“Anything is possible." "You really believe that?" "It's what the great love stories are about, right? Beating the odds.” ― Richard Castle
Peeking out of my bedroom window on the second floor, I scanned the guests seated in neat rows of white rental chairs on the grassy courtyard below. Many of them were fidgeting, glancing sideways, and looking back over their shoulders. Already ten minutes behind schedule, the minister, Laura, was nowhere to be seen.
A forty-nine-year-old-bride-to-be, I was sequestered in my condo, obeying the orders of my family and friends who insisted that Bill, my fiancé, not see me before the wedding ceremony. My obedience was payback for years of unending support during a painful divorce, years of loneliness, and the trauma of middle-aged dating. They encouraged me to give Bill a chance when I was afraid to trust my heart again.
I looked at Bill standing in a huddle with his brother and mine and I wondered if they might be working out an alternative game plan since the minister was missing, but the bubbling fountains in the ponds nearby made it impossible to hear.
The Memorial Day weekend weather had not arrived on time either. The gardens were muddy and brown. Daffodils and tulips had refused to emerge and the large oaks, instead of lush and green, stood naked. I had hoped for the fragrance of lilacs, not the odor of damp earth.
I walked away from the window, splashed more floral perfume on my neck and grabbed my cosmetic mirror. Holding it a few inches from my face, I checked for signs of breakfast lodged between my teeth and examined my eyes for wandering mascara. So far, so good, but my throat was tight and my eyes were beginning to water.
“Dear Lord,” I prayed. “Please don’t let me cry.” I imagined the embarrassment of my children and the disappointment of our guests if this ceremony fell apart.
I also thought of a comment made by a notoriously pessimistic man at a yard party a few years earlier. “Barbara, I hate to tell you this, but statistics aren’t in your favor. At your age, your chances of finding love and getting married again are about as likely as being struck by lightning.” Now, the sky, ominously dark, 60% chance of thunderstorms seeming all too certain, and no minister in sight, I wondered if the man was right.
The wind grew stronger. Guests pulled up their jacket hoods and opened their umbrellas as it began to sprinkle. The temperature dropped to forty-eight degrees. My off-the-shoulder wedding gown, selected under loving peer pressure, no longer seemed a good choice. My arms were sprouting goose bumps.
I heard a voice in the crowd shouting, “Any of you licensed to officiate Barb and Bill’s wedding?” I waited for a response and heard nothing.
I sighed and pulled at one of my fingernails, ready to rip it right off, only to remember that my friends had gifted me with polished acrylics that were tough and resistant. Even my hair was styled to withstand destruction: a French braid, held firmly in place with a dozen hairpins and a thick coat of hairspray.
A friend’s previous advice now fortified me as well. “Remember, Barbara, when it comes to weddings, don’t be surprised if you experience a glitch. Just consider it something that makes your wedding memorable and unique.”
A small patch of blue appeared in the clouds. The pearls Mom had loaned me were bringing me a bit of luck. I hiked up my dress and headed to the courtyard where my parents and our wedding attendants, my two sons and Bill’s two daughters, greeted me.
The disc jockey began to play Pachelbel’s Canon and, as practiced, our children trudged in pairs through the wet grass toward Bill who had now been waiting for over 20 minutes. Bill’s ten-year daughter, Monica, marched down the grassy aisle carrying a wicker basket of red rose petals. She whipped fistfuls of them at the crowd as if they were hand grenades. I envied her opportunity to release a little tension.
I followed a few yards behind, arm in arm with my parents, moving slowly with the music, trying to buy time for the missing minister. I glanced at the guests and imagined a myriad of mournful thoughts going through their minds: “Poor woman… What a shame… How embarrassing for her… She must be freezing in that dress!”
I looked at Mom and Dad for assurance. Their smiles bolstered my morale.
Suddenly, the calm of Pachelbel was drowned out by loud, ragtime music blasting the promise of sweet delights from an ice cream truck. One of our ushers jumped up from his seat and flagged down the innocent driver.
I giggled and looked at Bill, now only a few yards away. The grin on his face and the look in his eyes revealed the same amusement I had observed only the day before during our wedding rehearsal. At the last minute, the minister said she had a conflict and was unable to rehearse with us. She said there was no need to worry since the ceremony would be relatively simple. We practiced without her, using the programs we had printed for the service as our script. Our friend, Ron, had stood in for the minister. Bill and I praised Ron, insisting that he had missed his calling.
Realizing that our rehearsal might be all we needed to pull this wedding off, I kissed my mom and dad, turned around, faced the guests and said, “I don’t know if this is legal, but Bill and I are going to marry ourselves.” Ron left his seat and assumed the minister’s position. My parents nodded in approval.
The guests reacted with nervous laughter while the wedding party huddled together once more and agreed on the plan. The ceremony readings were cut short and the musical interlude was omitted. The “I do’s” our guests had waited so long to hear, were drowned out by the roar of a jet taking off from the nearby airport, punctuated by a clap of thunder.
With the onset of rain, our disc jockey, a wise and merciful man, started up the recessional music. With guests following in quick pursuit, Bill and I sprinted for cover under the nearby wedding tent.
Before our guests could congratulate us, my brother informed Bill and me that the official minister, Laura, was waiting for us inside the condo. She apologized that she had written down the wrong time, but said we must repeat our vows in order for our wedding to be legal. Bill and I quietly slipped away unnoticed and were married for a second time on our condo balcony witnessed only by the minister and our two brothers.
Love isn’t predictable, neat and tidy, nor is it limited by age. As for getting married twice in one day, how’s that for beating the odds?