Farm Wedding: Ceremony (Part IV)

Photos by Ben Paulson

Jesse and I went into the house, along with the kids, my sisters and Jeremy, Anna’s husband. We wanted the kids to wait out the remaining hour inside the house to keep them clean. And I wanted Jesse and me to stay in the house until we were needed, so our guests wouldn’t see us until the proper time, to add surprise and awe. I asked Jeremy to put a movie in for the kids to hopefully keep them occupied while we waited. So an hour before my wedding, I sat in my brother’s living room, watching an Ice Age movie with my nieces and nephews. Thankfully, someone had thought to provide snacks for the kids. I had asked Jason to be Master of Ceremony, to keep things moving along on time and make sure people knew what they were supposed to be doing. He performed the task really well and effortlessly. Even so, while I sat on the piano bench, next to Jesse, watching the kids and the time, I kept thinking of the things people should know and make sure they had everything down. “No, no, it’s ok, everything is being taken care of,” I had to keep telling myself. From where I sat, I couldn’t tell if people were driving in. It is astounding how slow and how fast that last hour went. I was now starting to get nervous. Would it go smoothly? There’s going to be so many people watching me. Will people have fun and enjoy the wedding? Xavier, my three and a half year old nephew, kept handing pretzels to me; I ate a couple but didn’t really want any. When he wasn’t looking, Malachi took them and ate them for me. But then seeing my hands were empty, Xavier would give me more. The cutest thing while we waited, Xavier stuffed pretzels into his pants’ pocket – I wish I would have gotten a photo of that. Sylvia seemed to have the hardest time waiting, she and some of the other really little kids were running around; we had to scold them a few times. A few of them were restless while others were completely into the movie. My sisters were in and out of the living room, as was Haley. Either Johanna or Amber told me Teddie would help me get out the door when it was time. I told them politely that Michelle was already lined up to do it – another one of my mamas, and Phil’s wife. Jesse said he needed to go to the bathroom but then disappeared for awhile; I wondered where he went. I couldn’t help looking at the clock on the opposite wall; excitement and nervousness mounting. Jesse returned shortly before it was time to go out. Julia, not quite two, wouldn’t leave her sandals on her feet. So when it was time for the kids to head out, I ended up putting her sandals back on her. Jeremy had left before the kids, sneaking out while Julia was distracted. Jesse followed the kids out. 

For a few moments, I sat alone. This was it; we’re almost there! I basked in the last few moments of anticipation, like a turtle sunny itself on a log in early spring, until I became antsy.  Feeling anxious, antsy, and aware of activity happening that I couldn’t see; I moved from the living room into the kitchen and took a peek out the window. I couldn’t really see the processional, other than the guys waiting their turn. Presumably, Jason was lining up the kids to walk down the aisle, in groups of three or four. It felt strange to not be witnessing the kids walking down the aisle. (Perhaps I should have been looking out Jonathan’s bedroom window or the bathroom window on the west side of the house.) I moved away from the window and stood between the kitchen and dining room; excited and nervous. 

 

Amber and Johanna came into the house. There were still a few minutes before we were needed. Jesse should be escorting first his grandma and then each of my grandmas, one at a time, to their seats. Then setting roses on a chair for our deceased grandparents: his grandpa, Bill Polson and his grandma, Marcella Sawyer, and my grandpa Russ Mullin. (After Dad was no longer a part of the picture I had thought Grandpa Mullin would be the one to walk me down the aisle, I had been Grandpa’s little princess. He died nine years earlier, eleven days less than a year before Jesse and I began dating, in the living room where we had been waiting. I know he was there in attendance though, smiling proudly, and happy of my choice – he and Jesse would have gotten along well.) And a fourth rose for Lynn Holm, a pastor and former missionary, who mentored us, individually. He died a couple of years after Jesse and I started dating. He had come over to comfort me after Jesse and I had had a fight. Lynn saw something, obviously Jesse and I together, by the look in his eye, I could tell he saw something great and he said together Jesse and I were going to do great things. I clung to that many times whenever our relationship became shaky, rocky. Lynn watched too. Johanna pulled a chair out for me to sit on while I waited. Then she got me a drink of water because I had a tickle in my throat and was worried I wouldn’t be able to speak without coughing if I didn’t drink something. After laying down the roses, Jesse would escort his mom and then my mom. Moments after I returned the empty cup to Johanna, they disappeared back outside; it was their turn to walk down the aisle. Jesse must have completed his tasks and taken his place next to Phil, eagerly awaiting my entrance. But first, the bridal party had to walk down the aisle. Johanna and Ethan walked together leading the way. Next, Amber and Adam walked, starting when the other two were half way. Again, I couldn’t see any of this, just trusting it was happening.  

