The Wedding the Icon and Me
There it stood in all its resplendent glory, Saint Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church, Buffalo, New York. I had never even heard of a Ukrainian Catholic Church, much less been in one. I was there for the wedding rehearsal. My best friend Judy was getting married. I marveled at the small brick church, and wondered what it looked like inside. I had followed Judy and Joe over there. I was fascinated by the spires of the church they were round. I walked in: it was nothing like any church I had ever set foot in. I was overwhelmed by the simple beauty of the pictures that were painted on the walls. I had no idea they were holy icons until…
The priest entered dressed in a long black cassock. His hair was slightly long, his beard black with silver streaks. He began giving instructions to various members of the wedding party. He sent Judy, myself, Peg, Diana, Ulana and Martha, and Kimberly, the flower girl. to the back where the professional would begin. The bridesmaids went first, then I followed, finally Judy and her father. The organist played traditional wedding music. The priest went through the motions of everything that would take place the next day. I could not take my eyes off of the beautiful pictures on the wall. I poked Diana, who had the misfortune to be next to me. I asked about the pictures on the wall. She whispered softly that those were Icons. The priest gave us both a withering glare. Diana smiled and I thought to myself: ‘I sure hope his disposition improves before the wedding tomorrow.’
The priest then proceeded to go on with his instructions. All I wanted to do was go home, take a hot shower and get ready for the next day’s events. It had been a long day. Kimberly was not thrilled with her part in the wedding, she was four at the time. She was to carry an embroidered Ukrainian pillow, with two wreathes on it.
When it was time for us to leave the rehearsal, Mike gave me his elbow and we began to walk. Suddenly, the priest’s voice rang out yelling in Ukrainian. Mike and I stopped dead in our tracks. I had no idea what we had done, but I was certain we were about to find out. We had forgotten to kiss the Icon of the virgin and child. Now I was really confused. I a was practicing Catholic, we never did things like that in our church. Mike and I turned around Joe’s sisters were giggling as we began the walk out once more. Once outside, I asked Mike what was with the Icon? He began to explain when Diana, strode over to tell us the priest decided we needed to rehearse the entire wedding over again to be sure there were no hitches tomorrow.
The morning of the wedding dawned sunny. I had to have my hair done at the beauty parlor. My mom did Kimberly’s in long curls. I rushed backed, grabbed Kimberly, and the dresses. Judy had made Kimberly’s dress to match mine. They were yellow lace with taffeta and green bows. The night before we had decorated the wedding car with a heart and Judy and Joe’ s initials inside of it, that was after we arrived back at the house. Martha and I had been making Kleenex flowers for almost two weeks but the design was lovely.
We were all nervous and giddy. I got Kimberly dressed, then I got myself dressed, no easy accomplishment. Now all we had to do was wait for the professional. Kimberly took one look inside the church, with all people filling it up and began to scream for her grandpa. This did not bode well, so I found dad. He came back to the dressing area, quieted Kimberly down. Judy wanted to be sure she would walk down the aisle. My dad assured her Kimberly would be fine once the actual wedding began. Dad returned to his seat.
Finally, the processional music began the strains of the Wedding March. Martha was first, then Peg, Ulana and Diana. I went down the aisle. Kimberly with the pillow balanced rather precariously in her hands began to march down the aisle. Midway down, she saw dad, my stomach lurched as the pillow did. All I saw was dad’s hand pushing the pillow back up into Kimberly’s little hands. Then she started to cry. “Oh Lord I thought, please don’t let her scream.” Judy, looked beautiful on the arm of her father. They walked down the aisle, he lifted her vail and gave her away to Joe. The wedding mass was partly in Ukrainian and English. Toward the end of the actual marriage vows, I handed Judy the wreathes. Kimberly made a beeline for my dad, who once again convinced her she needed to stay in the pew. ‘Would this ever end?’ I asked myself. They exchanged rings. Finally, we all rose as the priest introduced the newly married couple, in both languages.
The recessional began, Judy and Joe went first, then Mike and I. Twice that morning Diana and Ulana both reminded me not to forget to kiss the Icon. I was not about to forget that piece of information. However, as a special reminder, as I stood up, Mike with his extend elbow, and in a chorused whisper:
“DON’T FORGET TO KISS THE ICON”. Mike did a weird little step and we both turned to kiss the Icon. At that point I wanted to ask him why he almost forgot again since he had been raised in the that church along with Joe. I kept my cool and said nothing.
I don’t think I will ever forget the wedding. The uniqueness of the Ukrainian church. I still marvel at the extraordinary beauty of the ceremony and the church itself. Over the years, I have treasured the differences of cultures. I decided before writing this story, I would learn more about the Icons. Icons are identified as a resemblance to Christ, the virgin Mary and the saints. Judy and Joe have been married over forty years. Diana, passed away from cancer. She is sorely missed.
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