Kesley Colbert

If I had only known back then…

The first wedding I ever attended was in 1962. I was fifteen. And about the only thing I remember was there must have been a bad storm….or the church hadn’t paid its electric bill. It was pretty dark in the sanctuary, and this was in the middle of the afternoon!

The day was saved when some enterprising people at the church put up a bunch of candles all over the place. They had a whole row of them flickering behind the preacher and along behind where the bridesmaids and groomsmen were standing.

I don’t remember much talking. And the preacher did most of it. Leon and Paula repeated a few lines after him at one point, they both said, “I do” and he pronounced them “husband and wife.”

It didn’t take as long as I thought it was going to.

I went to a wedding in Nashville once where they had some white birds in a cage. It was the dangdest thing you ever saw! I for sure didn’t hear a word anybody said at this one. I kept whispering to the people around me, “When are they going to let them birds loose!”

Cathy, thankfully, didn’t demand any white birds at our wedding. We did have a few candles. And for some reason one of them wasn’t lit. Cathy solved that with the same ease and grace with which she does everything. Right in the middle of the ceremony she motioned for me to pick up a candle and light the one not burning.

Because she knew me so well, she grabbed another candle and helped in case I couldn’t handle that simple chore.

Reverend Clark was a fast talker. And he didn’t speak extra loud. I was extremely nervous about that part where I had to repeat after him. And I didn’t know what to do when we faced each other, joined hands and some guy sang a 23 minute song as we stood there, fairly awkwardly I thought….while every single person in the overflowing crowd stared at us!

I was so relieved when he got down to “by the power invested in me…”

Cathy’s younger sister put on the best wedding I’ve ever attended. She had a live band. And when she started down the aisle, Lefty Wiggleton and the boys broke into an old Bob Wills song, “Roly Poly.” I’m telling you, it brought the house down!

And the hog jowls and chitlins they served afterward really hit the spot.

This may come as a surprise to you; I don’t know a whole lot about weddings. The ones I have attended over the years most always involved someone that I knew pretty well. I was proud, and happy, for them. And I was always pulling for them not miss any or those “repeat after me” lines.

I used to rate weddings simply by the brevity of it….and the quality of the spread afterwards. And I tried to ooh and aah appropriately as the newlyweds passed by. After all, it is their day, not mine or yours!

The last three nuptials I’ve witnessed have sent me in another direction. In each of these recent ceremonies, the blissful couples haven’t done much “repeating after me.” They brought their own vows, either written down or memorized.

They mostly started with “the moment I first saw you” and ended with words like “joy, love, forever and always.”

It was actually a brilliant idea. Their own vows! Individually tailored to each specific union! Unique and important and special to the moment…and to the lifetime to follow!

I left each wedding slapping myself in the head, “Why didn’t I think of that back in June of 1974!”

Boy howdy, I would have done some more vowing! I had Cathy right in front of me, with a room full of witnesses. I would have, of course, started by recalling all the good times we had shared and the wonderful prospects of things to come….

And then I could “word” my way around to insisting she would agree to make cornbread “till death do us part” just exactly like Grandmother Kennedy made it! We could have settled on a decent number of old clocks I could have in the house at any one time. We could have (officially) made chocolate the mandatory family dessert.

We would have designated the St. Louis Cardinals “our” baseball team. I would be allowed to name one child, chew tobacco in the house and have at least one hound dog on the porch.  

The possibilities were endless. And I let it slip right through my fingers. You live and learn….

Or you marry someone like Cathy, who has quietly over the years made all of my “vow-thinking” things come true….except maybe that part about Granny’s cornbread…..

Forever Yours,