Oh, these two. Make no mistake about it, these two are going to have fun in life. And that smile on her face? All. Day. Every time I looked at her a lump caught in my throat because the depth of that smile seemed so beautifully endless.
Okay, actually, the smile wasn't there all day... The morning was rather soft and subdued - an appropriate punctuation mark on the end of a short, stressful engagement. Decisions, to-do lists, nerves and fragile emotions all seemed to culminate the few days before the wedding (sound familiar to anyone else?) and we found ourselves treading lightly above undercurrents of nervousness and exhaustion and Stress.
So a tender quietness filled her room the morning of the wedding as she curled her long eyelashes and sat still to have her hair twisted and pinned. Brother, sisters, parents, friend... we watched her. We helped where we could, but mostly we watched her, and a feeling of love filled me. Love for her, of course, but also love for the man she chose, and for the new life they will spend together.
Just after the final hair spray and before the mad scramble to collect the last minute purse items, I saw her close her eyes and breathe deeply, just one breath that opened a window into the mountains of nerves and stress that filled her. It made me want to drop my camera and rush to hug her tightly, but the moment was gone as quickly as it had come, and the clocks refusal to slow propelled her forward into action and out the door.
But that breath will be with me forever.
I think part of what touches me so much about that breath is the contrast of The Smile.
And, conversely, part of what touches me so much about The Smile is that one, nervous breath.
The next time I saw her, in the sealing room of the temple, surprise raised my eyebrows, tugged the corners of my mouth into a small smile, and caught the breath around the sudden lump in my throat. The mountains of nerves and stress that that breath had shown me only an hour and a half before had vanished entirely. Now we stared at her bare soul through that deep smile, and it showed us the mountains of joy, love and happiness that filled her. As Mormons, we often say that the temple is a place we go to forget the cares of the world. And it is. We go there to seek peace, and while we are there our thoughts are directed towards the bigger picture of life and we are subtly reminded that many of the things we worry about don't really matter. I don't know if, for Michelle, it was being in the walls of the temple that erased the weeks of turmoil inside, but since similar things have happened to me, I suspect it was. And seeing it happen - so starkly - in my sister's life grew my testimony of temples in a new way. How wise of our Heavenly Father to give us a safe place in which to escape, and be reminded of the important things in life.
And marriages that last forever.
The perfect shoes, the perfect honeymoon, the perfect reception venue and playlist and pictures and invitations and envelopesmakeuphairfoodcakenapkinsicespoonschairstablestraffic... it all just melted into a forgettable puddle of Things That Seem To Matter, But Really Don't.
Anyway. All that to say that watching her carefree happiness as she was sealed to Jake has become one of The Moments of my life. Not that the day was about me... but this blog is, so... ahem.
After the ceremony, we waited outside the temple doors for the newlyweds to come out and I watched my parents stare at each other for a while.
Seriously. They stood there like that long enough for me to notice, zoom in on one face, walk around the entire crowd and a temple pillar, and zoom in on the other. I didn't even see any talking going on (though, admittedly, I was traversing through the crowds most of the time). The color of my mom's eyes? Incredible. The way my dad is tenderly looking at his wife? Beautiful.
Eventually, Michelle and Jake came out. Did I mention that these two are going to have fun in life? Because they are.
There was a lot of hugging.
And by hugging I mean real hugging.
And lots of congratulating.
Then there was a lot of standing around as we waited for the happy couple to get their pictures taken with every possible combination of family you could think of.
But we found ways to entertain ourselves.
Finally, it was luncheon time. Which was a good thing because I hadn't had breakfast (something about trying to take a few pictures of the bride while also getting six people ready for a wedding), or second breakfast, or elevensies, or lunch, and we were getting dangerously close to passing afternoon tea time as well. Which, if you know me well, would mean that you might try to avoid me at all costs. And that I wouldn't blame you.
But the luncheon was delicious (really) and solved those problems, so we went on with our day. Michelle and Jake asked me to take a few pictures of them before we left because the luncheon grounds were gorgeous. We only had five minutes, but we got a few good ones anyway. This is my favorite.
This next one... well. It was a cute idea because that adorable lamppost has a sign with their names on it that welcomes the guests, but you can't really read the sign - I realize now I should have moved closer to the lamppost and then put Michelle and Jake further in the background to create some depth... I think I would have loved that photo... Oh well. I still like this one.
(The Smile in this next one!)
Every time I opened my mouth to tell them to stand-a-certain-way, they were tangled up in each others arms and I didn't have the heart to break them apart. So I just stood there and snapped pictures of them doing what they were doing anyway. (See part of The Smile just peeking up over his shoulder? And you can see the rest of it sparkling in her eyes! Oh!)
And then, on to the reception! My parents and I hightailed it over there because we had a 5-layer wedding cake to assemble and decorate. Michelle and Jake are super smart, because they recognized the fact that no one really eats wedding cake (and if they do, they don't particularly enjoy it), so instead of paying $1600 for the wedding cake they wanted, they bought a $20 Styrofoam cake and asked Mom to frost it. She asked me to be her sidekick and we had fun in the days and weeks before the wedding planning and practicing. The night before, we frosted all five layers with canned frosting:
...and then rushed to the reception venue with all five layers, wooden dowels, extra (in-case) frosting, black ribbon, a pretty dollar-store platter, and a beautiful, glass cake stand from my mom's cupboard. Total cake cost: $37
And, would you believe, I didn't even get a picture of the final product! I was so distracted by other things that were going on, and now I am kicking myself. So you'll just have to take my word that it was beautiful - because it was. I did notice the photographer getting pictures of it ... so I'll have to get one of those when she's finished editing them. Grrrr.
*Post Edit - hooray for friends! A dear friend read this post and sent me a phone picture she had taken. So now you get to see it after all. Thanks, Judy!
One thing I did get a picture of was something that made me laugh so hard I buckled. Since we knew we would be gone all day, we had all thrown our evening shoes into the cars. Michelle and Jake were running late (to their own reception), and at 15 minutes after the hour Michelle came barreling into the dressing room to get her wedding dress back on. There was a lot of frantic activity as Amber and I raced to zip her in, freshen her make up and hair, change our own shoes and send her out the door to greet her waiting guests.
At one point in the height of the frenzy Amber stopped moving for several seconds and finally said in a dejected tone, 'Uh. Shoot... I brought two left shoes.'
The effect was magic. It paused the frenzy and Michelle and I looked over to see her... one eyebrow raised, standing in one shoe, holding the other. We seemed to make sense of the situation at the same time and erupted into laughter. It was the comic relief we needed and set a fun tone for the rest of the evening.
My favorite part of the evening, though? This one:
My dad is a special man.
Sadly, my camera battery died right here, and I found that my back-up was not charged... even though it had been plugged into the wall the entire previous night (I'll have to look more carefully into that problem). So, my phone came out and caught the end of the party. Which was also my favorite part.
These kids danced, and danced, and danced, and danced. They had a blast together - and Carson was bustin' moves like no one's business. He looked good, too. I guess we should think about getting that kid into some hip-hop lessons. Also, if you find TK below, you'll see what he was mostly excited about.
Finally it was time to wrap things up. So I snapped two more pictures of my beautiful sister,
and called it a night.
I love this girl. And seeing the love in her eyes when she looks at Jake, and the happiness he creates in her is elating to me. And Jake... watching him tenderly take care of her over the few hard days before the wedding (when he was stressed, too) reminded me so much of my own husband. I know how beautiful it is to know and feel that, no matter what, someone you love is there to help, to lift, and to be in your corner.
And to marry you again at the end of every day.