(When we last left our fearless hero, he’d just gotten back from giving a tour of the cathedral for his wedding guests…)

I shaved, very deliberately.  I normally shift into an almost automatic mode shaving, thinking about other stuff.  What’s to be done that day, etc.  This time I paid careful attention to every stroke.  I had been shaving only in one direction for the last week so as not to irritate my skin.  I remembered my brother’s wedding when I’d forgotten my razor, been forced to borrow a one blade disposable from the front desk, and looked like I’d shaved with a piece of rusty glass.  I used a new Mach 3 and shaved very deliberately.  ‘This has to be the best shave of your life,’ I was thinking.

I nicked myself only once, and with a bit of TP it cleared up.

I struggled into my Action Undershirt.  I tried on the disco ball light up boxers that Adam and Amy had given me the night before at the Rehearsal Dinner.  I figured they wouldn’t fit under the suit pants, but it actually worked fine.  On went the sock garters.  On went the custom shirt, the amazing bespoke suit, the fantastic tie.  In went the contacts.  I was aware of every move as I got dressed.  I was slightly surreal.  I was aware that at 206 the bridal snacks had arrived and everyone was having fun getting ready.  I almost regretted not having had my groomsmen assemble somewhere to go over together.  But many of them have kids.  We don’t have a vehicle large enough to transport everyone.  It would have been too much trouble.

I actually don’t remember rolling through the lobby of the JW in my wedding suit, but I remember looking at the fall foliage driving up to the Cathedral.  It was gorgeous, even under the slate gray sky.  I remember thinking that everything seemed more vivid, that little details seemed clearer and sharper.

I parked on South Road, not as close as I’d been before, and walked into the Cathedral.  The first person I saw was Bill Holland, the photographer.  He said, “Anne’s with your bride and she’s not here yet, so you’re good.”  I rolled into the slype.  Julie’s Nana and mom were there.  Other people were milling around.  I saw Stanley Utterback the verger, and asked him if he’d gotten the marriage license I’d left, since it wasn’t there now.  “Oh yeah,” he said, “I found that first thing and was wondering who their guardian angel was.”  I’m my OWN guardian angel.  I also asked him if he’d seen the camera and he said, “Oh, that’s YOURS!” Relief flooded through me and I instantly called my dad to let him know it’d been found.

More and more people were milling around the slype.  There was a sense of anticipation and energy.  I was almost giddy with anticipation.  One of the bridesmaids had brought the snacks from 206 to the slype and I fell on the brownies and other goodies.  Sara informed me that there were at least twice as many trays back at 206.

Bill Holland came up and told me that Julie was en route, and that I needed to make myself scarce from the slype so she could come in and get dressed without seeing me.  He asked where I’d be.  I hummed and hemmed and said, “Uh, Children’s Chapel.  I guess.”  Of course I was texted for something or called away to handle something else, and walked towards the Narthex when I saw an extraordinarily pregnant Fay coming down the aisle.  I greeted her and tore onward.  I was trying to get the details of how Annie would get up to the Triforium.  I recruited one of my fellow docents (Carol Dwyer) to take her up and down afterwards.

Brad showed up.  First thing he said was, “Don’t worry, I’ve got the rings.”

Guests were beginning to arrive and were milling around.  Bill grabbed me, and told me to head out to the north porch to wait for Julie.

He and I were out there, handing out.  I felt good, relaxed, eager.  This feels faster writing it down than it did at the time.  I felt like I was milking everything out of every moment.

I asked Brad how he handled his ‘first sight.’  He told me that he of course used humor as a defense mechanism, to the point that Bill Holland told him to “stop mugging for the camera.”

I remember asking if I was going to get my buttonaire before the First Sight pictures.  I’d heard someone say they had arrived.  Bill said not to worry about it, they’d take care of it.

Then it was time for Julie to come out.  I stood on the lower steps with my back to her.  She came around, and we could hear each other talking before we saw each other. We chuckled and cracked jokes and said, “Now? Is it time yet?”  I said, “I feel oddly like Orpheus.”  Julie said, “Better that than Lot’s Wife.”  I remember thinking that we were so witty and literary.   Then Bill and Anne told us to turn around. 

It was stunning.  A revelation.  She was magnificent.  I don’t know what I’d expected, but not this.  Julie is always amazingly, gobsmackingly beautiful.  I’ll catch a glimpse of her out of the corner of my eye as she sleeps, or makes dinner, or something else, and be amazed at how incredible she looks.  But this was something else.  She was transcendently radiant, amazing and perfect.  Her hair was up and her makeup emphasized her luminously gorgeous eyes.  The diamond necklace around her neck sparkled.

