Stolen Moments

By Anne Maxwell

Author of: Grace in Ordinary Time

I started singing at weddings in 1989.

I never tire of being a part of such a special day in a couple’s life. Throughout the past 30-plus years of singing selections from Evergreen to Ave Maria and everything in between, I’ve visited with several brides who naturally have a few concerns about all the details falling into place. My standard advice is the following: No matter what goes right - or wrong - on your wedding day, the most important thing is that you say your vows and you get married. The rest is details.

More than an experienced response, it’s something I truly believe - along with this other tidbit of wisdom from my own wedding day: The things that don’t go as planned turn into some of your favorite memories.

Back in August 1995 I prepared to walk down the aisle on my own wedding day. My uber-organized mother and fastidious sister with great taste both worked on the details for me. Their non-stop focus assured all was in place, which allowed me to rest easy in the knowledge that all would come together. While there were certain things my groom and I knew we wanted and had specifically chosen, such as the readings and the music, many of the other details were simple, standard selections.

However, there was one sticking point I wanted to make sure stuck.

Our family and wedding party photos were scheduled beforehand in order to start the reception with our guests right after the wedding. This was fine with both of us, yet I still wanted that magical moment when we see one another for the first time that day. This “first look” moment is common these days, but 25 years ago, a lot of couples first glimpsed one another only when the bride started down the aisle.

So, a few minutes before photos began, the sanctuary was cleared and my groom waited for me at the end of the aisle. I don’t remember what we said after I met him face to face, I just recall looking in his eyes and feeling as though I was home.

As we turned to walk back down the aisle, a slight movement caught my eye from the cry room in the back corner of the church. Off to the side on one of the pews in the dimly lit glassed-in area, I could see two figures sitting, also holding hands and smiling.

It was his parents.

I nervously smiled and we continued walking by as my heart fell. The one moment Doug and I wanted to steal away and enjoy alone on our wedding day before all our guests and family joined us had itself been stolen. Thankfully, the photographer and our wedding party were ready for the photos, so I quickly shook off the disappointment and moved on.

Years later, that seemingly stolen moment turned into one of my favorite memories of the day.

Time, fate, and the understanding of how much we love our children and the joy their own happiness brings us helped me to realize that moment wasn’t meant for us to steal away and enjoy on our own. It was meant to be shared.

We would have only four years as a couple before we lost Doug’s mom. And we’d only been married 13 years by the time we said goodbye to his dad. The moments his parents would both have the chance to see their only child create a life and his family would be too few. As a bride on her wedding day, it never crossed my mind that my in-laws might not both be there to celebrate the birth of all four grandchildren. Or that there would be empty seats at First Communions, Confirmations, graduations, ball tournaments, musicals, holidays and Sunday dinners. We have had countless blessings and more than our share of happy times, but there isn’t a special day or occasion that I don’t wonder what it would be like if they were here with us.

And when I do wonder what it would have been like, I think of Karen and Leonard, sitting there on that pew in the cry room, so happy to see that Doug had found someone to love and to build a life with. I recall the joy that shone on their faces in that moment and am comforted in knowing it’s the same happiness they’d have if they were here for the special times in the lives of our family.

Which brings me back to some of the most joyous family occasions of all: weddings. The more I attend them, the more I appreciate them as a joyful event for the couple as well as those who love the bride and groom and draw happiness from their union.

Rest assured, brides, there will be miscues, snafus, and things you might one day wish you could redo. As you recount the day thousands of times throughout the years, if you begin to wince at the memory of a derailed detail, embrace the imperfection instead.

The moments stolen from your control will be some of the best ones of all.

For more blogs by Anne Maxwell click the photo below.

Photo Credit: Heimerman Photography