Fun fact: I’ve attended over 200 weddings in my life. ?
Back when I was working as a full-time musician, I used to spend my weekends working as a wedding singer. Which means that I have sat through soooo many wedding ceremonies. And ha, feel like I have seen just about everything imaginable in a wedding ceremony. And for all those years, always used to dream about someday planning a wedding ceremony of my own.
So when Barclay and I got engaged last Christmas, and spent the following Saturday afternoon all snuggled up on the couch, dreaming together about what our day might look like, one of the first things we discussed was how important it was to us both to have a meaningful ceremony. We wanted a ceremony that felt holy and deeply real, that was full of awesome music and readings, that wove in everyone gathered there, and that felt uniquely personal, like “us”. So over the coming months — in collaboration with Barclay’s dad, who did an amazing job as our minister — we nixed all of the traditional “shoulds” and started from scratch to design a liturgical service that would provide the foundation for our marriage.
And the result was a beautiful moment in time that we will remember for the rest of our lives.
Here’s a little glimpse into our ceremony…
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post about our wedding day, our ceremony and reception took place in the great hall at Union Station, our historic train station in Kansas City. It’s long been one of Barclay’s and my favorite places in KC, with its sweeping architecture, great exhibits, yummy coffee shop (Barclay would be remiss if I didn’t mention that), and iconic place in the heart of our city’s history.
So with our wedding having a bit of a travel theme, it seemed like the perfect place to host our big day and kick off the adventure of our marriage. Plus, we both really loved the idea of being in a space large enough to fit the wedding and reception so that there was no downtime in between. (Efficiency is kind of one of my favorite things. ?) And we really loved the idea of being able to ride the streetcar back to our place afterwards.
So the second they had an opening, we knew it was the place for us.
The other great news about Union Station was that minimal decor would be needed, since the space was already so lovely on its own.
So Barclay’s mom, Jen, created some sweet little bouquets to tie on chairs, which were absolutely perfect. (Stay tuned tomorrow to see her gorgeous work with the reception centerpieces!)
Then our amazing group of friends were the ones to thank for bringing to life the vision I had in my head of a million paper airplanes flying behind us. I absolutely loved this backdrop! We had a paper airplane party one evening to fold all of the little planes, and then spray-painted them with some gold sparklies. Then our engineer friend, Toby, rigged some posts to hold everything up, and Cass and Peter finished off the project by stringing a zillion paper airplanes between the posts and setting everything up the day of the wedding. It was exactly what we wanted and made us so happy when we finally saw it in person.
Thanks Jen and friends! ?
Then came the best part — actually seeing all of those 350 chairs fill up with our family and friends for our ceremony. By the time everyone had arrived, the room was buzzing with energy. So many wonderful people…all in one place!
One of those very special guests, by the way, was my grandma (the beautiful lady above in the light green). She passed away two weeks after our wedding, but it meant the world to us that she was able to be there for our wedding that day, sitting there with a smile in the front row. She absolutely adored Barclay, and loved getting to spend time with him whenever we went home to Wichita. And I remember that when I was all teary and emotional after our rehearsal dinner, and made some offhand apology to her about being such a weepy mess ?, she patted my hand and looked me in the eye said , “That’s alright, dear, that’s alright. That’s exactly how you’re supposed to be right now. ?”
Man, I miss her.
As everyone continued to gather, our friend Calvin filled the room with the beautiful prelude music.
Then around 6pm, it was finally time to begin. Barclay’s dad, Howard, got all mic-ed up and ready to go. Then the rest of the band joined Calvin in place to begin.
Although I’d like to point out that this wasn’t just any band. ?
Music was hands-down one of the most important elements of the wedding for both Barclay and I. And — having each spent 7 years working as full-time musicians — we’ve been privileged to play with some of the most amazing musicians in the city. And even better — to come to count them as good friends. So we were thrilled when each of the lovely friends above, all from various seasons of our lives, agreed to come together to form our little wedding band for the day.
