"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
according to His power that is at work within us,
to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations,
forever and ever! Amen."
My father read that scripture in the wedding ceremony as part of a longer passage.
My heavenly Father came through and did more than we had asked or imagined.
And I just noticed today:
"...to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations..."
The perfect, everlasting union of Christ and His church, which is the ultimate reality that every marriage tries to reflect, was there, right there, in those very words.
For starters, the weather was perfect.
The previous day (July 4, and, incidentally, Lu's favorite holiday) was sunny, dry and 72. We had a fabulous time with our friends, Ann and Walter, and their two daughters. Matthew and Lulu served root-beer floats to the bridal party and other friends in Lulu's hotel suite, securely closing the door to the bedroom where her dress hung, of course! I thought, "Oh dear. We got the perfect day today. We can't possibly hope for two perfect days in a row." But July 5--the day of the wedding--was sunny, dry and 76, just as perfect but a touch warmer, so I was okay even though I forgot my sweater at the hotel.
We were all nervous, and had trouble choking down our breakfast. I don't think Lu ate a bite.
After showering and dressing in preliminary clothing, the first order of the day was to drop the decorations off at the reception venue. Mind you, this was the first time I ever saw the reception venue. We had driven past the outside during the deep freeze of last November, but I'd never gotten up to the door, let alone inside. (I guess when you've bought a house sight unseen off the internet the previous year, it is not such a big deal to rent a wedding venue without looking at it.)
The bridesmaids all came and helped us carry 17 brown paper grocery bags, each with the set up for an individual table, as well as other things. When we finished, it was a rush back to the hotel to gather everything we needed for the ceremony and get over to the church to meet the photographer.
We left the hotel in waves. I said, "If Daddy and I stay back until last, you can call us and tell us to grab anything you might have forgotten."
My darkest moment was around 12:12 p.m. when Shawn and I were in the van on the way to the church, late and unsure of whether we had everything. There was a lot of brown paper involved in this wedding, and right then I could have used a brown paper bag to breathe into.
Leading up to the wedding, time blurs in my mind. All of the girls were gathered in an upstairs room at the church, braiding hair and getting dressed. Food sprawled all over the table, bagels and fruit, crackers, cheese, grapes, bottled water. I remember feeling like I was going to die of thirst and going around heedlessly drinking the dregs of any water bottle I could find, against all better judgment... but that was actually later.
The photographer took pictures. I hope she got some good ones, because I got exactly four. Four. Here is one of them:
After that, I forgot both my camera and my phone in the the upstairs dressing room, and later in the van. So I have virtually no photographic record of the day. Shawn reassures me that the mother of the bride never has time to take pictures and that this is, in fact, precisely why one hires a photographer. So I hope the photographer took some good pictures, because I did not.
When everybody was ready, and the photographer was off photographing the boys, we took a moment to join hands in a circle and pray, a precious memory. There could never be a more amazing group of girls than the group showering love on my daughter that day.
At just the right time, Connie, the wonderful wife of the church's pastor, came to get us and take us to the back of the church. The church was a charming place, a historic building with an antique, working bell tower, but it also had a modern addition. I am not sure how it was all laid out and connected together, but we were upstairs in a spacious room with a huge walk-in closet (the girls dressed in it). Outside the room was a corridor with a kitchenette, and a bathroom at the end of the hall. There was also an elevator. Connie led us all into the elevator: herself, Laura, six bridesmaids, a flower girl, and me. It was a crush of feminine excitement, that's for sure.
The church has a fantastic, well-tested system for keeping the bride and groom from seeing each other before she enters the back of the church. We were to take the elevator down to the basement and cross underneath the church in a passageway... but somebody hit the button for the elevator to open on the first floor, right into the hallway where Matthew might be waiting to walk into the church! The girls all hurriedly clustered around Lu to cover her up as the doors glided apart, but (whew!) the hallway was empty.
The doors closed, we selected the correct button, and soon the elevator delivered us to the basement where Shawn, waiting in his brand new gray suit, blinked back tears at the sight of his baby daughter all grown up and bedecked in her wedding finery. We walked across the bottom of the church and up the curved stairway that opened to the tiny vestibule at the back of the church. The event was upon us.
Standing at the back of the church, we waited for the appropriate music. My brother was playing, and it was beautiful. My biggest regret from the day is that I was unable to be in the sanctuary to hear the musical prelude; my brother Paul played piano, and my son David played some saxophone pieces accompanied by Paul, and I missed it. I hope there will be another day.
Matthew's mother was seated, and then I took Jonathan's arm and he walked me into the church which was full of beautiful music and beloved friends and relatives. It was surreal to be supported on the arm of my tall, handsome son, walking into my daughter's wedding, looking across the church at people from all over the country who had gathered there to witness the day with us. They smiled at me, and I felt so much peace and love and beauty, I thought I might burst.
