Sunday, January 21, 2018

Wedding Song

Two of our wine-tasting, porch partying, High Rock Outfittin' friends, Raeann Shaak Biesecker and Chris Allred, got married yesterday.

That in itself is not news. Anybody who knows them could see this coming.

What knocked me off my balance was the wedding itself.

Wait, wait. Before I type another word, let me preface this by saying the ceremony was beautiful, particularly in the vast, soaring sanctuary of First Reformed United Church of Christ. It just seemed somehow proper.

The happy couple...
But I knew right off something was a little different when we were ushered to our pew by Stacy Sosebee West. I'd never been ushered to my pew by a woman before, and it sort of gave new definition to the #MeToo moment ("Hey, I was ushered by a woman. Yeah, me too"). I came to learn that Raeann wanted to include as many of her friends as possible in the ceremony, even if it meant assuming nontraditional roles. "It was progressive," said another of her friends, Kristi Thornhill — who also happened to be an usher.

I no sooner took my seat and opened the program when one of the first things I saw was that Chris was going to sing a solo at his own wedding.

And that happened shortly after he escorted his mother to her seat. Chris was a busy guy. I turned to Kim and said, 37 years after the fact, "I never thought about escorting my mom to her seat. That was nice."

Anyway, I'd often heard that Chris had a beautiful singing voice, although I myself had never heard him sing, even after extended wine tastings. So I was eager to hear — and then was stunned — when he broke into the opening strains of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."

After singing the familiar first lines of the tune, Chris (who has a beautiful baritenor voice) sang a version of the song adapted for weddings, and personalized it by adding Raeann's name to a verse or two. I was a quivering mass of jello by the time he was done. Kim was dabbing her eyes; I'm thinking she was probably grateful that I didn't sing at our wedding. I know I was.

Well done, Chris. Very well done.

Then came the processional. This was an exquisite moment, especially after Chris's solo. Raeann's mother, Dawn, passed away a little more than a year ago, and somewhere in the depths of all of our souls, her memory surely resonated within us. But Raeann had the great good fortune to be escorted down the aisle arm in arm not only by her father, Bob, but also by her son, Holt. And she was beaming. Absolutely beaming. That did my heart good.

And it occurred to me that when she reached the altar, she was safe in the arms of the three men that mean the most to her. Wow. What a wedding.

The rest of the ceremony was fairly traditional. Chris momentarily went blank during his portion of the responsive reading, giving us all a timely chuckle when we probably needed one the most, but the remainder of the ceremony was beautiful. They tied the knot.

There was a reception immediately afterwards, and then a party at the antebellum Homestead later that night featuring a low country boil and some honest hellraising the place probably hadn't seen since those damn Yankees took over back in 1865.

I don't know what it is about the weddings of my friends. I think the vows somehow take on a deeper, truer meaning when you actually know the people getting married, when they are your friends and not merely acquaintances. I covered Chris for The Dispatch when he was an athlete at Lexington; I wrote a piece about Raeann for the paper's Women's Section probably 20 years ago. And there were all those wine tastings and porch parties thrown into the mix.

So when they took their vows, it accented the vows my wife and I took 37 years ago, only now we have the perspective of time, experience and, yes, memory. We see what we've done right. We see where there is still room for growth. But it's pretty much come naturally for us, I think.

So, Godspeed to the rest of your lives together, Raeann and Chris.

Huzza, Hooray and, yes, Hallelujah.

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