Henley, UK

  • Date
  • 1 January 2000

Riding in the white horse-drawn carriage to the wedding service with mom and dad was one of the most special parts of my wedding day. As expected dad was emotional, so mom and I exchanged funny stories to keep everyone tearless. In Henley a street fair was underway and hundreds of people greeted us with smiles, tips of their hats and shouts of congratulations. I felt like a princess – filled with joy and contentment.

Upon arrival at the church, my heart pounded. The photographer stood requesting a shot of my father and me in the carriage, but my lips would not stop quivering. Once inside the church, the music began, and dad took me on my last single stroll down the aisle. I remember whispering, “Let’s walk slowly.” Dad just smiled at that.

For most of the service, I felt like I was floating on a magical cloud. When I reached Jim at the altar and my father offered my hand to Rusty (Jim’s childhood friend, an Episcopal priest who performed our ceremony), and then, finally, Rusty offered my hand to Jim, I saw tears in Jim’s eyes. He mouthed, “You look so beautiful I may cry.” Then, I felt my emotions explode and feared the one, who had kept warning prior to the service, “I don’t want anyone to cry,” might shed a tear!

When time came for our spoken vows, I just could not control my tears. I was so exhilarated, yet fully aware of the seriousness of this moment and these words. While speaking, I paused to gain composure, and later friends told me they wondered if I was reconsidering my options! Honestly, though, all felt so right and perfect – time stood still for a few fleeting moments. Twice during the wedding service, before Rusty proclaimed us, “husband and wife,” Jim kissed me, and each time, Rusty said, “Not yet, Jim.” I remember seeing Dr. Wireman as I walked in and out of the church and grinning at Betsy and Deidre, my attendants, several times during the service. I remember the sun streaming into the pine, ivy and berry-filled church, and I could hardly believe the perfect weather on an English winter day.

We left the church in my horse-drawn carriage and rode over to an old home, designed by Christopher Wren, for our reception. After the wedding party shared in many photos, and other guests drank abundant champagne while eating canapés and caviar, dad – a little nervous, but proud and excited – thanked everyone for coming. We then offered Southern fare of black-eyed peas, greens (kale, my favorite), grits, biscuits, red eye gravy and English traditions like roast beef with horseradish, salmon with capers and onions, spinach and cheese roulade, potatoes, salads and more. I do not recall eating any of it!

Jim adored the wedding cake I had planned – a chocolate globe marked with our travels to date, topped with a miniature yellow Mercedes! After our attempt at cutting it, we took to the marble floor for our first dance, fittingly to Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again,” performed by two cellos.

We ditched the white horses and carriage and departed in our yellow Millennium Mercedes, top-down and filled with white rose petals thrown by all. Just before we drove away, I tossed my red hydrangea bouquet and Katie Bee Rogers, Jim’s niece – well, our niece now – caught it. Off we headed to the Red Lion Hotel for more festivities hosted by our Charlotte friends Deidre and Clay Grubb…. Oh, what a night! And, who would ever believe I planned most of this while in the wilds of Siberia.