Last weekend, I went to the beautiful autumn-themed wedding of a long-time family friend. (What a great opportunity to put one of those dresses in the back of my closet, with tags still on them to use!) I was there on behalf of the bride. Her oldest brother was one of my best friends in high school and his sister became a little sister to me. These people have been in my life for about 15 years.
This bride is very blessed. She comes from an absolutely fabulous family. I remember hanging out at their house as much as possible, just drinking in the acceptance and love that this family offered to everyone that came through their door. This family is not what you would expect from their outside image. Their stats don't speak for who they really are.
Upon meeting these people, the first thing you notice is that there are more of them than in an average size family. There are eight children, making them a family of ten. The next obvious thing about them is that the father in the family is a pastor of a church. These two aspects alone make most people jump to certain stereotypical conclusions. These people do not fit the mold for a typical church family.
Over the countless hours I've spent with this family, I learned many surprising things. I found out that the mother is seriously funny. She is a spitfire. She loves beer and pizza, especially while playing Rummy. She puts her family first, but never loses herself. She blew off her college graduation ceremony to run off and get married because she felt that it wouldn't be right to wear white for the ceremony if she waited much longer! It turns out that this family ended up with eight kids, not by design but, because they had some serious birth control failures which they have joked about on occasion. Each of these eight kids was given the mental and physical room they needed to become exactly who they were meant to be, not a carbon copy of one another or a part of a generic brood.
While they are not a perfect family, their kids are loved and have always felt safe to say or ask anything. I have spent some of my best times as an honorary extra family member for road trips and other events. It's a marvel to see any family that runs well and really cool for it to be one of this size. This family knows how to make you feel truly accepted and it's fun to watch peoples faces when you file into a restaurant or campground as a family of 16, our 'mother' proudly claiming all of us. I've recently found a blog that reminds me a bit of my family friends over at Table For Nine.
During the wedding celebration of my 'little sister', I noticed a few very striking things. The first thing: Having her father be the one to marry her to her new husband was so awesome. It really changed the dynamics of the ceremony for me. This is the oldest daughter and first to be married. You could just feel the bond of a father laying out his love for his daughter and entrusting her dreams to the man she marries. It was as if a torch of respect was being passed between them, for this woman that they both love so much.
The second thing: This one was sad. There were whispered rude remarks about the man that this woman was marrying. He is somewhat older than the bride. He has a fourteen year old son who served as best man during the ceremony and gave a funny heartfelt toast that involved a mad lib treatment. Not sure whether the new husband has been married before or not. I didn't ask about any of these things because it doesn't matter. I had spoken with the bride several weeks before the wedding about how she was feeling during the preparations. We had a great conversation. Although I don't personally know her new husband, I trust her judgement and the family that she comes from. Her family was obviously very happy for her. That's all that should matter to anyone.
The last thing I noticed: the new husband seemed a bit shy and somewhat overwhelmed. He reminded me of my own husband in some ways. They are both men who are quiet when you first meet them. But I'm sure that like my husband, there's a lot more to him once you get to know him. I made a point to go over and talk to him when he was alone. I said, "You did the same thing my husband did. You married the life of the party." He replied in a satisfied tone, "Yes, I did." We both laughed at that and then quietly watched his new wife work the room for a while. I left him with this, "You're going to have a great life."
I'm going to ask them over for dinner in the next couple of weeks. I want to make a point of getting to know my new 'brother-in-law'. He is lucky to be a part of a wonderful family and I want to help welcome him in. I know a good thing when I see it.