I never thought my heart could beat so fast. Standing on a platform, dressed in my best (read only) suit, in front of a crowd of eager, excited people. I was trying to appear calm and in control. I was supposed to steer the ship but I could barely breathe because my heart was doing its best to break through my ribcage and swim up into my throat. How did I get here?
It all started months before when my friend surprised me by asking me to officiate his wedding. I had formerly worked at a church we both attended, so the request wasn’t completely out of left field, but I had not had my head in that space for some time. I was honored and excited by his request and immediately my wife and I started meeting with him and his fiancé to go through several sessions of pre-marital preparation and counseling. Week after week on a Sunday evening we would get together and share a meal and some time going over various themes that one should consider before entering into a marriage commitment. Communication, finances, conflict resolution and yes, even sex were all discussed. It was a very rewarding time of getting to know each other and laying the groundwork for the big day.
As time went by, the anticipation and the busyness mounted for the happy couple as they got all their ducks in a row and prepared for the big event that would change their lives. Before we knew it, the big week was here! Family began to arrive from out of town and soon each house was filled with guests and luggage crammed into every available space. For the bachelor party we went golfing at Pinnacle on one of those cold, windy evenings that I hope are now a distant memory of our late spring. The groom-to-be was forced to add a piece of clothing each time he missed a shot, a situation compounded by his losing a club at each hole to a group of grinning guys, many who had suffered their own “stag” humiliations.
I remembered my own stag party where I was forced to eat spaghetti with oven mitts duct taped to my hands (and no utensils) and then had to busk in a dress and wig in the lobby of a local movie theatre until I got $10 in change. Funny, it was the only time that I saw my dad, stepfather and father-in-law in full agreement and camaraderie.
For our golfing groom-in-waiting it meant a skirt and blouse with a bikini top underneath as well as crazy glasses and a floppy hat. The most awkward moment was when his three brothers were painting his nails pink and adding lipstick to the whole equation. As you can imagine, many pieces were added to the outfit when, after 9 holes, he was left with only three clubs and his 4 year old nephew’s hockey stick for putting.
The wedding week was crazy for me. Working full time with events nearly every night and company to visit with, meant that the night before the wedding I was up until after 2 AM putting the finishing touches on my sermon and the ceremony. I wanted to be as familiar as possible with it all so that I wouldn’t have to read everything from the folder that I would be holding throughout. All week long I had been nervous on how it would go and finally that night I lay in bed, trying to turn off my brain so that I could drift into a fretful sleep.
In the morning, I awoke less than 6 hours later to go out with the groomsmen for breakfast. At breakfast we decided that we were going to live tweet the wedding all day. As I mentioned in last week’s column (The Death of Cool), I had been late joining Twitter and I was still not totally sure that I understood the value of it. This day changed that for me. I chose the hashtag #tiliciaweddingday and several of us tweeted pictures, videos and thoughts all throughout the day. This created a timeline of events from several perspectives that could be followed by absent friends and family and could be looked back on by the newlyweds later. It was a neat side project to the day and, as the best man said, quite addictive after awhile.
So, after months of preparation and a week chock-full of events, I found myself on the stage. My heart felt like a bird fluttering inside my suit jacket and I desperately tried to calm it through deep breathing as the bridesmaids gracefully floated down the aisle. By the time I was praying the opening prayer, I had managed to get all my vital signs down to a reasonable level. Calm took over as my prepared words poured effortlessly out of my mouth and my heart. The words seemed to flow out into the audience, stirring memories and longing in the sea of faces I looked out toward. But the faces that captured me the most were those of the happy couple. Hidden winks and misty eyes were permeated by an overall rapture of love. In some ways it felt as though we three were suspended outside of time and space in an exchange of feelings and thoughts. To be fair, I barely existed to the two of them, just the one prompting the words that they were echoing with their entire beings. Each moment seemed to pluck their hearts like well-tuned strings and the reverberation of the melody that came forth was truly awe inspiring.
Before we knew it, the ceremony had arrived at my favorite part. I felt joy infuse me and light up my face as I declaimed the words, “By the power invested in me...”. Then, one impassioned kiss later, the entire party was rushing down the aisle while showers of applause soared over us from either side. I felt simultaneously light as a feather and tired as a postal worker on catalogue day. We had made it! I was so happy and excited for my friends and relieved that I had managed to make it through the occasion without sticking my foot in my mouth (though I did manage a bit of that at the reception). I knew that I would always remember this first wedding that I had been privileged to officiate and treasure the memories. By the end of the day, there was just one question left unanswered, one that I had been asked many times that day: Who will be next?
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