Lucy and Little Jo discovered our wedding video last summer. They could hardly hold themselves still on the couch for a second before flitting off again, alight with little-girl imagination. “I’ve got to go get ready for the wedding, Mama!” “Do you like my bouquet?” “I want to be that lady in the purple dress.”
Meanwhile, I leaned forward with my chin in my hand, ushered by memory back down a lengthening avenue, finding all the old scenes fuller and sweeter than they were even on the day they were made. There was much to recall, like my shyness, and the joyful, tremulous trepidation of Getting Married, but what stood out most clearly to me were the faces.
They laughed jubilantly into the camera and wished many happy years upon our marriage; they offered piano lessons to our future children and rang their glasses and keys at the reception with relentless — and I do mean relentless, you dear, hilarious folk who were there! — enthusiasm until we kissed.
The same could be said about the whole of my life, but especially on that day, I had the sense of arriving as an empty-handed beggar, inexplicably crowned guest of honor at a feast that bespoke the strong and tender love of its Host.
I had barely slept the night before, but a friendly July sun greeted me at the hotel room window, its summer sky hemmed by Virginia greenery. It was the first gift in a day strewn with countless kindnesses.
The preceding week had brought generous tokens of its own. In response to my note apologizing for the hanging ivory gown that seemed to take up half of the room, a housekeeping staff member left a congratulatory note, along with two snack bags of chips. Our photographer sent a surprise bouquet of cheerful daisies.
On the grounds of a nearby hotel, a few of my dearest friends spread a blanket for a short time of song and reminiscence: our version of a bachelorette party. These were the women who had surrounded my dating relationship with prayer, who had wept with and encouraged us. I was among the first of my “set” to be married, and the excitement of these friends and our church fellowship swirled around all the nuptial preparations like a cloud of cherry blossoms in spring.
At the church, two of my former Bible study girls set up a welcome table while the bridesmaids arrived with breakfast. An out-of-town friend swooped by to pick up a box for the reception tables. So many acts of service, great and small, quietly took place behind the scenes, so that items seemed to disappear and reappear elsewhere and arrange themselves: the sprays of flowers, the chairs in the church, the peacock-emblazoned decorative screen and tea service for the Korean blessing.
I saved the words of a sweet friend so that I could remember the tenor of the hour:
We had an about an hour and a half before the Walk Down the Aisle would commence. All the bridal party were temporarily taking over the Ladies’ Room at the church, meanwhile the fellas were temporarily confined to the room across the hall (no peeking allowed) with Grace P. standing guard.
What’s so amazing is how calm and relaxed everyone was — as the 1 hr. and 30 min. soon became 1 hr., then 45 min., then 15 min., etc. I could only imagine how God was answering all the prayers for the wedding as we were all getting prepared and helping Amy. Everyone was in such a lighthearted, delightful mood.
Y and I had asked for something particular in our prayers over the wedding. Three months earlier and two hours away, the Virginia Tech shooting had left the wreckage of grief in its wake. Ours would be a celebration held, as all time-bound celebrations are, in the shadowlands. We also knew that this event might be the only time that some of our guests would see the church in a festal gathering. Bearing the words of Christ in mind (John 13:34-35), we asked simply that the love displayed among His people would show us to be His.
Ten years afterward, my eyes brim with happy tears to think of how that request was answered. There were undeserved offers of help, as well as the sharing of talents, from all quarters. Some able friends directed the schedule and served as contact people; others brought their musical instruments to the ceremony and reception. Still others translated the order of events, designed the ceremony programs, and showed up en masse to help us assemble invitations. We learned later that when the sound system in the reception ballroom wouldn’t work, one of our “sound crew” sped out to a store to buy the extra part needed so that the music could play. If this event had a rolling list of credits, I still wouldn’t be able to do justice to the time and creativity that made the wedding what it was.
I wonder still at the joy that enfolded us that day, so nearly palpable that we seemed to be carried on its crest. I remember the deep sniffle of my Other Half — my maid of honor — who, after all, did find a place to hide tissues for the tears she anticipated. I remember words spoken by loved ones that I’ll cherish forever. And I’m still glad that the vows Y and I pledged to each other in that noble company were timeworn ones not written by ourselves.
And when it was over — we had such tired feet and flushed cheeks, but such happy hearts! At the end there was no mad dash to a getaway car, but a slow parting of family, and a late dinner with out-of-town friends who had come so far to wish us well. It was the perfect way to close the day.
For us, somehow this year of marriage is sweeter than all the ones that have come before it, perhaps because Y and I have had to return again and again to the bedrock of our union while passing through our lowlands and valleys. I think of how well we have been loved by the church — the hands and hearts of “the Church as we see her spread throughout all time and space and rooted in eternity” (Screwtape, C.S.L.) — and how we are a part of this imperfect fellowship, beloved by a Bridegroom who died so that she might have life.
God willing, we’ll keep unfolding the story of this great mystery together.
Echoing down through our short history is a verse we printed and enclosed with our tea favors:
We love because He first loved us.
– I John 4:19
And I find myself praying it with our daughters every so often, closing with this plain truth that runs through the core of our marriage and family like a lucent thread.
We love you, we say, growing into the words as we discover the depth of our redemption;
thank You for loving us first.