Giving our daughters hand in marriage was new ground for me. Those of you who know me know that I am not one who defines manhood by the ability to withhold ones emotions. I cry! 98% of the time I cry because of deep joy and/or beauty. I knew that if I was going to make it through walking Jessica down the aisle to an expectant Micah and then officiate the wedding, without being a blubbering mess of tears and snot, I had to make a plan. If I didn't maintain composure during the wedding it would take the attention off of Jesus Christ and the two people who the day was about - Micah and Jessica.
The plan! I would get all the crying out of me during the month leading up to the wedding so I would be steeled to emotional responses. For other Fathers out there facing this -- here are some of the details of the plan.
Stories - Vicki and I recalled and listed all the stories we could about Jessica's life. We talked about the hope for a daughter after having two sons and the astonishment when we found out (at birth) that we had a baby girl. We talked about our hopes and dreams for her. Childhood stories - funny and sweet things she did. Trips we had taken. Challenges that we faced and worked through. We talked about how she couldn't walk through a room without skipping, doing a cartwheel or a flip. We talked about the first love letter she received from a boy and how it crushed her that I found out. We relived her spiritual development and her heart of passion for those less fortunate. I was reminded by Vicki how Jessica has always had me wrapped around her finger and still does (example - the week before the wedding - "hey daddy, wouldn't it be great if we both went and had massages this week. I really need one." Yes, of course, she got her way). We remembered the beginning of her relationship with Micah. The way the courtship progressed. How much we had come to love Micah and felt that he was perfect for her. I thought about all the times I prayed for Jessica to be protected from the wrong guys but mostly the years I prayed for Micah (Jessica's future husband) before I even knew who he was. Lots of stories and the years flew by. Many of these stories we told and relived with Jessica. I had many personal moments in the car or during times of contemplation when I thought about my little girl who was now a beautiful woman and my heart was so thankful. Yes, lots of tears. This plan was working.
Songs - Jessica asked me to think of an appropriate song for her and I to dance to at the reception. I have an amazing playlist now of Father/Daughter songs. Lots of tears here too. I made a CD for Jessica to listen to. I finally decided on I Loved Her First by Heartland.
Events - We planned several things that enabled us to celebrate Jessica and tell her stories. Vicki and I had our last date with her a couple nights before she got married. We took her to Ruth's Chris Steak for a great meal and another chance to let her know how proud we were of her. Jessica has lived closer to school, in our Condo for the last couple of years, so during the last week she stayed at home with us. We have a King bed so Jessica insisted on sleeping in our room which was great for talking before falling asleep but not so good for Vicki trapped in the middle with hot flashes throughout the night. The night before the wedding Jessica's bride's maids along with Anne, our daughter-in-law piled in our bed, Micah, our son, on the floor, while Vicki and I curled up in the love seat so that we could watch one of Jessica's favorite movies Father of the Bride. Of course I was made fun of by all the girls who think that George Banks is me. Thank God that Vicki is the strong "Nina Banks" type of woman. I also get compared to Clarke in Christmas Vacation.
Rehearsal Dinner - During the day Jessica had to rebuke me from being hyper/stressed out and reminded me through her tears that she wanted me to "chill out." She was right. I was freaking out. I recovered and the rehearsal went really well. My heart exploded with a rush of adrenaline when the doors of the Sanctuary were thrown open with the musical crescendo cue as we rehearsed, for the first time, the walk down the aisle. Yes, I cried all the way down the aisle. At the rehearsal dinner we had a time where family and friends told stories and communicated how they felt about Micah and Jessica. This lasted for nearly an hour but seemed like twenty minutes. Yes, lots of love and tears (of joy).
The Wedding Day - Throughout this beautiful day I choke back emotion. Jessica is so beautiful. One of the coolest parts of the day was how joyful Jessica and Micah were. A real highlight was Micah and Jessica, breaking with tradition to greet the guests at the door as they arrived. This was surprising to many but clearly communicated that Micah and Jessica were thrilled with their presence on this special day. I was so proud of them (Ok, I'm in tears right now reliving that moment).
