This story was part of the Fandom Gives Back compilation distributed December 2011. I'm publishing it today in honor of Edward and Bella's wedding anniversary.
Thank you to my betas for this story – and sweetishbubble. Thank you to Fandom Gives Back for its continued support of Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation.
Summary: Edward and Bella's wedding day was magical for everyone involved. In this story, we see the events of that afternoon and evening through the eyes of the father of the groom.
"Why don't you look handsome," Esme said behind me as she stepped out of the bathroom in her robe with her hair and makeup finished.
"I don't believe it matters what I look like, darling. Attention will certainly not be on me today."
"Pictures are forever, and I don't foresee Bella wanting to repeat this day as often as Rosalie wants to," she said as she slipped into the walk in closet as I secured my cuff links. A moment later she returned fully dressed in a stunning, plum colored gown.
"This may be the first wedding in history where the mother of the groom outshines the bride."
"Shhh! Don't say that. For one thing, Alice will hit you if she hears you say that, and two, not a chance. Bella is gorgeous and today will be spectacular. I just know it."
"I can't help but be bias," I said lightheartedly as I admired her.
She walked over and straightened my tie. "Leave your bias in this room today," she said as she looked up into my eyes.
"It's Bella's day. It's their day." I could see the emotion welling in her eyes. She dropped her gaze and shook her head. "I can't believe it's here. Edward is getting married."
"It's about time," I teased as I lifted her chin and kissed her gently.
"I agree," she said as she slipped loose of me. She picked up my jacket off the bed and held it open for me to slip into it.
"You should go check in on our son," she said as she patted my lapel. "I'll go downstairs and grab both your boutonnieres."
She turned to leave, but I grabbed her hand to stop her. I pulled her back to me and into my arms. "I love you, Mrs. Cullen," I whispered against her ear.
"I love you, too," she said as I felt her fingers run down my cheek. "Always and forever, Carlisle."
I kissed her again and she grinned at me before I released her and she exited the room. I took one last look in the mirror before following my wife out and stopping outside Edward's door.
"You can come in, Dad," I heard Edward say from the other side. I opened the door and silently stepped in. He was dressed for the occasion and standing before a mirror, staring at his own reflection. He looked so calm and prepared – like he had been waiting for this day all of his life.
"Have you seen Bella?" he asked me eagerly as I shut the door behind me.
"No, your sisters have her sequestered and I'm sure are taking excellent care of her," I said as I patted him on the shoulder.
"I can see that. You're missing one thing though. Your Mother has gone to retrieve your boutonniere."
"And the bride," he teased as he turned to face me.
"Well yes, that too," I said with a smile. "I'm so proud of you, Edward."
"Proud is an interesting choice of word, Carlisle," he said with one eyebrow raised.
I clarified for him. "I'm proud of the man I see before me who is about to make the biggest commitment of his existence and I know you will be a caring and loving husband."
"I learned from watching the best," he said with a smirk.
"You flatter me. You will be excellent at this because of the good man that you are."
"Another product of Dr. Carlisle Cullen. I've only tried to live up to what you have expected from me and I'm thankful that every time I fell you picked me up, you forgave me, and you helped me move forward. If it wasn't for you I wouldn't be here today and neither would she. Thank you, Father."
I embraced my son and felt the emotional sob forming in my chest. I loved him so much.
"I love you, too, Dad. Thank you for everything," he said with heartfelt emotion to my unspoken thought.
A soft knock at the door interrupted. "Come in, Esme," Edward said as he let go of me.
We both turned to the door as Esme entered the room with a smile at both of us.
"There are my leading men." She held up two white roses with pins through them. "May I do the honors?"
"Of course," Edward said with a grin at her. She stepped toward me and effortlessly attached the fragile flower to my jacket before turning to Edward.
"You look so dashing," she said to him as she affixed the bloom to his coat and smoothed his lapel. As she went to step back he pulled her into a hug.
"I love you, too, Mom. Always. Bella may be my wife, but you'll always be an important part of my life. I'll always need you…both of you," he said tilting his chin toward me. "I'm so grateful to be surrounded by loved ones, my family, today. Thank you for welcoming Bella into our family and accepting us."
