Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Day of Signifigance...VERY LONG BLOG!!!

I've been seriously trying to decide whether or not to blog about my wedding or not.

I mean...there have been a few blogs already posted that put the reader RIGHT THERE. I suppose I could add a bit more insight into a few things.

Truth be told, I worry that I won't be able to capture the emotion of the whole experience. But, I shall try.

First, let's beging with a bit of a recap for everyone. Mahealani and I met about six years ago (or so) when she showed up at the Renaissance Festival on the arm of her then-boyfriend. I was acquainted with the dude, and we were fairly friendly with each other. I was in character, so I, of course, flirted with her. Not much...just enough to get a smile. I remember later that day, they sat right in front of me at the joust. I was perched on the fence, like you see in one of my pictures, getting the crowd worked up, and Mr. Boyfriend heckled me. Sooooooooo...I proceeded to take him apart verbally. No malice or anything...he was expecting it. He probably even said, "Watch this." to Lani. After getting him to blush in embarrassment, I looked Lani dead in the eye and winked at her.

The next year, Lani was supposed to be part of our cast. She attended a meeting or three, and then situations arose that prevented her from joining us. She DID show up on the final weekend, and she was a sight to take your breath away. I admired her from a distance, and then she wandered out of my life for a bit.

A year later we had a party for a member of our cast, Jayna, who was finally going 'on the road' as a Ren performer. I had just been through TWO nasty breakups in a row, and Lani shows up. Guess what the FIRST THING she asks me is?

"Where's your other half?"

I turned to her and said, "I don't HAVE another half, thank you." I was rather terse with her, and turned and walked away. Silly me...everyone ELSE knew the whole ugly I assumed she did also. My mistake.

So later, I was sitting with a young lady named Kaylin, who I had known since my first season. Kaylin was about 8 or 9, and Lani comes up to me and, in an attempt to be friendly, makes a wisecrack about 'younger women'. Well...I'm INSANELY protective of Kaylin, so I, naturally, found this to be very un-funny. I believe my exact words were, "Isn't there someone else you could bug the shit out of besides me?"

Yeah. forward many months. I've been flirting with this girl online for a few hours. I know she's part of the Renaissance cast, but all of a sudden, I discover that I'm not flirting with the girl I THINK I've been flirting with! DAMMIT! I'm flirting with the girl who pisses me off all the time!

Somehow, however, we manage to keep each other intrigued until about
3 AM. This goes on every night for about 2 weeks. Finally, the time rolls around that I have to go away with my National Guard unit for two weeks. I knew I was going to be in the woods of Fort Bragg for two weeks with neither cell phone nor internet access. Lani lived with her parents at the time, which was close to MY parents. So I tell her that I'm going to be at my parents house on Friday night and I'd like to go out with her. She accepts.

The date went very well...and we ended up making out on the hood of my car in my parents driveway until about
5 AM. Kissing, and talking, and more kissing. She gave me her phone number and left. I packed up my gear and drove to Raleigh to join my Guard unit.

I made it about three days before I borrowed Tim Beckett's phone to call her. She gave me wonderful news. She had been accepted to NC School of the Arts in
Winston-Salem, just 20 minutes up the road from my place! She asked me, " you want a girlfriend in September?" I said, "Hell no. I want one NOW. I can't stop thinking about you. I want this NOW."
We agreed that we were an exclusive couple right then and there on the phone.

That's how we started.

This is how we almost ended.

I won't bother you with psychobabble excuses or anything like that. I know that even though you guys are all my friends, we ALL like to judge. It's in our nature. We critique everything from performances to costumes to someone's behavior in a crisis. Most of the judgements have been passed already, and truth be told, I don't really give a damn what anyone else thinks, because it's in the past and it's done.

I had an affair that lasted for just over a year. For the first half of the affair, the other woman didn't know I was engaged to Lani. After she discovered the truth, we continued the affair. After a little more than a year, I got caught. No details are important at this point.

