Ashley Morgan Calhoun and Paula Tohline were married at the United Methodist Church of Westport-Weston, Connecticut on Saturday, October 25, 1975. They are still married – 36 years later.
When Ashley and I decided to get married (we made that decision about a week after our first date), we started planning for the ceremony. We wanted to do it right, so we had five pastors participating in our ceremony:
1. Ashley (of course)
2. Doug Verdin – the current pastor of my church, and under whom Ashley had served for two years before being appointed to Greenwich, where he served with:
3. Arnold Miller – the pastor at my church, and with whom Ashley had served for four years before he was appointed elsewhere. (Doug was the next and then current pastor at my church. Arnold requested that Ashley be appointed to serve with him again, when he was also appointed to Greenwich, so Arnold was Ashley’s senior pastor at the time we were married.)
4. The Rev. Dr. Eugene Clayton Calhoun, Jr. Ashley is a 6th generation pastor. Which means that his dad was a pastor, who was the son of a pastor, who was the son of a pastor, and so on, and so on. . . Ashley asked his Dad to be his best man.
5. John Brown – When Ashley was appointed to Greenwich, a good friend of his was appointed to serve as his replacement. Ashley asked John to be an usher.
There were undoubtedly several members of the clergy in attendance as well.
On to the ceremony:
As my Dad escorted me through the narthex of the church, just before going down the aisle, he whispered to me, “You can still back out! Sure you’re ready for this?” (He had also said the same thing – a little louder – when one of my girlfriends got married the year before I did. She was the first of my “inner circle” to get married. I don’t think she heard, but folks around us did, and others in attendance wondered what everyone was laughing about!)
We got down the aisle. The question was asked of both of our families if they gave their blessings on the marriage. They all answered in the affirmative (there was never any doubt). My dad kissed me and turned to go to his seat by my mom. He stepped on the train of my full-length veil. The veil was attached to a “Juliet” cap, which was firmly attached to my head. Daddy almost pulled me over on my back. I took a balancing step forward. There was the sound of gasps and ohs! throughout the congregation. When he realized what was happening (he was clueless), he stepped off my veil just in time to keep it from ripping completely off of my cap. There were some chuckles from the crowd, but a sigh of relief from me!
When meeting with the officiating pastor, (and my then current pastor), Doug Verdin, we had informed him, confidently, that we would memorize our vows. I have always disliked the idea of having the officiator “feed” the vows to the couple in short phrases to be repeated by them.
Ashley did beautifully on his (He better have! He had already officiated at enough weddings to know the words backwards and forwards!). I knew them, too. Really, I did. But for some reason or other, my mind took off on a time warp to the 19th century, and instead of saying, “And thereto I pledge to you my faith,” I uttered, “And thereto I plight thee my troth.” That phrase came out of nowhere and just flew out of my mouth.
All throughout the homily, Ashley was fixated on our officiating pastor’s drooping eyelid. “I had never noticed he had that before!” he told me later. He does not remember a word of that homily.
I don’t think I was fixated on anything, but I don’t remember any of the homily either!
I had been a Vocal music and theater major in college. I had loved the study of early Renaissance music, and asked a good friend’s early music quintet to play the music for our ceremony. I had discussed with him, Jack Hutchinson, the music he would play. We had chosen several different pieces to use as prelude, processional, and recessional. They played flawlessly. Unfortunately, we had not considered how long it would take for the wedding party to get back up the aisle after the ceremony. By the time Ashley and I and our attendants had marched out, the music was coming to an end. My mom had not yet made her grand exit! She stood with my dad, waiting for the music to start. There wasn’t any. So, she turned to the musicians, lifted her hand, and gestured at them to play for her. Hutch took the prompt, and managed to get the rest of the musicians to play something for her exit. There was a lot of laughter at that, because my mom was known for her wit and personality – she danced back up the aisle! She really enjoyed her time in the spotlight!
I would consider that we were, and still are, well-married. Five pastors might not have upped the odds we would stay together, but it didn’t hurt, either! We are still very much in love, and have stayed that way through the mostly better, and the infrequent worse. The old French saying, “Plus qu’hier, moins que demain,”* certainly applied to our love then, and it applies to our love now.
Happy anniversary, my darling, wonderful husband and best friend, Ashley. Here’s to at least 36 more. (We have to outdo your folks – they only got to 71!) 😆
I have indeed been blessed with the overflowing abundance of enough. . .
*(“More than yesterday, less than tomorrow”)