My First Wedding

Congratulations to the lovely couple Bradley Chapin and Linda Nguyen (Chapin now =]) on their marriage this thirty-first day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand and eight.


Yes, one of my best friends from elementary school has now become a husband. My friend has a wife. How strange that sounds! It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve as one of his groomsmen, and the wedding ceremony and the reception proceeded as well as one could wish.


I flew in yesterday morning into a city blanketed by a thick layer of smog. Ahhh… Ontario. Ahhh… Riverside. Despite the desert weather and the unclean air, it’s been home to my family and me since fourteen years ago, when I moved here from Minnesota. Southern California seemed to me a different world then, with its tall queen palms standing against the rosy evening sky in which not a cloud could be seen. It was in this setting that I grew up and that I had the blessing of meeting my childhood friend.


The church looked ordinary from the outside. Inside, the light filtered through the stain-glass windows created a beautiful assortment of colors. I had been nervous for a week. I’ve never been to a Western wedding, but here I was, participating in one. Occasionally, I’ve seen snippets in movies, but… what was the ceremony really like? We rehearsed quickly, but having no framework to build on, I ended up confused about the chronology. When do I turn? When do I stand? When does the bride come in? When do the flower girls come in? When do the mothers come in?


The yard looked almost exactly as it had twelve years ago. The same rectangular lawn, well-watered and well-trimmed. The same slope going down into Sycamore Canyon Park. The same houses on the edge of this nature preserve. And the ten-year old Golden Labradors that I have seen as puppies. The estate had an atmosphere of permanence. The Chapins have without a doubt settled here. A pretty view, a quiet neighborhood, a nice yard, a nice house.

From his backyard, the expanse of haze that settled in the valley seemed like a scene from a painting. The different shades of the distant mountains marked a clear separation between the foreground and the scene farther away. A warm glow pervaded everything, aided by the yellowed, grass-covered Sycamore Canyon, which rolled down below the foot of the yard and extended into the distant haze. Once again, Southern California looked like a different planet, something you would see in Star Wars or… perhaps Venus? Never mind. The carne asada was ready, the chips and salsa were prepared, and I was famished.


It is almost time to begin. The groomsmen nervously attempt to fulfill their duties as ushers. People are trickling in, but nobody seems to want to settle down just yet. Greetings and introductions ensue. And the block of people sitting in the back rows, well, they just get up when they feel like it. The bridesmaids and the maid of honor know what they’re doing. The groom’s family members look like they know what they’re doing. The groomsmen… well… Hey! They’re lined up. I have to join them. And so we begin.


The lighting of the candles. The Scripture reading. The songs. The exchange of vows and of rings. The processions. All those flashing lights. So surreal. He’s not Brad. He’s Mr. Chapin now. A husband. What? Yesterday, he was one of us. And she was Linda. But not anymore. She’s Mrs. Chapin now. Are they ready for this? They’re only my age! My God, how strange a creation time is. Yesterday, we were kids. Today, we only seem like bigger kids. But no, we’ve changed. We have grown, but the change was subtle. Who would have expected? This is life.


Reception was held at a lower level of the beautiful Mission Inn Hotel of Riverside. The playfully named tables seated guests according to their relationship to the bride and groom. There was a three-course meal, drinks, and chocolate for everyone, candles, flowers, and fancy tablecloth, butter with the Mission Inn logo on it?! soft music, upbeat music, love songs, pop songs, 90s classics, groom toast, bride toast, best man toast, father-bride dance, mother-groom dance, money dance, surprise activities, bouquet toss, garter toss (uh…), oh I forgot the sequence already! Toward the end, the reception kind of evolved into a miniature prom. As our table consisted mostly of single guys and girls, the groom frequently came over to drag us onto the dance floor. We tried to stay as inconspicuous as possible, reluctant to advertise our awkwardness in this crowd of couples. Ever so surreal. They’re married now! Not a boy-girl relationship. A man-wife relationship.


The entire wedding (ceremony and reception) wasn’t extravagant, but there was beauty in the simplicity. They wisely stayed within their means, but held nothing back from their friends and families. The new couple’s sincerity and love in their fair and caring treatment of the guests could be felt quite clearly. That’s what really mattered to them, and it’s what really matters to me. May God bless them and keep them, and may the Lord Jesus Christ be glorified in this new union of man and woman.