And I was especially happy when my longtime friend, Kenny, agreed to sing the song that I had dreamed of walking down the aisle to — “You Have Me” by Gungor. That song absolutely undoes me every time I hear it. And has felt extra meaningful ever since meeting Barclay. So when Barc insisted early on that he wanted me to choose the processional song for our wedding, there was no question in my mind that this was the one.
That said, it was one thing to choose the song. It was completely another to actually hear it live, performed so beautifully by such dear friends, with Kenny’s familiar soulful voice filling that huge room and Barclay standing at the end of the aisle. I just couldn’t believe the goodness of that moment.
That said, the moment was bittersweet. Because as we were waiting backstage with our family ready to walk down the aisle, my back was still on fire with pain. ?
I’d been trying to keep a brave face for the past few hours. But as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, my chronic back problems decided to flare up while we were taking photos about an hour before the ceremony began. And they only slightly seemed to be alleviating by the time the ceremony was to begin. I was trying to stay positive and focus on everything else at hand. But when things got still and quiet before the ceremony, and we we were all waiting backstage to walk in, everything I’d been holding in came to the surface. And I felt crushed that my body was letting me down in such an important moment.
But…c’est la vie with this back of mine. It is what it is, and it just happened to be a hot mess that particular night. And I could tell that it wasn’t going to rebound and feel much better anytime soon. So in the quiet backstage just before the ceremony began, I gave the sadness and frustration their moments. And then, moved on, and resolved to just roll with whatever came.
There one by one, everyone left, and my dad and I watched them go down the aisle. ? ? ?
As you can see, our parents all looked radiant. And my sister, Sarah, and Barclay’s brother, Dooz, rocked it as our two-some wedding party.
Then, oh my goodness, there was our sweet flower girl, 3-year-old Lincoln.
A few days before the wedding, Lincoln’s mom — our friend, Lindsey — had texted us the most adorable video little Linc pacing down the long hallway in her house with her big fluffy white Easter bunny basket, tossing candy out left and right, diligently practicing for her role as our flower girl. So you’d better believe that she showed up ready to go on game day. ?
And within seconds of starting her walk down that aisle that night, I’m pretty sure she stole every single heart in the room. Sooooo cute.
Once she reached the finish line, Barclay greeted Linc with her favorite yellow lollipop. And then she surprised him by going in for the cutest big hug. Heart = melted.
“I did it!”
Next…it was our turn. ?
Once the bridge of the song began, my dad looked at me and told me for the thousandth time that he loves me “more than I’ll ever know”. And together, we started down the aisle towards Barclay with that chorus ringing over and over in our ears.
“You have me.
You have me.
You have my heart completely.
You have me.
You have me.
You have my heart completely.”
I remember feeling like it the most natural thing in the world to be standing up there beside him.
No nerves. No distractions. Just deep, quieting peace.
And thus, our distinguished minister for the day — Barclay’s dad — began the ceremony.
When Barclay and I very first started dreaming about our wedding and wondered who might officiate the ceremony, Howard was the first to come to mind. He’s one of our favorite people in the world, and has been a tremendous source of encouragement and love and support over the course of our relationship. And — it just so happens that two of his favorite conversation topics in life are faith and love (he’s quite the matchmaker!), two key ingredients for a wedding ceremony. ?
Anyway, when we first asked him to officiate, he was a bit reluctant. But thankfully, he quickly warmed to the idea. And then over the coming months, he completely blew us away with the care and time and heart he poured into preparing the ceremony.
He based the ceremony on The Episcopal Book Of Prayer (the New Zealand edition, of course), incorporating in some elements from the various other traditions, and weaving in quotes from some favorite authors (such as Martin Buber and George Elliot) and lots of reflections on our story thus far. It was all so him and so us…and so moving.
