The Wedding

The big day was finally here. The nine long months of planning this painfully detailed event were finally going to pay off. This was the day I had waited for my entire life. I was getting married.

The night before the wedding, all of the bridesmaids and I spent the night with my matron of honor, Lisa. Our plan was to go through the rehearsal at the church, attend the rehearsal dinner at the Holiday Inn in Tifton, rush back to the church to decorate, and go to Lisa's for the night. The last part of the plan, of course, was to sleep, the only part we failed to follow. As in high school, we did everything that night but sleep. We painted our finger nails, told stories of old boyfriends, ate junk food, looked at old pictures, and carried on like teenage girls. The five of us were not even considering the fact that the next day I would be getting married and we needed some rest.

The day was perfect. Living in the southern part of Georgia, I have often seen warm weather throughout the seasons of fall and winter. During December, however, I would have expected cooler weather. However, the sun was shining and the temperature was unseasonably mild. The sky, a perfect shade of blue with those white, fluffy clouds so typical of our summer days, hung softly above. It was a beautiful day for a wedding.

When I am under pressure, I get upset. I knew that I would be a basket case the entire day. All morning, rushing around getting my hair done, grabbing a quick lunch in the drive-thru at McDonald's, and getting my dress, make-up, and going-away clothes together, I felt on the brink of insanity. There were so many last minute things to be done. I just wanted to sit down and cry, not because I was sad, but because I knew I was leaving one part of my life and starting another. I consider myself very close to my family, especially my mother. The idea that I was finally growing up and things would change between us had never occurred to me until that moment. However, as long as I stayed busy, which was not difficult, I kept my composure.

I formed a detailed schedule of the day in my head. First, the girls and I had hair appointments at the mall. Afterwards, we went back to Lisa's house to finish our make-up. Since I do not normally get all made up, my cousin and one of my bridesmaids, Kristie, was going to do my make-up for me. Kristie was my personal expert cosmetologist because she had always helped me get ready for proms, pageants, and many other special events. After we made ourselves presentable, we were going to the church to finish getting ready. We would put on our dresses at the church. My side of the family was going to take pictures first, so we had to be dressed and ready to go quite early.

I felt like a mannequin in a shop window on display. Anxious guests, fearful they would not get a good seat, were already arriving. Instead of going into the church to find a place to sit, they were all following the leader to the reception area where the photographs were being taken. Standing in front of the camera, waiting for the next group to assemble to have their pictures taken with the bride, I gazed around the room. I saw the caterers putting the finishing touches on the food, my bridesmaids giggling at something one of my two handsome brothers had said, my mother conversing with family members, and others standing around looking and waiting. The women were all wearing their best dresses. The men had donned coats and ties. Everyone looked dressed for the occasion.

Because my pictures were taken first, I had a very long time to wait before the ceremony would begin. Wade, my husband-to-be, was not supposed to see me before the nuptials began, so they had to stick me in a room off to the side of the photographer's makeshift studio. I was alone in this very tiny, cold room for quite a while. I could hear conversation outside. More guests were arriving. The time was near!

Wade came to the door once and knocked. "Are you getting cold feet?" he inquired. He seemed calm and collected.

Behind him, I could hear my mother's voice. "You better not go in there!" she crowed.

I know what Wade was thinking. I know he wanted to blurt out, "Shut up! I'm not going in there."

Ironically, I did have cold feet, as well as cold hands, cold arms, and cold legs. I was freezing! The temperature in that room had to have been fifty degrees, or it seemed like it at the time.

Just before 3:00, my aunt, Adolyn, came to get me. She had been charged with the title, Wedding Director. "It's time. Are you ready?" she asked.

I heard her question, but gave no reply. I focused on reminding myself to put one foot in front of the other and walk straight. It felt as though someone else was acting it all out as I directed what to do. I was an observer, not a participant, as we walked from the social hall outside to the front door of the church. The bridesmaids and their assigned escorts were still slowly making their way inside the sanctuary to Pachelbel's "Canon in D."

My daddy stood on the front steps of the church waiting for me. He nervously inhaled a few last puffs from the cigarette in his hand and moved to my side. As he took my hand, I could tell he was scared, too. Neither one of us looked at the other. More than anything else that happened that day, I remember this moment: he touched my hand propped on his arm and grasped it firmly. It was an unspoken message between the two of us, father and daughter.

As I stood outside, my hand cradled in my father's arm, I thought about how silly weddings really are. This was not what was important. The only thing that matters about getting married is the marriage, not the ceremony. The wedding was just a formality to get to the best part.

Now, after six months of marriage, I know what the best part includes. Being married is all about sharing the good and the bad with the one I love. Paying bills, washing clothes, waking up from a bad dream with someone beside me, and sharing the last piece of an apple pie are all parts of the package. The wedding day is now just a memory. But the lesson of that day becomes clearer and clearer. I have learned it is better to live life to the fullest every day, rather than wait for one special moment in time that turns out to be not so special.

Lori Walker