“Mom, what were those dresses made of, again?” Even when it’s not near our anniversary, I often find my girls huddled around our wedding album. They laugh
at the big hair, dyed-to-match pumps, and shrub-sized flower arrangements.
“It was the style back then,” I explain.
They love to turn the pages of our story: church ceremony, roast beef dinner, touching toasts, cake-cutting, then late-night dancing. One day, I looked over my girls’ shoulders at my nearly twenty-six year-old memories, and it struck me…
The most vivid memory I have of our wedding wasn’t captured, and I never realized it before.
See this pic of us exchanging our vows? Now, look directly in between us and the priest. Do you see the kneelers? If you could get even closer, you would see the indentations of our knees and shiny pools of sweat…
Our wedding ceremony was long and hot – about 95 minutes and degrees… at least. For some reason, I thought mid-September in St. Louis counted as a “fall wedding”, which explains my cranberry taffeta and long, satin sleeves.
“Taffeta. It’s called taffeta, girls.”
I walked down the aisle with my dad to “Canon in D” after my three bridesmaids, two junior bridesmaids, ring bearer, and flower girl. I carried my grandmother’s New Testament in my bouquet (plenty of room), and wore a blue garter for tradition. The pews were filled, the music was beautiful, and my groom was handsome and smiling. It was perfect …until the kneeling time. And I’ll never forget it.
You see, we didn’t think, or maybe it wasn’t customary, to put chairs in the front for us. During the 25ish-minute sermon, while our wedding party, family, and friends sat, we had no choice but to kneel. I can still remember worrying if my knees would leave a permanant crease in my dress…
I never noticed we didn’t have a picture of that part of the ceremony at all. Did our photographer forget to include this batch of pictures? Did he assume we wouldn’t want to remember the pain in our knees and backs? Did he doze off during the sermon?
All understandable. But if I had a photo of the two of us on those kneelers, I would frame copies and give it away to every young and engaged couple as my own little marriage ministry project.
Because like most 22 and 23 year-olds, my husband and I had no idea what a perfect metaphor that long kneeling time was for marriage.
I snuck a peek at my tuxedoed groom’s face and worried if he thought I wasn’t worth all the trouble. I distinctly remember his collar-tugging, our synchronized weight-shifting, and my fear of pit-stains.
On those kneelers together, we exchanged knowing glances, held hands, and checked on each other. “You okay?” I remember his voice, whispering through my Aqua Net and over my puffy sleeves, as a reminder that we got ourselves into this mess, but at least we weren’t alone.
I remember, at the peak of our misery, it all suddenly seemed hilarious, and we stifled nervous laughter in spite of the pain. We were so in love.
I want to tell young brides that beauty, blessings, candles, and cake have their moments. And sometimes, old married couples both prepare and present our very best selves to each other, stare into each other’s eyes, declare our commitment, and even dance the night away. But honestly, most of our years as husband and wife haven’t been photogenic ones. Most other couples I know tell the same story.
Even the best marriages are more about the kneeling times. True? They are about squaring up to the cross together. Being married is about wondering and worrying, sweating and suffering. It’s about staying side-by-side during the hard parts and laughing in spite of it all.
I tell my girls all of the time. My boys, too. And I hope we’ve shown them the difference between our wedding album and reality.
Even though it’s not pictured in a protective sleeve, I hope all four of them have a mental image of us on our knees before the cross together. I hope they know they know keeping a marriage covenant involves much prayer, pain, and perseverance.
By watching, I pray they’ve learned how to love and laugh in spite of it all.
Isn’t he dreamy?