Oh, and Barclay’s dad is also from New Zealand. So when you read everything below, imagine it with the extra touch of a delightful Kiwi accent. ?
After an opening prayer, the service began with one of my favorite moments of the evening — all four of our parents gathering around to give us a Celtic blessing, followed by lots of hugs. It read:
As Spring unfolds the dream of the earth,
May you bring each other’s hearts to birth.
As Summer sun warms the dear world’s face,
May your words for each other be touched with grace.
As Autumn leaves gather the day’s bright color,
May forgiveness bring you back to each other.
As jeweled light shines from Winter’s drifts,
May you welcome each other’s hidden gifts.
As the star lies gently in the new moon’s breast,
May your home be a place of peaceful rest.
Inspired by those who made compassion their call
May you be partners in seeking justice for all.
And many years hence, may you say it’s true,
In a hundred life-times, I’d still choose you.
Afterwards, we had three different readings — one by Auntie Cec (Barclay’s awesome aunt whom we stayed with — and completely fell in love with — while we were attending the Martin family reunion in New Zealand last year), one by Barclay’s coworkers Judith (who flew in from Colombia for the wedding as a surprise, and read in Spanish) and Dora (who’s also Barc’s Spanish teacher on lunch breaks here in KC, and translated in English), and one by our friends Maureen and Toby (two of our favorites who have been such special friends to Barclay and I together).
On Marriage | Kahlil Gibran
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
Excerpts From Sonnet 53 | Pablo Neruda
Here are the bread—the wine—the table—the house:
a man’s needs, and a woman’s, and a life’s.
Peace whirled through and settled in this place:
the common fire burned, to make this light.
Hail to your two hands, which fly and make
their white creations, the singing and the food:
salve! the wholesomeness of your busy feet;
viva! the ballerina who dances with the broom.
they are this respite, your blood in mine,
this path, starry and blue as the night,
this never-ending simple tenderness.
Song Of Solomon 2:8-10, 8:6-7
My beloved speaks and says to me:
‘Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;
for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtle dove
is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away.’
Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm;
for love is strong as death,
passion fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
a raging flame.
Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it.
If one offered for love
all the wealth of one’s house,
it would be utterly scorned.
So, arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;
for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come.
So lovely. Then it came time for our vows.
Initially, we had planned to do both traditional vows and write our own vows. But after giving it some more thought, we decided to save writing our own until we renew our vows on our 10-year anniversary, once we know a thing or two about marriage. And in the meantime, lean on the wisdom of the long line of those who have gone before us with traditional vows. (I also really loved the idea of having traditional vows so that we could be reminded of our own each time we hear them said at another wedding. ?)
We chose to use vows from the Quaker tradition, because of their courageous commitment over the centuries to the work of peace and social justice. And I loved hearing Barclay’s confident voice speak each one, as his kind gaze never wavered from my eyes.
Then exchanged rings — mine from my great-grandmother Ali, and Barclay’s made from New Zealand kauri wood.
And listened as our three friends — Lindsey, Sara and Sarah — sang “Trinity Song” by Sandra McCracken as a prayer. It was so moving, and so beautiful.
And then came the moment I feel like I’ve been hoping for my entire life.
“Since Barclay and Ali have given themselves to each other with vows and have declared their marriage by joining hands and by the giving and receiving of rings, we are ready to make the proclamation of marriage…”
…but get this. Instead of making the proclamation himself, Howard insisted that this was something the community should do all together.
So on his cue, all 350 of our friends and family said together in unison, with their voices ringing throughour that huge hall:
“We now pronounce you husband and wife!”
? ? ?
AND WE WERE MARRIED!!!
Oh yeah, that’s my husband right there! ?
Instantly the room was filled with the sound of friends’ drums, which literally followed us and got louder and louder and louder with each step…
…and then they erupted into “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”…
…and the party officially began!
For now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
and the time of singing has come.
(Stay tuned tomorrow for photos and stories from our reception!)