"There was never a choice," Esme said with a quiver in her voice. "We love who you love, and from the moment you realized you loved her she became a part of our family. She's wonderful, Edward, and we look forward to spending eternity with her, too. I'm so happy that you have found her and this day has arrived."
I had my arms around both of them in an instant and we stood there in silence. No more words needed to be said.
When we finally broke apart, Esme was in charge.
"It's almost time. We need to get downstairs to greet our guests," she said as she kissed each of us on the cheek.
She opened the door and headed for the stairs with Edward and I not far behind. As we reached the second floor I could hear my daughters' voices floating into the hall from the Alice's bathroom.
"Stop fidgeting, Bella. We're almost done," Alice insisted.
I heard Edward chuckle behind me.
Esme was already greeting guests before we reached the first floor. Bella and Edward's friends from high school had arrived in a pack and were looking around the place wide eyed. Emmett ushered them into the living room, which had been converted into a flower filled chapel.
Guests continued to enter at a steady pace from that point forward – a few of my colleagues, friends of Bella's father, Seth Clearwater, Billy Black, our cousins from Denali, more friends from school, and then Jasper arrived with Renee and Phil. Esme met them at the door and I moved to her side.
"You look beautiful!" Renee gushed at my wife as she threw her arms around her. "This place looks spectacular! It's like something out of a movie!"
"Thank you, Renee," Esme warmly responded. "We just wanted to set a perfect scene for our children's big day."
"I can't believe it's really here. I feel way too young to be a mother of the bride and you looked like you should be the one getting married not the mother of the groom. How old did you say you were again?"
"Bella is upstairs and I'm sure she is eager to see you," Esme said successfully deflecting Renee's question.
"Have you seen her yet?" Renee asked eagerly.
"No, I'm waiting for her to arrive on the aisle."
"I love surprises, too, but Charlie and I have a gift for her and I can't let her walk down the aisle without one last hug. Is Charlie here yet?" Renee asked as she looked around the room.
"No, not yet," I chimed in. "But we will send him up as soon as he arrives."
Renee turned and hugged me. "Thank you, Carlisle."
Then she bound up the stairs leaving Phil standing there forgotten. Jasper swooped in and directed him to his seat at the front of the room.
"She's quite a character," Esme said with a nudge in my side.
"In a good way. She may be scattered, but she has a good heart," I said.
"I never said that she didn't. I just said she is quite a character." Esme lowered her voice as she said, "You may want to go outside to greet Charlie. He's pulling up now and I have a feeling this is a tough day for him."
I nodded and kissed my brilliant wife's cheek before heading out the door.
Charlie was walking slowly toward the house with his head hanging low.
"Good afternoon, Charlie," I called out the warm greeting from the porch.
He looked up with a slight look of surprise and grumbled, "Hey, Carlisle."
"It's a wonderful day isn't it?"
"Huh?" he questioned and then collected himself. "Yeah, great day. My 18-year-old daughter is getting married," he said resigning himself.
"They love each other very much, Charlie. Edward will take good care of her and we are thrilled to have her join our family," I tried to reassure him.
"I know that, Doc. I just never thought this day would come so soon. I thought there would be more time…" Charlie's voice trailed off and he swatted his hand across his eyes.
"But this is what she wants," I said confidently. "It's what they both want. Why delay their happiness?"
"I want her to be happy," he contended. "That's all I have ever wanted for Bella."
"You've raised an amazing daughter, Charlie. She is an incredible young lady who is making the right choice for her. If happiness is what you wanted for her then you succeeded."
"Yeah, I guess you're right," he said with a shrug and looking somewhat placated. "I guess I better get my game face on. Where is she?" he asked as he looked toward the house.
"She's upstairs on the second floor in Alice's room. Renee is with her, too."
"Great," he said with a slight roll of his eyes.
Esme walked out the door at that moment and hugged Charlie. "Congratulations, Charlie," she said lightly. "That tux suits you very well."
He mumbled a thank you and admired my wife for a moment as she released him. "You look very pretty, Esme."
"Thank you," she said with a smile and slid her hand into mine. "I know Renee and Bella are waiting for you upstairs. It's almost time to start. Can you please send Renee down?"
"Sure," he said as we stood aside so he could enter and head up the steps.
Esme turned to me, "You should go check in with Edward and the minister."
I kissed her before heading to the kitchen where I knew Edward would be waiting. Mr. Weber and Edward were having a lively conversation as I entered the room.
