The white stretch limo pulled up under the portico of our Catholic church, Our Lady Star of the Sea. We have attended this church since we moved to Ponte Vedra in 1993. Lindsay and Louis had taken their CCD classes here, and now our grandchildren. We have celebrated every holiday and feast at this church. One Christmas in particular I recall the alter servers wore their brand new red robes. Louis held the cross and Lindsay followed behind as they both served on that Christmas Eve. That year we had family from Cleveland, so we had a complete pew filled with Zitiello’s. It is our church home. I cannot imagine spending holidays anywhere else.
When Matthew and Lindsay decided to marry we were hopeful they would want the ceremony to be held at OLSS. The Garrity family also belongs to the parish family. So we were all very pleased when the decision was positive. Fr. Remek Blaszkowski would be the officiant, a young priest with a thick Czech accent, whom we had all fallen in love with. Tom called him the “rock star”. He always kept us enthralled with his up to the moment homilies. We knew they would also love this no nonsense guy with a passion for his faith. Both families couldn’t be happier.
The bridesmaids, the bride and myself sat anxiously in the limo as we watched thru the tinted black windows as guests passed by arriving at the church a little late and rushing in to find their seats. In just a few moments we would enter the church. The bride is always the last to enter, so Lindsay and I stayed behind after the maids made their way inside. I told Lindsay how much her Dad and I love her and how happy we are for her. We were thrilled with her choice in Matt. I held her hand and asked her if she was nervous. She said she wasn’t but was excited and couldn’t wait to walk down the aisle. Suddenly the door opened. Fr. Remek stuck his head into the limo and looked Lindsay straight in the eye as he asked, “What is your final answer Lindsay? Are you ready to marry Matthew?” “Yes” she said “I am ready to marry Matt.” “Let’s go then” he said as he held out his hand to help us, bouquets in hand, exit the limo. He rushed us into the small dressing room where the priests don their vestments for mass and quickly closed the door.
The church was filled with family and friends waiting in anticipation as they sat listening to family friend Chuck Kessler, accompanied by his son Michael, strum his guitar and sing beautiful songs hand picked by Lindsay and Matthew.
The tiny room held a triple mirror, a closet where the priests vestments were stored and a small bathroom. Lindsay twirled and took one last look at herself in the mirror when there was a knock at the door. I knew it had to be her Father. I opened the door a crack as he pushed the door open and slipped into the room with us. “Honey, you are not supposed to be in here.” I said. “Dad” Lindsay said, “I don’t want to ruin my makeup.” “I know” he said, “but I needed to get this ……over…..before….we walk down the aisle.” He stuttered as he took in his daughter-bride in the gown he had not seen until this moment. He turned around fully as he gasped for air. “I want to tell you both how much I love you. Judi… for giving me Lindsay. You are the most important women in my life.” He wiped his tears as there was another knock at the door.
“The Mother of the Bride” needs to get in line now”, the church lady was pleading. I left the room and took my place at the front of the processional with my handsome son Louis who would escort me up the aisle. It was beginning. I had been reminded, the Mother-of-the-Bride controls the ceremony. The music changed to my favorite song,”I Give You My Heart”. Chucks’ voice was sweet and folkish. We were the first to make the slow long walk toward the altar. He walked me to the second pew. Next came the Mother-of-the Groom, Phyllis Garrity on the arm of her Husband-Best Man, Jack. She was seated across the aisle from me. She glanced a smile my way and we stood and approached the altar where we lit the unity candles, two candles representing the two families with one large candle in the center. When the candles had been lit we squeezed each others hand and descended the few steps back to our seats.
Judi and Phyllis light their unity candles
Now it was time for the processional hymn “This is the Day”. Matthew, the Bridegroom and his Father-Best Man were next. Matthew looked so handsome, his tall stature and his tight black curls. On his black lapel was an orchid boutineer, a small dove feather tucked in. They slowly approached the altar and took their places turning to watch the processional and then the Bride and her Father. The moment he had waited for was fast approaching.
The Bridesmaids and Groomsmen were next in their beautiful Vera Wang yellow-gold flowing gowns and classic black tuxes, everyone smiling as the excitement was building. I had honestly never seen such a beautiful collection of friends. They approached the altar, lowered their heads as they reached the first step, the maids lined up to the left the groomsmen to the right. The witnesses were in place.
Next came the priest in his beautiful cream colored robe with an embellished green vestment draped over his shoulders. He took his place at the center of the altar near Matthew.
Matthew’s niece, darling 3 1/2 year old MaryBeth was chosen as the flower girl with Tommy and Mitchell as ring bearers. The children made their way down the aisle. MaryBeth was coaxed down by adult cousin, beautiful Kelly Sherrod. They took their places in the front pews next to their families curious about what was going to happen next.
The altar was complete with the exception of one.
The music changed to “Canon in D” as Fr. Remek motioned for everyone to stand. And suddenly she appeared on the arm of her proud Father, more beautiful then ever and smiling. Tom held her hand on his arm as he guided his only precious daughter to her love waiting at the altar. She was a picture perfect bride in her Augusta Jones creamy lace dress with a long satin bow at her waist and the long lace train trailing behind. She wore no veil on her low soft bun just a beautiful creamy flower to one side. On her wrist was her “something borrowed”, my pearl bracelet. She was stunning.
Words cannot express the emotion of this moment in time.
Matthew did not take his eyes away off of her from the moment she entered the church. He later told me he couldn’t believe she was really his.
The guests were seated and a full Catholic mass began. The Brides oldest brother Scott and the Grooms sisters, Jacqueline and Amy read the scriptures specially selected by Lindsay and Matthew. Both families were well represented in the sacred sacrament of holy matrimony.
When Fr. Remek began his homily he held everyones attention. Lindsay and Matthew had met with Fr. Remek to prepare for their marriage for eight months. So, with personal knowledge he spoke from his heart. He told Lindsay that she showed her trust in Matthew when he blindfolded her and took her for a car ride last November. And, when he placed her in the stunt plane and sent her up in the air with only a pilot and her parachute. He asked her thru her headphones if she wanted to take another wild ride with him, when he asked her to marry him.
Fr. Remek told the Bride and Groom and the assembled guests that they were embarking on a true adventure and that trust in each other and trust in God would be the foundation they should build their family on. It was a wonderful homily enjoyed by everyone.
The vows were spoken and the rings blessed and exchanged. Matthew and Lindsay lit the large candle with the two side candles lit by their Mothers and they became one in God’s eyes. The mass continued with the sacred solemnity it always holds. The couple turned from the priest toward the assembly and were introduced as Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Garrity. We all cheered and clapped our hands. Chuck began to loudly strum and sing Third Days’ “I’ve Always Loved You”. Then, Matthew, with his hand at his brides back, led his Wife-Bride down the steps and down the aisle, past family and friends both of them bursting with happiness.
They were officially married.
Let the party begin.