“I appreciate that dear,” said Dad when I told him we were getting married at St. Stephen’s, down the road from the farm where I was baptized and my brother is buried.
It was a small wedding, sixteen people all told: our parents, Lynn’s children, my sister and her children, and the Oatmeal Savage, our stand-in photographer.
“This has never happened before,” laughed the vicar when we asked to start the ceremony twenty minutes early.
The sun set, the candles lit, it was a pantomime wedding; we each played a part.
It began with Lynn’s family standing in a half circle at the front of the church. My eldest nephew, Seth, began the procession down the candlelit aisle past the empty benches strumming his guitar with my sister and his siblings behind him. Arm in arm with my parents, my father with his cane, we made our way down the aisle until we formed a circle with Lynn’s family, where my sister and her children sang back up harmonies while I sang my love song to Lynn.
Watch here: Be My Valentine
Our mothers lit the unity candles and everyone but Lynn and I sat down, my family on the right and Lynn’s on the left. The vicar read his opening statements and Lynn and I sang our duet. I played guitar and he harmonica.
Watch here: Still Falling
“Now, for the actual wedding,” laughed the vicar.
We said our vows and prayers. Lynn’s son, Joel, gave us the rings we put on our fingers. His daughter, Zoe, read from Corinthian’s, his eldest daughter, Anya and her fiancé, Brad, signed as our witnesses, and his father ended the ceremony with a prayer.
“I pronounce you man and wife and that’ll be 2 dollars,” said Dad, leaning in to whisper in my ear.
With candles in hand, Lynn and I led our family out of the church and down into the cemetery to my brother’s grave, more candles in the grass lighting our way. There, we cracked champagne, drank from silver goblets and lit sparklers to celebrate in the night. My sister’s toast as much a long awaited eulogy to John as a wedding toast to us. Goblets tipped bubbly with laughter onto the grass surrounding his grave.
“My testicles are in my throat,” said Dad in the beautifully clear but bitterly cold night.
Dinner took place at a nearby family restaurant on the local reserve, the owner I knew from high school. A private room in the back, we all held hands as Dad started his prayer, but he forgot the words halfway through.
Shaking his head and instead, he sang the song he brought us all up to sing, and sing loud we did.
Johnny Appleseed wasn’t the only song he led that night. Twice, he spontaneously sang Lord, I’m coming home, once at the church and again at the restaurant. We sang with him both times.
Amongst the cocktails, poached pear and Cambozola salad, butter chicken and more wine, speeches were given and bonds were declared.
“We’re real cousins now,” said a niece to a stepchild.
My speech was in the form of a song, predictable I know.
Don’t mind me while I get personal, always been this way
I learned life can be unusual and I like it that way
Because you’re the most beautiful, kind and generous
Gentle, crazy, wild and shy
And you make me the proudest stepmum in the sky
You were born with bonds of loyalty, torn apart in a home at war
So in your eyes I was Lucifer invading your front door
I can’t say that I’ve raised you, I wouldn’t call me your Mom
But we are family and I love you, and I’ll protect you from harm
Because you’re the most beautiful, kind and generous
Gentle, crazy, strong and wise
You make me the proudest stepmum in the skies
So if your golden heart breaks, lost love or inexplicable aches
Or if you strive for first place but pretty knees buckle and you fall on your face
Or if you turn 74 and your muscles crack and your bones are sore
Or if we’re long gone and dead, remember the words in this song I said
You make me the proudest stepmum in the land
So honey, please take a stand
And then there was cake. My mother-in-law is an artist, painter, muralist, art therapist. She flew to BC from Ontario and baked and painted the most beautiful cake ever made. Icelandic love and marriage poetry circling the base of the top layer and other symbols of our life and ancestry scattered around the bottom: a lion for England, a springbok for South Africa, a candelabra for Judaism, and a Coast Salish whale for the west coast. It hurt to cut.
By the time cake was eaten and coffee was poured, the busy dinner rush had passed; the restaurant, then empty, made room for a dance floor that was all ours.
And then the wedding ended just as it should, with the bride on her back with her kitten heels in the air of the trunk of a hatchback taxi and the groom squished into the front seat with his future son-in-law.
It couldn’t have been more perfect.
“What’s happening now?” asked Dad when he saw me on Monday morning after the Friday night rehearsal dinner, the Saturday wedding, and the Sunday brunch.
It’s over and done. The ceremony is complete. We’re married.
Though there are many dear friends and family that I would have loved to have invited to our wedding, I do not regret our choice. Blended families are complicated and this weekend was not only the marriage of a couple, it was the marriage of two families. We needed this time for us.
Thank you dear ones: Sandy, Joan, Peter, Marillyn, Anya, Brad, Zoe, Joel, Kristin, Delean, Seth, Taeja, Kai and Nicol.