|Wedding Ceremony and Music
These excerpts are taken from the wedding ceremony in The Pilgrimage.
And They Shall Become One Flesh
The hallways outside my bedroom and throughout the second floor of the estate burst forth with the music of laughter and joy once the beauty consultants and their entourage arrived. My luxurious bath had left me feeling warm and sensuous. Now, sitting in my robe, I was amazed at the skillful fingers creatively working on my long, thick auburn locks. Two women standing side-by-side were creatively braiding and coiling the hair with tiny chains of luminescent pearls. When finished they artfully placed my small pearl tiara on top. The netting still hung neatly by my gown and would be added just before the ceremony began.
A professional did my makeup after my hair and then I was able to sit quietly and enjoy my manicure and watch as the rest of the bridal party went through their preparations. Patricia brought a cart of refreshments to my sitting room where most of us were gathered. We sipped hot tea and munched on cookies while we admired one another’s hairstyles. The manicurists busily painted one set of nails after another; I chose a lacy pink color, which I thought blended nicely with my gown.
Miriam had her long blonde hair woven into a French roll, which was very becoming. The weight she had gained over the past year had diminished all signs of the gaunt woman she once was, and last summer's tan was still evident in her now glowing complexion. The lavender taffeta gown she had chosen would look lovely on her.
Marie's hair was nicely coifed in a loose curly style while Isabelle also choose to have her long silver gray locks braided and wrapped around the nape of her neck in a tight bun.
Hannah quietly smiled while one of the cosmetologists tightly curled her long blonde hair in ringlets. A pink silk bow held her shiny curls in one place on the top of her head so that they fell down softly around her face. Once her angel pink nail polish was dry, she put on her beautiful new gown. She twirled around in front of the floor length mirror admiring her reflection. She looked enchanting. Miriam beamed with pride and I watched as she pushed aside the tears that suddenly appeared on her cheeks. How happy we all were.
Martha and Patricia were included in the wedding party festivities and also had their hair and nails done. They had never been just servants or employees; they were long time friends, and on this night in particular they were truly considered to be a part of my family.
The younger ladies all basically decided to wear their hair long and loose, some straight and some with a slight curl. We talked for hours about clothing and color and we enjoyed such a wonderful time of fellowship…it was beautiful. I looked around the room at the happy smiling faces of the women I had grown to love, young and old and I knew in my heart the moment would linger on in my memory for many years to come.
"Rachel," Marie began, shaking me from my quiet reverie, "didn't you say that you and Christopher were planning to remodel these rooms?”
"Actually, we've already started," I replied. "I had a decorator in awhile ago to choose new colors and fabrics and they are going to start the work while we are gone. It will be more convenient for us and less hassle. We won't have to move into other rooms and they promised to have everything finished by the time we return!"
"What are you changing, Mom?" Charlotte asked. "Are you getting new furniture?"
"Oh, no! Never!" I replied. "Papa's furniture could never be replaced. Fortunately, Chris loves it as much as I do. No, we just decided to have new paint, new curtains and bed linens and some new chairs added and the old ones recovered. We wanted to blend our tastes into something we both could enjoy. You'll see it come together while we are gone."
It was dark outside by the time the beauticians had finished and departed. Everyone left my room and returned to their own in order to dress for the wedding. The final hour was quickly drawing near and I felt happy butterflies looming within.
Martha changed into her evening dress, fashionable plum satin brocade, and then returned to my room to help me into my gown. The dress slid easily over my body; the lace draped perfectly over the satin and just touched the top of my shoes. Martha's eyes sparkled with tears of happiness as she did up the tiny buttons on the back of my gown. When she finished, I sat down in front of my dressing table while she secured the netting to my pearl tiara. The pearl drop earrings Devon had given me as a wedding gift graced my ears. Cool pink lipstick shined from my full lips and I used just a dab of rose perfume for fragrance.
"Ya look radiant, Mum!" Martha said proudly in her strong Irish brogue.
"Thank you, Martha," I replied. "Tonight, I actually feel a little like Cinderella—going to the ball to meet her handsome Prince!" I laughed and Martha gave me a hug and a small kiss on my cheek.
"May God richly bless ya both!" she said and hurried from the room, hand tightly clutched to a tissue.
I stood alone, holding my train in my right hand, staring at my reflection in the mirror; I twirled around in delight. The satin and lace swished together merrily. I thought of Solomon’s words, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” Passing through a season of pain had been difficult but it was over now, and I was about to enter a new season filled with the expectation of gladness and joy.
