We wake up to blue skies, our weather prayers answered. Friends arrive to do the set-up postponed by yesterday’s storm. Men roll up the sides of the reception tent to air out the sandy soil and then move down to the oak tree altar and pull folding chairs and dry bales of hay from the barn to create rows of seats. The young artist puts finishing touches on the wedding mural inspired by my son David’s desire to include things his dad Vic loved—elephants and the big oak.
A sweet mom and her two young daughters fill vases with flowers, while others place white linens on the dry tables and decorate with strips of purple cloth and ribbon. More friends and family arrive early with Vic’s mom Virginia since they all stayed at the same hotel last night. My other son Anthony sets up the bar while the bride Liz and David scurry around in shorts and T-shirts, focused on last minute details. Early arrivals find a job or sit in the shade in groups, watch hummingbirds, and catch up with family they haven’t seen for a while. As more people arrive, long tables fill with platters and bowls of dish-to-pass food. Beer, wine, and iced water flow.
Around three, when I wander inside to change, the large bathroom is clogged with laughing women. Liz in her purple and white tie-dyed wedding dress sits on the edge of the bathtub. Veronica, Anthony’s girlfriend, styles Liz’s dark waves and pins flowers in her hair. Liz’s best friend from childhood sits near them, and others crowd around to admire these women as they groom and support each other.
I change in a bedroom with Pat, my friend for over forty years. I feel loved and tended, as she brushes blush on my cheeks and gloss on my lips.
Oh, where is Vic? Why isn’t he standing with us? I try to banish that thought and the sorrow that comes with it, but it stays, along with gratitude and joy. David grabs my hand and the five of us walk toward the seated guests. Liz’s brother and his sons play processional music. Bright faced girls toss rose petals in the path. We stand under the wide embracing tree that David calls “Vic’s oak” and face the guests.
As the ritual begins, David places his hand on my shoulder, silently acknowledging our grief about Vic’s absence. I gather myself as other’s read and then read what I’ve written about the languages of love. As Liz and David move to face each other, she places her bouquet at the base of the tree.
“I’ll hold your flowers,” I motion silently.
“She’s offering them to Dad,” David whispers in my ear. Tears roll down my cheeks as they pledge themselves to each other. After Liz’s dad pronounces them wed, they kiss and kiss again with an enthusiasm that makes everyone laugh with delight.
After the band’s first break, Liz pulls up a chair to sit a few feet from the microphone and David sings “Loving Man” to her, his baritone voice rich and relaxed.
Just need one word to pick me up.
I just need your words to pick me up.
I read your letters smelt your
We are going to make love
In your living room
I don’t know if I can do it
I don’t know if I can
But I’m going to love you baby
I’m your lovin’ man.
“Wait a minute,” David says to the crowd as he runs toward the house. In a few minutes, he returns to the microphone with a printed sheet. He, Liz, and the band leader Ann sing a Rolling Stones song, one of Vic’s and my favorites. They dedicate it to me.
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes, you just might find
You get what you need.
Vic’s absence and presence washes over me. I long to dance with him, but instead dance with dear friends and do a few turns with my brother Jim, my dance partner when I was a girl. Once again, joy and grief rub shoulders and I love this day with and without Vic.
Thanks to Lauren Cottrell Banner for her photos. I’d love to hear your wedding stories. For other blogs about Liz and David, see Love Infusion and The Day Before the Wedding. For a story about my wedding in 1968, see My Hippie Wedding.