I have been on a journey for the past year and a half ... both emotionally and literally.
Mine began with joy and excitement when in July 2011 my son announced that he had asked his girlfriend of almost three years to marry him. She said "yes" in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Brett and Elizabeth met during training for their new jobs in D.C. in 2008. She lived in upstate New York and he lived in Birmingham. Against the odds, they nourished, grew and maintained their relationship although many miles separated them.
I was impressed.
In anticipation of the marriage, my Southern born and bred son gave up all that was familiar and made the move to New York state for love ... and planning for the big day began.
Brett wanted the wedding to be held in Birmingham, where he has family and friends, but, of course, Elizabeth wanted the wedding to be in New York, where she has family and friends.
I went to bat for the bride, as I knew the wedding day belongs to the bride. Eventually Brett gave in and planning began in earnest.
As the mother of the groom, I stayed out of the planning for the most part, as I tried to remember the sage old advice that the mother of the groom should keep her mouth shut and wear beige — although beige is not my color.
The bride and groom selected a historic chapel in Auburn, N.Y., for the wedding. The pictures sparkled with the twinklings from the old wood and Tiffany chandeliers.
The reception would be held off site at The Lodge at Welch Allyn, just a few miles away.
The selections looked lovely, but nothing like what my son described as "a casual wedding."
And when the mother of the bride sent pictures of the designer dress she had selected, the pressure was on.
The good news, though, was that the mother of the bride's dress was essentially beige! That meant I could choose a real color! My daughters and I began searching, trying on, taking photos of ourselves in different dresses, and emailing them to each other for support, opinions, and coordination ... and this went on for months.
My friends tried to help dress me, but in the end, this occasion was so important to me that it was something I had to do on my own. I knew what I wanted, and I knew how I wanted to look, and that is something only I could zero in on.
I ended up with two dresses of my own choosing — one for the ceremony at the historic chapel, and one for the swanky reception site.
When I flew up for the wedding last week, those two dresses and their accessories were all that was in my carry-on bag so that I could guard them for a safe arrival.
I arrived a day early to meet the parents and get comfortable. I really didn't know what to expect since the first impression I had heard from my son was that the mother was something like me. To that, I could only ask, "And you're still dating her?!" To which my son chuckled.
What I found was a woman who did indeed have several qualities that I possess. I liked her a lot and felt right at home.
The next day was even better as my son called to tell me he was on his way to see me and was available to spend the afternoon with me. Sweet!
He showed me the chapel where he would marry two days later, and the lodge where the reception would be held. We walked around the small town where it is located, then went to a small vineyard nearby that was holding a wine tasting. New York state produces some very good wine! I liked several, and my son zeroed in on the sparkling wine that his bride prefers as one she would like. He bought a case. I bought one bottle of the one he liked for the sake of memories.
That night, my daughters arrived and the family celebration began.
Friday night was rehearsal at the chapel and my first time to see the father of my children in a dozen years. Any anxiety I had about that was gone in a matter of minutes. The rehearsal and the dinner that followed went very well.
The next day's afternoon wedding was the culmination of years of weeping on my part, whenever I thought about giving up my son.
My daughters and I arrived on time, and I found my son looking for me.
I had the opportunity to pin his corsage to his gray suit, pose for a private photo op, and kiss him goodbye.
As I stood waiting to enter the chapel at my appointed cue, I fought to keep the tears at bay. Why would I cry? My son had chosen the perfect wife, and I approved.
I still don't know how to explain it, but I could not keep the tears at bay.
When my cue came, the wedding planner said, go — and smile.
I smiled, as the tears streamed down my cheeks, all the way down the aisle.
I blew my son a kiss as I entered my pew where my daughters waited, and he smiled.
My son never stopped smiling, even as his bride entered in her gorgeous gown, on the arm of her father.
He never stopped smiling as they held hands and exchanged vows; nor did she.
As they exited down the aisle, I thought to myself, "I have never seen a happier couple. I have never seen two people more thrilled to look forward to spending the rest of their lives together. I have never seen two people more right for each other."
We all danced the night away at The Lodge at Welch Allyn, as we all bestowed our blessings on this glorious love union.
My son and I danced to Elton John's "You Are Blessed" after Elizabeth and her dad danced to "What a Wonderful World."
The dresses were perfect; the camaraderie was perfect; every detail was perfect. I am so blessed.
Deborah Wheeler is a staff writer for The Walton Sun. She may be reached at 654-8443, or email email@example.com. Her Personally Yours column appears as often as the spirit moves.