On the day of my wedding, I stare out the window of the church to find the ground blanketed in a sheet of snow. It's so beautiful. And, as Leanne kindly pointed out, it matches my dress.
I've been sitting in this room for hours, allowing my hair to be washed and dried. Pulled and twisted. Tweaked and coiffed. My face has been steamed and slathered with makeup. All the while, my bridesmaids just sit there talking about life in general. Never mind the fact that my heart is beating out of my chest.
Is this really happening? Are Oliver and I finally getting married? I take a deep breath as the hair and makeup people excuse themselves.
"Time to put your dress on!" Angelina shouts as soon as they are out of the room. Alicia runs to the closet and pulls out what she's grown to jokingly call her firstborn. She loves my dress more than I do! Don't get me wrong, I think it's perfect—but there's only so much affection I can feel for an article of clothing. Alicia's been "babysitting" it for me for months.
It's an A-line dress that has more of a train than I would like, but it is so different than all of the other dresses that I saw; I had to have it. I guess I felt a kinship to it—neither of us seemed to fit in at the bridal store. You see, my dress has spunk. It has color. Literally. I didn't even know they made wedding dresses with color on them.
Anyway, it's a white strapless dress (another feature that I'm not completely comfortably with), with a red band across the top and along the inset and hem. Mallory, Leanne, Alicia, and Angelina are all wearing bridesmaid dresses that I think they're happy with. They picked them out, not me, so they should like them. They're a color called apple, which prior to this whole shopping experience I thought was just a fruit. Turns out it is also a shade of red.
"Okay, Katie," Alicia says, coming back with my dress held above her head so the train doesn't trail too much. "Are you ready to put on your dress?"
"Well, considering the wedding starts in about half an hour, I don't think I have much of a choice." Alicia smiles joyfully and she and Leanne help me step into my dress.
"Oh my God!" They all say at the same time.
"You look amazing!"
I roll my eyes at them and make way over to the mirror which they hid from me while my makeup and hair were being done. As I stand there looking at myself, I almost don't realize who I'm looking at. I now truly believe that a girl's wedding day is the one day where she gets to look and feel like a princess.
My bridesmaids coo over me for several more minutes while I just stare in shock. I really am beautiful…
A knock sounds at the door and I jump as all of the girls get quiet.
"Yes?" Mallory asks after several seconds pass.
"It's Katie's dad. Can I come in?"
"Of course!" Mallory runs to the door, nearly tripping over her dress and lets him in. I smile at the look of astonishment on his face when he sees me.
"Hi, Daddy," I laugh. He clears his throat and addresses the room.
"They want the bridesmaids to get ready. Katie will be out there in a minute." My friends leave and I'm left alone with my dad. If the truth must be told, I'm a little nervous as to what he's going to say to me. Me and my dad have never really been close—he even ended up moving to America after You-Know-Who died—but it's moments like this that make me realize just how much I love him.
He pretty much raised me single-handedly and I'm eternally grateful to him for making me the person that I am today.
"You look just like your mother," he says, taking a seat in an arm chair on the other side of the room. Not wanting to wrinkle my gown, I stay standing.
"Thank you," I respond.
"You know, she's going to be sorry she missed this." He looks into my eyes and I look into his and I know that that's all that's going to be said about my mum. And somehow, it's enough. I know she's here in spirit and my dad does too; there's no reason for us to say it.
"I know," I agree.
"I wouldn't let you go, Katie, to anyone but Oliver. He's a good man—he treats you right. He loves you."
"I love him too, Daddy. More than anything."
"That's good…that's really good. And you're happy? This is what you want?"
"More than anything," I repeat.
"Then I wish you well, baby. I love you." His comment takes me by surprise and I do a double take. I can't even remember the last time my dad told me that he loves me.
"I love you, too," I say, tearing up. I try to avert my eyes from him, however. If there's one person I'd never let see me cry, it's my dad. He raised me better than to cry over something as sappy as a three-word comment.
"Well then, let's get out there."
My father and I make our way into the lobby of the church. "Is the bride ready?" an usher asks me as I get into line behind my bridesmaids.
"She is," I say. He enters the church and a few seconds later, the bridal march begins playing and the doors to the church swing open. Mallory's the first one out, followed by Alicia, then Angelina, and then Leanne. Finally, it's my turn.
As I step onto the threshold of the immaculate church, the audience stands. I try to withhold my grin, but I just can't help it. Maybe I like the attention after all. My heart is beating as though I've just run a marathon and I don't know how I'm ever going to be able to choke out the vows. I find Oliver's eyes as I walk, arms interlaced, with my father. Oliver's beaming at me and my smile just grows wider.
He looks so gorgeous in his tuxedo. I want to look around at all of the flowers and things that I helped pick out, but I just can't take my eyes off of him. After what feels like hours later, we arrive at the front of the church. My Dad kisses my forehead, before presenting me to the preacher. I pass my bouquet to Leanne and turn to face Oliver.
I'm surprised when I feel the tears welling in my eyes at the sight of him. I'm just so damn happy! I'm even more surprised to find that his eyes are watery also.
"I love you," he mouths to me.
"I love you, too," I mouth back.
"Ladies and gentlemen," the preacher begins. "We are gathered here today to witness the union between these two souls: Katherine Anne Bell and Oliver William Wood."
He goes on to talk about love and the meaning of love for several minutes, but I don't need a definition because the very picture of love is standing right before me.
"If anyone knows of a reason why these two should not be wed, speak now or forever hold your peace."
"Well…" Ben smirks from behind Oliver. Oliver turns and hits him and everyone laughs. "I'm just kidding! These two are perfect for each other."
"Who gives this woman away?"
"I do," my father answers.
"And who gives this man?"
"We do," Oliver's parents say. I look over at them and see that they look just as proud as my own father. Oliver's grandparents sit next to them, and it strikes me for the first time that they are about to be my family also.
"Do we have the rings?"
Oliver turns to look at Ben, his best man, warily.
"I have the rings," Ben assures him, grabbing them out of his pocket. "I'm not cruel enough to give Katie a heart attack by pretending I don't." I smile at him gratefully as Oliver takes the two rings. He hands me one and keeps the other for himself.
"These rings represent your new life together," the preacher says. "Katie, will you present Oliver with your ring?"
I place the ring on Oliver's finger and take a deep breath. Oliver and I memorized our vows…I just hope I can get this right. "I, Katie Bell, take you, Oliver Wood, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, to love and to cherish, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, through sickness and in health from this day forward until death do us part."
"And Oliver?" Oliver takes my hand in his and slips the ring on my finger.
"I, Oliver Wood, take you, Katie Bell, to be my lawfully wedded wife, my constant friend, my faithful partner and my love from this day forward. I offer my vow to be with you through sickness and in health, through good times and in bad, and in joy as well as in sorrow. I promise to love you unconditionally, to honor and respect you, to laugh with you and cry with you, to cherish you from this day forward as long as we both shall live."
"You are my husband from this day, until the day I die," I finish.
"And you are my wife from this day until the day I die. But you are my heart forever." I look up in surprise at his deviation from the script.
His eyes are overflowing with love and I know right then that no matter what happens, Oliver is always going to be there. We're going to be together for a very long time. He's going to be the father of my children and the love of my life. He's going to be mine for the rest of eternity.
"Through the power vested in me under the name of God Almighty, I pronounce you man and wife. You may now kiss the bride."
Oliver kisses me right there in front of everyone and I'm officially the happiest person in the world. The future is full of uncertainty and there are things ahead that I know I can't pull through alone.
My life is just beginning. There's a whole world out there of things I've yet to experience. And starting tonight, I'm going to let Oliver take me there.