November 29, 1969… 6:00 PM
As my bridesmaids and I gathered at the door of the ladies lounge waiting for our cue to move to the back of the sanctuary, we heard the organ sound six distinct bells, indicating it was 6:00 and the ceremony was beginning. Though we couldn’t see from where we were, we knew the candle-lighters were moving down the double aisles with their tapers, lighting candles.
I glanced one last time at the card I was holding in my hand – the vows I would make to Nate – and realized I hadn’t really memorized them yet. But just then Helen appeared. “OK, girls. Time to go.” The bridesmaids, flower girl, ring bearer, and I paraded out behind her, single file like ducklings following their mother.
As we giggled with excitement, Helen put her finger to her lips. “Shhh!”
Beautiful chamber music from a professional string group was softly playing at the front of the church (making me wish I hadn’t quit violin lessons in 8th grade). Their sound was heart-stirring and set the perfect mood.
Connie came around the corner with Dad in tow, directing him to stand near me. But before that, the photographer lined us up for one last picture before we went in.
The men, looking spectacular in their cut-away tuxes, were already in place at the front, though they were so far away, I could hardly tell who was who. But I knew Nate was at the bottom of the steps, ready to receive me, and I wished I could run down the aisle and throw myself into his arms.
But one by one Helen and Connie signaled each bridesmaid to start, reminding them to walk slowly. What a thrill to watch this procession of my 7 dearest friends, each one representing a particular time in my life. I had the sense that the 8 of us would never be together like this again… which made the moment even more significant.
We told her to do whatever she wanted with the rose petals. She could drop them one by one as she walked or dump them all out together when she got there. It was up to her.
Timmy proudly carried his pillow with its dime store rings, his coat tails swinging back and forth as he walked. By the time they reached the front, they looked so small in that massive room they almost disappeared.
And then it was our turn – Dad and me. I looked at him and was overwhelmed with how much I loved him.
He had put up with a great deal to get me raised (I hadn’t been the obliging daughter Mary had), and now he’d blessed me with the wedding I’d wanted. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and felt like crying.
But the tum-tum-de-dum of the organ’s wedding march sounded, our signal to start, so I looped my arm through Dad’s and hung on tight. And then, what is true for every bride became true for me. During the slow and deliberate walk down the aisle, my strong bond with Dad began to loosen. By the time he had escorted me to the front, my heart had made a seismic shift.
And it wasn’t difficult to let go of him and grab onto Nate – who was about to become my main man.
“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us.” (Psalm 90:17)