L and I were down at Belknap Hot Springs most of the day, helping and having fun, and now I'm home, exhausted. And immensely, profoundly, relieved.
My sister first met the groom while she was still married, but in the process of ending it. They didn't start dating until everything was officially over, and although their meeting in no way prompted or hastened her divorce, once they began dating, they fell for each other right away. However, with three pre-teen daughters who were still very much attached to their dad, and a very concerned and skeptical family, it was an extremely delicate business for them from day one.
This was three years ago.
The first time I met him I was really on guard, the protective older brother instinct coming back suprisingly intense, despite having been more or less dormant for the many years since our school days. I have nothing personal against her first husband, and I still think he's a good man, but I just don't think he was ever good for my sister. So this feeling of anticipation I had when meeting this new guy was undoubtedly sharpened by that.
But I was quickly won over, maybe more quickly than anyone else in the family. This guy was genuine, he was honest, and there was no hint of prevarication or pretense in his earnestness. Moreover, while talking to him and watching him interact with the family that afternoon, I easily recognized that he comprehended the fact that he was not only courting my sister, but was also beginning relationships with everyone in her family -- most importantly, her daughters -- more or less simultaneously, and was sincerely prepared for it. He never had to sell himself to anyone, probably wouldn't even think of it.
It was rocky for her ... I could see, but not completely understand, the difficulties she faced, trying to maintain a sense of cohesiveness with her daughters and the rest of the family, while restraining herself from jumping headfirst into a bright, new relationship that seemed to hold the promise of solving all the problems of the old one. She and he made careful choices about how to handle a variety of different challenges represented by the many levels of integrating her life with his, his life with theirs, their lives with ours ... and today was the culmination of the preparation for their time together from now on. I'm so proud of both of them for getting to, and taking, this step.
The look of accomplishment and honest optimism on their faces, and the way that they both completely put themselves into the embrace at the conclusion of the ceremony, unmistakably emphasized the meaning of this to both of them, and I couldn't be happier for them.
I griped to L about all the work we had to do to prepare for the event today, instead of just going and being guests and enjoying it, but I'd have put in ten times as much work for a fraction of the thanks I received.