Well, it has come and gone. Mandy is now a married woman, and we are all adjusting to life on the other side of the wedding.
Rehearsal took place on Thursday at the church. We did a run-through of the ceremony, which went well, and then headed over to the restaurant for the rehearsal dinner. Everyone was given options of what they could order, and we enjoyed the meal and some dessert samplers. Then came the speeches. A few people, including myself, gave speeches, and Ben then gave gifts to his groomsmen. After that, everyone scattered. Bethany G. spent the night with us, and we did a little "Just Dance 4" on the wii.
The next morning, we woke up and began the last preparations. One of the girls who volunteered to do the bridesmaids' hair came over and did prep on our hair to make sure it wouldn't be frizzy. Then I went off to college (I had originally intended to skip class that day, but unfortunately jury duty summons prevented that from happening). After class, I joined Mandy and Bethany G., and we drove up to the church. Here, for the next several hours, the bride, her bridesmaids, the ring bearer, the flower girls, and the bell ringers prepped themselves. We had two makeup artists and two girls doing hair, and I was happy with the way mine turned out. Everyone looked beautiful, especially the bride. Then the photographer and her sister/assistant took pictures of the bridal party and, when the groom's party was ready, of them too.
Mandy and Ben had decided months ago that Ben would not see her before the wedding. So, an hour or so before the ceremony, Ben was blindfolded and was led in to talk to Mandy. They talked for a few minutes before they returned to the rooms. Then began the waiting period. Everyone was ready, but we all wished that the ceremony would start soon, especially when we still had two hours to go until it happened. It seemed like forever before we were finally told to leave the room and get into position. The church happened to have a screen that we hid behind in the hall, and we hid behind it until everyone had been seated.
Then the processional began. Everything went well. Our youngest flower girl grew fussy and did not go down, but our shy ringbearer made it down with his father's help, which was a great relief. Then the room went quiet. The music began to play, and everyone stood up as Mandy entered the room on Dad's arm. I turned to see Ben's response at his first look, but my emotions got the better of me so I didn't look again.
The ceremony went well. Bethany G. and I divided up maid of honor duties so that she held the ring and I held Mandy's bouquet (which was quite heavy... or at least it seemed that way to me). I grew teary-eyed at several points during the ceremony, but Mandy was calm and collected, speaking loudly and clearly (and in one instance, in a strong Southern accent) so that everyone could hear her. The two took their vows, exchanged rings, kissed, and then were pronounced "Mr. and Mrs" before walking back up the aisle. As soon as I had returned up the aisle and was in the narthex, the tears that I had been holding back all throughout the ceremony were unleashed; thankfully, the best man and Brittny B. were there to let me cry on their shoulders. Once I had collected myself and touched up on my makeup, then the party returned to the sanctuary for pictures. Family ones were taken first, and then the party, bride, and groom went. The photographer was very quick and made everything look and feel natural, especially from what I've seen of the few pictures she's released so far, and I look forward to seeing the rest.
After pictures, the party headed over to the reception area. As Seth and I came down the hill, I gasped at the sight. The place was covered with Christmas lights, all of which were on. The pavilion was well-lit, and jazz and swing music was playing. It was beautiful. Simply beautiful. Dinner was beef brisket and ham (some of which was on rolls), a hashbrown dish, pasta salad, fruit, and cheese, and then Dad served homemade beer while several people contributed to the dessert table, which was several cakes.
Then the bride and groom arrived. They had their first dance together, and then there was the father-daughter dance and mother-son dance. Then it was time for the cake cutting. For months, Ben had been threatened that he would shove the cake in Mandy's face, so when the time came, Mandy hesitated with this look of "Ben, don't you even think about it" and Ben was like "what?" Of course, Ben shoved it on her face, but he was sweet and cleaned her up afterwards. He didn't do the same with the groom's cake (red velvet cupcake), as Mom warned him beforehand not to get that red dye on her wedding dress. Then the rest of the fun began. The music came on, and people began dancing. There were big crowds for Cupid Shuffle, Macarena, and for Haddaway's "What Is Love?"
Then it was time to toss the bouquet. Mandy threw it, but it flew over the crowd and landed on the ground. The girl who did some of the bridesmaids' hair eagerly grabbed it first. Then Bethany and I helped Mandy change out of her wedding dress and into her going-away dress. The groomsmen, meanwhile, had gotten their hands on Ben's yellow truck and pretty much destroyed it, using seran wrap to cover the doors and putting shaving cream all over, and then there was toilet paper and stuff hanging out the back; inside, they hung Hello Kitty dice from the mirror and put a Barry Manilow CD in his CD player. Everyone got into position, and the bride and groom left the reception under the light of sparklers. Then, they were gone.
After that, people started leaving. Seth and I went home and got there around midnight. The next day, we returned to the reception area to help clean up and organize the place.
In the end, it was a beautiful event, and we are overjoyed to have Ben as a member of our family. The two got back from their honeymoon to Florida on Saturday, and both had a good time and are now settling into married life. Mandy is still moving her stuff out of our bedroom, but soon it will be reorganized with her stuff gone. I think we're all getting used to the idea that Mandy is no longer living with us, and reality has definitely sunk in.
A few pictures from the photographer have been released, but we are eagerly waiting for the rest. We also had a few guys filming the ceremony and the reception, and we're also waiting for that.
At this point, I would like to join the rest of the family in thanking the many individuals, both male and female, for their contributions to making this wedding happen. To our coordinator D, who was so sweet to help us organize things and to host certain wedding-related events. To the flower lady T, who did a beautiful job on the flowers for everyone. To the reception decor ladies R and B, who did an amazing job at organizing and planning everything and for creating a beautiful reception area. To M, who built the floating lantern thingy on the pond, which only made the place look more beautiful. To the food ladies E and J, who helped us create a menu that would be easy on the ladies so that they could enjoy the wedding and not be stuck in the kitchen all the time. And to the numerous other people who helped with decorating, being parking valets, shuttling people back and forth between the reception and the parking area, the men who served the beer to the crowd, the men who managed the music, the musicians who performed, and so many others. It has been a testimony of love to us, and we have been deeply touched by the love and friendship they have shown to us over the years.
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