2013-10-31 / Senior Savvy

Octogenarian Flower Girls

By Florence Archambault

Joan Gerhold and Florence Archambault, the lovely octogenarian flower girls. Joan Gerhold and Florence Archambault, the lovely octogenarian flower girls. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I would be a flower girl in a wedding at the age of 83…but it happened. On Sept. 21, I was one of two flower girls in the same-sex wedding of David Burnett and Lawrence Bacon at Channing Memorial Church in Newport. The other flower girl was a former neighbor of the couple from Warwick, Joan Gerhold, who is also 83.

Last year when we were all once again disappointed that a samesex wedding bill did not make it through the General Assembly, I made a comment to my friends that if they ever got married I was going to be the flower girl at their wedding.

Well, as they say, be careful what you wish for, because you may get it. In this case, however, it was something pleasant. As soon as Dave and Larry started planning their wedding this year, I got a call reminding me of my flower girl offer. How could I refuse when I liked both of these guys so much and was so happy for them? After all, they had been committed to each other for 36 years and a wedding was the icing on the cake (pun intended).

One of my first questions was what to wear. “Wear anything you want,” they said. “We don’t want you to go to any expense.” What does a senior citizen flower girl wear these days? I certainly didn’t have a clue. I played telephone tag with Joan for a week to find out what she was wearing so that our colors wouldn’t clash. She told me that she planned to wear a blue dress she had worn for a grandson’s wedding.

I had given up on dresses a long time ago, but I did look at the four or five in my closet. None of them would do, so I decided on pants. I had a pair of blue ones that seemed fine, along with a long-sleeved white lacy blouse and a multi-colored scarf. The outfit came together nicely. As it turned out, the blue of my pants and the blue of Joan’s dress matched beautifully.

The Friday night before the big event, we assembled at Channing for a rehearsal. The church is rather large and the aisle looked very long. The wedding party consisted of family and close friends. After an hour or so it seemed that most of us knew our parts. Joan and I were to follow the two ministers down the aisle and wait at the front. The rest of the party would then follow two by two and stand in a half circle, leaving room in the middle for the two grooms who would come down the aisle last. Following the rehearsal, we had a delightful dinner at La Forge Restaurant, where I was able to get better acquainted with Joan.

On the day of the wedding, the women were all dressed appropriately, but differently. The men all wore tan pants and blue jackets. The guys had bought ties in the color of the rainbow and they picked whatever color they wanted. The leftover one turned out to be yellow. As we proceeded down the aisle, Joan and I wore wrist corsages and carried Dave and Larry’s boutonnieres instead of bouquets. When everyone in the wedding party had assembled at the front of the church, we stepped up to the grooms to pin the boutonnieres on their lapels. We had been told that there would be some kind of magnet to attach the flowers, but that was not the case. Instead, we were provided with regular corsage pins. I got mine on Dave, but the flower fell over to the side and I had to stick the pin through a second time. Nobody had a clue, since I was standing in front of Dave with my back to the audience.

After Joan and I had “done our thing,” family members shared stories about the grooms. Then Rev. Dr. F. Jay Deacon gave a message about historic milestones. In recognition of those milestones and in celebration of the remarkable work done by Marriage Equality Rhode Island and the General Assembly, Dave and Larry had selected Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “No Matter What” for the soloist. I’d like to repeat one of the beautifullydelivered verses here, because it is so meaningful:

“No matter what they tell us

No matter what they do

No matter what they teach us

What we believe is true”

The wedding party, except for the two best men, sat in the front pews as the vows began. Following the exchange of rings and the reading of an “Apache Wedding Blessing,” the pronouncement was made that Larry and Dave were married. The recessional was Mendelssohn’s always-joyous “Wedding March.”

The day was a wonderful one, and even the weather cooperated. Leaving the church, we retired to OceanCliff for a reception that was truly traditional. There was so much love in the air – not only the love shared by Dave and Larry, but also the love emanating from their families and fellow church members. I’m sure the couple often wondered during their 36 years together if they would ever have this experience.

I know that many of my friends and some of my family do not believe in same-sex marriage, but if they could have felt the happiness on that day, they might change their minds. Regardless, it was an unforgettable day and I was so proud and happy to have been a part of it.

Florence Archambault, of Newport, is 83-years-young and well-known for her community volunteerism and teaching and writing family history.

She has published two Newport books and has contributed to

Newport this Week since 1976.

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