Michelle had slipped into the house when my sisters went out. These last moments seemed to take the longest. – Perhaps even more so because I couldn’t see what was happening. I stood up and went over by the door. Michelle already stood there, watching out the window. I was nervous, now. So many people. Thankfully, I wasn’t shaky; just a jumble of nerves and excitement. The last minute dragged on. My heart fluttered and my stomach did somersaults. Jason must have signaled to Michelle that they were ready for me. Aleesha and Daniel would be sauntering up the aisle, probably beaming, more than likely half way by now. This was it! The moment I have been hoping for and dreaming of for years! It finally arrived! Wow! Cue all the sappy love songs I adore and use to sing to myself, wondering what it would be like. This was it. A handsome and amazing man stood waiting for me at the end of a tunnel of people. I can’t recall who held the door open – must have been Jason? Larry waited for me at the bottom of the steps. I gripped my bouquet of flowers and stepped forward and down out of the house. Michelle held my skirts. 

How many weddings have I attended? Seven by the time I was eighteen; that I can recall. And fifteen since dating Jesse; yes, fifteen! Of these fifteen, at least ten of those couples began dating after Jesse and I had, some of them years after we started. I had witnessed twenty one bridal parties walk down the aisle; observed twenty one brides escorted by their fathers, eagerly glide down the aisle; faces aglow. For at least half of them, I fought back tears because those brides were escorted by their dads, and mine couldn’t be there. By the last five, I think I had mostly accepted that. But at every one of those fifteen, I struggled with the fact that it wasn’t mine; well less so with the last four, because by then Jesse had proposed. The last one we went to, I was making notes and thinking soon enough now it will be my turn. Strange, being at a wedding and not seeing the bridal party walk down the aisle nor the bride. Now after all these years and all those weddings, now it is finally my turn. Little girls dream of this moment, since the time they’re eight, perhaps even younger. My Barbie dolls had many weddings. I watched movies with weddings wondering what it would feel like. Jesse would tease me saying I just wanted to be married (there are plenty of girls who just want to be married) but I would reply if that was the case I would have left him years ago and found someone else who’d marry me quicker. But I wasn’t just wanting to be married – I wanted to marry Jesse. I wanted to know we’d always be together and I wanted our relationship to continue to grow and mature; we could only reach a certain point of growth and intimacy while we were just dating. Marriage keeps the relationship moving forward, growing more intimate and more loving. That’s what I wanted: A life with Jesse. (Even though my biological dad wasn’t there, his parents and all four of his siblings and spouses were; proudly and lovingly witnessing it. Each said they wouldn’t have missed it and each of those uncles have been like a father to me in the past eight years.)

I stepped down another step. Here we go. Two more steps down and I was on the ground and turned right. This was my big moment, and boy was I nervous! Look at all the people! Wait, don’t look at the people – look forward. Larry took my hand and tucked it through his arm, resting it in the crook of his arm and placed his right hand over the top of mine for a moment.  He looked at me, and asked, “Are you ready for this?” 

“Yes! I think I’m going to cry.” I looked past the tunnel of people, all those people waiting for me to walk to Jesse; he stood tall and handsome, so sure of this decision, ready for me to be his wife. Tears welled up in my eyes. I couldn’t really say why. But seeing him standing up there, waiting for me, as the groom, not an attendant at someone else’s wedding, I cried. It must have been simply because it was finally our turn. We’d battled to get to this point. There were so many times, weekly over the past eight years (well except for the past one), I had doubted this day would come. Many people doubted. And I stood by him, and at times people questioned my decision to do so. But I knew in my heart, beyond how I felt for him, that he was God’s choice for me. We were designed for one another. Perhaps that’s also why I cried, for doubting Jesse’s desire for me. And astonishment that he wanted me as his wife. I was literally moved to tears by his love for me. I only looked at him for a moment; I didn’t want the tears to spill down my face.  

Larry dropped his hand from mine and we stepped forward with Jason’s prompting. We passed under the arch (we were going to use it as a backdrop behind us but decided to use it as more of a gateway instead.) I avoided looking at the people gathered to witness the wedding, though several times I was tempted to look. Doing so would have heightened my anxiety. I had to speak in front of all these people; better not to look at them. Phil. He was safe; looking at him brought neither anxiety nor tears. Walking all over the farm in those shoes for photos was marvelous practice. I walked naturally, perhaps not quite gliding but at the very least not clumsy, graceless and no tripping or rolling an ankle, my usual walk while wearing heels. The angels must have been helping me to float along. I zoned out the audience, barely aware they were there.  