"No nerves at all?" I teased my son.
"Not at all. I've never felt more confident in any decision than the decision to marry Bella," he confirmed to me.
"It's almost time," I said.
"Good," Edward said with a nod.
"Do you have the rings, Carlisle?" Mr. Weber asked.
"In my pocket," I said with a gentle pat on the material. I could feel the outline of the two circles that would symbolically bind the couple.
"Do you two need a moment alone?" Mr. Weber questioned.
Edward and I shook our heads as we looked at each other.
"Every word has been said. He knows how proud I am and how much I love him and his soon to be bride," I said with a pat on Edward's shoulder.
"You have a beautiful family, Carlisle, and Bella will be a wonderful addition."
Esme, wedding coordinator extraordinaire, arrived at that moment. "You three need to get ready to take your places. Countdown three minutes and then head in."
She hugged me again and did the same to Edward.
"I love you, Mom," I heard him say again.
"I love you, too," she said before exiting.
The few minutes ticked by quickly and I hugged my son once more before exiting out into the living room with Edward and Mr. Weber.
Everyone was in their seats and all eyes turned to my ecstatic son. Rosalie was playing 'Pachelbel's Canon' on the piano, and she winked at us as we passed and murmured an "I love you," for our ears only.
As we took our place at the front of the room with Edward on the aisle and me beside him, I met the eyes of my wife and our sons, who were sitting on either side of her in the front row. She had Emmett's hand in her left and Jasper's in her right. There was so much happiness and love radiating from them. How could we possibly be this blessed?
Across the aisle Renee offered a wave to Edward, and he walked over and gave her a hug and Phil a handshake before returning to his spot. Rosalie's playing changed to the wedding march, and we knew the moment had arrived. Everyone turned to see Alice float down the stairs and up the aisle. She also offered a wink and puckered her lips to send a kiss toward her brother.
A moment later Bella and Charlie slowly began to descend the stairs. It was not easy to see them past all the hanging flowers, and I was sure that was by design. Knowing Alice, she didn't want Edward to really see Bella until she arrived at the end of the aisle, but when she did it was worth the wait.
Bella looked overwhelmed for a moment when she lifted her head and saw the scene that had been set before her, but then it happened - she locked eyes on Edward and he met her gaze and nothing else in the world existed.
She was dazzling - a beautiful, blushing bride who was incredibly happy and in love. They only had eyes for each other. She barely noticed Charlie handing her off to Edward. Their eyes never left each other's except when Bella looked down at his hand when she slid the ring on his finger.
I felt triumphant as I watched their first kiss as a married couple. They had been through so much to get to this day.
Edward had always been loved. He was a son, a brother, and a friend and adored as such. This day he was loved as a husband. He had found his other half and now he was tied to her for eternity. She was his wife and our new "daughter," and there was something that felt so complete about watching them in this moment.
I was so caught up that only when Esme cleared her throat that I realized the kiss was going on a little too long. I looked over at her and she was eying me to break it up when the happy couple pulled apart. I couldn't see Edward's face, but I could see Bella's. There were tears in her adoring eyes as she gazed at her husband.
Applause exploded. Renee bound out of her seat and had her arms around Bella before she could take one step forward. The idea of a receiving line failed. There was no graceful retreat down the aisle. Everyone present surged forward as the couple was passed from one guest to the next. I locked eyes on Esme, and reached my hand past the crowd to pull her over to where I stood on the alter.
She placed her hand on Edward's shoulder and he turned pulling Bella with him. Bella looked dazed as Esme wrapped her arms around her. "Welcome to our family," I heard her say. Esme released Bella into my arms and I told her, "You look beautiful, Bella. I'm so happy for you. Thank you for making him so happy."
She smiled up at me and kissed my cheek. "Thank you, Carlisle for accepting me into your family."
We started moving people toward the back door toward the reception area. Alice and Esme had enchanted our backyard. It was magical.
Rosalie and Emmett came up beside us.
"It looks pretty amazing, Esme," Emmett said.
"It was Alice's vision. I just helped make it materialize," she said, sounding pleased.
"I'm sure they love it," he said, throwing an arm around Esme's shoulder and kissing the top of her head. "I can't believe little bro finally took the plunge."
"She's good for him," Esme said.
