Wedding Presence

I awoke with a start to 4 a.m. darkness. Crap. I’d forgotten to take extension cords to the farm. And who was going to bring the ice for punch again? Oh, and the curtains for dressings rooms hadn’t been hung. So much for a family lunch after the morning rehearsal. We’d need to get out to the farm to finish preparations for our reception.

I wrote the tasks in my list book, the leather-bound notebook that had been my constant companion since we got engaged, then tried to get back to sleep. No luck. Waking up is normally the hardest part of my day, but on this day, my wedding day, I had no hope of drifting off again. I lay in the darkness, the last few hours in my single-girl bed, going over the day’s schedule.

I played it all out in my head, not in the obsessive, make-sure-every-detail-is-exactly-right way I’m prone to, but in a languorous imagining of a day so different from my first wedding. This time, it wasn’t fanciness on a budget, with attention to the latest advice of Martha Stewart, and the days’ fashion. No, that was the 24 year old me, who’s wedding was more reflective of who I thought I wanted to be than who I actually was.


This time was down-home casual food in a metal barn with burlap and potted mums. This time was small and intimate in a church I deeply love. This time my dad would walk me down the aisle. It still makes me sad to think that the conflict between my parents and I was so great at my first wedding that I walked myself to the altar. I also wasn’t nervous this time, just excited and filled with a deep and peaceful joy.

When the sun finally rose that morning, so did I. I took a few quiet minutes over coffee to thank God before everyone else got up, and then we were off and running. Rehearsal first, blessedly rescheduled at the last minute from 11 to 9:30 a.m., giving Marrett and I an hour to ourselves at the farm, where gusts of wind thumped against the barn doors.

Then it was off to hair and makeup with the girls, a process which resulted in all of us looking older than we wanted to. Finally, we got to church where our dresses and red shoes were waiting, along with the photographer, our families, the best man and woman.

The rest of the day is one memorable moment after another, from Marrett turning around to see me in my dress for the first time, to Ollie carrying the Minnesota-shaped ring pillow down the aisle with his friend Teddy, a last minute addition to the wedding party. I remember the feel of my dad’s tuxedo sleeve under my fingers as he gave me his arm. I can still hear the cacophony of sniffles behind me as Pastor Jay gave his sermon and we exchanged our vows. The smell of the ribs that were twice as big as we’d expected, the leftovers of which filled our freezer for the next month. The feel of the breeze turned gentle in the afternoon, rustling through the leaves of the weeping willow that towered over our posed kisses and hugs. The screaming laughter of our littlest nieces as they streaked down the zipline after dinner. The thundering rain on the barn’s tin roof as I waited for Marrett to return from taking the kids home.


It wasn’t until Sunday evening, after the Grund kids went to their mom’s and we saw the email from Caden’s teacher requesting pictures that we realized a remarkable thing. In that whole momentous day, with a cell phone in nearly every pocket, no member of our Broady Bunch had a photo to send. I had taken one measly selfie with Cameron while we waited for Kendall’s hair to be finished, but that was it. And the girls had snapped plenty of pics with their friends at the hotel later that night, but not one of us had taken a single picture while we were wearing our dress clothes.

I thought about that fact often over the months that we waited for the official photographs to arrive. Were we simply to busy that day to take photos? Was it because we had no pockets in our dresses for our phones? Or was it something more significant?

I can’t say for the others, but for me, the paucity of photos is due to my complete absorption in the moments of that wedding day. I was present to every word, every feeling, every facial expression. I savored the conversation, the atmosphere, and of course, the food. It never even crossed my mind to check my phone or take a selfie.

That is perhaps the biggest difference between my life at the time of my first wedding and my life now: the way that I am present to the now. I’m not distracted from my days by constant planning for the future, nor am I consumed by regrets from the past. I hold both past and future lightly, knowing from experience that you can’t control them and it’s better not to try. I make it my aim in each day of this blessed new marriage to pay attention to the gift of a second chance and great big family, and to be grateful.

One response to “Wedding Presence”

  1. Collette, this is lovely. And so relevant in the age of the selfie. I had a conversation with a friend of mine a while ago, and it stayed with me. George and I were getting ready to take a trip to Italy and hey, I take photographs, that’s what I do. I said to my friend that I was worried about figuring out how to not spend the entire trip behind the camera. She told me she went on vacation with another friend who spent her entire time behind the camera, or uploading to her blog, so her entire vacation was spent one step removed from the present, behind a lens. My friend said, “You really have to make time to be present, Otherwise these events become like reality TV; they’re something you watch, not something you interact with.”

    Oof. Right. So. I take that into consideration whenever we’re somewhere that begs for a photo-op. When is the right time to lock the camera in the trunk of the car and just *be*? It’s a great mental check for me, and gives me more of a balance.

    Side note: I told this story to a fellow photoblogger who replied, panicked, “But…what if I miss a great shot?” Ai yi yi. I didn’t bother to elaborate; she will either come to it or she won’t. Anyway. Congratulations again, and happiness forever.

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