Lani ended our relationship. However, we continued to spend time together. I won't speculate as to the why's and how's of that. I just know that she was no longer wearing my ring, and if you asked her, she and I had broken up. But we couldn't tear ourselves away from each other. You hear the word 'soulmate' tossed around A LOT. I honestly think she and I truly are. Despite all the hurt that BOTH of us were experiencing at the time...we could NOT stay away from each other. Hell...Lani was coming over MORE often now that we were 'broken up'. I didn't understand it, but I was glad for it. I realized that while I COULD live without was no kind of life. I was alone and empty when she was apart from me.

From January to June I lived this 'limbo' existence.
"Chris, are you and Lani still together?"
" why is she at your house almost every your bed almost every night, telling you she loves you?"
"Beats the hell out of me."

For six months it was twin existences. Privately, it was like it had always been (except for the occasional crying/shouting fit), but when we got in front of friends, she would be cold and snippy to me, like she thought she was expected to be.

In June, she graduated. After spending some time at home, she came back to
Greensboro to spend some time with me. After a wonderful intimate evening together, we were lying in bed and I commented on us being 'back together'. She said that we weren't...and I ...went...BALLISTIC. After employing a few rather creative analogies that I'm still quite proud of, I told her to leave in the morning. If she wanted to insist that she wasn't sure if she wanted a boyfriend, then I certainly wasn't going to continue to act like one for her. She left on Friday morning.

Sunday afternoon she was back. *smile* She borrowed money for gas so she could drive up to see me and tell me that she wanted us to be together.

I'll spare you the language of romance that was employed, but Shakespeare would have wept.

Not long after we OFFICIALLY reconciled (and all the world rejoiced), I brought up the subject of our recently cancelled wedding. Mahealani thought we should put it off for a bit longer, but I calmly reminded her that I'm 35 years old, and I have no desire to be much older than 50 when my kids graduate high school. She saw that I had a good point, and that we really had no need to put the wedding off any further, so we decided to go with our original date, December 2nd.

But...wait...Chris...your date was December 1st!

Yes, intrepid readers, it was. The ORIGINAL scheduled date was December 2nd, but we got SCREWED out of our original venue by Castle McCullough, and in disgust, I asked for all of my money back. We decided to move the wedding from
High Point (convenient for all of our Rennie friends) to Clayton, NC which would be much more convenient for our family. We love our friends, but we decided to put our family first.

We went down to my old hometown of
Wilson's Mills, NC (between Clayton and Smithfield) and started making plans. The ORIGINAL plan was to have it at my church, with the reception in the fellowship hall. We ended up nixing that plan for a few reasons. So...after an exhaustive search of the area, we found this beautiful venue in Clayton called the Wagner House. The Wagner House is an old historic home in the middle of downtown Clayton. Well...given the relatively short notice, our original date of the 2nd was not we bit the bullet and went for Friday, the 1st. We knew that some folks wouldn't be able to make it...but we didn't have much choice...and while our friends are important, our priority was our family. Our families were able to deal with the new schedule, so we plowed forth!

No matter what happens...I'm never marrying again. I don't ever want to go through wedding planning EVER AGAIN! I PRAY I have sons so I don't have to plan a wedding for my DAUGHTER!!!!!

Anyhow...after alot of hard work, the fated days arrived.

Now...I say DAYS, plural, because anyone who has BEEN married knows that the ONLY people who only have to deal with a singular wedding DAY are the guests who didn't actually DO anything but show up. For anyone actually INVOLVED in the wedding, it's a MINIMUM of 2 days, sometimes 3 or more.

The rehearsal was on a Thursday. I made sure I was off duty early on Wednesday. Lani and her girls took off Wednesday afternoon to head down to
Raleigh to be bachelorettes and such. That was fine, because I had a big surprise for her anyhow. Lani's dad came up and brought her BED.

Now...Lani's BED is a sight to behold. She had bought it many years ago and had not really been able to use it because shortly after she bought it, she moved back in with her parents, and this BED wouldn't fit in their house! Once she and I were together, it never moved up here for a variety of reasons. Truth be told, she was getting to the point that she thought she'd NEVER see the BED again.

The BED is a gianormous cherry four-poster job. It's HUGE. It's LAVISH. It's DECADENT. To quote Wes, "The damn thing looks like it belongs in a Phillipino whorehouse!"

