When you’ve been in a bridal party, sometimes you look forward to attending as an ordinary guest. So, when my brother Ricky was getting married a year after our wedding, John and I loved the idea of simply showing up.
Since we wouldn’t have anything to do, we offered to take on a few simple tasks. John set up traffic cones outside the church to save a spot for the limousine. I made sure the flowers had been delivered – and scrambled a bit when I couldn’t find the bouquet to dedicate to the Blessed Mother. Problem solved, we settled in for the Mass, which was beautiful. At the reception, we slipped into our seats and started chatting with the other guests. This was the way to attend a wedding as newlyweds, I thought. What a wonderful, relaxing day!
Just minutes after our food arrived, however, my mother was at my shoulder, whispering into my ear. The suit my brother was planning to change into for his “going-away outfit” had been left at the hotel. Could John and I drive back – 45 minutes each way – to get it and bring it to the reception site?
There was only one answer. We ate quickly, hurried to the car, started the trek to the hotel, found the right room, pulled the suit out of the closet, and raced back to the reception.
As we returned to the ballroom, feeling triumphant and ready to enjoy the rest of the party, I saw one of my aunts. She was dabbing her eyes, visibly moved.
“Did you hear the bride’s speech?” she said. “It was so beautiful how she thanked her father.”
Naturally, I hadn’t heard the speech – or any other speeches. John and I had missed quite a bit. But we had arrived in time for ice cream sundaes, and we settled in to enjoy the rest of the celebration. Just minutes later, however, one of my brother’s friends was at my side.
He had to catch a train from the train station that was 45 minutes away. It was leaving in … 45 minutes. Could we give him a ride?
John and I exchanged glances.
“There’s no gas left in the car,” he said, “so we’ll have to stop at the gas station on the way.”
My cousin and her husband also needed a ride to the train station, so we all piled in and hit the road, swinging through the gas station, and sailing back down the highway. We pulled in just in time, unloaded luggage from the trunk, and laughed together as we said our goodbyes. Just as if we were in a movie, the train horn blared as we pulled away.
As we returned to our hotel room, we realized that the day had been completely different from what we had expected. Still, few experiences turn out the way you plan. We so rarely know what will be asked of us on any given day. All we can really do is accept each task as it’s placed in front of us.
As we walk through these dark days of winter and begin our Lenten journey, we do not know what each day will bring. But we step forward with faith and hope, finding strength and courage in knowing that God will accompany and support us for whatever lies ahead.
As St. Zélie Martin said, “The good Lord does not do things by halves. He always gives what we need. Let us then carry on bravely!”
Fifteen years later, John and I still laugh about the wedding reception we hardly attended – and the adventures we went on instead. In many ways, though, the day was richer and more special than if we had been there to participate in the scheduled wedding activities. There are plenty of pictures of those – and stories we’ve heard about what we missed.
And we did get to enjoy those ice cream sundaes.
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