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The Wedding of Monique Helen Sliwak and William Peterman IV

The Wedding of Monique Helen Spiwak and William Peterman IV

October 15, 2005 - St. Clement Castle, Portland CT

    As we drove down Rte 9 along the swollen Connecticut River near Middletown, I felt a twinge of nostalgia.  I was on my way to my last scheduled pastoral responsibility since retirement.  My little black book, the one with the icon of the itinerant preacher on horseback, had always previously held another wedding in the offing.  But I have just about run out of former Junior Highs, most of whom are now on or over the cusp of thirty. 

    When we arrived at St. Clements, a castle not a church, we found what we thought was the groom and groomsmen's limousine at the entrance, Bill Peterman III's recent acquisition, finally repaired in the nick of time.  But as Billy's Mom, Jean, reports, Bill's Rolls Royce isn't as nice as the one shown here... but it still was elegant!

    It had rained, sometimes furiously, for the past eight days.  The sun was struggling to break through.  At 5:15 PM, just a quarter of an hour before the nuptials were to begin, the clouds broke and the courtyard patio was filled with twilight. Billy Peterman waited a good twenty minutes for his bride, Monique Spiwak, to make her entrance.  The trio of strings and flute played Bach's "Air on a G String" and Pachelbel's "Canon in D."  It may not have made Billy less anxious, but the music sure did have charms to soothe the pastor's senior breast. *  

    Earlier in the afternoon as Barbara and I exited our garage, we rolled down the car window and greeted the next door neighbor walking his golden retriever.  Bruce, familiar as he is with religious celebrations, encouraged me to make the ceremony  personal.  I said, "No problem: I've known the groom for thirty-two years."  Judge for yourself whether or not I managed to make it personal... and, as Bruce also insisted, do it with a touch of humor:

Getting and Giving the Royal Treatment

            When Bill asked me if I would be willing to marry him and Monique, he indicated the marriage would take place at St. Clement’s.  Being unacquainted with Central Connecticut’s special attractions, I naturally assumed St. Clement’s was a church, probably Catholic, maybe Episcopalian. “Who’s the priest?” I asked.  Bill at first didn’t catch my drift, that I was ignorant of the fact that St. Clement’s was a castle, not a church.

            Well, and obviously, it was all straightened out, because here we are, at the riverside mansion built by Howard Augustus Taylor for his wife Gertrude Barnard Murray in 1902, a site, I note in the book chronicling this castle, first surveyed on a rainy day in October 1900.

            It’s a splendid setting for a wedding, fit, indeed, for royalty.  Which started me thinking… royalty and marriage… what might be sound advice for an old pastor to provide to one of his confirmands and that confirmand’s bride on their wedding day.  I found it, in the Letter of James, the second chapter, verse 8:

You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The royal law, loving your nearest and dearest neighbor as yourself… which means, as the days and years stretch into the future from this celebration, Bill to Monique and Monique to Bill.

            Let me sharpen the thought a bit, that you, Bill, are to treat Monique like a queen. I think I have already detected an inclination on your part to do just that.  But it means far more than lavishing gifts on her, which, if you have the ability to do so, you will do.  It means what it says in that other passage of the Bible I’ve selected for this occasion, St. Paul’s definition of the love of Christ through us, from I Corinthians 13, a passage several of you present this afternoon were required to memorize as a lesson back in the old days at Grace Church, Valley Stream.  It’s a love that is patient and forbearing, that goes way beyond the second mile, whose tenderness wills what is good and right, sometimes against all odds, through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, with money and without it.  To see in your bride the best that she is, to encourage it, to make her a queen not for a day, but for always.

            The other side to this royal law is that you, Monique, shall treat Bill like a king. Men are really just puppies.  We like to be stroked.  We like to be told how wonderful we are.  We don’t really want advice.  We want approval… or sympathy.  I can get away with telling this obvious truth because I am a man and a husband.  That was Marie Antoinette’s secret with Louis XVI.  That was Josephine’s hold over Napoleon.  Yes, we just returned from a trip to France. So, Monique, the message is to remind Bill just how wonderful he is.  Which should be easy, because he is… wonderful.  Which is what St. Paul could have had in mind when he wrote, “Love believes all things, hopes all things.” Never minimize the capacity of a noble vision to transform an ordinary soul. Remember it was a princess’ kiss that turned a frog into a prince.

            And it was a prince’s kiss that brought Snow White back to life again.

            You do well [in your life together, Monique and Billy] if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

            God bless you.  We all bless you too.

    As evening settled in, the families posed for wedding portraits, as in the photos posted above. 

    The cocktail hour had started.  But Barbara and I took a few moments to check out the grounds and peer over the bluff to see just how full the Connecticut River was.  Twilight was turning to darkness; still I managed to take a photo.

    At Billy's request I prepared and offered a prayer at the opening of the festivities, immediately after the bridal party had made its grand entrance:

    God of the rain and the sunshine, who amply supplies us with each, sometimes more than we need or want, grant us resources within, of the mind and heart and spirit, to transform the grayest of days into a rainbow of gladness; that this high moment of celebration, the linking of two lives, their hopes, their futures, Monique and Bill, may be suffused with light and joy no cloud can overcome.  Be, then, we pray, the unseen presence at our festivities, the song in our hears, and the lightness in our step.  Let this moment be something of a foretaste of the banquet feast of heaven, when we shall gather again with you and the host of kind faces who have preceded us to your house.  Surround Bill and Monique with your love and care, even as we pledge ourselves to be the arms and hearts of that love and caring for you.  In the name of him who spoke often of the wedding feast and its window to your grace and favor, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

    The reception (as my grandsons might say) rocked.  The best of everything: a happy groom and a vibrant bride; a champagne toast by best man and matron of honor, attended with laughter and tears; filet mignon, cooked to perfection; dancing for every time and taste, two-step, lindy, polka, rumba, even a conga line that shamed me into participating; an architecturally perfect wedding cake, that tasted as delicious as it looked; family and friends from far and near, but everyone with a smile on his face; four generations from (nearly) four (Jamie Scarpantonio, Billy's niece, whose cameo I just couldn't resist including here) to ninety-six, helping Billy and Monique get a very happy start on their life together.

    Herewith are some photos from the reception:

    My little black book may be empty, but my book of memories is full.  At this wedding, for instance, I counted four couples for whom I had had the privilege of presiding over or participating in their marriage service: Billy and Monique, of course; Beth and George Manitkas; Buddy and Christy Fatscher; and Renee and Joe Scarpantonio. 

   * Thanks to Bob Petry for two of the photos above: (1) Monique and her Dad; and (2) Monique's vows.


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