Well, my wedding gift to Lani was having her dad sneak up here with it after she left so we could install the thing in our bedroom. By coincidence, Wes, Hugh, and Fisher came over as we were putting the damn thing together and they lent a hand or two. Then Dad and Shannon (Lani's brother) had to leave, so we all hung out, smoked hookah, drank and generally had a good time.

Thursday... rehearsal day.

I slept in a few hours then got up and began the mad panic. I spent the entire day with a comprehensive checklist of everything I needed to do before heading out of town for the rehearsal...I checked, double checked and triple checked everything and STILL spent the entire day with this whole, "I've forgotten something important" feeling.
I picked up Lani's rings from the Post Office, then my own ring from the jeweller. They had been told not to let me read the inscription, so I didn't. Once I had the rings, I handed them to Doug and told him to guard them with his life. We had lunch at Red Robin, and then waited for David Gauldin and the Sheltons to arrive.

Once we were all assembled, we all headed to the mall to grab the tuxedos. There was a mild panic, as Justin's tux had a short jacket and everyone else had a long one. There was good reason behind the mistake, and it was quickly handled. The replacement jacket would be waiting for us in
Raleigh. We sighed in relief and hit the road.

Lani and the girls had secured rooms at a Comfort Inn in Clayton. I had tried to find a hotel nearby, but was frustrated by their rates, which seemed a bit unreasonable. I figured, since I was going to be paying more than they were worth...why not go in the OTHER direction? So, I contacted the Embassy Suites in
Cary. Lani and I were supposed to stay there on our wedding night before we embarked on our honeymoon, so I just added Thursday night to the reservation and tacked on a second room for the Sheltons. Ahhhhhhhhh...the Embassy Suites. There is nothing but good to say about the place. Lani and the girls were so jealous. We had an indoor pool and jacuzzi, cooked-to-order breakfast, HUGE rooms, it was perfect. We grabbed the quick complimentary cocktail before jetting out the door to head to the rehearsal.

Now...the rehearsal was scheduled for
6 PM. Ordinarily, it takes 25 minutes MAXIMUM to get from Clayton to Cary down I-40. However, we got stuck in the most God-awful traffic snarl you've ever SEEN on 40. It was worse than typical rush-hour. Sooooooooooo...we ended up being about 45 minutes LATE for rehearsal. Bear in mind this entire time, I'm going INSANE. I mean, I was SERIOUSLY freaking out. Justin and Doug and David were doing their best to keep me cool, but I was seriously losing my mind. Well, it turns out that the girls were caught in traffic as well. Our families were at the venue with Billie, my minister, and when we all arrived, it was a very QUICK rehearsal. Heather Watkins stepped up as the wedding director and did a wonderful job, even yelling at us when we weren't paying attention. The wedding ceremony itself was really going to be quite simple anyhow. We were doing something funky with the entrances, but that's just about it. So after a very quick rehearsal, we all headed out to my church for the rehearsal dinner.

Mom had arranged for an Italian resturant named "Ragazzi's" to cater the rehearsal. It was divine. We had lasagna, chicken
marsala, salad, bread, and my sister had made this amazing penne chicken alfredo. Yum. We ate ourselves senseless. My mom and Lani's mom had brought a BUNCH of pictures from our childhood. Everyone was looking at my pictures and wondering, "Who the hell is this? What happened? Geez! He's actually SMILING!" At the rehearsal dinner, there was a bonding of 'girls'. See Jeff and Heather Shelton had brought their two daughters, Teagan (9) and Tira (3?). Teresa, one of Lani's maids of honor (she had 2), brought HER two daughters, Nicole (4) and Samantha (2), and my nieces were there, Libby (6) and Julia (4). So...while we were socializing, there was a powwow of little girls running around the place like a knee-high tornado. We stuffed ourselves stupid, and then Dad got everyone's attention to say a few words.