We were both stunned and overwhelmed.  We were choked up, tearing up, not quite sobbing, but completely and totally into each other.  I heard the clicking of cameras as if from a great distance. 

The next 15 minutes or so seemed to last a lifetime.  We took tons of pictures, and Julie kept trying to make sure that the Hollands got the foliage in the background.  But mostly I remember that we were so incredibly, transcendently happy and into each other that nothing at all mattered.  I didn’t care whether we got the camera to Elizabeth to take video.  I didn’t care that it was now raining, and HEAVILY.  The weather didn’t matter.  Nothing mattered but this incredible woman who was going to spend her life with me. 
 
All the pictures of us at this moment show us trying desperately to maintain our composure or failing to do so and just breaking down in blubbery messes.  We kept saying goofy things.  Julie said, “Your suit looks so good!  And your shoes are so shiny!”  I launched into a rambling story about how I couldn’t find shoe polish. 
 
I related Brad’s story about how they’d asked him to stop mugging.  Bill said, “Actually, try mugging a bit.”  I did a goofy thing with the fan on my head.  That shot’s going into the album.
 
As we snapped away, the weather went from cloudy to drizzly to POURING.  We were under the cover of the Woman’s Porch, but the rain was beginning to drive in sideways.  And we kept trying to get shots where Julie would stand up on a bench with the cathedral behind her, but it was too slippery on the stone so we had to forego it.  We ran down to the stairs to the Garth, and they took some pictures with Anne holding the powerful light.

At some point, we finally fled the rain and went back inside, but this is a complete blur to me.  All I remember is how into Julie I was, and how I felt like we were both wrapped in a cloak of invincibility and awesomeness.  Everything was right and nothing could go wrong.

Inside, we were handling the last few details.  I was bustling around trying to make sure that all the mothers got their correct abanico.  Julie told me that she’d given them to Amy Rothman to hand out.  Rothman, who didn’t know a Helen from a Judy, had given them to the appropriate groomsmen.  I retrieved them and handed them to the correct people. Or rather people who would hand them to the correct people.  I gave Elizabeth a hurried, impromptu lesson on the camera.  Someone assured me that the fans were in the hands of the correct people.

I was in the slype when someone said, “Your photographer needs to talk to you.”  I headed out and found Annie with Carol Dwyer, the docent who was going to take her up to the triforium.  We figured out that she’d thought the triforium meant the orchestra walk over the choir stalls, and quickly Bill and I decided to scrap the idea of Anne taking processional pictures from the Triforium, so she didn’t have to scurry down and scurry back up the stairs to the top of the stalls.

Things were accelerating.  I looked over and saw Mel and Greg looking unsure as to whether they were allowed to cross the platform to the choir.  I caught their eye and gestured wildly that they should just walk on up.

I looked up and saw a groomsman escorting a grandmother up the platform and into the choir.  Someone said, “Shouldn’t you be up at the mid nave?”  Oh crap, I said, you’re right! I realized that the Mussorgsky had started playing.   I ran up and took my place.  The groomsmen had already processed.  Steve and the verger with the incense were waiting as was Brad.  I exchanged a few chuckles, shook Steve’s hand, and looked around.  Stanly Utterback was sending people down the aisle evenly spaced.  I looked at Brad and said, “OK, time to get married!”  I jumped up and down a couple times, and did the neck stretches left and right.  Stanley watched amused as he sent the incense verger and Steve down the aisle.”Go”  Then Brad. “Go” I said to Stanley, “Maybe I should just sashay down the aisle,” and did my best Ministry of Silly Walks slide.  Stanley lost it.  He started laughing and said, “Just go,” shaking his head with laughter and gestured with his verge.

And I went.

I looked around, trying to take in every detail through my pores.  I was determined not to let this moment fly by in a blur as so many had warned us it would.  I was peripherally aware of the tourists in sweatshirts lounging in the chairs of the nave around us, but it didn’t bother me in the slightest.  This was MY cathedral.  We filled this space and made it our own.  It was our home.

I was walking down the nave and realized that I was so eager that I was hurrying, and had gained on Brad.  I thought to myself, slow down, don’t rush this, this might be the greatest moment of your life.  I slowed a bit.  The Mussorgsky was PERFECT!  It was so awesome on the organ.  It was echoing through the space and filling it with an awesome sound.   The smoke from the incense was in my nose.  My skin was almost tingling I was so electrically excited. 

I stepped up onto the platform and Erik Suter hit the stirring crescendo of the Mussorgsky promenade.  GODDAMN, I thought, this was perfect.  I was concentrating so much on keeping my good posture that I realized halfway down the choir that I didn’t need to keep a grave expression.  I allowed myself to break out in the huge beaming smile that I felt.  The faces of everyone who had come there for us, for me and Julie, were just a blur.  I couldn’t pick anyone out.  My groomsmen were there at the communion rail, lined up, and Steve was waiting for us.  I stepped forward, did the half turn.  Brad reached over and shook my hand.