"She's great for him and I like having her around. She lightens up the atmosphere," Emmett said cheerfully.
"It's nice to see him so happy," Rosalie murmured.
We all looked at her in surprise. "What?" Rosalie asked. "I may not agree with Bella's choice to become one of us, but I still love my moody brother. She's changed him for the better. She completes him and she completes our family."
I let go of Esme to embrace my oldest daughter. She didn't resist.
"That's really nice, Rose," Emmett said as I released her.
She shrugged. "He has no excuse for unhappiness now."
We watched the guests interacting with the happy couple, and as they moved out into the reception we greeted the guests as well.
"How's Irina?" I asked Tanya of our conspicuously absent cousin when the Denali coven landed in front of us.
"She's being difficult. She should be here," Tanya said with a frown.
"She is mourning," I said trying to be understanding for Irina's loss of her love interest, Laurent. He was killed by the Quileutes for attempting to destroy Bella. I didn't mourn his loss, but I tried to be sympathetic for Irina.
"If he had completed his task we wouldn't be here today. She knows this, but yet she refused to celebrate. I'm sorry that we haven't been there when you have needed us."
"It's in the past, Tanya," Esme insisted, still gripping my hand.
"You are too kind to us," Tanya said looking back and forth between me and my wife. "We couldn't ask for better relations. She's lovely," she said changing the subject and gesturing toward where Edward and Bella stood. "I don't think I've ever seen Edward so happy."
"Neither have we," I said with a shake of my head.
"How long until you change her?" Eleazar asked in a hushed tone.
"Eleazar," Carmen scolded.
"It has to be done. She knows too much," he insisted.
"And she will be soon enough," I said. "Before the year is out."
"Let's not dwell on such things," Carmen said. "I'm sure you have plenty to do as the parents of the groom. We should find our table."
With the ceremony over, Alice relieved Esme of the choreography of the run of show for the evening. When everyone was settled into their seats, Alice was at my side.
"You're up, Carlisle," she said handing me my glass of champagne. I looked at Esme, and she squeezed my arm before I stood and called everyone to attention.
"First of all, thank you to everyone for being here this evening to celebrate Edward and Bella's commitment and love. Thank you to Charlie and Renee for sharing Bella with our family and our son. You have raised an incredible young woman and we are honored that she has become a Cullen. We love her very much and will cherish her always."
I took a deep breath before continuing.
"Edward came into my life unexpectedly. I had never imagined being a father and suddenly I had a son. It wasn't easy and there was a constant struggle at first. All I could do was love him with the hope that if I loved him enough it would be enough. I know at times he struggled with feelings of being alone, and even then all I and my wife could do was remind him that he wasn't alone. With time he accepted us as his parents, and he welcomed his brothers and sisters into his life, but there was always something missing until a young lady named Bella Swan came into his life."
My eyes fell on my new daughter-in-law. "He needed you without knowing that he did until you showed up in his biology class last year. You changed him for the better. Because of you, Bella, he has striven to be a better person in every way. The change has been welcome and you have completed him. Thank you for loving our son and being loved in returned. May your love be eternal.
"Please join with me and raise your glass to my son and new daughter-in-law. May your marriage be blessed forever. To Edward and Bella," I said raising my glass.
Glasses were raised high and the tinkering of crystal was heard all around us.
"That was beautiful," Esme said as I sat and she snuggled against my arm.
"Thank you, my love." I felt overwhelmed. I glanced back at Edward and he was staring at me, his eyes filled with emotion.
"Thank you, Dad," he mouthed. I nodded and raised my glass to him again.
Esme was attached to my arm as we faked our way through the meal and watched Edward and Bella take to the dance floor for their first dance. Every time I looked at my stunning wife she looked blissful, but also like she would be crying if the tears would fall.
As Charlie stepped in to dance with his daughter, Edward's eyes went right to Esme. He walked across the dance floor and stood before us holding out his hand, "Mom, can I have this dance?"
She beamed as she took it. They stepped out onto the floor and that's when perfection occurred.
As Edward and Esme twirled across the dance floor, 85 years of memories flooded my mind. How many times had I watched them dance from speakeasies when it was just the three of us, to the many weddings of Emmett and Rosalie, to dancing across our living rooms just for fun? All were preparation for this moment - my wife and our son dancing on his wedding day. I loved my entire family. Every member was more of blessing than I could ever have imagined, but Edward and Esme were my heart. He changed my life and was not only my son, but my best friend. Esme was the love of my existence. They were the creation of our family. I could watch them forever.