The Wedding - The church was packed with friends and family. My heart was pounding. Vicki looked beautiful. I got choked up watching Micah (our son - yes we now have two sons named Micah) and Daniel walk their mother down the aisle and kiss her before she was seated). Lexi (our three year old granddaughter) the flower girl and Soren Leafblad, and ring-bearer, walk down the aisle perfectly. I think about how Jessica looked identical to Lexi 20 years ago at my sister's wedding. It didn't seem that long ago and I thought about how quickly Lexi is growing up. I'm thinking, "I can do this." "I will remain composed." The doors swung open and we were off. A magical, enchanted moment. I'm a blessed man. My dear friend and pastor, Tim Keel, performing one of his last pastoral functions before he leaves Kansas City to teach in Auckland, New Zealand asks, "Who gives this woman to be wedded to this man?" After the pass off, I take the role of Priest. The ceremony was a mix of traditional liturgy with a Celtic influence and quite poetic. The sharing of the Eucharist was sacred and beautiful. I had discerned a theme of hands in the development of the ceremony and ended with something I found and tweaked a bit to fit Micah and Jessica. (See Hands of the Bride and Groom below). Once again Jessica and Micah were so full of joy during the wedding. People commented that they were sure they would steal a kiss with each other before the Wedding Kiss. Several times during the ceremony I felt the lump growing in my heart and throat. I needed the strategic pause a couple of times. I welled up with emotion again and again BUT, I made it. I kept my composure and I know, for sure, several who lost money because of it. You know who you are and I'm sorry you lost the bet. It was truly a beautiful ceremony that honored Jesus Christ and focused on Micah and Jessica's vow to a covenant relationship forever.
Wedding Reception - One thing the King Family is good at is throwing a party. Around 450 guests gathered at the Youthfront Auditorium for a wonderful evening of celebration. Vicki and Jessica headed up a team that created a very enchanted environment for a night of good food, good drink, good music and great fun. It couldn't have been more perfect. Jessica was having the time of her life. Dancing, laughing and celebrating life. My friend Jess Elmquist, who drove in from Minneapolis pointed out to me one of the inspiring moments of the evening - Jessica was bent down speaking to five totally enthralled little girls who were fully focused on her princess-like appearance. There was our Jessica making a memory for these girls, burning an image in their minds of the good things that God will bring to a life committed to love and Jesus Christ.
The Honeymoon - Vicki and I picked up the newlyweds the next morning and took them to the airport for a flight bound for Waikiki in Honolulu, Hawaii. We have taken Jessica there several times and we couldn't be happier that she was now going there with Micah, her new husband. God has answered our prayers, beyond our capacity to hope, for a godly man for Jessica. Micah has grown up involved in Youthfront and is now the Director of Youthfront Camp South. Micah is a beautiful human being. We are blessed.
Today, Micah and Jessica return home and tonight we will gather with family and friends to eat and watch them open their wedding presents. I'm giddy with excitement to see them and hear their honeymoon stories. What a life. Jesus said, "I have come that you might have life to the full."
of the Bride and Groom
Jessica, please face Micah, and hold his hands, palms up, so you may see the gift that they are to you. Jessica, these are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and vibrant with love, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as he promises to love you all the days of his life. These are the hands that will work along side yours, as together you build your future, as you laugh and cry, as you share your innermost secrets and dreams. These are the hands you will place with expectant joy against your stomach, until he too, feels his child stir within you. These are the hands that look so large and strong, yet will be so gentle as he holds your baby for the first time. These are the hands that will work long hours for you and your new family. These are that hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, for a lifetime of happiness. These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes: tears of sorrow and tears of joy. These are the hands that will comfort you in illness, and hold you when fear or grief wrack your mind. These are the hands that will tenderly lift your chin and brush your cheek as they raise your face to look into his eyes: eyes that are filled completely with his overwhelming love and desire for you.
Micah, please hold Jessica’s hands, palms up, where you may see the gift that they are to you. Micah, these are the hands of your best friend, smooth, young and carefree, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as she pledges her love and commitment to you all the days of her life. These are the hands that will hold each child in tender love, soothing them through illness and hurt, supporting and encouraging them along the way, and knowing when it is time to let go. These are the hands that will massage tension from you neck and back in the evenings after you’ve both had a long hard day. These are the hands that will hold you tight as you struggle through difficult times. These are the hands that will comfort you when you are sick, or console you when you are grieving. They are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, for a lifetime of happiness. These are the hands that will hold you in joy and excitement and hope, each time she tells you that you are to have another child, that together you have created a new life. These are the hands that will give you support as she encourages you to chase down your dreams.
Prayer of Blessing: God, bless these hands that you see before you this day. May they always be held by one another. Give them the strength to hold on during the storms of stress and the dark of disillusionment. Keep them tender and gentle as they nurture each other in their wondrous love. Help these hands to continue building a relationship founded in your grace, rich in caring, and devoted in reaching for your perfection. May Micah and Jessica see their four hands as healer, protector, shelter and guide. We ask this in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.