Moments later, I heard the chapel bells ringing, beckoning my guests to its borders. My flowers were still in the florist's box on the table. This heavenly bouquet of cascading pink and white roses colored with sprigs of misty blue was stunning. I picked them up and walked to the door. My bridal party anxiously greeted me as I left my room and happily we gathered together to wait for our cue.
Charlotte and Edgar had arranged for their ensemble to play at the wedding and they arranged for a small orchestra to play at the dinner. They also helped us choose the musical pieces that would be played during the ceremony.
The introductory music began with Cesar Franck's "Panis Angelicus." While the guests were being seated several pieces such as Bach's "Bist du bei mir" and "Sheep May Safely Graze" would entertain them. If time permitted they would play Beethoven's Theme from "Ode to Joy" (Ninth Symphony, movement 4). When the chapel bells sounded a second time, we knew that all our guests had been seated and that it was time for us to make our appearance.
Christopher's parents and Isabelle were waiting for us as we entered the chapel through the two large doors. Our entrance was shielded by the ornate oak partition; the light shining through the regal panes of purple glass cast a warm glow on the chapel. When the partition doors opened, Charlotte and Edgar and their ensemble began the processional music chosen for the entrance of Isabelle and Chris’s parents; Bach's Cantata no. 140 "Wachet auf" (Sleeper's Awake.) Once they were seated, the processional for the Bridesmaid and Maid of Honor began, Handel's: Largo, "Ombra mai fu."
Hannah slowly walked down the carpeted aisle tossing fragrant rose petals from her white wicker basket as she went until she reached the front of the chapel and took her place in the first pew. Marie followed after her, looking lovely in her gray satin gown, carrying a bouquet of pink roses and baby's breath. When she arrived at the altar, the processional ended and the music for the bride began. We had chosen something uniquely different for my entrance: Holst's, "Jupiter" from The Planets.
I was nervous but smiling joyfully as I moved out from behind the shadows of the partition and into the center of the aisle way. The light fixtures overhead glowed softly on the small room full of guests and my dress shimmered brightly. Tall silver candelabra's standing on either side of the altar gave the room a romantic air. Everyone stood as I began my journey toward my groom. Step by step I drew closer to the man I loved. He reached for my hand as I approached and I gave it to him gladly. We turned together to face Pastor Edwards and he began the ceremony that would finally make us one.
"Dear friends," he commenced, "we are gathered together, this evening, in the sight of God Almighty, to join this man and this woman together, in the state of Holy Matrimony. The institution of marriage is indeed holy; conceived of by God it was designed to be the fountainhead of each home and family. The Scriptures declare that a man is to leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife. And forever after the two shall be as one flesh united to each other for all time.
"But marriage is not without duty and responsibility. A man must promise to love, honor and cherish his wife above all others, serving and leading her gently, being willing to sacrifice his life for hers. A woman must promise to be helpful, reverent and gracious to her husband, and to serve him with a gentle and quiet spirit.
"Christopher Jonathan Elliott," he began, "are you willing to bind yourself to Rachel, keeping yourself solely for her, serving her in love, treating her with respect and honoring her above all others?"
"I will!" Chris replied his eyes fixed upon me.
Rachel Arielle Todd," he continued, "are you willing to bind yourself to Christopher, keeping yourself solely for him, serving him in love, treating him with reverence and honoring him above all others?"
"I will!" I replied, as tears of joy filled my eyes.
Marie and James, both standing off to the side of us, then stepped forward. She took my bouquet and handed me Chris's ring. James then handed Christopher the ring he held for me.
Standing face to face, the lights from the surrounding candles glowing softly in the background we beheld each other silently. Christopher took my left hand and while placing the ring he had chosen for me on my finger he said, "Today, I marry my best friend, Rachel, my Beloved."
Tears of joy streamed down my face, "Entreat me not to leave you, Beloved, or to return from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go too!" I said in love.
Then, I took his left hand, and while placing the ring I had chosen for him on his finger, I said, "Today, I marry my best friend, Christopher, my Beloved."
Christopher smiled and replied, "Wherever you lodge, I will lodge: your people and my people will be one people, and together we will serve God and nothing but death shall ever separate us." And then he kissed me.
"By the power vested in me by the State of California, I pronounce that you are now husband and wife," Pastor Edwards declared.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," he said, "I would like to introduce you to the new Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Jonathan Elliott."
Our friends clapped their hands in joy as my new husband kissed me once again. It felt delightful.
I received my bouquet from Marie and together Christopher and I greeted our family and friends while Handel's, "Allegro maestoso" from Water Music played in the background.
