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Our Massachusetts Wedding Retrospective, Part 3: The Ceremony

In a miraculous move by Mother Nature, the humidity remained as we approached and reached the parish steps, but the rain stopped altogether. The precipitation even held out for the bridesmaids and my bride, though the bus driver had an umbrella open and ready, just in case a deluge struck between the sidewalk and the safety of the parish foyer.

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I sweated things out in the sacristy with my best man as guests and the rest of the bridal party arrived. Rays of sunshine even began to glide in through the stained glass window portrait of some saint or another. Those beams, along with some reassuring words from my oldest friend, helped keep my peace. We posed for a few photos, when suddenly my best man’s fiancée came hustling into the holy apartment, my smart-phone in hand. Apparently, the nurse tending to my father-in-law decided to make an incoming call to us on Skype, instead of awaiting our planned outgoing call to her. It was mere minutes before the start of the ceremony, and now we could not figure out how to navigate the circumstances. We could see her, but she couldn’t see us; and, we could hardly hear her through a lagging cell signal and poor (yet expected) audio. The priest somehow deciphered the nurse’s words; we ended the call, dialed the hospital room back, and all was well!  We were so pleased to see and greet my new dad, who was decked out in a crisp white tuxedo shirt and berry bowtie, matching the rest of the wedding party. With that, our friend flew back into the main room, to grant our dad a quick hello to all of our friends and family, and then a much anticipated view of the grand procession, his daughter and wife walking down the aisle, arm in arm.

The church organ was brilliant; the bridal party walking past the lacey white pew bows with vibrantly colored bouquets, lovely; our flower girl, precious, and more so, thorough. (As she reached the front pew, and her daddy, she turned the basket upside-down. Then, upon not being satisfied where the final petal dropped, she bent down, picked it up, and tossed it once more. At that point, daddy pulled her off the runway and into the pew.) I stood there in awe as my stunning, classic-looking bride approached, bright white bouquet of spider mums in hand, veil in hair. (My guests continue to tell me how large of a smile I wore at that time.)

The Mass began. Under the meticulously painted dome over the altar, our readers – Alison’s oldest childhood friend, her uncle and cousin (a bridesmaid), and my aunt – kicked off the services. Alison and I had handpicked much of the wedding ceremony liturgy, with some support from our priest. We chose to include a Unity Candle ceremony in our services. Some parish priests allow this, others do not; you need to ask for permission. We were very glad we were granted the opportunity. In the Catholic tradition, the candle, or rather its flame, is a symbol of Christ, the light of the world. Our mothers approached the altar and ignited the individual flames Alison and I would later use in our part of the ceremony. When the time came, after our vows and rings were exchanged, we took our individual candles and lit the larger center candle, symbolizing our separate lives being joined together, and extinguished the separate lights of the side candles.

Our best man and maid of honor came close as we exchanged our vows; as we did, in complete honesty, more sunshine poured in through the long stained glass windows. [If you haven’t read our earlier post, our custom vows are copied here for your convenience. They were written by yours truly, two nights prior, in approximately 20 minutes:

John/Alison, my best friend and partner,

You love me, and I, you.
You inspire me to be a better person.
You inspire me to change the world.
You remind me to care for myself.
You remind me to breathe.
You are imperfect, but you try your best.
You forgive readily, and are always forgiven.
You accept me for who I am, and you make me stronger.
You are my rock in times of frustration and sorrow.
You are the light of my day.

These things I promise in our marriage together;
I commit to progress, not perfection.
I commit to strength in God, our family, and friends.
I commit to the practice of patience, listening, passion, and compassion.
I commit to be true to you, in good times, and in bad.
I commit to care for you, in sickness and in health.
I commit to love and honor you all the days of my life.]

For other couples getting married in the Roman Catholic Church, yours vows are something else you will need to review in advance with your priest. To clear up any confusion: you may be allowed to write your own, or you may be denied that opportunity. It is up to the discretion of the individual priest. However, if you do receive the go-ahead, you must include certain standard points (for example, faithfulness in sickness, health, wealth, poverty, etc.) in your language, and again, have it all reviewed by the priest. The Church does not offer much, if any, leeway on those points.

My best man took the rings from his pocket, worried even more they would fall from his hands, after the priest sprayed a generous amount of Holy Water on them. They did safely make it to our fingers instead of the floor, and we finished the ceremony with a tear or two in each of our eyes. Our friend continued to roam the parish with my cell phone, capturing the ceremony from all angles, for the viewing pleasure of our dad. We often peered over to dad by way of the video call, waving and smiling, and our guests did the same.

After a very heartfelt and meaningful sermon, an extended period of ‘sharing peace’ (Alison and I kissed or shook hands with every member of our large wedding party), and the Sacrament of the Eucharist, we arrived at another blessed concession by our priest. He had allowed us to invite two members of our family (Alison’s cousins — one, a piano player; the other, a vocalist) to perform a rendition of Adele’s “Make You Feel My Love” as our post-Communion meditation music. I still sing or hum the song to this day, more than a month later, on a regular basis. The performance really stole our breath away, and we will never forget it.