Larry and I arrived at the front, reaching Jesse and Phil, surrounded by our bridal party. Larry had also been trying not to cry. All those years I was saddened by the thought my dad wouldn’t be able to walk me down the aisle, and yet here I was with Larry, not my biological father but my real daddy; he had just lovingly and proudly walked me down the aisle. He has consistently been a huge part of my life for eighteen years. Fittingly, he wore his hair in a ponytail today; my first memory of him is that ponytail, him sitting in our farm kitchen with a bunch of farmers. Dad hasn’t been a part of my life for sixteen years; meaning Larry has been in my life for four more years than my Dad had. David had forfeited the privilege of being my daddy. Sadly, other than a fleeting thought, wondering if he knew I was getting married today, early in the morning, I didn’t think about him. Which was actually a very good thing; I didn’t need or want anything to cast gloom on my happiest day. Larry embraced me in a long, firm hug before letting me go. He then turned to Jesse and hugged him, a handshake alone wouldn’t do. Again, I had to battle back a flood of tears. This was happening. Right now, for real; no longer just a fantasy in my daydreams. (Thankfully, I had had no night time dreams about the wedding because they probably would have heaped on the anxiety.) Here, Jesse and I stood, opposite each other, with a pastor in between. – I couldn’t believe it, and yet here we were. How humbled and blessed we were to have two hundred people who love us witness our union. That fact also made tears spring to my eyes. These people loved and cared so much for us that they weren’t going to miss our wedding. A cousin of mine had forgotten to RSVP, less than a week before, she sent me a message, practically begging to come to the ceremony at least, saying they could leave before the reception, or not eat, all because she wanted to be a part of the celebration of us marrying. I was deeply moved by this. I told her, we’d love to have them and staying for the reception was not a problem, we had lots of food.  

Our choice in pastor, of half a dozen pastors dear to us, was because Phil had, according to my memory, always been a part of my life, since I was three years old. He had watched me grow up, as he said, “From a terrified teenager, with good reason, to a beautiful, confident woman,” – I, myself, wouldn’t describe me as confident but I have come a long way. I am another one of his daughters. He knows about all the painful things that happened to our family, including rejection from other pastors and church people. Instead of judging us or fleeing, he hurt for us, prayed and loved us. Although we go long times without seeing him, sometimes years, it feels like no time goes by, other than having to catch up on what’s been going on. The other reason why I chose Phil was because he could perform a God honoring ceremony without being preachy nor making non-church going guests and family uncomfortable. His wife, Michelle, is also a pastor and is like another mama to me and could have done the same thing but some people may have been uncomfortable with a woman pastor. Also, Phil needed it. Years ago, he performed the ceremony for Mom and her ex-husband. The marriage didn’t last long and went badly. Mom’s ex was an abusive man, mostly emotional but also physical sometimes and threatened to kill her a few times. It was the last wedding Phil had performed because he felt guilty for not paying attention or not seeing the red flags; but the man had everyone fooled and Phil was no way at fault. We also chose Phil because premarital counseling with him wouldn’t be churchy; biblical but not churchy. Our non-church friends that had been around for all the weekend activities were impressed by Phil and Michelle – they’re real and loving, no preaching and no judging, and they drank wine. Michelle is Mom’s best female friend. I was a baby when she became a part of our lives, less than 3 months old. She loves sharing her first time meeting me – I sat perched on Mom’s lap, tremendous amount of hair, petite, cute, round nose. She said I was a little who baby (a Dr. Suess reference). The first baby she ever liked and loved. Yep, she was a proud mama, watching me get married, for I was her first baby. I am so thankful she and Phil were able to come and to be such a huge part of my wedding. They weren’t the only non-biological family present that had known me or Jesse, or in the case of some both of us since we were babies – we are so blessed to have so many “moms” and “dads”.  

Phil greeted everyone. Starting with how beautiful a day we were given for this, exactly what we had asked for. (Mom and I prayed constantly for fantastic weather, starting a year in advance.) Then he said, “Like the day Bethany was born – a beautiful, perfect summer day, not too hot, not too cold, not humid and not windy”. After the greeting he said a prayer and then everyone sang two hymns, “Be Thou My Vision” and “Come Thou Fount”, led by our dear friends, Doug and Lynelle, who also played for my entrance. We should have just done the one song to keep the ceremony shorter but Jesse really wanted to sing them both – I paid attention to the things he actually had an opinion on for the wedding. I wanted a God honoring wedding that wasn’t preachy. The songs finished, Phil gave a message. He shared that he had the most confidence in Jesse and I out of all the couples he’s worked with that we’ll make it. He mentioned the benefits of getting married at an older age. He read the verse Colossians 3:12 – 14. Mostly he talked about love. Otherwise I can’t remember what he said. I glanced up at Jesse a few times but nearly cried each time, so I mostly looked at Phil. I started to take a glimpse at the guests watching but stopped before seeing them, it would only increase my nerves even more. Phil, being Phil, spoke longer than the five minutes I had given him. 

