One of my daughters (Judith) got married this past week. Man, was that was tough on this old man! No, not because of any costs or time associated with the wedding, but because of the emotions connected with being the father of the bride as well as the officiant.
I am a pastor and at the time of this writing, I have about eight weddings to officiate this summer and several booked for next year...so weddings can be “old hat” for me…yet they never are. I guess I am just a romantic at heart.
Or, as one of my other daughters (Elizabeth) said to me eight years ago just before I walked her down the aisle; “Dad, you’re not as tough as you think you are!” pointing out that the pastor who had done premarital counseling for her and her husband was in the audience just in case I “couldn’t finish the task” of being both dad and officiant.
I have done this before, so you would think that it would get easier; no, it doesn’t! With each of my children I appreciated that they had asked me to even be a part of their wedding as a guest.
On the day of Judith’s wedding, my heart was on a roller coaster of emotions as I made a protein shake. I was using the time to deal with my nervous energy awaiting decision as to whether the wedding would be outdoors or inside depending on the weather.
Rain, rain, go away….
As I stood in the kitchen drinking my shake, I was filled with gratefulness as I thought about how the Lord had faithfully walked us through some tough times as she, as a teen, had questions and struggles about life and its meaning.
To use up some of my time I went back into my office and re-edited the message over and over until I told myself to stop.
My OCD was interrupted by a text from my daughter confirming that we would go ahead and do the ceremony outdoors. The weather had shifted and instead of rain, the clouds gave way and became a very beautiful day filled with sunshine.
My heart shouted out a responsive; “Praise God!” because I knew that the outdoor location had great significance for my daughter (as well as for the rest of our family).
So, I packed up my briefcase, a podium, and my dress clothes and headed out the door to meet my soon-to be son-in-law to set up the place for the wedding; which was located twenty minutes from our house.
The location was fifty yards from a river in a state park that has a large bridge overhead. The shore was lined with geese and this year’s goslings and a couple of fishermen who offered to move somewhere else; but we told them to stay and enjoy the weather.
This was a special place where my daughter searched and cried out for answers during a season in her past when life didn’t make sense. And here today we celebrated the some of those answers.
It was also a spot very close to where grandpa Gene died almost ten years earlier; in the same state park and below the very same bridge.
The time came for me to walk my beautiful daughter, dressed in a stunning dress, down the aisle to the front; looking into each other’s eyes, knowing the grace of this precious moment. Tears of joy filled my eyes as we exchanged private tender words to each other as we made our way to her awaiting groom.
Up front I assumed the role of officiant and added some comic relief as I asked; “Who gives this woman away?”; quickly stepping back into my position as dad as I replied; “I do”.
As I looked out at the audience made up of immediate family members, I realized just how handsome my two sons (and sons-in-law) are and how beautiful my four daughters (and daughters-in-law) are; I am so grateful that I had married a beautiful woman!
The wedding ceremony was short and sweet and went off without a hitch, that is until I looked at each of my four daughters, my wife, and my mother-in-law as I recalled to the audience the significance of this place.
At that point, I became so chocked up with emotion that I could hardly speak as tears began to fill their eyes. Maybe Elizabeth was right that I’m not as tough as I think that I am!
I regained my composure and finished joining these two in matrimony and then took time for the photographs.
After we packed up and loaded our vehicles with all of the props, I headed home to change my shirt, now saturated from the humid air and from standing in the bright sunshine, and then headed off to the reception located twenty minutes away.
Feasting and joy was on the itinerary for the evening as a large group of friends and family joined us to celebrate this delightful couple. The food was out of this world and the service was second to none!
Cathy and I were able to mingle from guest to guest playing the role as two of the hosts and hostesses; that is, in between times of chasing the grandchildren around at their request.
When I was asked by my Judith to join her for the “Father-Daughter Dance”, I made my way to the awaiting audience of one. As we danced, it became another opportunity for us to exchange private tender words to each other as we held on to each other and slowly shuffled our feet to the music.
I realized this wasn’t anything that I had “earned” by being a "perfect dad", nor was I “owed” this opportunity; this was a gift of love! And, hockey player or not, I was deeply moved and once again tears came to my eyes.
She chose me to walk her down the aisle, and she chose me to officiate, and she chose to invite me to be a dad at her wedding, and she chose me to dance with her and to share this joyous day with her.
The evening continued to be filled with great joy and much more food as guests made themselves available for conversations with people who, prior to this event, had not known each other and now could because we were all friends of the bride and groom.
Eventually, the celebration wound down and we all headed to our homes or to an adjoining hotel. God had clearly heard and answered this poor man’s cries.
“This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him,
And saved him out of all his troubles.” (Psalm 34:6 NKJV)
And saved him out of all his troubles.” (Psalm 34:6 NKJV)