“The voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who say, Give thanks to the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good, for His loving kindness is everlasting..." ~ Jeremiah 33:11 (NASB)
"To get the full value of love, you must have someone to divide it with." ~ Mark Twain
On June 25, I had the pleasure of witnessing the marriage union of my niece Melissa Reese and her soul mate, Mark Wehr.
The wedding, which took place at St. Jude Catholic Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was absolutely beautiful in every respect. Mark and Melissa – with the help of their parents – planned out every detail and the entire event went off without a hitch.
Some members of the Van Kirk family arrived on the Thursday before the wedding, so my brother-in-law, Jim, and sister Peggy (Melissa’s dad and stepmom), arranged for everyone to have dinner at Chuck-E-Cheese. The idea behind that particular choice of restaurant was that it would give the younger kids a fun place to play. But as it turned out, the older kids (a/k/a parents) enjoyed the fun and games as much as the little kids. As my sister-in-law Christine said, “There’s a little Chuck E. in all of us!”
Unfortunately, Keen wasn’t able to attend the wedding due to his bar exam preparation courses. When he called Melissa to tell her the bad news, she said that she understood completely. Then she asked if he had any advice for them. Keen replied: “Yes, I do. Just remember that it doesn’t matter what you fight about or how long you fight – the only thing that matters is that you work it out before you go to bed. In fact, Mrs. Umbehr and I had a little hassle in the castle just the other night, but we hung in there until we got everything resolved.” Melissa said that they had received the same advice from several other people and planned to take it to heart.
That reminds me of something I wrote for Jared & Erin on their wedding day six years ago:
Always Remember and Never Forget
Always remember that marriage is a commitment and not an experiment.
Never forget that you're a "we" now and not two "I's."
Always remember not to say or do anything that you wouldn't want said or done to you.
Never forget to discuss all your plans together and try to reach a mutual agreement before making any decisions.
Always remember to avoid sarcasm; it is merely an insult disguised as a joke.
Never forget that problems can't be resolved with the silent treatment; communication is the key.
Always remember to say, "I love you."
Never forget to say, "I'm sorry."
Always remember what the Bible says; "Don't let the sun go down on your anger."
Never forget that you are loved more than life itself.
Always remember that your parents are just a phone call away, and...
Never forget that God is just a prayer away.
Three of our four sons were able to make the trip – Josh, Keen II and Kirk Van. Jared is stationed at the naval base in Mississippi and Erin & the boys were getting ready to move there. (After they moved last weekend, Asher said, “Now nobody is missing from our family!” By the way – Erin did pass her exam so she is officially a board certified registered nurse.) Unfortunately, Josh’s wife Lisa couldn’t get off work, but Keen’s girlfriend Emily and Kirk’s girlfriend Bethany were able to attend the wedding. So we had a “girl’s room” and a “guy’s room” at the hotel.
Emily, Keen II, Eileen, Josh, Bethany & Kirk Van
Speaking of the hotel, when we checked into our rooms we discovered a wonderful gift bag filled with chips, granola bars, candy, gum and a bottle of juice and water. The following poem was attached to the white bags:
“For our family and friends near and far,
Some traveled by plane, some by car.
Thanks for sharing in our special day,
Enjoy these treats as you stay!”
Love, Mark & Melissa
I don’t know how they found the time for that extra special touch. I heard they put fifty bags together in all!
The night before the big day, Jim & Peggy graciously treated about thirty members of the Van Kirk family to dinner at a nearby restaurant, while the members of the wedding party attended the rehearsal dinner at a different location. Keener suggested that we call Jim & Peggy’s cell phone and give them an “Ish-ga-bibble” – which we did. For those of you who may not recall, that is the Van Kirk Family cheer. The original version was, “Ish-ga-bibble, Ish-ga-bah, Daddy Van Kirk, rah, rah, rah!” But you can substitute any name you want – in this case it was “Jim and Peggy, rah, rah, rah!” (As a side note, I was politely informed that Melissa requested no “Ish-ga-bibbles” at the wedding. For the life of me, I can’t imagine why!?)
The food was absolutely delicious and the dinner gave us the perfect chance to talk and laugh together. My great-niece Kelsey (who is almost six) immediately latched on to Josh, who played with her and turned her upside down off and on throughout the night. At one point Kelsey playfully stuck her tongue out and put her thumbs in her ears and wiggled her fingers at him. Then Josh did it right back to Kelsey and said, “Oh, real mature!” He cracks me up. In fact, he gives Lisa a hard time for not laughing at his jokes as hard as I do. (He even claims that she strained a muscle in her eye one time from rolling her eyes at him.)
Josh & Kelsey upside down
The only person who didn’t enjoy the evening was our four-year-old nephew, Ryan, who was quite upset by the fact that his parents (my brother Bob and his wife, Christine), along with his two siblings, Caitlyn and Connor, left him behind while they attended the rehearsal dinner. (Caitlyn was the flower girl and Ryan was the ring bearer.)
Ryan, Caitlyn & Connor
So Ryan spent nearly the entire evening nestled in the arms of his Aunt Mary, repeating his request to see his mommy and daddy “right now!” At one point, Mary told him that he needed to sit in a chair to eat his dinner and Ryan tearfully replied, “I just want to keep my eyes closed. Is that okay?” I guess that was his way of coping with the tragic set of circumstances that had befallen him. Perhaps if he didn’t have to view the cruel world, then it would all become a wee bit more tolerable. Later, when Ryan reluctantly agreed to disembark from Aunt Mary’s lap, he proceeded to eat his dinner – peeking out only periodically from his firmly closed eyes. Bless his heart, he eventually recovered from the traumatic ordeal and walked back to the hotel as happy as a lark – with his eyes wide open!
The wedding mass itself was just lovely. As Mark said at the reception, Melissa was the most beautiful bride – and she looked just as perfect at the end of the evening as she did at the beginning!
Mark & Melissa cutting cake
Their wedding program was special, too, and included several memories about each member of the wedding party. I was particularly touched by the following reference which read:
“A dozen roses have been arranged to remember those who are not with us today. We pray that they continue to watch over us and bless us every day, as we hold their memories close to our hearts. We love you and miss you, and know that you join us today in spirit.”
On the final page, Mark & Melissa shared a note of thanks to their parents:
“We couldn’t begin to express our appreciation for everything you’ve provided us. Thank you for showing us what love is and how to love others unconditionally. That is truly the best gift we’ve ever received. We hope that as we begin our new life together, we continue to embody the same values, encouragement, generosity, and love that you shared with us. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for – in so many ways – making possible a weekend that we will remember and cherish forever.”
Ed & Joan (Melissa's mom & stepdad)
Jim & Peggy (Melissa's dad & stepmom)
Jim & Marna (Mark's parents)
And thank you, Mark & Melissa, for giving us the privilege and joy of knowing you both and sharing in your special day. We love you.
“True life is only love, love only bliss.” ~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Mark & Melissa on their way to happily ever after ....