“Are you the couple getting married here later this afternoon.”
The woman had wandered over to us sitting in the fifth row, left side, hand in hand, quietly watching the preparations. A number of people were scurrying about St. Peter’s Cathedral Basilica in London, ensuring the flowers were arranged just right, the candles were displaying enough wick length, the readings were at the ready available at the podium and the microphones were all functioning. Olga and I had just raised ourselves off the kneeling board after several minutes of reverent prayer.
“No, I am afraid not” I began.
“We were merely stopping by before our wedding at another venue”, said Olga, completing the thought.
“Oh, you look like such a beautiful couple. Congratulations. I hope you have a wonderful ceremony.”
We wanted to visit the church before heading to Windermere House where 42 guests were gathering in the library of the old estate, awaiting our arrival. This small homage to St. Peters was as close as we could venture to a Catholic service. The parish priest had ruled out any opportunity of a traditional church wedding when he pronounced the notion to be scandalous.
Our ceremony was going to be very simple, sanctified with our own vows, presided over by a non-denominational minister, with musical accompaniment from the choir from Mary Immaculate Parish of which Olga and I were both members, singing songs of a wedding mass. The day was not going to be the one my parents envisioned, the first son to be married. They were overtly opposed when we announced our intentions three months earlier; eventually they grew into acceptance. Olga’s parents weren’t enamored; her Mom would be the only person attending, her father ill, her brother living out west. Others were subtly skeptical of our age difference, although had it been reversed, few would have noticed.
No wonder I woke in the morning with an unsettled stomach. The beverage consumption last night with my brothers and best man played a part; nervousness would be the main ingredient. A morning of hall preparation before I donned my best and only suit, black, purchased a mere three weeks ago. I drove by the flower shop to pick up my corsage and the bridal bouquet, before alighting upon Olga’s Victoria Street apartment, our future home.
Olga was quiet, also nervous, alone, waiting in her dress. Not the full bridal white gown of puffs and frills. Hers would be a simple, elegant dress, understated in a light beige, befitting the solemnity of the moment. Olga’s hair was pulled up, braided; her face adorned with makeup to enhance a natural beauty. Together, alone, unbeknownst to anyone, we made a detour to arrive here at the Basilica for some final reflection.
“Olga, are you ready?”
We both genuflected to the altar, Olga making the sign of the cross, three times as per Ukrainian practice, bowing our heads one last time. The hours of conversation in the two years preceding, discussing our values, our beliefs, our dreams, filled the silent ride driving past the university, the conduit of our beginning. Our family backgrounds made for shared experiences; our political interests combined for a common front; our personalities were complementary: we loved being with each other. The lingering questions of our individual particulars no longer mattered when we pulled into the parking space at the bottom of the hill. Uncertainty would be overcome together.
At the precise instant I put my hand in Olga’s to begin our walk up the tree lined drive, I knew.
We were blessed. Our marriage was meant to be.
Happy Anniversary, Olga.
With all my love,