Finally, the Mass had ended, and it was time to “go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” The cell phone and Skype call made a final pass around the audience, and our dad and guests waved goodbye to each other. (The phone battery died just as the Mass ended!) The church organ cued up. Alison and I were beaming ear to ear and practically skipped down that aisle. Our bridal party followed us to the back of the church, and immediately back to the front again. We had planned to take a few formal bridal party shots, and then photos with Alison’s side of the family, with our photographer at the parish. We had arranged to pose for photos with my family once we arrived at the reception hall. We were in a race against daylight and anticipated late-day thunderstorms, to snap photographs outside there, overlooking the valley.

In the fourth and final installment of Our Wedding Retrospective, it is party time. Get ready to learn of great ideas for fall-themed centerpieces, slideshow setups, drink specials, and much more!

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[This Wedding Diary is written by full-time Massachusetts wedding specialist, DJ John Dudley. You can find more information, tips, ideas, testimonials, videos, photos, and more at http://www.DJJohnDudley.com , http://www.YouTube.com/user/DJJohnDudley , on Facebook (DJ John Dudley Entertainment), and on Twitter (@thebostondj). We welcome your questions, comments, needs for wedding advice, etc.]

Our Massachusetts Wedding Retrospective, Part 2: Pre-Ceremony

Somehow, following a long, raucous post-wedding rehearsal dinner at the local Polynesian pop-spot, Hu Ke Lau, I still wake up bright and early in our master suite at the Hampton Inn Chicopee, with two of my groomsmen stirring in the adjoining room. Through our negotiations with Sandy at the hotel, we had procured one of the hotel’s two master suites for our wedding weekend, for two nights, one of which was complimentary (a stipulation we set with the sales manager, upon our block of rooms selling out), the second of which was at the discounted rate we arranged for our guests’ standard rooms. [Note: A friend of mine in the hotel industry in Boston once told me that it costs a hotel approximately $17 per night to maintain most rooms, so when you bargain for a hotel block for wedding, be polite but hard-nosed, as now you know the whole story.] Some of the guys stayed with me, while some bridesmaids stayed over at my mother-in-law’s house with my bride.

That morning, after a complimentary breakfast at the hotel (something other local top-brand hotels in the area did not offer), I took off with the maid of honor to receive the manicure my mom-in-law had so lovingly and readily booked for me. This was only the second ‘mani’ of my life, accepted only slightly less reluctantly than the first. As we ventured out we encountered rain, and according to the Weather Channel, we could still expect a solid sixty percent chance of rain well into the early evening. We kept our fingers crossed. Rain aside, we had other issues that weighed on our minds, namely Alison’s father, who was now guaranteed to miss the entire wedding day due to the status of his health. He found himself bed-ridden in the intermediate care unit of the hospital instead of rightfully by his daughter’s side at the altar. (Although both Alison and I were raised Roman Catholic and still practiced our faith, a church marriage was one of the few wishes her father and mother held most dear.)

The fantastical thoughts and discussions I had shared with Alison and family the few days leading up to this one now turned more pressing and realistic: What if I could set up a Skype teleconference between that isolated hospital room and the warm interior of St. Stan’s? After the salon appointment, I, with the support of my best man, his fiancée, and my new cousin-in-law, ventured to my new dad’s bedside. We had many concerns, including being able to tap into the hospital’s restricted wireless signal, positioning the laptop so that everyone could see one another later in the day, properly instructing and trusting hospital staff to operate the program and accept the incoming call when the time came, and of course, ensuring that my father-in-law would be found fashioned in the crisp white tuxedo shirt and berry bowtie we brought along with us. (The man had always been an impeccable dresser, and we would certainly not have this day be different from any other.)

With the grace of God, everything worked out at the hospital, and again with His grace, the same would happen when my best man’s fiancée called the laptop from the Skype application on my Evo 4G inside the church at 3:25pm. I could not thank her enough as she offered to walk around the altar and crowd during the Mass, connecting the world of that hospital room and the world of the wedding. We made our way back to the hotel with safety in mind, as we encountered yet another flash downpour.

After returning to the hotel in the early afternoon with an unnatural sheen to my finger caps and a glowing optimism toward my new father being able to virtually attend the wedding, following one quick check-in phone call to my lovely bride, I did what was natural to me in times of growing pressure: I chatted with anyone and everyone (read: procrastinated). At some point – only an hour before the limo bus was to arrive and transport my groomsmen and me to St. Stanislaus Basilica – I made my way to the room and began getting ready. Within an hour, I found myself boarding the bus with my groomsmen and others, popping open a bottle of champagne, and rolling toward to the church, with rain smacking the windows.

In the third installment of Our Wedding Retrospective, you’ll get to read about and even see photos of the ceremony, so stay tuned!

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