“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ...”
Our family chose the best of times this summer when we attended two weddings during a short respite from COVID-19. Both weddings included a couple in love who wanted to commit to each other for the rest of their lives. They both had bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls, ring bearers and an ordained minister to marry them. They both had a beautiful bride with her father to give her to the man waiting for her at the altar. Afterward, there was a festive reception with music, dancing and food.
The big differences between these two weddings were the landscape, the location and the time. One was on the beach at Panama City, Florida, 9 a.m. in the morning, June 13. The other was in a freshly mowed meadow on a farm in Hildebran, North Carolina, 5 p.m.in the evening, Aug. 21.
Our daughter, Teresa Van Horn, and her fiancé, Brian Berry, had the beach wedding. My husband Dean and I, our other two children, their spouses and our grandchildren and great-grandchildren attended. Besides a wedding, it was a much-needed reunion which had been delayed due to COVID. Teresa had rented a room for all of us in the same hotel on the beach front where the wedding was to occur. When we first met in a parking lot of a restaurant, the grandkids and I jumped up and down in a group hug, ignoring the fact that cars were moving around us.
It wasn’t a small feat to get the entire family on the beach so early in the morning where the wedding was to take place. But it happened. The guests were in place when I, the mother of the bride, was escorted down the sandy aisle with Teresa’s grown sons, Bradley, holding one arm, Jesse holding the other. Brian and his groomsmen were at the altar. The ushers went back and returned with, Cynthia, Teresa’s sister, who was maid of honor, then the bridesmaids. The flower girls and the ring bearers followed. Teresa, the bride, came last, escorted by her father, Dean.
The aquamarine ocean in the background, the white sand and the cool morning breeze was a perfect setting for the ceremony. God provided this lovely scene for no charge.
After the wedding, we all met at Helen’s Park for the reception. This venue was a 100-year-old log mansion on 185 acres of land, on the banks of an ocean inlet. A large banquet was spread before us. Shells lined the runners on the tables, adding to the ocean theme.
After we ate, there was music and dancing. The only tears shed were during the tender moments when the bride was dancing with her father.
The rest of the week was a vacation for all. Many went swimming with the dolphins. Some went bowling and played miniature golf. Some walked the beach. We all ate! Many memories were created during that week.
Kyle Smith, my sister’s grandson, and his fiancée wed Aug. 21 on the farm of his parents, Mark and Carol Smith. Mark, pastor of Crosslink Church at the Rutherford College campus, officiated.
When I heard the wedding would be in a hay field, I envisioned a lot of walking through tall grass, so I opted for pants and comfortable shoes instead of semi-formal attire. I was surprised to find a meadow with fine-clipped grass and a comfortable distance to tread from our car.
As guests, we arrived early. The evening sun beamed down on us, but it wasn’t long before the wedding began.
The wedding party was similar to the one at the beach, except the ring bearer happened to be not two little boys, but Kyle and Miranda’s dog, Luna.
Kyle and Miranda wrote their vows, and as Kyle read his vows, both he and his dad wept with emotion. The audience probably observed with gentle thoughts. “Like father, like son.” Watching her soon-to-be husband and father-in law crying may have caused the tears that began running down Miranda’s face. We all knew these were happy tears.
As soon as the wedding was over, the guests were ushered to a large white tent and to their tables. Name tags sawed from wood indicated where each guest would sit. The center of each table had thick round coasters, also cut from wood, and were adorned with vases of fresh-cut flowers. Four large fans blew cool air through the tent. All the surroundings shouted nature.
While the wedding party was having pictures made, guests were invited to eat. A buffet table laden with barbecued chicken and beef, scrumptious macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, fruit cups, and cake made our mouths water.
After the wedding party joined the rest of us, there were some speeches, a DJ with a great playlist and lots of dancing. It probably went on into the night, but some of the less energetic ones left early.
As Kyle’s mother, Carol, said to my sister, Christine, “Mom, weddings are not like they used to be. They don’t have to be in a church.”
These two weddings were not inside a church, but were outside in the beauty of God’s creation. They reminded us that we can still experience the best things in our lives, like special moments with family, when the worst things like COVID-19 threaten to overwhelm us.
Delight Van Horn is a member of the Morganton Writers’ Group.