By Cheryl Ryan
The guest list went from 160 to 6. Like so many, my daughter and her (now) husband had to reschedule their wedding for 2021. While COVID drags on they decided to get married now and hope to share their wedding with family and friends next year.
So we packed our car and drove to San Diego last weekend to join them on a small captained sailboat. With just us parents onboard they exchanged vows while we sailed through the San Diego harbor.
Several weeks before the event my daughter asked each of us, parents, to write a letter to our younger selves the night before our wedding. What advice would we give our younger self now? What were we feeling? It sounds simple but it was hard. I was surprised at the emotions that came up. My husband felt the same. We talked about our wedding and the fact that neither of us was emotionally prepared for marriage. We’ve been through a lot and worked hard to be able to share our youngest daughter’s wedding day together. Writing those letters brought us back all those years. It reminded us of those immense feelings. So it was as we arrived on the sailboat, much more appreciative of the enormity of their marriage commitment and the vows they were about to exchange.
It was a hot one, 95 degrees that day. Yet, once onboard we glided on glassy Pacific waters and felt cooled by the ocean breeze. We knew then that it was a good choice. As we settled onto the bow to exchange vows large swells came beneath our boat. A subtle reminder to enjoy smooth waters but don’t get too comfortable. We grabbed some ropes, stabilized ourselves and waited as they passed.
Once they began their vows I was struck by how meaningful and thoughtful their words were. They each talked about feeling from the beginning that they would get married. Each spoke of feeling valued by the other. They knew each other so well compared to us back in the day. As they continued their vows, not one, not two but three low flying military helicopters flew over our boat, each getting a little closer. It was as though they wanted to hear – or more likely were flown by some young pilots that wanted to buzz a sailboat wedding. But their vows couldn’t be drowned out (well maybe a little on my iPhone video) but I heard them all and I still can’t stop thinking about it.
Like most weddings, there were unplanned moments that made it memorable. I know this wasn’t what they dreamed of but for us to get the opportunity to be so present in their shared love and commitment was very much a gift. Of course, I hope they get their big wedding day but I can’t help but feel grateful that we got this small one all to ourselves.
Is there a time that has brought up emotions that you’d long forgotten about? If so what?
I’m thinking that these small ceremonies are the ones that are going to stick with us much more than the larger ones ever did!