But the dance came to an end and I relieve my son of my wife. She grinned at me as I took her into my arms.
"Is it ridiculous that I'm so happy?" she asked.
"Not at all. I feel it, too," I said as we move across the floor.
"This whole idea of being complete rings so true. He's no longer the odd man out. Our numbers are even now. He couldn't have found someone more wonderful than Bella."
"She's very special."
"Hmm," she murmured in agreement. "She's perfect."
We stuck together through two more songs before Jasper arrived at my side to cut in. "Dad, you should grab a dance with the blushing bride."
I took his advice and made my way toward Edward and Bella. Edward stepped aside and placed Bella's hand in mine without me saying a word.
"Is everyone having a good time?" Bella asked as I lead her across the floor.
"Everyone is having a wonderful time," I said with a smile.
"Esme and Alice outdid themselves. They really didn't have to do so much."
"I don't think you could have stopped Alice. She wanted a perfect day for you two."
"Mission accomplished," Bella said with a chuckle. "Although as long as Edward showed up I could have been wearing sweats in front of a justice of the peace and it would have been perfect."
"There was never an option for him not to show up. He loves you so much," I said emphatically.
"Thank you for what you said during your toast. I was very touched."
"Every word was true. You are a blessing in all of our lives, Bella. We love you...I love you very much. You are a Cullen now and forever."
She hugged me tight and said, "Thank you for accepting me into your family, Carlisle."
"There was never a choice. The moment Edward realized he loved you, you became a part of our family and we are thrilled to have you."
"I love you, too...all of you. I'm very proud to take your family's name, Carlisle. Bella Cullen has a nice ring to it," she said with a wink.
I hugged her as the song came to an end. "It sounds wonderful."
Edward was back and I headed across the floor to retrieve Kate for a dance.
The evening flew by, although I tried to savor every moment. All too soon, I was watching Renee and Esme clutching each other's hands as they followed Bella down the stairs in her going away ensemble. As Bella said her goodbyes to her parents, Edward came over to where the six of us stood gathered together.
He shrugged with a grin. "I guess this is it."
"Don't do anything I wouldn't do, Bro," Emmett said as he bear hugged his brother.
"Emmett!" Rosalie scolded at her husband's intent before she took her turn with Edward. "Be good to her. Cherish her," she insisted and he nodded his understanding.
"You'll be fine," Alice confirmed as she kissed his cheek, and left him looking slightly embarrassed as he glanced over to Bella.
"Aw man, wait until you get there," Jasper said clapping him on the back.
"I'd punch you if you weren't wearing a tux," Edward said very quietly.
"I'm just saying reign it in, Edward. You've waited long enough. Keep your eye on the prize," he said as he hugged him. "I love you, man."
I hugged Edward next. "If you need anything don't hesitate to call me."
"I'm not calling you, Carlisle," Edward insisted.
"I hope not, but you know you can."
"Thanks, Dad," he said with a grateful smile.
Esme embraced him next. "For the millionth time today, I love you," was all she said.
"For the millionth time back, I love you, too, Mom."
And then Edward and Bella were driving away, and we were bidding our guests farewell. Then, among the flowers, the empty dance floor, and the dirty dishes, stood just the six of us. A few members of the catering staff continued to clean up. Alice went back to directing them with Jasper at her side. Emmett and Rosalie headed into the house with Rosalie murmuring something about getting changed.
"Take a walk with me by the river," Esme said taking my arm.
I slipped my arm around her waist as we retreated from the bright sparkling lights of the reception area. I relived the day in my head as we walked.
"We are so lucky," Esme said, interrupting my thoughts.
"We are," I agreed.
"He has never looked so happy and sure of himself."
"He knows what it is like now to have his other half bound to him forever," I said kissing her cheek.
She stopped and turned to face me, the moonlight making her glow. She threaded her fingers into mine.
