It’s 2 p.m. Saturday, May 29, and I’m sitting in a pew in St Pius X Catholic Church in Omaha. Next to me is my wife Karen. We are here for the wedding of our niece Aelea and her soon-to-be husband Matt.
The processional music begins and as we stand to watch members of the wedding party come down the aisle, a sense of emotion, i.e. misty eyes and a lump in my throat sneaks into the body of this ever-growing-old goat. Especially when I see my sister Rita, the mother of the bride, in all of her finery. Her radiant smile as she acknowledged the guests was, well, fit for the occasion.
Attendants, all pretty and handsome, walked to their assigned posts and then, bringing up the rear was the stunning bride Aelea Rose, escorted by her father Ray. With everyone in place the music ended and Father Joe Wray pastor of the church, stood at the lectern, ready to officiate the joyous event. He broke into a smile and as near as I can recollect, said: “This is wonderful. It is the first wedding we have had here in over a year!”
With a nod to our daughter Chilali, he exclaimed: “And how about that harp!”
Father Joe was of course referring to a certain pandemic, caused by the COVID-19 bug, that put a halt in 2020 to this and so many other weddings across the country and perhaps the world. But by golly, family and friends were in attendance and that was all that mattered on this beautiful spring day of 2021.
Vows were said, rings exchanged and then came the pronouncement: “I present to you Aelea and Matthew Woster” followed by a round of applause. Father Joe did not ask if anyone objected (maybe that only happens in the movies) but I doubt anyone would have spoken up. The applause was a sign that all was well.
The prelude and postlude music was a gift from Chilali to her cousin Aelea and Matt. With Chilali living in Utah we seldom get to hear her perform, so her part in the wedding was a special treat for Karen and me. The church was filled with the strains of music from songs like “Embraceable You”, “What a Wonderful World”, “The Way You Look Tonight”, “Fly Me to the Moon” and “All of Me” among others. Thanks for the gift Chilali.
The wedding party and guests gathered outside — laughing, chatting, blowing bubbles and snapping photos. The party bus arrived and was near departure when I walked to the door where Aelea was standing inside. With a panicked look on her face she waved her hands and mouthed “No!” Based on a conversation we had a couple of nights earlier I guess she thought her crazy uncle really wanted to get on the bus. I told her I just wanted to know the name of her new father-in-law. “Alan.” Bad timing Phil.
The church had to be readied for 5:00 Mass so some of us hung around to remove flowers and decorations. It’s what family does to help out and besides, the big shindig at the event center would wait for us. Especially after we waited for a year.
Wedding reception venues come in all stripes and colors — church basements, VFW halls and stately event centers. The facility Aelea chose, known as A View on State, was not located in Omaha but out in the country among corn and soybean fields. It was a beautiful building, with nice landscaping, where an outdoor wedding was taking place as we celebrated inside. When Karen and I entered the building we finally got to see all of the decorations that Aelea had put so much hard work into, having made most of them herself. Wow!
The merriment was starting out in first gear, with guests that weren’t at the church filling the hall. Weddings serve as family reunions and for the Hugos it had been a handful of years since some of us last saw each other. The best part: No one was saying or even thinking: “Why did so and so have to show up?”
At some point the DJ announced the arrival of the wedding party which meant things were ready to shift into high gear. Guests with liquid refreshments in hand were milling about
and before long the buffet table was in place. After the head table got first dibs, our table being near the front was among the early groups of guests to partake of the tasty food.
When a family member ahead of me asked about gluten, she was told everything was gluten free except the mac and cheese. My nephew’s wife was very appreciative, which meant she could enjoy more of what the rest of us would enjoy. The times they are a changin’ when it comes to dietary considerations.
If you’ve been to weddings where music and dance are part of the show, you know there is a protocol as to who goes first. The bride and groom looking all lovey dovey, gazing into each others’ eyes. Do you ever wonder what they are saying to each other? Then bride and father, mother and groom and so on. Before long the floor is open to all who want to shake and shimmy. To polish the floor with our shoes on or off. Or wear the polish off as the case may be.
Karen and I took a couple of turns at slow dancing and while I did let my free spirit cut loose on some high energy tunes, I was able to hang with the younger crowd. That doesn’t mean all eyes were on the handsome gent wearing the straw fedora, although one lady complimented me on my hat.
The evening was winding down and soon the time came to say goodnight to a wonderful day and evening. An event months and years in the planning long before the shutdown of 2020. And then, the big decision to try and pull it off a year later when things were safer but still sketchy. The doubt. The emotional roller coaster of it all. One can only imagine.
Thank you Aelea and Matt and Rita for deciding to roll the dice on this one. I think all in attendance would say the gamble was worth it. For Matt and Aelea, may your journey be filled with love and happiness.
Phil Hugo lives in Lima.