Last year this day, I married the best person I know.
We got married in Gatlinburg, TN, at a small wedding chapel up a one-lane winding road on the side of a mountain. We decided to have it there because it was a fairly convenient place for both of our families, and the chapel would take care of all the arrangements.
We drove in a couple of days before, through Sevierville and Pigeon Forge, and stopped in Pigeon Forge to get the license. If you’ve ever been in that area, you know: Driving through Pigeon Forge on the main highway is like driving through Main Street at Disney World with 50,000 other people driving as well. Or maybe just Myrtle Beach. It’s a sensory overload experience, so we were quite surprised to turn off of the highway at the license office and discover that Pigeon Forge is also a very small, quiet town nestled a block behind the garish facades of theaters, amusement parks, and motels.
When we got into the license office, we were there with a few other couples. They ask how many previous marriages you have had, and the couple ahead of us came up with a number high enough so that you wondered why they were taking another chance. However, on a day like that, everything seems a little more romantic. (“Awh, they’re trying it one more time!”) What we got stuck on was the question of the number of years of education. I had the immediate problem of whether they wanted the real number of years, or the number of years to show what you had accomplished.
We rented Black Bear Lodge, which was large enough for both families and stayed there for a couple of days before the wedding, hanging out and exploring downtown Gatlinburg. We also ran errands. It was cheaper to get flowers at a local shop, so we got them and put them in the refrigerator for the next day. There was much foosball and rejoicing.
The morning of the wedding, I was nervous, and I’m not sure why. We’d been living together for years, and I didn’t have any problem with the commitment, but I think I was just nervous about the ceremony. I’m not big on people paying that much attention to me. The nice thing about being with family at a moment like that is that everyone knows to leave you alone beforehand, though. Lorrie and my mom conspired to make sure I ate breakfast.
Lorrie’s longtime friend Shelly sat with me while Lorrie got ready to head to the chapel, and we watched I Dream of Jeannie. I don’t remember which episode. Probably the one where Jeannie got Tony in trouble with her magic and lack of understanding of the Space Age world.
We went up to the chapel in separate cars. I was waiting to drive my mom up there, and she was running as late as she usually does. As we were rushing out the door, however, she says, “Did you remember the flowers?”
My immediate thought: “We’re going to be late to my own wedding and she wants to talk about flowers? Move!”
My second thought: “Oh, geez, the flowers!”
My third thought, while in the refrigerator: “Hmm, that food looks good…Oh, flowers, that’s what I’m here for.”
The flowers got to the chapel safely, despite my bad memory, and at least one was pinned to me and more were given to Lorrie in bouquet form, and they made it through the ceremony with little concern on their part.
When we got to the chapel, we were taken to separate dressing rooms, since the groom obviously shouldn’t see the bride in her dress beforehand. Of course, the rooms were right across the hall from each other, so we talked back and forth the entire time. That settled me down more than anything. That was also when I discovered that, despite my best efforts, the bright blue shirt I was wearing turned a very dark blue when touched by nervous perspiration. (Plus, it was actually kind of warm for Gatlinburg in April.) There were many fans in the room, however, for handling the many reasons people need moving air before a wedding, so that helped.
We were supposed to talk to the local minister before the ceremony. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the talk consisted of telling me where to stand, what would happen when, that he would tell us during the ceremony what to do, and was I ready to go?
Okay, so we head over to the chapel. We walk in, he motions to where I should stand, Lorrie is ushered in immediately rather than a minute later, and the minister grabs my shoulders and moves me to the correct bride-greeting position. That all happened in the course of about 20 seconds. Then I watch the most beautiful woman in the world walk up the aisle.
After that, it’s kind of a blur. I remember holding hands, and looking into her eyes, and repeating vows that were agreeable and important — yet I was so entranced by the moment I probably would have agreed to give up my firstborn if the minister had said to repeat it after him. The cool thing is, when it happens to you, you’re not alone. Lorrie and I were living in that moment, sharing our life, and maybe that’s what the whole wedding ceremony part is actually about.
The whole ceremony lasted about 8 minutes, but there were so many things happening that the stories filled up hours. My mom was my best man, so I had her holding the ring. She didn’t want to be up in front of everyone, though — I came by it naturally — so when I needed the ring I felt it go into my hand as I was turning to see where she was, and she was already back in her seat. We also discovered that unity candles are easier to light than we thought, but hard to keep from falling over and setting the place on fire. That sort of story.
Afterward, we went to a local restaurant and had a nice local lunch, heard Lorrie’s dad tell a hilariously odd story about the time the Gypsies came to Wooster and lost a pig, and just generally felt like one big family.
So, then we went back to the lodge, dropped off the big family, and headed off on our own. We went over to Pigeon Forge, where we had rented another cabin, had dinner at The Old Mill, shopped at Food City — The Food Experts — for groceries, and thus equipped with lodging and food, started our life as a married couple.
I can’t think of a better way, and it has been a great year. Thank you, Lorrie. 🙂