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I always assumed I would walk down the aisle at my wedding to the strains of the Bridal Chorus from Wagner’s opera “Lohingren” (also called the “Wedding March”). You know the one: “Here comes the bride, All dressed in white, . . . “

So imagine my surprise when I got to our wedding rehearsal the night before the wedding, and the church organist announced she wouldn’t play the Wedding March.

In the olden days – thirty-five years ago – weddings did not get quite the attention they do today. At least not in Richland, Washington, and not by a bride who had a law review note to write in the next few weeks. I let my mother decide almost everything. I just showed up a few days before the big event.

At my request, Mother had arranged for the women’s choir at our church to sing a couple of songs during the Nuptial Mass. But we had left the entrance and recessional songs to the organist.

“Why won’t you play the Wedding March?” I asked the organist.

“Too trite,” she replied. She clearly believed herself superior to Wagner.

“But that’s what I want,” I said. Isn’t every bride entitled to one hissy fit?

“Well, then, you’ll need to find another organist.” Which, of course, she knew I couldn’t do on eighteen hours notice. Organists have a lot of power.

“What will you play?” I asked.

“I prefer ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,’” she stated. “I do the variation with the arpeggios and trills as the bridesmaids walk in. Keep it light and lovely. Then the solemn hymn for your entrance.” She played it. I recognized it. I accepted the inevitable.

“And for the recessional, we’ll do Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy,’” she said, her fingers switching to Ludwig’s majestic chords.

By that time I knew who was in control. I nodded meekly.

And that’s how it came to be that on November 26, 1977, I entered the church on my father’s arm to the stately strains of ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.’  And an hour later, my new husband and I exited triumphantly to ‘Ode to Joy.’

For the past 35 years, I haven’t been able to hear either song without crying.

Happy Anniversary, Al

Al and Theresa exiting the church to “Ode to Joy”

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