"And I know how wonderful that is," she said as she stood on her toes to press her lips to mine. She looked up into my eyes as she pulled away and said, "I, Esme, take you, Carlisle, to be my husband from this day forward. I offer you my love and support throughout our lives. To join with you and to share all that is to come; the happiness and joy as well as the challenges which life brings. I promise to be faithful to you; to be open and honest with you. I will respect, trust, help, and care for you. I have found in you the one who completes me, the one that God intended me to be with, my soul-mate. I will love you and be thankful for the blessing of your love, as long as we both shall live."
I was overcome by the words she first declared to me 84 years ago, but, just as I had that day, I looked into her eyes and repeated our vow pausing to stifle the sob threatening to burst from my chest.
She touched my cheek, "I love you so much, my dear husband."
I wrapped my arms around her and kissed her. "I should add an addendum to those vows."
"But they were perfect then and they are perfect now," she insisted. "What could you possibly add?"
"Something about our family – protecting and loving our children." I couldn't find the right words, but I knew she would understand.
She shook her head though in disagreement. "My selfish side is going to step in. Those vows are between you and me. We love our family and will cherish and protect what we have, but those sacred vows are ours as long as we both shall live."
"Agreed, Mrs. Cullen," I said.
"Thank you, Dr. Cullen," she said as she held me to her.
I buried my face in her hair. "Since we are reliving vows and reminiscing about our own wedding, can we reenact our wedding night?"
She laughed and pressed her lips to my neck. "I believe that can be arranged, but as wonderful as that night was we've gotten better since then."
"Well we've had lots of practice and practice makes perfect," I teased. "And I think the sexiest mother of the groom of all time, who's been working non-stop to pull of the perfect wedding day, needs some pampering."
"She would love to be pampered by the hottest best man slash father of the groom."
We started back toward the house. The catering staff was gone and the rental companies would be by in the morning for pick up. I spun her once as we crossed the dance floor toward the house.
When we entered the living room I was surprised to find Emmett, Rosalie, Jasper and Alice chatting.
"I thought with so much love in the air you would have all retreated to your rooms," I chided, my arm still around Esme's waist.
"We just wanted to make sure you two were alright before 'retreating,'" Rosalie said with a smirk.
"Why wouldn't we be alright?" Esme asked.
"You two looked like you were ready to sob all day. We were giving you another hour and then we were going to come retrieve you - make sure you weren't crying messes in the woods," added Emmett.
"I told you they were fine, and that they have plans tonight," said Alice with a giggle.
"Thanks, Alice," I said sourly.
"We're all adults here, Carlisle. Edward's gone and will return a man," Emmett said with a guffaw.
"Stop it, Emmett," Rosalie admonished. "Have some respect for Edward and Bella."
"Sorry," he grumbled.
I looked at each face. "I'm so proud of you all. Thank you for making this day so special for them."
"You're welcome, Dad. And before you say it again, we love you, too," Alice added.
"Bella looked incredible," Esme said to our daughters. "Her hair, make up and the dress were absolute perfection."
Alice and Rosalie beamed at their mother and both climbed to their feet embrace her.
"She's your sister now and I think after today she truly understands that," she added as she touched each of our girls on the cheek.
"I think so, too," Alice said with a grin. "Life is going to be good. They're going to be very happy."
"Nice job with the speech, Carlisle," Jasper added. "They were very moved."
"Thank you," I said as I squeezed Esme's hand.
"Alright," Jasper said. "Yes, we're all adults here. Carlisle, you're killing me. Let's let Mom and Dad go to bed."
I could have feigned embarrassment, but what was the point? There were hugs all around and expressions of love and good night before I took Esme's hand and lead her up the stairs.
I picked her up to cross the threshold into our room swiftly shutting the door behind me.
"We've done good, Carlisle," she said as I unzipped her dress and moved to remove my own clothes.
"I agree," I said as I watched her remove the pins from her hair, my bias for her beauty allowed to return in our room.
"Our children are incredible," she stated as she shook her hair out. "They really showed how bonded they are and what a family we are today."
I scooped her up and laid her down on the bed. "We are a family and I've never been as proud of our life as I was today. We've made the right choices. I believe everything with Bella will work out. She's one of us. She's family and the relationships that exist, those whom God has joined together - family, siblings, and spouses - let no one put asunder."
"We're strong. No one ever will," she said, her eyes glowing as she looked up at me.
"But I will continue to prove it to you as long as we both shall live," I added as I captured her lips and began a night of reliving 84 years of memories.