It was intended to be a quick dinner at a casual local restaurant, the kind where you order at the counter and they bring food to your table. We ordered pizza, salad and tri-tip and found a place to sit. Shortly after we sat I realized I did not have my phone, meaning the answering service could not reach me. I got up to walk to the car and see if I had left it there. As I headed for the door a party of about 12 people caught my eye.
They caught everyone’s eyes, for they were a wedding party. A very young bride in a wedding gown, her new soldier husband in his dress uniform, a few bridesmaids and what I assumed were their parents were seated in the middle of the dining area. In the center of their table was a small two tiered wedding cake, with red trim and bride and groom figurines perched perfectly on the top.
Thoughts about them filled my mind as I went to my car. I thought of how young they looked, and remembered how excited I was when Lisa and I were married at nearly the same age. I thought of him in the military and wondered if they would soon be separated. I reflected on the modesty of their celebration. It seemed to me that their choice of venue meant that they must not have had much in the way of material wealth.
They were strangers to me but I felt a strong desire to bless them and encourage them. I knew it would be strange and perhaps awkward, but I decided to give them a gift. I took a few bills out of my wallet and folded them tightly so as to be discrete. As walked by their stable I stopped across the table from the bride and groom. I reached out my hand as I said, “Congratulations!” and combined a handshake with the handing of the gift. I walked quickly away, not wanting to intrude any further.
A few moments after I rejoined my family I heard a voice over my shoulder saying “Excuse me.” It was the bride and groom. In her hands she held a few slices of their wedding cake. “That was so nice of you, we wanted to say thank you!” I was overwhelmed at the kindness of their response, blessed that they had included us, strangers, in their celebration. I was also excited at the prospect of cake for dessert. (It was delicious, confirming my decision to hurry through the healthy portion of my meal.)
The cake was so good that my wife and daughter wanted to know where it was made. Somewhat embarrassed at the additional intrusion I made my way back to their table. “Sorry to intrude, but the cake was so good, my family wanted to know where you got it.”
The bride smiled, and asked if we wanted more! I politely declined, and she said she would write down the number of the bakery. I turned to go but before I could walk away a woman who appeared to be her mom said to her, “Wait! Don’t you want a picture?”
Before I knew what was happening I was posing for a picture with the bride and groom. I was both touched and embarrassed, and said, “Wedding pictures with a complete stranger!” We exchanged names (They are Siria and Damion) and shook hands, and I again congratulated them before returning to my table, unable to repress a smile.
It was one of the best dinners I have ever had. The few dollars I had given them as a gift were more than worth it. How often does one get to share wedding cake with strangers? I doubt I will ever forget their smiles, their grace and their kindness. I know they will never forget me, for I will forever be the stranger in their wedding photos!
Please join me in praying for this couple as they start their lives together. Her life as a young army bride will almost certainly be challenging. Pray for his safety and their happiness and for many years of joy together.