A Report On A Wedding
I have known Amanda as long as I’ve known my wife, because they have known each other all their lives. It is late July, a Saturday evening at Seal Beach, California, and within the hour Amanda will marry George.
We have traveled 6,000 miles in the past week, and not in our best clothes. But a beach wedding is a casual affair. Noodle, more a Kiwi kid than not anymore – he has spent nearly half his life in New Zealand – runs barefoot in and out of the River’s Edge Café with Rachel, Amanda’s third of four. He is smitten; could be the other way around though. Long story short, Amanda restarted her life last year, and she and the four kids are the happiest I’ve seen them since I’ve known them. That’s enough endorsement for me.
The sun is making its way to the horizon, pinking up the sky off the blue orange ocean. The outline of kites on the point crisps up as the sun sets. Across the beach are bikes and barbecues and frisbees and sandals and blankets and kids making sand castles at the edge of the tide. It’s about as close to a perfect summer night as I’ve seen in Southern California.
Having lived overseas for a while now, I hadn’t yet met George in person. All I knew of him was through social media: videos of him teaching a very excited little boy to ride a bike, stories of a surreptitious plan to build a kid a birthday guitar right under his nose. Can you imagine working together on an enviably awesome instrument, finishing it off, and casually noting, “By the way, this is yours.” That’s a gift wrapped in love right there, signed and sealed by a good man.
The pre-ceremony shuffle included meeting and shaking a few new nervous hands, hugs all around since we hadn’t seen one another in a year and a half. Noodle bounced around behind the scenes, touching everything, especially the gift table. “Are these for me?” What wrapped box isn’t a featured treat for a three year old?
The father of the bride is wildly white haired, distinguished, a strong fisherman with his stories paraphrased on his beaming grin – and I’d hear a few before the night was out. He is handsome and relaxed, a perfect compliment to his daughter, his pride and hers reflecting one another.
Amanda stands at the ready. The bridal party begins a ten yard walk from behind the band setup to the beachfront platform at the end of the deck. The little girls threw flowers, the little boys held rings. Amanda and her dad stepped out from under the covered staging area and I saw her in the sunlight for the first time.
She is electrified. She is tall, hair the color of a pony falls across her shoulders from under her veil. Her eyes are the color of the surf, and I watch them fixate on George. She is nearly there – to the future of her dreams. She looks as she is: articulate, sweet, a reservoir of compassion and love for her children, for her life, for all this and the universe that has blessed her with it.
George and Amanda stand face to face, the orange sunset lighting her as a portrait. I cannot believe this is not posed – not a moving picture whose director will yell “Cut!” if a bird flies into the frame or a kid yelps out of turn. None of this happens though; Kubrick, Lynch, Scorsese would dream of this kind of effortlessly real scene. On a still evening she would have been the most beautiful creature on the coast, but in the evening breeze, her hair slightly swept off her face, revealing her full profile against the sand and surf – she is the most beautiful creature in God’s creation.
I wish I could say I remember the words of the ceremony, but I was too engrossed to write them down. The only words I managed to record were: “Love always perseveres.” And in this moment I think: if these words are true, then this beauty is God’s love expressed in human form, persevering. I have no other explanation.
As part of the ceremony, the couple sang a song together. George began playing a gold-pegged Fender, strumming, confident, creating space for Amanda’s voice. She held a small bouquet of yellow flowers, clasped in both hands across her chest. The wind blew her veil gently so that we could watch the words sung through her glistening lips express her own perseverance.
George joined, his voice soaring, and I can nearly hear him say, “by the way, this is yours.” We shout and sing about love when we mean it most. This is a most-meant moment.
Their voices joined in harmony, and I realize this is only the beginning of their duet. Her skin shines golden as she tips her head to the advancing sunset, kites on the horizon, castles in the sand, families expressing themselves everywhere, all around.
The ceremony finishes with vows. George and Amanda bow their heads and close their eyes. It’s a serious exchange, a coming together of families, of promises, of dreams woken to reality. Amanda looks into her bouquet, still clutching it to her chest, the color of tomorrow. I catch George peeking up at Amanda. He is a prince who has awakened his love and re-ignited hers. They are together in this vast and confusing creation, brought to one another by some form of fate, perhaps, or some form of providence. But we all got here, in this moment, for some reason, and that’s probably beyond any understanding we can muster. I’m content to let something so complex be simply out of my hands.
I sit here, humbled at the scene, the setting, the actors, the director who steered George and Amanda’s lives to the same track. I am awestruck. Lost for more words.
So if you’ll excuse me, George’s band is about about play and Amanda’s got to catch up on some overdue dancing.