We spent a short period of time taking pictures with the bridal party before heading off for dinner in the ballroom. We graciously posed for photographs for the few newspaper and magazine reporters who had been prudently invited to attend the ceremony. They were completely caught unaware but grateful beyond belief for the exclusive coverage they received, an unanticipated privilege.
The Dance of the Swan
The ballroom lights were blazing when we finally appeared at its doors that opened onto the garden patio. Applause filled the room when we entered and waiters and waitresses stopped serving the hors d'oeuvres temporarily while our guests welcomed us. The orchestra located in one corner of the room had begun to play while we cheerfully went throughout the grand ballroom greeting our friends and receiving their congratulations.
When dinner was ready to be served, Pastor Edwards said a beautiful blessing. We then settled down to enjoy a delicious meal of succulent fresh lobster and petit filet mignon served with tender spears of asparagus and oven roasted potatoes. Hot flaky croissants and whipped butter came fresh from our kitchen. A light dessert of juicy red strawberries dipped in semi-sweet chocolate was also served. Christopher and I were both too excited to eat. We sat hand in hand, filled with the joy that we were now united before God and family. Our new life together had finally begun.
Once dinner was concluded the lights in the ballroom were dimmed and Christopher and I arose from the bridal table for the first dance. The musicians played the “Anniversary Waltz” at our request. Magically, my groom's strong hands twirled me around the dance floor. Gently he guided me step after step always in time to the rhythm of the music. It was heavenly. And I remembered our first meeting, more than two years earlier and our first dance together. I had felt warm and secure in his arms then. Who would have guessed we were destined to be one?
When the piece ended we kissed, our friends applauded and then joined us on the dance floor. Joseph and Devon swept past us once or twice and then switched partners. She danced with Petey and he with Sasha. Devon had dressed them beautifully. Sasha was thrilled to own her first American party dress, Joseph explained to me during the evening. It was a pretty linen frock of warm bold flowers in deep rose colors. The long skirt was full with a big net slip and she wore pretty pink ballet type slippers besides. Petey wasn’t as happy, I feared, in his new blue suit and big bow tie but Martha saw to it he had all the strawberries and chocolate he wanted to make up for it.
Victoria sat quietly at her table waiting for Allen to return. Michael had fallen asleep after the ceremony and he was putting him to bed. She looked as lovely as ever. Her porcelain white skin glowed from beneath her forest green gown.
Charlotte and Edgar and Chloe were busy socializing with Marie's two sons, Adam and Timothy. Chloe was without a date this evening but happy regardless. She had matured a great deal in the last year. Once so fearful of the future, her self-confidence and faith had grown considerably.
Hannah’s elementary school teacher Summer Flowers was accompanied by her new steady boyfriend, a young Navy Pilot named Ed Fox. Summer wore a beautiful gown of shimmering gold. Her ever-tanned complexion brought out the beauty of the luminescent silk. She and Miriam had grown to be great friends while working together on school projects, an added delight for Hannah, who loved them both.
Noah Adams, spent most of the evening with Miriam; the two of them had become a couple. He was good for her, charming and gentle and kind. She, who had suffered so much, was now reaping the good fruits of happiness she deserved. Noah, besides being good to Miriam, treated Hannah like a daughter; giving her love, and stability and protection—all the things children need to live and grow and thrive. In addition, Miriam and Hannah gave Noah something he cherished; a sense of belonging and the family he never knew.
Hannah seemed very mature for being only eleven—almost twelve. She smiled shyly when Timothy asked her to dance and joyfully they stepped out onto the marble floor. I believe I even saw her blushing.
Marie and Thomas were not surprised to see Timothy, their youngest and most lighthearted teenage son on the dance floor. Adam, the elder of the two, was more involved in school activities according to Marie; he was also developing an interest in the world of politics. He spent the evening engrossed in the political discussions underway between John and Abby Anderson, our neighbors and some of our other legislative friends.
Chris and I greeted Woody Stevens who affably introduced us to his steady girlfriend, Zanna; her Polish last name, we were told, was too difficult to pronounce. We learned from him that she had flown to California from Washington, D. C. just to attend our wedding. Woody briefly gave us her history, which included the fact that she worked in D.C. for a prominent architect. He was obviously proud of her; perhaps their relationship had taken a serious turn. Today was after all Valentine’s Day!
Noah happily introduced his associate and friend to the rest of the family and our guests. She appeared to be a very pleasant young woman—sweetly shy and unobtrusive.
Morgan and Clare Elliott joined us on the dance floor several times as did Patricia and Patrick. Once Allen returned to the ballroom, he and Victoria joined the growing throng of bodies enjoying the orchestra and the festivities.
