Days ago the Royal Wedding was attended by the world. I too got up early to witness a fairy tale come to life. Every little girl dreams of her carriage ride to the church where her prince awaits her arrival. Anticipation for the dress reveal kept millions of eyes watching in suspense, and as every bride is, simply breathtaking.
I have never met a single bride who didn’t have the same wish on her wedding day, for their special moment to be a Dream Come True. Every bride does get her Dream Come True, though not always As They Dreamed. Some weddings are perfect without a single mishap. But most Cinderella stories depict real life, where the unexpected happens beyond your control.
Eight years ago my son and his new bride had the wedding of the year; their Wedding Dream Come True, Though Not As They Dreamed. With June about to launch a season of summer betroths , I decided to dust off my children’s storybook wedding in hopes to encourage brides of past, present and future that though the movie of your day might not end as scripted, it’s a one of a kind, it’s your story, it’s your DREAM COME TRUE.
When the Lights Went Out in New Harmony
By Lori A. Alicea
Wedding gifts come in all sizes and shapes. They arrive as handpicked cards with money inside its sealed envelope. They are decorated packages selected from the leftover wedding shower gift registry. Wedding gifts are even an offering of talent to sing, design the event invitations or create the reception centerpieces. Sometimes wedding gifts remain at home as an offering of prayer by a guest who won’t be in attendance. But whatever presents found their place at the England-Stock table one summer day August 28, 2010, not a single guest could have ever imagined that wedding gift waiting to be unwrapped when the lights went out in New Harmony.
This wedding celebration began days before its appointed time of 5:30 pm that Saturday evening in August, as guests made their personal journeys from all over the atlas to arrive in New Harmony, Indiana.
From the windy city of Chicago to the ten thousand lakes of Minnesota they traveled. From the bluegrass state of Kentucky to the honeymoon island of Hawaii they traveled also. Adding the state of Michigan, Virginia, New Mexico and all four corners of Indiana, sacrifices of finances and vacations were made by generous friends and family to honor a beautiful bride and her groom.
One by one the guests of the England-Stock wedding arrived to check into their charming rooms located at the Riverbend Inn. Screams of joy and hugs of elation exchanged from those reuniting after the many years they saw each other last. From excited “across the hall” conversations, impromptu gatherings were planned with invitations of “I’ll meet you in room so-and-so.”
That weekend a gracious bride and groom walked the streets of this wedding community to greet each traveler with deep appreciation for their sacrifices, while continuing to pour over the details of their storybook day.
The amenities of this quaint town mirrored a reflection of that fictional place called Mayberry.
The convenient streets all within walking distance of each other, though most found great enjoyment with the alternative rental of golf carts to mosey around.
The antique shops, the mom and pop restaurants, the pool surrounded by greenhouse-like windows, and everything else conveniently located nearby, leaving the impression that New Harmony was your home away from home.
What a picturesque place New Harmony is to be married with its various ceremony locations catering to the desires of each wedding couple. By the intimate lake with a romantic ambience at sunset,
to the formal church with its stain glass windows and front porch steps,
or at the outdoor Roofless Church with its royal aisle feel of Westminster Abbey in England.
Wherever the bride and groom choose to exchange their marital vows, an album capturing their day would reflect nothing less than a “dream come true.”
As the afternoon sun began to fade into evening that 28th day in August, anticipation swirled the air as wedding guests in their seats and bridal court positioned, all fixed their eyes back to the Roofless Church entrance, anxiously waiting for the horse drawn carriage to deliver the bride.
Upon first sighting of Cinderella arriving in her royal coach, gasps could be heard among the crowd as an unspoken agreement of this beautiful bride.
Waiting a brief moment before stepping off her carriage, this bride paused to cast her eyes onward to her groom standing a distance away, a man who was visibly overcome by this woman’s loveliness.
With a father’s hand reaching for his daughter once last time as his own, these two took steps in unison down the long aisle kissed with rose petals, only to let her go at the altar and release her into the hands she had been betrothed to.
