Tears of Sorrow, Tears of Joy - Bettyanne Gillete
“They won’t be playing ‘Here Comes the Bride,’ ” my father said, trying to hide his pain. He looked through his glasses to my mother seated at the other end of our dining table and continued, “They’ll be playing ‘Here Come the Bride’s Parents.’ ” My mother didn’t respond to the feeble joke.
I stared at the two of them. From what I had heard, the wedding march would not be played during the temple ceremony, but I decided not to mention that. My parents were already hurt enough by not being able to attend my temple wedding.
Although my parents had supported me in my decision to join the Church at age sixteen, they’d had some reservations. And now I planned to marry in a place they could not enter. I felt terrible. On top of that, my fiancé, John, was working in Hawaii until our wedding. That left me alone to worry about those family members who could not attend the ceremony, to make all the arrangements, to invite those who could attend with us, and to try to keep everyone happy. Thankfully, I did have one sister who would be able to attend.
I prayed earnestly to know how to handle the arrangements. My parents happened to be caterers, and through prayer I felt impressed to emphasize my family’s involvement in the reception while not minimizing the importance of the temple in my own life.
It wasn’t going to be easy, though. After all, I had watched my dad escort my two older sisters down the aisle. He proudly gave them away while my mother shed tears of joy. My parents, who had always been supportive of me, would be absent at my own wedding.
For four months my emotions were mixed. Through days spent planning the food, ordering invitations, cutting dress material, and arranging for flowers, little reminders of my parents’ exclusion continually surfaced.
How could I explain? This was not an easy decision for me to make. I wanted nothing more than to have my parents at my wedding. But I had hoped for a temple wedding ever since I joined the Church. I wanted to make an eternal commitment. I tried to explain to my parents that my fiancé and I would be united in eternal bonds, sealed by the priesthood. Touched, they agreed to support my decision in spite of their pain.
The time drew nearer. John returned from Hawaii, his family rejoicing in dreams and prayers soon to come true.
Invitations were sent, my dad made final reception arrangements, and my mother drove me anywhere I needed to go. They both made it clear, though, that they wouldn’t be driving me to the temple: it would hurt to be so close only to be turned away. I arranged for my closest friend and her husband to pick me up.
Excitement mounted when our out-of-town guests began arriving. Some family members stopped by the night before the wedding, and others called me on the telephone to extend their greetings and best wishes. “Good luck,” they said. “We wish we could be there with you.” I wished that too, but I counted my blessings that I was going to the temple.
After talking with John for the last time from separate homes, I retired. Sleep seemed far away as I tried to imagine what the next day would be like with—and without—so many family members.
I tossed and turned throughout the night. Finally daylight came. Soon my past would join my future to begin an eternal journey.
I walked quietly through the dark house, turned on the bathroom light, and stood in front of the mirror. I reached up to take the curlers out of my hair. The only sounds were those I created. I thought back to the mornings of my sisters’ weddings, when the house seemed to buzz with excitement: everyone getting dressed, fixing hair, ironing shirts, putting on makeup, and tending to the bride. Suddenly I wanted to make some noise, to wake them all up on this my wedding day! But instead I quietly dressed.
By the time I finished getting ready, the morning sun poured through the windows. I went into the dining room where my wedding dress hung. A pure-white rose, embroidered by my sister-in-law, was barely visible under the plastic cover.
I thought of John. His family would be fussing about him, grooming and chauffeuring him. His own stability had been a great help to me. I couldn’t wait to meet him at the doors of the House of the Lord.
Then, through the quiet, I heard the slow turn of my parents’ bedroom doorknob. I recognized my mother’s steps even before her small frame appeared in the doorway. My heart swelled, and tears threatened.
“I see you’re ready,” she said, looking at my dress, my suitcase, and then me sitting on the couch next to the living room window.
“Yes,” I said. Fighting emotion with logic, I added, “Sue and Ken should be here any minute.”
I didn’t know what to say and neither did she. Then I heard a car pull up. I stood. Words came to me then: “I love you, Mom.”
I walked over to my dress, picked it up by the hanger, then bent down to pick up my suitcase with my other hand. My mother watched, not having moved. I turned toward her.
“I wish you could come,” I said, speaking from my heart.
“I wish we could come too,” she said.
“Are you ready?” Ken asked.
I nodded silently and climbed in.
He shifted the car into gear. I finally permitted myself a quick glance back at the house. I could barely see my mother through the window, standing in the middle of the living room, her head in her hands. In my mind I heard her sobs.
If this is the happiest day of my life, I thought, then why am I and my parents so sad? Tears welled. Should I have done things differently? I dabbed at my eyes. In spite of the pain, I knew I had made the right decision. And since it was right, I hoped the Lord would see to it that no scars remained.
We turned a corner and neared the temple. Sitting atop a hill, it looked a little closer to heaven than it ever had before. We drove into the parking lot, and suddenly I recognized familiar faces of family and ward members. My tears turned to joy as they gathered around me. Then I saw John. We entered the temple together, the place where our lives would soon be joined. Inside the temple I was met by women in white. They lovingly escorted me to the bride’s room and helped me dress. They fixed my hair. They fussed over me—“so you’ll look like an angel,” they said.
I was escorted to the sealing room, my sister by my side. John was there waiting, pure love dressed in white.
The room was immaculate. A chandelier sparkled overhead. Two mirrors faced each other and reflected infinite images to the mind and soul.
The brother who was conducting spoke to us. “What a perfect place for you to be. And your parents?” he said, looking at the seats beside me.
I hesitated, needing strength. “My parents couldn’t come. But I do have my sister here with me.”
He looked at me kindly. “You have made the right decision,” he said, “and all will be blessed because of it.”
All will be blessed! My heart lightened at his words, and the ceremony proceeded. Looking into John’s eyes, I felt love between us, around us, and through us as we made our covenants with the Lord and were sealed permanently for time and all eternity.
Since that day, we have tried to always remain true to the commitments that were made in the Lord’s house that day. And we have been blessed because of it, with five children and two sets of parents who cherish us. Although my parents didn’t attend our sealing, they have not missed out on the results of our decision to be married in the temple. And their goodness and our goodness have bonded us all in love.
Including Loved Ones
Have a Special Meeting
“Couples may arrange with their bishops to hold a special meeting for relatives and friends who do not have recommends. This meeting provides an opportunity for those who cannot go to the temple to feel involved in the marriage and to learn something of the eternal nature of the marriage covenant. The meeting may include a prayer and special music, followed by the remarks of a priesthood leader. No ceremony should be performed, and no vows should be exchanged” (General Handbook of Instructions, 1989, p. 6-4).
Exchange Rings Outside of Temple
“Though the exchanging of rings is not part of the temple marriage ceremony, rings may appropriately be exchanged at the conclusion of the temple marriage ceremony in the room where that ceremony takes place. To avoid confusion with the marriage ceremony, it is not appropriate to exchange rings at any other time or place in the temple or on the temple grounds.
“A couple may exchange rings in locations other than at the temple. The circumstances should be consistent with the dignity of their temple marriage. The exchange should not appear to replicate any part of the marriage ceremony. For instance, there should be no exchanging of vows on that occasion” (Bulletin, 1989-4, p. 1).
© 2005 Before Forever - School of Family Life