I was at a wedding last weekend. Actually, it was more of an event than a wedding with a welcome reception and a brunch that bookended the actual wedding and reception. It was lovely and meticulously planned with every detail carefully thought out. However, my attention was less on the (truly spectacular) festivities and more on the bride and groom. It has been awhile since I have been to a first wedding of a young bride and groom. Lately my attendance at weddings has dropped off (and my attendance at funerals has picked up). The weddings I have attended have been second weddings of friends our age. This was the first of my friend’s children to get married. I was surrounded by young adults as they celebrated their friends’ nuptials with energy and enthusiasm.
As much as I marveled at young people that filled the church pews and the dance floor at the reception, with their high wattage smiles and their infectious zest, it was the bride and groom that mesmerized me. The bride’s gown was stunning, and the groom looked handsome in his suit, but it was something else that held my attention. I wondered what it was that called to me as I gazed upon them, listening to their vows. Have you ever seen a bride that wasn’t beautiful on her wedding day? Or a groom that didn’t radiate happiness at the sight of his beloved walking down the aisle toward him? It was something else that tugged at me as I watched them pledge their love to each other.
New beginnings. I realized I was inhaling the fresh scent of a new path that was being forged in front of me, with the light streaming in from the stained glass windows. They were choosing to join hands and lives and merge onto a new path…a new beginning for their lives. I closed my eyes briefly and tried to remember that feeling from my own wedding so long ago. I don’t remember realizing the enormity of the choice I was making. I was excited for the wedding, nervous to be making my vows in front of family and friends, and exhausted from weeks of preparation to be moving across the country to my new husband’s duty station. I felt the pressure of the new beginning that stretched in front of me but not the possibilities.
Now, as I watched the young bride and groom, glowing in love and candlelight, all I saw were the possibilities that lay in front of them. I felt the twinges of envy at the new life that was appearing before them, the new path that was waiting on the other side of the church doors. There is something about new beginnings that feels fearful and hopeful at the same time. I missed that sense of wondering what waited for me beyond the next corner. As we stood to watch the bride and groom walk down the aisle hand in hand toward their new life, I was overcome with a pang for the new bride within me, long since tarnished like my wedding gown that lays dusty and forgotten in my parents’ attic.
As the afternoon turned to dusk, reception lights began to twinkle, and the band started beckoning the celebrants to the dance floor, I realized something. Our lives are a continuous dance of beginnings and endings. Just as a wedding signals a new beginning of life partners, it is also the end of the single life that came before it. It will be followed by many more beginnings-new jobs, possibly children, new homes, new friends, new challenges and joys. Each beginning will suffer its own ending to make room for the new possibilities. As long as we live, we will always have new beginnings in front of us.
And so, as the receptions wound down and the guests made their way back to their hotels, I breathed in the last scents of the young energy that pulsed around me, and I headed down the path that would lead me back to my life….and to new beginnings of my own.