A wedding to remember

Just before the wedding party started their walk down the aisle, the singer/guitarist sang “I Want You to Be My Love” by Over the Rhine. That alone made me happy to be a guest yesterday at the wedding of a friend of my son’s. But there was more. There was the look of joy and eagerness on the face of the bride as she took her first few steps down the aisle and then stopped and looked back, realizing she had left her father behind, their arms unlinked. No matter, his face spoke understanding as he caught up. There was the serenade the groom sang for his bride--to her surprise--self-accompanied via ukelele. There was the love song--which I can’t now identify--sung by a friend with accompaniment by the best man with restrained accordian, lending a French promenade sort of romance. There were the vows, which were written by the couple but had the ring of wisdom beyond the years of these 22/23-year-olds. Here’s a funny thing: Although they had written their vows, they hadn’t memorized them, which turned out to be a mistake as they forgot to bring their written out copies. Fortunately, the best man realized this early on and using sign language discreetly signed to his wife in the congregation to find the laptop that held an electronic version of the vows. With stealth, she left her seat, exited the sanctuary, and scurried to find the laptop. Just when the vows were to be exchanged, she floated out from a door behind the minister--as if this had all been planned--holding open laptop and set it down on--was it the kneeling bar?--for the couple’s reference. The couple laughed. The congregation laughed, we liked this spontaneity, this resourcefulness rather than panic and consternation in response to imperfection and oversight. The groom went first, speaking a couple lines before bending down to find his place and keep going, vowing more and more of himself to her. Here’s something to pay attention to: The line he spoke after straightening up from one of his laptop glances was, “ I will never divorce you.” Because the groom bent down and looked at what he was about to say and stood back up again he had time to reconsider. But he didn’t reconsider; he said it, and she said it also when it came time for her vows, and I admired this intentional and public statement of will against the elephant in the room of till-death-do-we-part marriage. Here’s something else: They washed each other’s feet. This I’ve never seen at a wedding. While a reader read the Gospel passage of Christ washing the feet of his disciples, the bride sat down and the groom removed her sandals and proceeded to wash her feet with water in a silver bowl. The bride then rose and the groom sat. She removed his shoes and socks and returned the washing. I’ll admit this made me uncomfortable. Was it that it was such a breech from a traditional ceremony? Was it that I just didn’t want the bride to have bare feet under her white empire-waist dress or the groom to have bare feet under his charcoal gray suit? Was it that this young couple was modeling a humility to serve and be served, a vulnerability that can’t help but bring discomfort to those of us dressed in our wedding best thinking that we’ve got this marriage thing mastered? With the washing done, they knelt--with bare feet--while someone sang the great hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” The soloist sang the first two stanzas alone. Somewhere toward the beginning of the third stanza, some voices from the congregation started quietly singing along. More voices pitched in. The voices got louder and before more than a line or so from that last stanza had passed, the whole room was singing in unison. No words had been printed out. No motion for the congregation to join in had been given. It just happened and it was a beautiful thing: “...thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide; strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow--blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! Great is thy faithfulness, great is thy faithfulness, morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed thy hand hath provided--great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!” With laughter and clean feet, this young man and woman exchanged rings, kissed, were introduced as Mr. and Mrs., and headed off to reception, honeymoon, and life beyond.