Anyone who knows me will likely be expecting a column about my daughter’s wedding, and I will not disappoint. By all accounts, it was a memorable event. The trouble is, I can’t remember much of it.
Brigid Ward of Saskatoon married James Ainswortth of Hull, Yorkshire, on June 20. James’s parents came from England for the event, and we had a pleasant few days together before they embarked on a tour of Western Canada. That much I do remember.
I remember the ceremony, too. It was brief and simple, performed by family friend Rev. Demetrius Wasylyniuk, OSB, whose voice carried beautifully in the small chapel at St. Thomas More College. James’s father acted as best man. The bulk of the congregation was relatives — aunts, uncles and first cousins — with a smattering of close friends.
The bride was barefoot. That was the only non-negotiable aspect of the ceremony, she told me. No one commented on it. I doubt that anyone noticed. She wore a white dress that she made herself. There was no mass, as most of those attending were non-Catholics.
My other daughter, Caitlin, was maid of honour. Caitlin told me later that she nearly caught my eye while Brigid and James were exchanging vows, and if she had she would have started crying. I was avoiding catching her eye for the same reason.
In planning the wedding, Brigid had assumed that the less I knew about it, the better. It was wise of her. Fathers of the bride should not involve themselves in their daughters’ wedding plans. Their chief function is to show up. In more traditional weddings they escort their daughters down the aisle to symbolically “give them away,” but other than that they should lie low and say nothing.
I didn’t give Brigid away because, as I had pointed out to her years ago, I didn’t own her. She is my beloved daughter and a mature feminist. I was not about to hand her over to another man as if she were a piece of property, as women all too often are treated, even in these enlightened times. As the ceremony started, Brigid and James escorted each other down the aisle to stand as equals before the altar and before God.
Having got through the ceremony without seriously embarrassing myself, I thought the rest of the day would be clear sailing. But here is where my memory breaks down. I remember standing at the chapel door with the newly married couple, greeting the guests as they filed out. There was only one I hadn’t met before, a nephew’s partner whose name I didn’t catch. The nephew had missed the ceremony because of a sewer backup at home, but he came to the reception later that evening.
The period between the wedding and the reception is vague in my mind. I remember carving a roast of beef. I know that Brigid and James went with the photographer to have their pictures taken in various venues, but only because I was told. I know that my godson Bernard and his wife Emily came from Toronto for the wedding, and I know that Brigid was especially happy to see them; Bernard’s mother is my godmother, and our two families have been close over the years. Other than that, the afternoon is a blank. I don’t remember if I kept my suit on the whole time or if I changed to carve the roast, but Caitlin remarked that I did it with a single-mindedness that amused her.
The reception, too, is unclear. I have a general impression of wandering from table to table, speaking with friends and greeting relatives. There was a brief announcement to the effect that there would be no announcements or speeches.
I ate nothing, though there was plenty to eat if I had wanted to. I noticed that my brother-in-law had grown a beard. There was a lot of hugging going on. My brother Rick gave me a fountain pen he had fashioned on his lathe. Later on, a friend gave us a ride home as the bride and groom repaired to their hotel for the night.
Looking back on it, I realize that the events of the day and evening are vague in my mind because I was overcome with happiness and gratitude — drunk with joy, in fact. If I had allowed myself to pay too close attention I would have burst into tears.
Colleen and I love James and are happy to welcome him into the family. Brigid made an excellent choice, we feel, and so did James.
I may have few memories of their wedding day, but I will never forget the pair of them, radiant at the altar as they greeted the world as husband and wife, and I will never lose the gratitude I started to feel at that moment.