to hide my own tears for their behalf. But I was so happy to see her mother was “there” in more ways than one.
The bride walked down the aisle in a beautiful 70-degree day. A friend played “You are My Sunshine” with modified lyrics on guitar and the beautiful bride was weeping all the way down. Keep it together, Jennifer, I thought, along with what have I gotten myself into?
A few minutes into my welcome, I started to relax. I had asked the crowd to stand as the bride entered and I thought throughout the wedding, wow they are still standing. I jokingly told the groom to wake up when he paused too long for the ring exchange. Laughter ensued. I later told him there was only one thing left to do, and no he couldn’t leave, but rather kiss his bride. I remembered to speak articulately, loudly and slowly. And the people stood throughout. My son was in the back reaching his arms out to me so sadly, I had to not look at him.
The couple kissed, turned and woohoo’d it back down the aisle. Everyone turned and clapped and raced to the cocktail hour. I stood for a moment under the altar, awkward but enjoying every minute of it. I had survived and actually had fun. More than anything I had marked something off on a list of trying new things. It was a beautiful wedding between two wonderful people.
I later found out the people stood throughout the wedding because I forgot to tell them to be seated. Whoops! #amateurhour