Part 4, The Ceremony:
For the most part, our ceremony was pretty simple and straightforward. I remember thinking "Is this really happening right now? Is this really the ceremony? Right now?"
We followed the basic order of things: blessing of marriage, a word of welcome, prayer, a reading, the exchange of vows, and so forth. Yet, we did deviate from the norm in a few ways.
A unique quality about our wedding: we didn't have a brides' side and a groom's side. Although Mark and I never knew each other growing up, our families were interconnected without our even knowing. My mother and father's best friends were cousins in Mark's family. So, as a little girl, I was best friends with two of Mark's cousins. This interconnection was wonderful; it seemed to underscore everything right about this union. But when it came to seat planning... I found myself juggling names--"Do they sit on Mark's side or my side? Technically, she is Mark's cousin, but she's been my mom's friend for years...?" A dilemma.
My sweet father crafted the solution. He built a chalkboard sign and, in his perfect doctor's penmanship, wrote the phrase "We are two families becoming one, so choose a seat not a side." To reinforce that our wedding didn't have sides, we had the parents sit together on the front left-hand row while the grandparents sat together on the front right-hand row.
I wish I could say I remember every word in my vows. But I don't. What I do remember, distinctly and clearly, was an overwhelming happiness. My cheeks ached and trembled from smiling. I kept laughing--which I was afraid would make me seem flippant and goofy. If you could have peeked into my mind, you would have seen a whirligig of thoughts, something along the lines of "I can't believe this is happening! Yay yay yay I'm so excited! Oh, Wow. This is happening. I need to be serious. Abi, be serious. Okay, serious face. Yay Mark is so handsome! Oh, now I'm smiling again. Oh my gosh, pay attention, you're going to miss your cue to talk. Oh, we're already to the singing part!"
Yes. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a glimpse into a bride's brain. You're welcome.
Needless to say, I couldn't maintain my enthusiasm for very long, because, as you will see in the last photo, I did a flower-bouquet fist pump. Note Mark's grin and overall expression of "yep, there she goes!"