All That I Am

Note: Because I am an unregenerate narcissist respecting my wife’s wishes for privacy, you won’t see any pictures of her face here. I assure you that she looked stunning.

Also: We LOVED our photographers, Worline Studio and Photography by Canapary. Unless indicated otherwise, all the photos below are theirs.

I’ve been married three weeks and it is awesome.

It turns out that marriage is a LOT more fun than wedding planning, which was eight months of endless drudgery filled with things that my wife and I both hate, e.g. shoe shopping and the words “floral centerpiece” and diagrams like this:

But I must say that the wedding itself was fun. The whole day was a glorious blur of noise and light and color, filled with moments that shine in my memory like stars.

I sailed into Chicago too late to have a wedding shower, so my aunts and cousins (you can call them the Amazons) settled for taking me out to lunch instead. The cousins took great pleasure in telling stories about the trip to Rome we took together when I was in high school. None of us spoke any Italian, but they bullied me into asking for directions in Latin.

After two hours with the Amazons, my regional accent was back with a vengeance. I was shocked at how quickly it returned. SHAHCKED.

Next came the rehearsal, which, except that I got a serious fit of the giggles during the part when we were supposed to be saying our vows, went off just fine.

As it came to a close, our officiant pronounced, “And now is the part when the couple will greet each other.”

My bride and I were standing at the altar. We stared at her blankly.

“With a kiss,” the officiant whispered. “You greet each other with a kiss.”

I woke up early the next morning and went for a long run, through downtown Evanston and across the Northwestern University campus. I paused to touch the peeling paint of the welcome sign at Seabury-Western before continuing east to the beach. Lake Michigan was sparkling in the sun, a thousand shades of blue and green, the colors blending together on the horizon.

(my friend Misha took this one)

It occurred to me that I could do worse than asking the same blessing on my marriage that God had already given to the lake: that it be deep and true and full of life, able to weather any storm, beautiful in all seasons, overflowing with the capacity to nourish and heal.

Then I trotted back to the hotel and had breakfast.

Around noon, a swarm of worker bees began pouring into our hotel room. Besides the two of us, there were six attendants; our officiant; my mother-in-law-to-be; and a couple of attentive onlookers. One attendant did my makeup, another my hair, and a third selected my earrings while a fourth brought me iced tea. All we needed was a cross-stitched wall hanging that read: “It Takes a Village to Dress a Bride.”

Two hours later, I hardly recognized myself. My hair was elaborately curled, pinned into place, and shellacked with so much hairspray that at the end of the night, my fingers would have trouble finding the bobby pins. (I’ll spare you the photos from the later hours of the reception, which show the final score: Curls 1, Bobby Pins 0.)

I should mention here that we had pedicures on our toes, toes.

At four o’clock, we all trooped downstairs and headed off to the church. In the lobby, we ran into our two flower girls. Both of them wore long white dresses, just like ours, and carried bouquets of red and yellow roses, just like ours. They were so darn cute that it was a pleasure to let them steal the show.

During the photo session before the ceremony, flower girl #1 told me that she was getting married too.

“To whom?” I asked.

She furrowed her brow. “I’m not sure.”

When the photographer instructed me to kiss my bride, #1 leaned over and gave #2 a big smooch on the cheek.

We had some fun during that photo session. Here’s me with my best friend, doing American Gothic.

Soon enough, though, it was time to head into the church. Just before my parents and I set off down the aisle, I caught a glimpse of myself in a full-length mirror in the church foyer.

My teeth began to chatter.

I whispered, “I can’t believe this is happening.”

My mother said brightly, “This is just like the time when you got your cat!”

Before I could think of an apt reply, it was time to go.

Walking down the aisle was the most unexpectedly lovely part of the entire enterprise. It felt like the kind of wonderful dream where almost everyone you have ever loved is for some reason in the same room, and they’ve all been waiting and waiting for you, and when you step through the doorway all their faces light up at once. And — hey, look up there at the front of the church! It’s all the people I love the most! Right there in one place!

There was only one person missing from the array. I turned in time to watch her walk down the aisle behind me. She was beautiful, and her parents were glowing with pride.

That was a good moment.

The ceremony itself was a joy, with beautiful readings and heartfelt prayers. My heart stopped at the words “Speak now or forever hold your peace,” but I think that was only because I had made the mistake of listening to that Taylor Swift song on my morning run.

The one real blip came in the middle of the second hymn, when a giant hornet crawled out of my bouquet. (I did stop to consider how disconcerting it must have been for the hornet.) I shoved the bouquet at my best friend, who made his American Gothic face and chased the intruder away with his songsheet.

Meanwhile, to my right, flower girl #1 was getting a little nervous. She had paraded down the church aisle like a champ, and is very very well-behaved, but the fact of the matter is that she is only three and there were a lot of people looking at her.

She handled her nerves sensibly, by inching a little closer to me, her cousin: the safe harbor.

And then closer still.

Quite a few of our wedding pictures look like this:

By the time we got around to exchanging rings, she was right here.

I was glad to have her nearby for moral support. As our rings were blessed, I reached out over her small form, held my bride’s hands in mine, and repeated our officiant’s words:

I give you this ring as a symbol of my vow, and with all that I am, and all that I have, I honor you.

You can read the intercessions yourself, and I’ll skip ahead to our victory march out of the church.

The flower girls continued to wait very patiently for their turn to be brides, and grew concerned that maybe we had forgotten, but they were too polite to say anything.

But don’t feel too sad for them. They felt better immediately upon arriving at the reception and seeing our tower of cupcakes.

(we love Joan, MJ & Katie, the team at Cupcake Central)

The honeymoon deserves a tale of its own, but for now I’ll let the cake topper do the talking.

(thanks to Katie for the fabulous topper!)

Like I said: awesome.

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5 Responses to All That I Am

  1. erathora says:

    I repeat: you two are both glowing. Even only seeing the side of your beautiful bride’s face–I can see how happy you both are.

    MJ looks awesome! Hi MJ!

    Please tell me you all wore those shoes during the ceremony.

    What happened when you got your cat? Hilarious.

    Best cake-topper. Needs to be your profile pic.

  2. Jean DeLio says:

    You are both stunning. We had a blast and I am so excited for you both as you venture into this new chapter. Peace and big love~Jean

  3. Maureen O'Connor says:

    Accents? We don’t have accents, do we?

    It was a lovely wedding. So happy for you.

    Aunt Maureen

  4. Aunt mary says:

    Great to hear it from your perspective. Hope you had a wonderful trip to Canada. The pics look great too. Much love, the youngest amazon aunt.

  5. Catherine,
    This is put together so cleverly. I am so happy to see that you have found ur soul mate. I wish you both much happiness n love through the years to come. My only regret is that we were not able to make it. I do hope that both of you can find ur way to NC.
    Much Love Always and Forever
    Aunt Patty and Uncle Ted.

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