I've seen Dad get emotional. He doesn't do it often. That's not to say my dad is cold or anything. On the contrary, my dad is one of the warmest people I know. But I've only ever seen him become 'overcome' a few times. This was one of those times and I am very proud of how unashamed the men in my family are of their emotions. Dad told everyone of how I always seem to come through every trial 'smelling like a rose'. I honestly think that was his subtle nod to the fact that despite my mistakes, Lani and I were still marrying. As he spoke, he mentioned that he knew I was a 'special' child. Of course, I sighed visibly while everyone else chuckled. Then my mother spoke, and she also used the word "special". Well...that started it. She apparently forgot what kind of friends I have. As everyone, in turn, took their opportunity to say kind words about me, they all found a way to mention how "special" I was. At one point I thumped my head on the table and said, "I truly hate you all." Then Lani's dad spoke about how wonderful his daughter is. He was uncharacteristically brief in his speech. Of course, Lani's grandmother made up for it. *smile* I love that woman, but she loves to talk. To wrap up the night I took a moment to acknowledge all of my friends and to thank them specifically for all they had done to help me and Lani through our tough times, and then Lani did the same for her friends. We cleaned up the remains of dinner and parted ways. David, Doug, Justin, the Sheltons and I headed back to
Cary to the Embassy Suites where, to our delight, we discovered the pool and jacuzzi were open 24 hours! We relaxed for a VERY long time before grabbing Big Blue, the hookah I brought home from Afghanistan, and heading outside to smoke. Of course, the wind was hellacious, so we ended up not smoking. We did, however, sit outside and drink and chat. I got a tear-filled phone call from Lani telling me the hotel management was trying to kick them out of their hotel. I talked with her for a bit, we mapped out a back-up plan in case we needed it, comforted her, and sent her to bed. Turns out there was no need to panic. Chrissy handled it beautifully.

We woke the next morning and joined the Sheltons for a ridiculously wonderful breakfast. Then we headed upstairs and napped for a few hours. Promptly at 10, Wes arrived. What can I say about Wes? Absolutely nothing bad. He's a helluva guy. Fiercely loyal to his friends, wise beyond his years, friendly to the world, and as country as biscuit gravy. Wes had volunteered to be our driver for the rest of the day. He arrived in his black suit and had his 'attitude' on. When Wes decides that he's going to 'work for me' for a day, it's like he throws a switch in his brain! It's 'yes sir' and 'no sir' and he behaves like he actually works for me.
Douglas, with no small ammount of relief, handed the rings over to Wesley to guard for the rest of the day. We climbed into Wes's car. David followed in his truck and Jeff and Heather agreed to meet us at the Wagner House at the appointed time.

We took a short trip to Crabtree Valley Mall to pick up Justin's coat, for me to get a haircut, and for EVERYONE to get a cigar or two, then we headed to Clayton once more. THIS time, we arrived on time. The gentlemen were sequestered in an upstairs room where we changed. My father arrived, and we were all brought champagne. I raised a toast to my father, and to a few friends who had passed away and were attending the wedding in spirit, if not in body. After we were all dressed, we headed downstairs and loitered about on the front steps. It was pretty fun, also, because there was a wedding REHEARSAL scheduled at the house in the back yard at roughly the same time as the wedding, so guests of the rehearsal were walking up, seeing us in dress blues and tuxes and thinking, "Shit...was it today???" While we were getting ready, Lani's mother brought us genuine ceremonial leis that had been shipped from

Many of our friends showed up, a few didn't. That's okay, though. We knew that we'd thrown alot of stuff out of whack with the scheduling, that that was fine. Everyone was there in spirit. Lani was, of course, taking longer to get ready than we'd anticipated, so the wedding started about 20 mins later than planned. *sigh* In all honesty, that HELPED our state of mind. It added a sense of normalcy to everything. Doug said, " it's just like a morning at RenFaire."

Finally, the moment came! Heather summoned us all inside and we lined up. The music began and my mother and Lani's mother entered arm-in-arm. They walked up to the front and each lit a candle, to be used when me and Lani lit our unity candle. After they were seated, Billie led the men in.

I had decided I wanted the men to make a bit of our own entrance, since it's my wedding too. *smile* Lani and I had decided early on that we did NOT want the typical "dum-dum-da-dum" wedding march. Ick. We used a Celtic song, titled "Hear Me." It's a duet where the man sings the first verse in Gaelic.