Now it was time for Jesse to sing a solo, one of my favorite things about the day. The inspiration came from our friends, Becky and Freddy’s wedding, the year before. Freddy sang a solo and it was beautiful and powerful. I asked Jesse if he would do the same, but he didn’t want to because he hasn’t been classically trained like Freddy. I tried again, saying he should sing “Be Thou My Vision”. But I got nowhere. So I prayed he’d change his mind. In February, Jesse went to visit Daniel for a few days. He came back wanting to sing “If I stand” by Rich Mullins, a far more complicated piece than the hymn I had in mind. But it was a powerful choice in song. Figuring out accompaniment for it was challenging, we barely made it work. Daniel couldn’t play it for us because he didn’t have access to a piano to learn it. Johanna tried very hard to learn it but with having a traumatic brain injury she really struggled. However, she found an accompaniment track for us and that’s what we ended up using. Beyond close family members, we didn’t tell people he was going to sing because we weren’t sure if it would work out. We’d discussed where Jesse should stand and look when he sang. I told him he definitely didn’t want to look at me since that would make him more nervous. The best place for him to stand was off to the side, where Doug and Lynelle had been playing the processional music and hymns. So Jesse took the microphone from Phil and walked over to the music stand to sing. I had to turn around to see him. With everyone’s eyes on him, I could look at him freely; they may not notice me tearing up. This was far more than just Jesse singing. For one thing the song he chose is a powerful song. He sang for me but he also sang because he has a passion for it; he is always singing. He was worried it was a weird thing, wondered if it was romantic. Daniel assured him it wasn’t weird and although he wasn’t singing a love song, it was romantic. But as I said, it was more than all that. I had known Jesse years before we had started dating. – He was Anna’s older brother, a college student whom all the youth kids flocked to in the summer months. As those kids also went off to college, most of them moved on, they only came back to visit. Suddenly there weren’t many of us left that were in that age group. I thought Jesse just started hanging out with Isaiah and I because he took pity on us, we sat alone at church, and because his friends weren’t in the area. Of course everyone else who took notice, knew that wasn’t why he sat with us in church and started to take me to movies. The thought of him being anything more than just a friend wasn’t even there; nice, fun, smart, but just a friend. Plus, he was just being nice, no way was he interested in me. However, he persisted. He lost the college chub, let his hair grow (summer buzz cuts were the thing before), and began changing from a boy to a man. I hadn’t thought of him as being physically attractive, although he obviously had (has) an attractive personality,everyone, even older adults, are drawn to him. I enjoyed his friendship. But two things changed my mind and started a crush for him. He sat next to me in church and sang along during worship service. Whoa! That voice! I hadn’t heard any boy, young man, around my age sing so beautifully, not even in choir. Everyone appreciates a good singer, or should, but that wasn’t all. I had a list, as I’m sure most girls do, of the things I was looking for in a man whom I’d want to marry. I wanted a man who could sing beautifully. I knew it wasn’t an important thing, not like kind-hearted, hardworking, responsible, great sense of humor, and the like, but it was something I deeply desired, and prayed for. Along with an intellectual country boy, a reader, and nice biceps, yes, he had to have muscle, but muscle that came from hard (productive) work not a gym. So it was his singing that first had me falling for him. The second thing was him asking me if he could come into my house after we had been at a movie to see a baby lamb and then held it. So having him sing at our wedding was huge. His voice was a little shaky from nerves, and not quite as powerful as the singing I enjoy when we’re alone or he sings to the cows, but it was so beautiful all the same. I admired him singing a solo in front of so many people, friends and family, people he’ll see again and have to interact with forever. Tears almost flowed. Yes, it was romantic. Ben accidently started his music too soon which made Jesse even more nervous, but he did well. Then a gust of wind came up and blew his lyric pages. “Oh no,” I thought, in the instant it happened, wondering if it would mess him up. He gracefully caught one sheet, while somehow not stumbling a bit with his singing. Another sheet floated to the ground. Should someone pick it up for him? Or should we leave it and not make it look worse? No one did move to pick it up, and Jesse kept singing, keeping it together like nothing happened. And then he was done. Our guests applauded appreciatively. He returned to his place, opposite of me, bringing the microphone back to Phil. After I turned, Aleesha straightened out my skirts.  

