The long awaited day is finally here. I stand on top of Mt. Bonnell with the groom beside a rock formation which contains both altar and sound system and wait for the ceremony to begin.
We stand along the dusty gravel path, hidden from the main road by trees, birds chirping above us. It’s a sunny, breezy picture-perfect day for a wedding. I can hear the muffled sound of cars driving by on the road below us.
The son of the groom stands guard over the boom box that will play the wedding music, ready for the signal to press the “on” button. He’s wearing shorts, casual weddings being a sign of the times. Family and close friends surround us, softly talking and laughing.
I am so nervous that my knees literally knock. I think of the months of planning and discussing that brought us to this day, and in 15 minutes it will all be over. Two people joined together as one, married for life, the ball and chain everyone jokes about. Please, God, don’t let me stumble on a word or forget a line.
Looking out across the lake I see boats on the twinkling surface, their engines barely audible as they cruise by. It’s a comforting sound — the laughter of the boaters and the echoes of the engines growing fainter in the distance. Across the lake the beautiful and spectacular houses of Austin’s well-to-do rise above the shore. They have borne witness as many couples have taken their vows on this Austin icon.
The groom and I look at each other and smile warmly. This is where he proposed, and I can tell he is just as stoked as I am for the wedding to begin. I see he is also nervous. I hope he is also thinking that this is the best decision he has ever made in this life.
The son of the groom presses the “on” button and wedding music fills the air. The ceremony has begun.
Then suddenly, if by magic, the beautiful bride, having walked down the long dusty path that serves as the aisle, appears and takes her place beside the groom. She is radiant, she is glowing, every hair in place, wearing a long, white, gorgeous dress. Her shoes are perfect. The groom looks breathless.
I try not to tear up at the sight of this loving, beautiful couple vowing to cherish and be there for each other always. I have to be strong! I am the officiator, after all.
The music stops. “Who gives this bride to this man?” I ask, my voice shaking as I start to read the words of the ceremony I helped create.
I have only recently been been ordained as a minister online, and the trust this couple has for me is touching. One of my friends obtained his license from a place that advertised in Rolling Stone magazine, and I thought it would be a fun thing to do. Now, I am not so sure.
But the rest of the ceremony flows by, as bride and groom read their own sweet vows to each other. Tears flow from everywhere — the bride, the groom, and the guests, some honking into a tissue. This day has long been awaited for by friends and family alike.
I manage to hold it in, though I feel like crying too. But I must carry on! As the ceremony progresses, people who are just walking by smile and stop to watch for a moment, ending their conversations out of respect. For a moment they are friends of the bride and groom, feeling the love that is going on in this place. This is two people who are in it, for better or for worse, and they will last. I can feel it. We are all rooting for them.
Then, not quite 15 minutes after we started, to the cheers of friends and family, I pronounce them man and wife by the power vested in me by the state of Texas. I hadn’t noticed before, but I am sweating profusely. My first ceremony is over and done with, and my hands still shake as I sign my name to the piece of paper that makes it legal.
I leave the newly married couple that I have just joined together, and let no man put asunder, and their happy friends, and walk down to my car. I promptly collapse inside and vow to never do this again. It is too nerve wracking, standing in front of a bunch of strangers and possibly making a fool of myself. No, not me, never again.
I look down at my phone and see a new message. I listen to the voice mail and return the young woman’s phone call.
“Yes,” I hear myself saying. “I’m available on that date.”