Christopher and I took turns dancing and socializing with our guests. The ballroom was dressed in elegance tonight. Perhaps it was simply my frame of mind but it seemed more dazzling than my memory could recall. It was distinguished by its decorative fan vaulting plasterwork, which began half way up the inner wall, over the fireplace and spread across the ceiling. Nothing could be more beautiful.
The night air was cool and refreshing. Devon and I stood outside on the balcony talking for a while and Christopher spent some time dancing with Chloe.
The orchestra was wonderful—the music slow and romantic. The fireplace burned softly while its fiery red embers were brightly glowing and were colorfully reflected in the windows throughout the room. The chandelier lights above had been dimmed when the table candles were lit. The small sparkling flames created a dreamy vision of loveliness while the aromatic scent of roses perfumed the air.
I watched my groom dance across the marble floor, his daughter floating in his arms until the music ended. A young man approached and he and Chloe waltzed off together. When Christopher joined me on the patio, Devon excused herself and went in search of Joseph.
"She's beaming tonight," I whispered softly in his ear.
"Not my little girl anymore," he replied somewhat sorrowfully.
"They do have a way of growing up! But it's wonderful to see her so happy and content. They all are," I said as I glanced around the ballroom at our children.
“Yes, I think so!” He agreed.
"I see you relinquished Chloe to Dylan. What’s he like?" I asked.
"He’s a nice man, very decent. His father and I were friends when we were boys. Dylan wanted to be an actor and so I agreed I’d help him out a bit. He’s very good really and hasn’t needed much help. I made a few introductions for him and talked to my agent to help him get started. The rest of his success is all his own.”
“Any reason why he and Chloe shouldn’t go out or be friends?” I asked, eyes twinkling.
“None at all,” he replied, “although I hate to see her get involved with any industry people. I guess I've seen too much of the shallower side of Hollywood. I know it isn't something I want for my daughter, but she will have to make that decision for herself."
"All we can do, Chris, is love, guide and pray. They have to find their own way in life the way we did. Chloe is an intelligent woman, she'll choose wisely. Don't worry."
Christopher looked into my eyes, held my face tenderly in his hands and kissed me gently on the lips. When the music began again, we danced together around the patio floor and then rejoined our guests.
The wedding cake was wheeled into the ballroom shortly before midnight. It was four tiers high and was topped with two red roses cast in a crystal globe. The bottom layer was Chris's favorite—a light rum cake with custard filling. The second tier was my favorite—chocolate with raspberry filling. The third tier was a magnificently light sponge cake. Knife in hands, we cut into the cake together and took turns feeding one another. I playfully dabbed icing on my groom's nose and laughed at the result. He did the same to me. The photographer snapped a quick picture of the two of us with frosted noses. It became one of our favorites.
At the stroke of midnight, James Hamilton, the best man, stepped forward to the microphone to pronounce a final blessing.
"Friends," he began eloquently, "Rachel and Christopher have asked me to thank you all for coming tonight to celebrate their marriage. It has been our good fortune to be able to participate in this special occasion," he said, facing the happy onlookers. "I know I speak for each one present here tonight," he spoke heartily, looking around the room and then toward us, "when I say, may you both be richly blessed. May you grow old together and live in happiness and peace all the days of your lives."
Tears streamed down my face. Christopher reached into his pocket and retrieved his handkerchief and tenderly wiped them away.
"Tears!" he said, smiling, "On our wedding day?"
"Tears of rejoicing!" I replied. He kissed my forehead tenderly and placed his arm around my shoulder.
Before the evening ended, Edgar stepped up to the microphone.
"We have the honor of presenting the bride and groom with a special gift.” Edgar said as Charlotte quietly seated herself at the piano. “They are to have the final dance of the evening.” He motioned us to the dance floor with his hand and then took his place on stage in front of a cello.
The lights of the ballroom were dimmed as the music began. Placing my head upon my groom’s shoulder we swayed gracefully together as a lovely arrangement of the "The Swan," filled the ballroom. It was from The Carnival of the Animals—byCamille Saint-Saëns and was one of our favorites. The warmth and vibrancy of the cello was skillfully accompanied by the subtle sounds of the piano; like two souls joined harmoniously together. Our hearts were filled with the delight of the romantic moment; we tightly embraced and then kissed one another when it ended.
We waited until our departure from the ballroom to toss my bridal bouquet into the small but eager pool of single women hoping to catch it. Ecstatically, Miriam reached up as it magically fell into her hands.
We then said good night to our family and friends and headed off to our bedroom.