I was now looking back down the whole length of the Cathedral, watching the haze from the incense rise in front of the Rose Window.

Brad leaned over to me and said, “You’ve got the Joker Grin.” 
 
I said, “I know, can you blame me?”

Just as I turned, the first of the bridesmaids stepped into the choir.  Erik Suter shifted from the Mussorgsky to the Aaron Copeland.  Now, I’d been a bit…not nervous, quite, but we’d HEARD the Mussorgsky on the organ.  We knew it was going to work if not how awesome it would be on the huge organ in the cathedral.  But we hadn’t heard the Copeland.  No one had.  It’d never been PLAYED on the organ before.  Suter had to arrange it himself.  So there was a possibility it wouldn’t quite work, at least in my paranoid mind.

But BOY did it ever work.  Oh.  MY. GODDD!!!!

The first strains started and I had that swelling in my heart I get when Roy Hobbs hits a home run at the end of The Natural.  And it just grew.  And grew.  The bridesmaids came down the aisle.  All were gorgeous.  All carried themselves with confidence, striding through the space resolutely, knowing that they OWNED it.  The abanicos looked AWESOME in front of the dresses.  I found myself wondering why everyone doesn’t use abanicos instead of bouquets. 

The music was swelling, and it was so awesome I had to clench my jaw to keep from losing it.  I watched as the bridesmaids came up to the front.  I remember watching Trish come right up in front of Steve, whom she of course knew, and walk the little circle curve to her spot that we’d been shown in the rehearsal. 

And then Julie appeared.  And the music swelled.  It rose and grew to a crescendo.  She stepped up into the choir and everyone rose to their feet.

And I gave up trying to maintain my composure. The waterworks started in earnest.  The Copeland was AMAZING.  It was delicate, yet powerful.  This was the first time it had been played on the organ and it was spectacular.

As was Julie.  I’d seen her in the dress as it was being fitted.  Just a bit earlier I’d seen her out on the north porch.  But here she was with the rose window behind her, the wisps of incense smoke still hanging in the air, walking down the aisle of Our Cathdral.  She carried her fan and was so ethereally beautiful that any attempts to maintain a façade of strength vanished.
 
(At this precise moment, every single eye in the Cathedral was on Julie as she stepped into the Choir.  I took the opportunity to surreptitiously wipe my eyes , now brimming with tears, when I figured no one was watching.  Of course it turned out that Bill Holland was BEHIND Julie and snapped a picture at that exact moment.)

When she got halfway down the aisle of the choir, she too abandoned the efforts to maintain a serene and aloof visage and threw her head back and grinned from ear to ear, almost guffawing she was so happy.

She came up to the top of the communion rail, and I took her hand, and we turned to face the vicar.  My heart was so full I felt like bursting.  I was overwhelmed with pride, with amazement, and most of all with love for this woman.  I felt like I was flying.  I was giddy.

Vicar Steve began the service.  When he said, “If anyone knows any reason, speak now or forever hold your peace,” Julie comically craned her neck around to see if anyone was going to say anything.

 Steve moved into his homily.  It was about the conversion to humanity.  It was touching, eloquent, and perfect.  Yet I couldn’t pay full attention.  The whole universe had narrowed for me.  It was just me and Julie, paradoxically alone while surrounded by all our family and friends and at the center of their attention.  Steve’s sermon sounded like it was coming from miles away, though he was right next to us. I’d never understood how athletes and rockstars say that they can just tune out the crowd, but now I understand. 
 
We turned for the readings.  Melinda went first, followed by Rachel.  They both knocked it out of the park.  We’d spent so long choreographing this service and fussing over every little detail that by now everything felt like an old friend.  Rachel said later that she was so nervous that she stumbled over the word “effulgence,” but neither of us noticed.
 
After the readings, the organ swelled and Chris Dudly rose to sing.  The intro to the Quam Delicta went on FAR longer than expected and people began to get a little confused.   They looked around expectantly, wondering if they were supposed to be singing or something.  They spotted Chris standing and holding a portfolio, and assumed that he was about to so something, but the intro kept GOING and he stood there stonyfaced.  FINALLY he began to sing.  It was, as we’d expected, perfect and soaring.
As we planned out the flow of the ceremony, we’d introduced a wrinkle that had surprised the luminaries at Cathedral a bit.  We wanted the actual vows and blessing of the marriage to take place at the midpoint of the choir, rather than up at the high altar.  This would put us dead center of all our guest and ensure that they wouldn’t have to crane their necks.  It also brought us physically much CLOSER.  It worked perfectly.  Just as rehearsed, Steve headed down to the middle of the choir, followed by me and Julie.  The bridesmaids flowed along beautifully in Julie’s wake, but I turned around and realized my groomsmen were hesitating a bit.  I gave the faintest head gesture forward and the lurched into motion behind me. 
 