" Torramat do noebaingil a Christ meic De
Bi ar cotlud ar cumsanad ar lepaid co lli
Na millet ar cumsanad ar cotlud lainn luath
Demna erchoit aidmilliud aislingi co nuath"

Translated, it means...
"May the holy angels, Oh Christ, son of the Living God
tend our sleep, our rest, our warm bed.
May no demons, no ill or terrifying dreams,
disturb our rest, our ready and swift repose."

While this first verse was playing, the men entered with the minister, and we gathered in a circle for a brief prayer, asking God to be welcome at our wedding and to bless the whole thing. Then we stepped to our individual places. Then came the second verse of the song, the woman,singing in English:

"It's winter on the island, the hearth is cold as stone.
Like a house deserted, I'm roofless and alone.
Where is your voice? Where is your touch, your breath, your guiding flame?
Where is the light I miss so much in this gently falling rain?"

As this verse played, the bridesmaids entered one by one. They each were wearing two handmade leis. One by one, they each presented their corresponding groomsman with one of the leis they were wearing. It was really cute to see Doug bend nearly double so Robin could reach around his neck with the lei that had been made for him. There was a heartwarming moment when Teresa, Lani's best friend since High School, entered. Her 2-year-old, Samantha, ran over to her as she walked down the aisle, and wanted to stand with her. Fortunately, the little sweetheart didn't burst into tears when she was told she had to sit in her seat. What a sweet child.

The third verse began. The man and woman sang together:

"I hear your voice calling through the silence of time.
I hear you through darkness when stormy seas run high.
Hear me! Hear me! The sun will rise again.
Hear me, I'm by your side! Our voices speak as one."

I've heard tons of stories from grooms who told of having to 'catch their breath' when they first saw their bride coming down the aisle, and I always dismissed it as good storytelling. But I can tell you now, with all honesty, that is exactly what happened. Everyone in the room gasped when Lani appeared at the back of the room with her father. As she walked towards me, we couldn't help but sing the words of "Hear Me" to each other softly. Most folks in the front of the room could tell that's what we were doing, and the waterworks began. All of the bridesmaids were like Niagra Falls, except for Chrissy, who I honestly think was all cried out by that point.

True to ourselves, Lani and I were unable to make it through our own WEDDING without cracking a joke or two. She was wearing a floor-length veil, which I personally had never seen before, and when I had to go digging through it to hold her hand, she said, "I'm in here somewhere!" and I replied, "I bet the fabric was on sale, huh?"

Billie led us through a short but very reverent service. At one point, he paused, and we all thought he'd cracked himself up, but in truth, he himself had gotten so choked up he had to pause and compose himself! Billie has seen me through a great deal. He was there when I began my life as a Christian, he performed a special service for me each time I was called away to war, and he has always been my closest counsel. I think he felt as if he was marrying one of his own sons. When it came time for us to recite our vows, Lani and I had written our own.

In all honesty, I had struggled with the idea of what to say for several weeks until the night before the wedding. I was going over some notes in my head for the Royal Guard training, when I remembered the seven core values I constantly stress to them over and over. I remembered how I tell these kids over and over that these values are more than just guidelines...they should become the WAY OF LIFE for them. So I felt it was only appropriate that I pledge these virtues to my new wife:

Loyalty to her and her alone
Duty as a husband and head of household
Respect to her above all else
Selfless Service as her husband
Honoring her and our marriage in all things I say and do
Integrity as a husband
Courage to face all trials with her.

Everyone who knows me recognized my vows immediately and they were deeply moved, because they know that being a soldier is very important to me, and those values are my mantra. For me to make the same pledge to Lani made it very clear how she is the center of my world.

Then came Lani's vows. She stood there smiling at me as she spoke of faithfulness, comfort, devotion, passion. I wish I could tell you exactly what she said but I was moving in a dream. Billie called for the rings, which we placed on each other's fingers, then we lit our unity candle. After that came the blessing of the "Truce bell", which is a Celtic tradition. Finally the moment came. I was asked claim my bride with a kiss and WOW what a kiss! Billie pronounced us man wife and we skipped down the aisle to the tune of The Lost Boys singing, "Life is Good."

The reception was a party like no other, and the honeymoon was magic.

I could write on that, I suppose, and maybe I will...but I've told the most important part of, despite my greatest failings, I managed to make the most wonderful woman on Earth my wife forever.


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