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Attending a small wedding ceremony

They were all there — family and friends. Words were spoken, papers signed, the journey begun. Witnesses observed “I do’s” uttered as vows, the securing of a blessing, the exchange of an opening kiss.

All that because he made her laugh.

Over behind where the choir sits was an EXIT sign with big orange letters, not obtrusive, really, but certainly noticeable. Still, no one bailed.

On the way into the University of Toronto’s Knox College Chapel — before all that occurred — I asked a young lady if she was Mary Helen’s daughter. She replied, “No, I’m the wedding planner.”

Thank God, I’d worn my suit.

They planned for action, not flowers, but it was spring, after all, and in the air so it soared through leaded glass windows, followed organ pipes running up gothic stone walls, came to rest in old oak pews worn smooth. We slid into one of them, settling in with it.

Old walls, old pews with older people, gave way to younger people dominating the scene with fairness and handsomeness, their confidence enhanced by the bride’s radiance and the groom’s proud bearing. Babies, sent off in a direction holding hands, cared not where they were going or why. Smiling shyly, they led an eclectic procession into that solemn place in springtime, claiming it as its own before a word was spoken.

The reception was in the old distillery district on Distillery Lane in The Fermenting Cellar. A place outstanding by just standing, its massiveness supported by steel and wooden beams reaching high to expansive rafters. Talk about a symbol of endurance.

We ate fish and steak, used butter knives and salad forks, drank drinks that varied with our pleasure. They served a salad of fresh greens topped with slices of pear infused with a deep red wine. Again, I gave thanks for my suit.

Words, this time speeches and toasts, things said that should be more often conveyed. They took pictures to frame memories but the words will serve best enduring so long as those who heard them.

They danced in that solid, old place — not their first, but their first as husband and wife. Spirits in the walls who had been sleeping awoke and were watching, longing. And when the brass band began to play: tuba, trumpet, trombone, drummer, saxes — both alto and tenor — that rousing music set those shadows to swaying. Then we all did. How could we not?

Young fellows, active, wearing ties their father had tied, strained under the formality, making minimally measured concessions as they ass-jacked around — that’s what the groom’s maternal grandfather would have called it. It was good to see young people ass-jacking around in springtime at a wedding.

Light emanated — the glow from candles — setting the mood so effectively overhead lights mimicked their softness, spreading it.

I spilled on the white table cloth. I do that, always have. When a kid I spilled my milk. I apologized — again. They said it was OK, not to worry, they had to clean them all anyway. Which is what they always say, but I see the look in their eyes. They know.

The word love was mentioned a lot. You don’t hear it as much as you should these days, and maybe that’s why they said it so much. More likely, it was because they did so many this day — their day — Chantelle Burgess and Tyler Small’s wedding day. If they didn’t declare it today, then when?

I tried to keep track of how many times love was mentioned but it was expressed so often I lost track and botched the count. Then it occurred to me, losing track of the number of times love was professed is a mark of a fine wedding — a joining that will long endure.

Doug Pugh’s “Vignettes” runs biweekly on Tuesdays. He can be reached at pughda@gmail.com.