Paul began to play the processional, the very wedding processional that he had written for me twenty-seven years ago. The wedding party did what wedding parties do, and then it was time. The music paused for a split second and then Paul's hands crashed down in triumph on the piano keys, embellishing the melody with runs and arpeggios. The doors at the back of the church swung open with a grand whoosh, and there was Lulubelle, all perfectly bridal on her father's arm, white and pure, innocent and sparkling, smiling bravely as her dad's face crumpled just a little bit and he tucked her hand a little tighter into his elbow. A loud rustle spread through the church as we all rose, and the piano thundered with grandeur, and Shawn and Laura walked steadfastly up the aisle to Matthew, who waited with tears streaming down his face.
I did not cry as much as I had expected to, only just a slight hiccup as she was coming up the aisle. It was surreal, like you could taste the weddingness in the air and the beauty was not so much something you saw as something you felt seeping into the skin on your face. The pastor was deep voiced and authoritative, not the pastor of the church (who was graciously helping with everything behind the scenes), but the pastor who had been Matthew's pastor since the day he was born. Scripture was read and vows were made. Rings were exchanged. Traditions were honored. Candles were lit and blown out, and hymns were sung with lusty gusto, from the heart. I've never heard a congregation sing out with such fervor.
At the end, the pastor invited Matthew to kiss his bride; then he introduced the new couple. The congregation burst into loud, vigorous applause that did not stop. Laura and Matthew began to walk out of the church in the midst of the applause, and I put my hands out to try to signal them to stop, to wait until the recessional music began, but it was a like a tidal wave that would not let up. Jon, who was to play Ode to Joy on his trumpet, saw them leaving and took it as his cue to start, imparting the glorious melody into the church, over the applause, as Paul joined him on the piano and the bridal party joyfully exited.
Jonathan and Matthew's brother, Andrew, dismissed the people row by row and gave everyone a small bell to ring. We lined up on the path outside the church and waited. As soon as everyone was out, Matthew and Laura went into the vestibule and pulled the rope to ring the antique bell in the bell tower. They were supposed to ring it five times, but they rang it seven, because seven is the perfect number. We clapped and cheered, and they came out of the church, walking between us as we rang our little bells and made a truly joyful noise.
Then there were some pictures with the photographer, and the overwhelming job of getting all of our things out of the church and over to the reception. At this point, the platters of grapes and cheese and fruit looked delicious to me in the abandoned upstairs dressing room, and I spent some time gorging myself on strawberries and pineapple when I might should have been packing up. Somehow, and with the help of certain kind and blessed people, we made it over to the reception where, again, we worked like dogs getting things set for when the guests would arrive. My brother and his wife and their two (adult) children were there ahead of us, and we would have been in good shape except that I kept remembering things that I had forgotten.
When Lu and Matthew arrived to make their entrance at the reception, I stepped outside to help Lulu bustle her dress. Shawn was there, and the DJ joined us to ask some logistical questions. This all happened at the same time, and I struggled to answer questions while trying to figure out which bustle tie went to which other tie. In the midst of the chaos, up from the parking lot walked Mrs. Auser, our piano teacher of fourteen years, who is also a remarkable seamstress, and who fairly recently married off two daughters of her own. "Don't worry about this," said Mrs. Auser. "I've got this!" God is so good, so good. Who ever would have thought He would send Mrs. Auser just when we needed exactly her skills?
The reception was all burlap and barbecue, old glass bottles decorated with twine and lace, little wooden crates that Matthew had made that we filled with country-ish things, lemonade and iced tea and bottles of colorful sodapop. This was when we actually got to see and enjoy our guests. Instead of a receiving line, Laura and Matthew delivered plates of cupcakes to each table and spoke with each guest as they passed them out.
Near the end of things, while the joy was still full and the excitement still coursing, Lu and Matthew came to us, faces flushed and just a bit damp from exertion and elation, eyes glowing. "We're leaving now," they said, and they did, hopping into Matthew's little car and driving off into the night.
And then came the point in the evening when I realized that the balls of my feet were beyond aching, that I was limping like a war victim, and that the entire place needed to be torn down and packed up. As I rued the fact that I hadn't brought a sensible pair of shoes to change into, Sarah, one of the bridesmaids, came to me, still smiling and energetic. "What can we do to help?" she asked. And suddenly, there was a small army of people in their early twenties, bridal party and guests alike, sorting and organizing and taking apart, packing and loading things into our van. After they finished getting our stuff, they even helped the caterers take down tables and stack chairs. I pray that their excellent witness spoke Jesus to the people at the venue.
I was truly overwhelmed with wonder and thankfulness. My heart was so full. And, as we drove away--by then just Shawn and me in our van full of crumpled party paraphernalia--we saw fireworks going off in the distance over the tops of the trees, a perfect end to a perfect day.
Of course, we were too excited to go to sleep back at the hotel, so the lot of us sat around our room talking late into the night, until we got hungry again and I made fried eggs and fruit smoothies in our kitchenette, happy to use up the eggs and frozen fruit I'd purchased for our time there.
I still can't believe it. I can't believe any of it. But I think it's true anyway.
I need a nap. I need a few naps.