Clutching the bouquet of white roses, Helen followed Lisa along the path down to the beach. Her heart beat with a symphony of excitement and love. Each step on the soft sand brought her closer to a future she had eagerly embraced but never imagined would arrive so soon.
As they emerged onto the beach, Helen paused, inhaling a breath before she continued down an aisle of candles and flower petals, leading to where Rick, Ben, and a pastor stood by the ocean's edge, waiting under the starlit sky. The soft glow of the moon illuminated the beach, and as Rick's eyes found Helen's, the world seemed to pause.
“You look beautiful,” he said.
“Thank you. You look handsome yourself.”
While she had changed into her wedding dress, he had donned a pair of light tan slacks rolled to his ankles and a white button-up shirt.
The pastor glanced between them. "Are you two ready?”
They both nodded.
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God and in the presence of family and friends to join together this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony, which is commended of St. Paul to be an honorable estate, instituted of God and therefore is not to be entered into unadvisedly or carelessly, but reverently, joyfully and in the love of God. Into this holy estate, these two persons present come now to be joined. Would you both please join hands.” The pastor paused, and Rick and Helen did as he asked, grabbing each other’s hands.
The pastor continued. “Jesus Christ reminds us that at the beginning, the Creator made us male and female and said, For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. God loved us and created us to love others. Our lives find completion only as we love and are loved in return. Together, we can become what we could never be separate. Marriage is of God, so it is now that I ask you, Rick, and you, Helen, do you come today desiring to be united in this sacred relationship?”
“We do,” they both said.
“Let us Pray. God, our Father, you have created us all in the image of Love, the image of Yourself. Bless now these two who stand before you. Guide them in your wisdom, shine your light upon them, so that as they journey through this life together, they will walk as bearers of your Truth. Amen.”
“Amen.” The four on the beach repeated.
“I ask you each now to share your marriage vows, slipping your rings on to symbolize your love and devotion to one another and this union.” The pastor looked at Rick first. “Rick, you may go first.”
Rick took a deep breath. Rick took Helen's hands in his and, with a voice filled with emotion, began his vows. "Helen, you are my heart, my life, and my guiding star. With you, I have found a love that transcends time and space. Today, I vow to cherish that love, nurture it, and let it grow. I promise to be your strength in times of weakness, your joy in times of sorrow, and your companion in times of solitude. I will love you in the silence and in the storm, in the every day and in the extraordinary. With this ring," he said, taking the ring from Lisa, "I give you my heart, my soul, and my promise to be yours in all things, for all time." Slipping the ring onto Helen's finger, Rick sealed his vow with a tender kiss on her hand.
Helen’s eyes misted with tears. She tried to blink them away, but one slipped down her cheek, and as the pastor turned toward her, Rick reached out and brushed it away with his thumb.
“Helen, please share your vows and present Rick’s ring.”
Helen gulped and glanced at Lisa. “Do you have a ring?”
Lisa laughed and held up a gold band between two fingers.
“Whew.” Helen looked at Rick. “That was a detail I hadn’t thought to ask about.” The four on the beach, plus the pastor, all chuckled, and as Helen took the ring from Lisa, she faced Rick again. Helen, her eyes shimmering with unspoken emotions, took Rick's hands and spoke her vows. "Rick, in you, I have found my true north, my safe harbor. You are my adventure, my serenity, and my home. Today, I vow to stand by your side, to be your partner in life's journey, and to share in its wonders. I promise to support your dreams and to respect our differences. I will laugh with you in joy and comfort you in sorrow. With this ring, I give you my love, my trust, and my vow to walk with you, hand in hand, wherever our journey leads.”
The pastor smiled at both of them. “For as much as Rick and Helen have consented together in holy matrimony and have witnessed the same before God and those present, and have pledged their faithfulness, each to the other, and have declared their love by giving and receiving Rings and by joining hands, I now, by the authority committed unto me as a minister and a priest, declare that Rick and Helen are husband and wife according to the ordinance of God, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Those Whom God Has joined together, let no one put asunder. May the Peace and the Unconditional Love of God surround you and remain with you now and forevermore. Amen. You may seal your vows with a kiss.”
Rick yanked Helen close into his body, wrapping his arms around her before she could do anything. His lips pressed against hers.
Lisa and Ben cheered from behind them, and as they parted, the pastor held out his arms. “Allow me to present Mr. and Mrs. Rick Stark.”
Hand in hand, the newlyweds walked back down the aisle, the candles flickering in celebration, the flower petals carrying their scent on the breeze. Their journey together had just begun, but in that moment, they knew that every step they took from here on would be taken together, in love, in laughter, and in life.
The night, resplendent in its natural glory, embraced them as they stepped into their shared future, leaving footprints in the sand and memories in the stars.
“Now, what happens?” Lisa asked, following behind them.
Rick glanced over his shoulder at her, then looked at Helen. “Now, we celebrate welcoming the new year.”
Perhaps to be continued at a later date . . .