Now came perhaps the scariest moment for me, the vows. I would have to speak in front of all these people. Yikes! And Phil just told everyone I’d be saying them first. Please, God, don’t let me mess up. The microphone was in my hand. Jesse put the paper with our vows in the other. Don’t mess up. Don’t mess up. I tend to even stumble over even little words like “the” when I read aloud with people listening. I totally blocked out the people watching. I almost looked up at Jesse, wanted to, but couldn’t. I was so afraid of making a mistake or losing my place, I kept my eyes on the paper. Ok, done. Had my voice begun to shake? I’m not sure, but any longer and it definitely would have. I eagerly gave the mic back to Phil and the paper to Jesse. Thank goodness that part was over – and I didn’t stumble or mess up. Phil gave the mic to Jesse. I looked into his face as he read his vows to me. Again tears threatened but I held them back. This man does truly love, cherish, treasure and adore me; and he’s been looking forward to this day as much as I have. He is totally confident in the decision he has made and is making. Wow. I am humbled when I look into those loving eyes. He wasn’t having to look at the paper as much as I did. He looked at me. Almost there. Phil took over the mic again, as we exchanged rings and repeated after him. Again, I went first. I’d given my bouquet to Aleesha for the vows, now I turned to her for Jesse’s ring, which she’d put on her thumb and I was easily able to remove and slide on to Jesse’s finger with much happiness and satisfaction. Almost there. Then it was Jesse’s turn, repeating after Phil. Then taking the ring from Daniel, he slipped it on to my finger. We weren’t quite done yet though. I’d asked Pastor Gordon, a beloved pillar of love and strength for me over the past fourteen years, with ties to all four of the guys (our three groomsmen were elated Gordon was there), to pray a blessing over our marriage. Gordon had been a huge encouragement in the last couple of weeks (he told me, “You are special. You are loved. You are a blessing.” – I had desperately needed to hear this.) Phil and our whole bridal party gathered in close and laid hands on us. Gordon was in tears as he spoke a few words about us and then prayed over us. Nearly moving me to tears. He knew all the hurt and pain I had suffered through to reach this time of blessing, and here he was speaking of his love for us, believing Jesse and I will glorify God through our union and marriage. The prayer spoken, each of us returned to our spots, the big moment had arrived – the pronouncement of marriage. But instead of “I pronounce you Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Polson,” Phil said the wrong last name. We corrected him and he tried again but still had it wrong. Third time’s the charm, he got it right (Phil has a hard time with names anyway; but poor man, he had practiced it several times.) With that he told Jesse he could kiss the bride. And he did, sweeping me into his arms, one hand on my back, the other on my waist, he pulled me close. My left arm around his neck, my right hand, holding the flowers, rested on his arm. In spite of being shy about kissing me in front of people, he really kissed me. He went all out, even dipping me a little. Applause and cheers erupted throughout the guests. They had been impatiently waiting for this moment for many years, too. And just like that, we were married; husband and wife. The whole thing was absolutely stunning. I couldn’t believe it, we’re married now. Such joy! All of that work and build up, the ceremony was the shortest part of the whole affair – from figuring out my ring to us kissing in front of everyone.  It had finally happened. (Handel’s Messiah Hallelujah Chorus would have been appropriate at this point – Mom and I had thought about it and our friends would have gotten a kick out of it, but Jesse said no.)  

Everyone stood for the recessional. Johanna and Ethan led the way, then Amber and Adam, followed by Aleesha and Daniel. My heart overflowed with joy. And it spread all over my face – by the way, my smile was one of the first things that really caught Jesse’s attention, setting it all in motion fourteen years ago, while we held glass board in place and his dad secured it, in Mom’s milkhouse. We did it! Jesse had taken my hand in his as soon as he’d stopped kissing me. Not until Aleesha and Daniel walked under the arbor, did we start to make our exit, we were to have the aisle to ourselves. Walking down that aisle, we soared. Those moments truly are the happiest and most wonderful, and yet somehow even more glorious ones will follow. I wish we could have paused, that the wedding could have lasted, well perhaps not forever but longer. We did it. We’re married. Now it was alright to look at people, although I didn’t really see them. We walked together, hand in hand, under the arbor, husband and wife. If only I could describe how I felt. 

We’d no sooner walked under the arbor and Adam had his arm around Jesse’s shoulders, making a joke about being the brothers whatever Phil said instead of Polson. And Daniel put his hand on my waist, Jesse and I still holding hands, the four of us stood in an intimate circle, for a few moments before others walked up the aisle. I felt relaxed, the scariest part was over. (Also, I felt like a princess in the dress.) It was so fun and awesome to finally have my day.  

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