After a long engagement,
the wedding finally begins with a man and woman who fell in love four years prior, standing side by side before God and family to seal their hearts in marriage. Holding hands as a symbolic gesture to “never let go”, this bride and groom displayed the abundance of their hearts through the smiles on their faces.
Trying hard to leave the eyes of the other, this couple did declare their love in holy matrimony during the service that was chronicled in the wedding program. A service of prayer; a song to prepare;
a scripture about love; a song of communion; an exchange of vows and exchange of rings; then a kiss to declare them husband and wife.
Cheers echoed the crowd as they stood to honor the new Mr. and Mrs.,
yet unbeknownst to a single soul at the wedding was that secret gift slowly being unwrapped, with its silver bow already untied.
As one final exchange in the wedding, guests lined up on both sides of the Roofless Church walkway to greet the bride and groom with kisses of bubbles, as these two made their way down their royal aisle one last time.
Following, the bridal party would take their remaining wedding photographs
while the guests began their short journey to the reception hall, a two story converted granary, until those seated at the head table arrived.
The guests walking from the church to the reception was a picture of life for us all;
those steps we take
from one street to the next in our day, never knowing what waits for us around the corner.
We live and breathe each moment with great expectation, and as we should, because life in itself is a gift. But it’s those mini presents that accompany life that when revealed, we sometimes don’t see the gift; at least not at first glance.
Arriving at the front door of the reception hall, guests would enter a place especially decorated for them.
Candle lit tables set with great detail for loved ones sitting at every seat.
With floral centerpieces accentuating the colors of the day,
hand-crafted favors were part of each place setting for guests to take home as their personal gift from the bride and groom.
A banquet meal was prepared from the selections of the wedding couple, and an evening celebration of dance and music still waited its turn.
The hour is now evening, the time approximately 7:30 pm. As scripted per the wedding invitation, dinner is about to be served.
Still awaiting the arrival of the newly married couple,
the clock is ticking in seconds, as its hand will soon change the minute.
They always say “never close your eyes, because when you do, life can turn in an instant.”
How wise was that person, because when each guest opened their eyes from the blink of the last, the lights went out in New Harmony.
Initially in the darkness, most thought this was the signal for the bride and groom to make their grand entrance at the reception.
Others believed this mishap was only momentary. But soon enough, the delay caused an undue stir among the crowd. Though panic didn’t set in, a question of “what do we do next?” was on everybody’s mind.
To continue with the reception yet without the traditional announcement of the bridal party, the wedding couple and their court did take their seats at the head table and dinner was soon served thereafter.
Amid an evening without lights, the feeling of romance continued to permeate the darkness as votive candles still lit the place like small stars on a clear summer night.
While looking at my son and his new wife though as they halfheartedly ate their first meal together, my heart sank for the special attention that wasn’t being paid to them due to the chaos.
Young girls didn’t get to dream of their wedding while admiring the “Princess of the day” as the room was too dark.
Glasses weren’t being clanked to encourage the new couple to kiss.
and those long awaited speeches from the best man and maid of honor were put on hold.
Celebrations, especially weddings, are meant to be savored detail by detail. It is during those planned or unplanned times where the wedding memories are birthed. But to consider the safety of everyone, dinner was rushed to its completion so that the party could be moved, literally to another venue; an old, dusty gymnasium a few streets over.
In the hour that life is happening,
whether the water is calm at your feet or hurling waves at your face, one usually doesn’t stop to take inventory of the little gifts that you have been given until the hour you just lived has passed.
How much more of our existence would we enjoy and not take for granted if we would only learn to live in the appointed moment.
As the mass exodus of this wedding party began its journey from a hall decorated with ambience to a gym where its grandest recorded dance was a 50’s Sock Hop, gifts had already begun to be passed out from the guests unknowingly as if Christmas had come early.
