Sunday morning short story time. Enjoy.
2013 Copyright Barbara Celeste McCloskey
Through the glass doors of the chapel, I see an empty space except for my second husband Ken and two other friends of the bride and groom. None of the groom’s family is here. None of my family is here either. Grandmas and Grandpas should be looking on. Brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles are missing, too.
The wedding coordinator opens the doors, and we hear a tinny-sounding electric piano plunk out the wedding march. I look at my daughter, ask if she’s ready, and take her arm as we both step on the pink carpet. But, I want to yell “STOP!”
I can’t, though. It’s not my wedding. It’s what my daughter chose. But I hold tears back because we should be in the church where she was baptized and confirmed, not in some Las Vegas chapel. Her father should be here walking down the aisle with us, but he’s not.
The chapel is a beautiful place in a very false way. It’s painted soft off-white with pink accents. All the pews are padded and covered with white vinyl. The altar is decorate with huge sprays of silk flowers that have no fragrance. The greens, yellows, pinks, and white shades will be a very beautiful backdrop for the photographs, I’m sure.
As we journey up the aisle, I feel my daughter’s tension release when she sees her man. He’s waiting at the altar looking like James Bond in a black tux. Another man dressed in a fifteen hundred dollar business suit stands between the groom and his best man.
As we stand in front of the altar, the man in the expensive business suit shouts, “Who gives this woman to this man?” I stand frozen. Pastor Steve should be asking this question. He should be here in his collar and wedding vestments – not this clown who earlier introduced himself as Reverend Bob.
Finally, with a dry throat, I speak. “I do, her mother.” I let go of my little girl, kiss her cheek and take my place beside Ken in the front pew. The couple turns and faces Reverend Bob, as they do, recorded music that must have been arranged by Yanni plays. Then a photographer positions himself in the aisle and the show is on.
Reverend Bob’s voice booms throughout the empty chapel. “You’ve come here in the presence of God to become man and wife . . .”
My mind drifts to the day my daughter called and told me she wanted to elope, but she wanted me there. Two days later we sat in a travel agency, booking the Rose Wedding Package at the Flamingo Hilton, and in one phone call and eighteen hundred dollars later, the wedding was planned.
As my daughter and her man repeat their vows, I fight to hold tears back. They are smiling at each other, wearing the love for each other in their dark eyes. I notice a sparkle of a pair of earrings her deceased Auntie Ginger gave her, but then the photographer moves in closer, and the Yanni music swells, and the spell is broken.
Reverend Bob drawls in a loud voice, “And now for the éx-change of weddin’ rings.” He holds the gold bands in his hand and studies them like he’d never saw a pair of rings before. After achieving the desired dramatic effect for the video cameras, he says, “These rings represent your cov-en-ant you are makin’ to each other. When you look at them, they should remind you of the vows you are makin’ today.”
He grins a toothy smile, pauses again, and then continues in his annoying western twang, “Rings are a perfect symbol of love because they are an un-endin’ circle that has no beginnin’ and no endin’. God placed love in your hearts, and after you leave here, you will wear a visible sign to the WHOLE world that you are married.
Reverend Bob lowers his voice. “Honey, turn a little to the right so the photographer can get a better shot.” My daughter adjusts herself according to his stage direction. Then he says, “Do you want to put the ring over the glove, darlin’?”
She blushes. “Oh . . . no. I’ll take it off.” My daughter wears a gold bracelet her sister gave her for her sixteenth birthday on her left wrist over her long, white glove. I’m so happy she was sentimental enough to wear mementos from family members who couldn’t be here. Little by little, the stubborn glove comes down, but the bracelet hinders fast progress. “I’m sorry.” She whispers.
Reverend Bob says, “Don’t worry, honey. Take your time. This is your day.” Then he winks at her. “And, besides this is my last weddin’ for today. There’s no need to rush.”
Pulling, tugging, stretching, and finally giggling, the glove finally comes off. The rings are exchanged and Reverend Bob wipes his brow with a silk handkerchief like he’s working hard. Even though the place is air-conditioned, he’s sweating like a horse.
Now it’s time for the big finish. Reverend Bob’s voice takes on a dream-like quality, which reminds me of a DJ on a late-night jazz radio station. “And now as a happy couple, who has pledged their love in front of God and these witnesses, I want you to take a few silent moments to look into each other’s eyes.”
On that cue, the damn Yanni music swells again.
After the proper chord is reached, Reverend Bob says, “I want you to stop the clock.” He pauses. “I want you to go back to the very SECOND that you ré-al-ized you didn’t want to live ONE MORE DAY without each other. I want you to go back to the SECOND when you knew life would have NO meaning if you weren’t together.” He pauses again.
I’m thinking – for godsakes, man – this is a wedding, not a Vegas floor show.
My thoughts are interrupted when he speaks again in a booming voice. “And now that you both are in THAT moment, I want you to leave this pretty little chapel and become each other’s ad-ver-tíse-ment. Always bring HONOR to each other. Become helpmates to each other. Celebrate your victories. CLING to each other when life gets hard. But always re-mem-ber the love you feel today – AS GREAT AS IT IS – will deepen as you go through the years together.”
Reverend Bob stops, raises his hand and his voice crescendos. “And by the powers vested in me by the GREAT STATE OF NEVADA, I prṓ-nounce you HUSBAND AND WIFE!” He lowers his arms and says, “You can kiss your bride.” He grins for the camera, and I half expect him to take a bow.
Reverend Bob has one more command as he directs the bride and groom. “Turn around and face the audience.” As my daughter takes her new husband’s arm, Reverend Bob shouts, “It is my great pleasure, ladies and gentlemen, to present . . .” He takes a deep breath, and the tinny-sounding piano replaces the Yanni music as the newly married couple rushes down the pink aisle. I hear the rustle of her beautiful dress and the two of them giggling as they go out into the hallway.
I feel the love they have for each other, and of course, I cry. My heart is pounding and now I’m sweating up my matronly mother-of-the-bride dress. My first born is beginning a new life, and I finally have a son. Ken kisses my cheek and takes my hand. We walk up the aisle and I feel sadness for everyone who missed this, sweet, simple wedding with a Vegas spin.
My daughter rushes toward me and she gives me a kiss. “Mom, we did it!” Her eyes are as wide as they were when she was four and discovered she could tie her own shoes.
I hug her. “Was it everything you dreamed of?”
“Oh yes, Mom. It was perfect. I got to be the princess, and I married my handsome prince. And I know we’ll live happily ever after.”
Now it was time for more pictures out in the “tropical” garden on the Flamingo property.
Before we join the wedding party, Ken says, “I know this isn’t the wedding you wanted for her, but you made her happy on her special day.” He puts his arm around me. “And Reverend Bob had one thing right.”
“Oh yeah, what was that?” I grinned.
“He said as time goes on, love will grow. And that’s what’s so amazing. Just when I think I can’t possibly love you any more, you do something incredible like you did today, and somehow my love for you grows more.” He kisses me like we were the ones who just got married.
A teardrop rolls down my cheek. “Shucks, darling,’” I say in a Reverend Bob drawl, “You just say all the right stuff.” I laugh and brush the tear away. “Let’s go have some fun!”
We run out of the chapel and join the others on the lawn where my daughter has never been more beautiful.