Throughout our engagement, Dan and I spent a lot of time reflecting on what marriage meant to us. Still, the concept always seemed vaguely distant and I never got exceedingly emotional.
That was until 4 o’clock on July 16, 2011, when all the buildup, anticipation and excitement finally culminated. The wedding coordinator had just come into the room and told us it was time for the ceremony to begin. There was no more distance or vagueness to marriage. The time was now and I felt a sudden rush of emotion. It was all so real…
The church was filled with real people.
Our mothers had really been seated.
The bridesmaids had really walked down the aisle.
Then, the doors closed and it was really just my dad and me.
The floodgates opened, but the tears weren’t because of anxiety. They were tears of happiness from a girl who never thought she’d find love, let alone have it returned. They were tears of pride from the privilege of joining my life with that of such an amazing man. They were tears of hope and dreams and excitement for a life shared with my best friend. They were tears of real joy.
The organ began to chime and my cousins, who served as ushers, began their count to seven. I knew that when the seventh chime rang, they would open the doors and I would finally see Dan.
As I tried to regain my composure, my dad whispered to me, “Emily, be happy and keep focused. What are we doing here?”
“I don’t know about you,” I replied. “But I’m getting married.”
With that, the seventh chime sounded, the doors opened and I looked down the aisle to the most comforting sight in the world.
It was all real and it was all wonderful.
After a slow walk, filled with many blurred faces and one very clear face at the alter, I made it to the end of the aisle.
As I stood next to my dad, the pastor said a few words. Yet, I couldn’t take my eyes off of Dan.
“I love you,” I mouthed.
“I love you,” he mouthed back.
Then, my dad formally gave me away — with a quick joke thrown in there — and took his seat next to my mom…
Then, it was just Dan and me at the altar.
Our pastor, who we met with for counseling sessions throughout the engagement, was so genuine and kind in his words. He made the ceremony about Dan and me, but also kept it focused on what marriage means in God’s eyes. In doing so, he really captured the magnanimity of our vows while also keeping it lighthearted.
After the sermon, Dan and I took out the note cards we had prepared and said our vows to each other. Dan went first and as he spoke of my eyes and the night we first met, I couldn’t help but tear up again.
By the time for me to say the vows I had prepared, keeping a straight face was a lost cause.
Yet, Dan’s loving gaze provided me with the calm to make it through. Then, we joined hands and recited our formal vows.
“To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, as long as we both shall live.”
After the vows, Dan accepted the rings from his best man.
Then he slid the ring on my finger and I clumsily tried slide one on his…
With that, we were officially wed and able to hear the words we’d been waiting all day to hear…
“You may kiss the bride!”
As we turned to walk down the aisle, I felt another incredible wave of emotion sweep over me. It was real. We were — we are — really husband and wife.
Once we made it down the aisle, we stepped into the church’s library and had a few moments to ourselves. I think we both said something like, “We did it!”
There were, of course, a few extra kisses.
Shortly, the pastor, the best man and maid of honor came into the room and we signed the marriage certificate. Then, we moved quickly to make our exit. Guests had already congregated out front and we didn’t want to keep them waiting long with a 115 degree heat index!
As we exited, our friends and family tossed sunflower seeds. Dan and I continued picking stray seeds from our hair and clothes for the rest of the night, but it was really fun.
Then, it was down to Dan’s old truck for our getaway.
His dad had decorated the whole thing with balloons and window paint.
Naturally, there were also cans tied to the bumper. So, noisily we went away from our ceremony and on to our reception!