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Memoirs – Wedding Day (08/08/98)

This seemed a good day to post another brief memoir. Today, 08/08/08, marks the tenth anniversary of the day this happened.

It is going to be a scorcher. It is barely 10 in the morning and already the sun is hot. And this church, with no air conditioning, was never our “Plan A.” We had hoped to be married in a church just around the corner, a more modern church and one with modern amenities (though, trickily, one without a center aisle). But as the wedding day approached we saw that there was construction immediately in front of the building. They had warned us this might happen, but the reality is worse than we had imagined. The sidewalks are gone, replaced with deep mud pits covered with only some rough boards. The whole area looks like a mud pit. It is far from scenic. Somehow, despite the late date, we managed to secure St. John’s Anglican Church, among the oldest and most stately churches in the area and, not coincidentally, the church Aileen’s parents were married in many years before. We also managed to secure the services of a world-class organist. With such worries behind us, we are ready to be married.

It seems as if everything is proceeding just as it should. Friends and family are beginning to arrive at the church. All of my groomsmen are already here, decked out in their tuxedos. My friend Paul will serve as best man; my brother Andrew and my friends Nick and Rob will be ushers. The day before the wedding, the group of us spends some time just hanging out—sitting in a local restaurant eating wings and recounting old times. Nick and I go to my tennis club, playing two long sets in the hundred degree heat.

And now we stand together at the rear of the church waiting for some kind of cue—a word telling us what to do next. The minister tells us we should gather in the little room near the front of the church and there he prays with us. Someone tells us it is time and together we walk to the front of the church. As we take our places, the organ explodes into the wedding march. And then…nothing. We look to the rear of the church and see concerned expressions. We see Aileen’s bridesmaids and the flower girl looking a little confused. No one is moving down the aisle.

Well, it seems that for all the organization that went into the wedding day, we have forgotten one important component—we have forgotten to assign someone the task of coordinating the bride’s arrival with my entrance into the church. Though the car carrying Aileen to the church arrived moments ago, it had been determined that it was not yet time for her grand entrance and so the driver took one more spin around the block. And so I wait at the front of the church while the guests giggle, wondering if she has gotten cold feet and run away. But, of course, she has not. A few moments later we nudge the organist and he starts the march again, playing beautifully on the grand old organ at the front of the church. This time Aileen walks in, arm-in-arm with her father, and I can do little but weep. I weep for joy; I weep in gratitude. A few minutes later she and I are joined in marriage.

As we exit the church we feel the heat beating down. It is far warmer outside than in the sanctuary of the old stone church, insulated by the great blocks that have stood for so long. We greet our visitors, accepting their congratulations. We are the first to marry in either one of our extended families and friends and relatives have come from far and wide to celebrate with us. The reception is to be held next door in the old Town Hall, a beautiful building that is now used primarily as a meeting hall and as a dance studio. Its construction by far predates air conditioning. After the photographer snaps some pictures, we walk to the hall and begin the reception—a relatively informal luncheon. Aileen’s mother has been the hero, not just arranging the flowers, but growing them first; she has created a beautiful cake and cooked much of the food; she has even sewn Aileen’s dress. The hall looks beautiful.

As the reception continues with blessedly little formality, the temperature begins to rise. The tuxedo jackets are soon cast aside and, not long after, so too are the vests. Faces grow red and hair begins to go limp. But, of course, we are enjoying the day and so too, it seems, are our guests. I fulfill my duty by giving a short and no doubt unmemorable speech but am otherwise a spectator more than an actor in any of the formal proceedings. My father welcomes Aileen to the family and her father welcomes me.

Finally it is time for us to leave. No one has told us when or how to leave, so we do our best to attract most people’s attention and say our goodbyes. The location allows no confetti, so there will be no traditional departure. We walk to the parking lot and hop into the little Neon my father rented for us, having decided, correctly no doubt, that my old, beat-up and paint-covered pick-up truck is unsuitable. It is good to finally feel the cool blast of air conditioning. We pile into the back and Paul drives us back to my parents’ house so Aileen and I can change into something a bit cooler and more comfortable than tuxedo and wedding dress. And then with a hug and a handshake for Paul, Aileen and I are off, heading to a new life together.

And, of course, that was exactly ten years ago today. A lot has happened since then. I don’t think we would have predicted much of what has transpired in the past decade. But I’m often drawn to the words I heard from a wise old saint with whom we spent so much time when we were younger. He said, “As much as you love her now, you’ll find that marriage gets better and better; you’ll love her more in ten and twenty years than you do today.” And those words have proven true. Ten years is a good start and I’m grateful for them, but I’m looking forward, with great anticipation, to many more years together.

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