We got up to the midpoint.  Elianna unobtrusively straightened Julie’s veil.
 
Steve asked for the rings, and extended his binder.  Brad, as we’d rehearsed, plunked them right down.
 
Steve blessed the rings.  As he did so I looked around me, trying to soak in every detail.  I looked straight up at the top of the pipe organ, marvelling at everything.  At one point Julie grabbed the hankerchief out of my pocked and dabbed at her eyes.  She went to put it back but I intercepted her, used it to dab my own, and then put it back.
 
And then we repeated after him.  In the rehearsal the only slipup came when I almost put Julie’s ring on her right hand.  So I made damn sure I got the correct hand this time.  And I remembered my brother’s wedding a mere month before, when the ring hadn’t gone on and Aimee had had to whisper to him sotto voce, “twist it…twist it…”  So the ring was practically spinning in my hand as I slid it onto Julie’s finger.
 
I’d always chuckled inwardly at grooms whose voices crack or who have to whisper their vows because they’re overcome with emotion.  I’d said for YEARS, since long before I met Julie, that I would let my vows ring out in a clear loud voice, shouting it to the mountaintops.  But now that we were here, I was so overcome that my emotion threatened to unman me.  I spoke them, did not stumble, did not whisper or mew them, but there was a distinct catch in my throat.  It was not the barbaric yalp that I’d imagined.
 
Julie, however, was bellowing her vows declaratively and affirmatively, holding my hands up and speaking her ceremonial declarations with a fierce triumph.  She threw back her head as she spoke the word “Husband,” as if to say, “YES!  THIS is what it means and what it has always been supposed to mean.”
 
Steve pronounced us man and wife, and there was a triumphant round of applause.  We kissed, joyfully.  I remember Steve saying in rehearsal or in one of our planning sessions that some couples just give each other a chaste peck, and that we should really take advantage of the opportunity and kiss the hell out of each other.  OK, not his words exactly.
 
So we snogged.  We gave it a good long time.  Julie seemed to be trying to swallow me up, which at the time I thought touching.  She told me later that all my emotion and weeping had allowed a big snotsicle to migrate down into my moustache, and she was, um, clearing it away for me.
 
There was no moment where I thought, “Zap!  Now I’m married!”  We’ve felt de facto married for almost a year now, but now we were de jure as well.  I felt an overwhelming sense of elation and happiness, concentrated on Julie holding my hand.  I felt like we were in a golden haze of awesome.
 
We moved up to the Altar.  Julie and I took our places on the kneeler, while Steve went up to the Altar.  There was a brief moment of concern.  When we’d rehearsed this, Julie hadn’t been wearing the wedding dress.  We weren’t entirely sure she’d be able to kneel in something tailored so tightly through the legs, or if she’d be able to get up afterwards.  We’d discussed it and decided that I could help her up and down if necessary, and if she couldn’t kneel we’d just stand.  But she was able to kneel with no problem.  Hell, at this point she could have run a marathon and I could have lifted the Cathedral.  We were that energized by the magic that surrounded us.  Behind us, the pop up prayers started.  Our friends that we’d tapped to read the blessings on the marriage stood up and one by one read out the lines we’d given them.  What I hadn’t anticipated was that since we were kneeling up at the front, we couldn’t SEE them.  It was odd to be slightly disconnected, but we didn’t care.  We put our foreheads together and leaned in close, and once again the universe narrowed and there was only us.
 
After the blessing by Steve, was a hymn set to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.  We couldn’t sing it because we had no hymnals in front of us.  We could hear the half-hearted attempts to soldier through from behind us, but no one really knew the hymn.  But as we’d planned, the Ode to Joy on the magnificent Aeolian Skinner pipe organ swallowed everything.
 
And truly, Julie and I were so happy that it could have been Tiny Tim warbling “Tiptoe through the Tulips” and it wouldn’t have mattered.  But the Ode to Joy leaping out of the throats of 10,450 pipes was the purest invokation of our mood that I could have imagined.
 
Steve gave us communion.  It was the first time I’d actually taken a sip from the cup, since it’s normally high octane wine.  This time it was grape juice.  After our communion, we walked back and took our places where the briedsmaids had been sitting and watched the guests come up for communion. 
 
My sister leaned over the intervening 4 bridesmaids and said, “DREW!  Get ahold of yourself!  You’re crying like a baby!” 
 
“No,” I retorted, “I’m crying like a little girl.  The difference is huge.” 
(to be continued)
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