While still in the hall, gifts of great concern was displayed for anyone trapped in the elevator when the power went out. The room went silent to verify any guests unaccounted for.
Presents of makeshift lighting over the buffet table was created by the videographer’s camera light, as the cameraman stood there himself holding the light until every guest made their way thru the dinner line.
Bridesmaids displayed their gifts of compassion as they joyfully carried the wedding cakes to the other hall, regardless that frosting decorated their party dresses while fumbling the streets at night.
Cases of beverages and anything else party-worthy somehow found their way to hall number two,
as guests, though suffering from the intense heat of a gym void of air-conditioning, displayed vast gifts of love to a bride and groom to help salvage their wedding day.
From my point of view, the party finally got started when the tuxedo jackets came off and high heels were exchanged for bare feet. Tradition went out the window with the transformer that night, and the checklist of wedding things to do was scrapped.
The bridal party was finally introduced simultaneously as a guest dressed in a large canine costume high-fived and body slammed each member to the music, “Who let the dogs out?”
Little boys went bare-chested though still sporting their ties,
and that crazy guest whom we all love went solo on the dance floor, flopping around like a fish out of water as he rode the pretend waves.
From the bride’s point of view though, I can only imagine her heartache that the wedding she had planned up until the last song the band would play, only happened on paper.
Brides are still little girls with the dreams they have held onto their whole life. That evening when the lights went out, I wondered if my new daughter was truly living her dream.
As a mother watching her children struggle on their wedding day, I must say it was a proud moment for me and a gift I received from them when I didn’t see their anger or disappointment taken out on the hall coordinator or more importantly, each other.
All I saw was two people greatly concerned for their guests and their enjoyment that night, spreading a heart full of patience, kindness and love.
That night it wasn’t the handsome tailored tuxedo or vintage couture wedding dress that revealed the true beauty of a couple, but the unexpected turn of wedding events instead.
As with every wedding, the night must come to an end and the chapter of a couple’s wedding day closes, only to turn to the pages of a new chapter where real beginnings take place.
For this wedding though, one final visit to the granary was in order as the hall needed to be packed up from the power outage the night before.
Upon my return, I was caught off guard by the visual of a wedding put in pause, as the tables still retained the remains of the centerpieces and favors that many guests had left behind.
Brief waves of sadness took my breath as I gazed at the head table where the bridal court’s flowers continued to be displayed in their individual vases of water.
I could still see the bride and groom seated in their special seats, wanting desperately to turn back the clock to an evening for them with electricity, where the events they planned really happened.
I lamented when I turned to the dance floor where that mother-son dance never took place.
I was grieved for the stolen moment I didn’t get to have with my new daughter, welcoming her into that reserved place of my heart I had been saving since my son was born.
But as I said before, gifts come in all sizes and shapes. Those gifts I wanted the day of, actually came before the wedding, though I didn’t recognize them until after that evening in August.
That weekend before New Harmony, my son came into town so I could make him breakfast one last time. We shared a silly conversation over coffee and I am thankful that my son chose to steal an innocent moment with me, even if it was at the kitchen table and not dancing to “our special song”.
As with my new daughter, how it would have been nice to have our first moment together on her wedding day.
But I realized we had spent the last six months of stealing moments during the endless texts and conversations regarding the planning of this wedding; moments I had because she invited me into the planning of her special day.
Leaving the hall for the last time, I noticed a lone votive candle left behind by some guest walking the streets among the other guests the night before, sitting by a tree facing the granary.
A light that once illuminated the path of someone walking in darkness, it reminded me of a verse that brings light to a dark place we might all find ourselves in:
Ephesians 5: 20 …always give thanks to God the Father for everything.
Give thanks to God for everything? Yes everything. Even the writer of that verse, Apostle Paul, was giving thanks as he was chained in jail, falsely accused.
While we may never know the reasons why hard things happen, the fact remains that light always comes forth from a dark situation,
even at a wedding when the all the lights go out.