Well after 33 years of waiting and seven months of being engaged Jane and I finally married on 29 December 2012. What a wonderful day it was and I cannot even begin to describe it here in such a short space.
One of the first amazing parts of the day was at the church when the guests began arriving. Never before have I had everyone I know, all my family, friends and acquaintances in one place. There were friends from the parish I grew up in who have known me my whole life, school friends from high school that I first met 20 years ago, colleagues (but really friends) from work, people from so many different activities and areas of life and then all of my extended family plus all Jane’s family and friends. I don’t expect to see all those people together again but it was such a blessing to know that so many people gave up their afternoon to come to the church and witness Jane and I celebrate our marriage.
And then the clock struck one, the organ began and the clergy processed in. It was a particularly eye-catching procession with both the Latin and the Melkite Bishops walking in side by side and a mix of priests in vestments from East and West. Next came the bridesmaids and then…there she was…my Jane…walking down the aisle on the arm of her father. She looked radiant with her hair and makeup especially done, but she still looked like Jane. She had a lovely smile and it was me who was shedding some tears as she approached. I shook hands with her father and then with the sign of the Cross the Mass began and I realised that I should take in the amazing moment before me. After all this time and all this planning here I was at the altar of God to be joined in matrimony to the woman I love.
The Liturgy was absolutely amazing. It was an act of worship truly fitting of the occasion and it incorporated both the Eastern and Western elements of the marriage rite in a way that impressed upon me and rich diversity of the Christian tradition. Following a powerful homily by the Bishop we reached the vows and joined so many men and women who have stood not just in that church but in all churches across the ages and vowed to be true to one another in good times and in bad. As we processed out of the church at the end I glanced at the time and was very surprised that the Nuptial Mass had taken close to two hours…although it really didn’t feel that long.
We paused for a photo with everybody on the steps of the church before crossing the road into the afternoon tea. Because the liturgy took a bit longer than planned our time in the afternoon tea was unfortunately less than an hour. We tried to greet as many people as possible and I gave a speech and we handed out specially made cup cakes for the occasion. Before we knew it, we had to announce to our guests that the time had come for us to leave and thank them one last time for the great honour of their presence.
After some photos with the bridal party our limousine arrived at the Liverpool Catholic Club for the second reception of the day. Here were gathered all our family and a small group of friends. We all enjoyed a delicious meal and yet again, before I knew it, we were reaching the end. Some moving speeches were given, including my own of course! Jane and I cut the cake and drank the champagne before we surprised everyone with our bridal waltz, which was the Laendler as seen in the Sound of Music. And that was it! The day we had planned for seven months had passed before our eyes. While I hope that we will enjoy many wonderful days in the years to come our wedding day was a day I will be able to reflect upon with a smile for a long, long time.
My friends, thus comes to an end this chapter of my life and these reflections. I wanted to write these memories down to have something to look back upon in years to come but it has been a joy to share the journey of Jane and I with you. Thank you for your prayers and your messages of support. To those who are married, thank you for your witness, to those who are considering marriage may you be blessed in your journey. Warm Regards, Bernard Toutounji.