Young Love (#132)

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!”

KenTomWe got to the back of the church in time to see Nate’s parents being seated by his brother Ken (L) and Mom heading down the aisle on Tom’s arm. (R)

 

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.

Bridesmaids

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.

Little onesAnd then it was time for our little ones to go, and Connie gave them a pep talk, telling them not to rush. “But,” said Brittney, “how many pieces of flower should I put on the floor?”

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.

Father and daughterHe 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.

Sanctuary

“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us.” (Psalm 90:17)

Young Love (#131)

November 29, 1969… 5:00 PM

Nate’s and my wedding was tantalizingly close – one hour away. As we headed into the sanctuary for group pictures, several early-bird guests had already arrived. Connie and Helen, the ones running the wedding, quickly closed the many doors and became our protectors as we tried to get organized at the front.

It took quite a while for the photographer to assemble the wedding party in one long line on the platform, 20 people in all, and he had trouble getting and holding everyone’s attention. He had to stop twice to ask early guests behind him not to take their own pictures with flash bulbs, which was messing up his lighting.

In the end, he got the photos he wanted, and we were glad those time-consuming pictures were out of the way. There would be other pictures to take after the ceremony, but we’d checked off the most difficult ones.

Wedding party

After the large group had adjourned back to the dressing rooms for punch and cookies, the photographer asked me to stay, wanting to take what seemed like a hundred pictures of just me. “Now,” he said, “look at the ceiling. Now the floor. Look behind you. Gaze to the right… now left. Look at your flowers without smiling. Now look at them and smile.”

PhotographerDuring this process he had to turn again to speak to guests who were taking their own pictures. And finally he released me. Mary, ever the vigilant maid of honor, had stayed with me, and we were grateful to move back into the ladies lounge… to wait for 6:00.

Since we hadn’t included a response card in our invitations, we didn’t know how many people would attend, so it was a delightful surprise when Helen and Connie appeared and told us the seats were filling up.

Pastor Sweeting came into the lounge and gathered us for a special prayer time. I was glad to see him, not only to know he’d arrived on time but that he intended to help us focus our attention on the ceremony as a worship service that was meant not to honor us but the One who brought us together and who would be uniting Nate and I in marriage.

“Remember,” he said, “marriage was God’s idea, and His Spirit will be very active during the ceremony.” It was a grand thought and filled me with expectation for what was about to happen.

And then he was off to pray with the men.

ExpertsI was impressed with how well everyone was holding up as we waited, especially the children. Marea and Paul, the candle-lighters, not only had to manage flames at the end of their yard-long tapers but had to reach high to light the 54 candles – down both long aisles and up in front.

They would be the first ones into the sanctuary and were aware that hundreds of people would be watching them as they worked, not an easy thing. I asked them to keep an eye on each other, moving together, watching that neither got ahead of the other – a big assignment for such young kids, but both were confident they could do it. I told them I was really proud of them.

And suddenly it was time. Helen arrived saying, “Ok, candle-lighters. Come with me.” Their mom (the team teacher who’d taught me everything I knew about teaching school) went with them, more nervous than they were. The kids were simply excited to get on with it.

And so was I !

“I give you thanks, O Lord, with all my heart.” (Psalm 138:1)

Young Love (#126)

After a couple of weeks of happy traveling, I’m home again, savoring the joys of having been part of Linnea and Adam’s happy family in Florida. Granddaughter Emerald was my traveling partner, bringing the grandchild-count to 6 of my 12. From the trampoline to the sandbox, from bike rides to lively meals, from church to the home school group, it was all pure pleasure.

Cousins!

L to R: Isaac (3), Micah (7), Autumn (5), Emerald (4), Skylar (8) and little Nelson (15 months) in my arms.

But now it’s time to get back to a frustrated bride who is an hour late for her own wedding rehearsal.

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November 28, 1969

As I sat in Chicago’s rush hour traffic on the way to my rehearsal, I felt powerless and sad. What must my family be thinking? And Nate’s family, responsible for the dinner afterwards? And Nate himself? All of them were assembled at the church…. and waiting on me. But there was nothing to do but wipe my eyes and keep the car pointed toward Moody Church.

The long aisleWhen finally I walked into the back of the giant sanctuary, Pastor Sweeting was the first to see me. “We have a bride!” he shouted, waving his arms in my direction. While the whole group applauded, I ran down the aisle toward Nate, who met me in the middle — so relieved I hadn’t been in an accident. When he saw I’d been crying, he hugged me tight, and the tension melted away.

Connecting with a handful of my former kindergarten students was a special treat, and listening to their stories of 1st grade was a joy. I made sure they knew what their wedding day jobs would be, how and when they would do them, where they would stand during the service, and where their parents would sit.

ProgramWith the hour of the rehearsal dinner bearing down on us, our time at the church had to be minimal. So we quickly handed a wedding program to each participant and chalked their marks on the floor. The 7 bridesmaids sang through their song, and Pastor Sweeting sketched out the service for us, asking Nate and I for our favorite Bible verses.

Everything seemed rushed, but we had asked Helen (our Thanksgiving host) and Connie (my forever-friend) to “run” the wedding, and I knew we could depend on them to steer us through the important moments of the day.

 

Germania ClubNate’s parents had chosen The Germania Club for our post-rehearsal dinner, an elegant venue conveniently located one block from the church.

 

 

 

Carved oakThis beautiful building, constructed in 1889, had an old-world feel to it with carved oak décor, bronze light fixtures, leaded windows, and massive ceiling beams. We dined on delicious German cuisine and were toasted by the groom’s parents.

 

But we didn’t stay late, knowing we still had many gifts to open back in Wilmette. Before we made the drive from city to suburb, though, Mom wanted my opinion on a decorating problem back at the church.

Apparently she and Aunt Joyce hadn’t been able to agree on how the table skirts should be attached in the room where the reception would be. And they wanted me to choose. So as the other dinner guests were calling it a day, the three of us walked back to the church – where some unexpected tears awaited.

“The Lord works out everything to its proper end.” (Proverbs 16:4)