A flair for the dramatic


Jan Lennon And Michael Pappy

April 11, 1999|By Joanne E. Morvay | By Joanne E. Morvay,Special to the Sun

The tone of Janulyn Lennon and Earl Michael Pappy's wedding was set during the prelude to the ceremony when the soloist -- singing "The Lord Be Praised" a cappella -- hit a series of notes so high that the 250 assembled guests broke into spontaneous applause.

At that moment, it became obvious that this was not a typical wedding. But then those who have long known Jan expected her wedding to reflect her characteristic dramatic flair.

As her mother, Bobbie Swann of Randallstown, says -- with only a tinge of teasing in her voice -- "Jan is definitely a star."

Jan, who grew up in Woodlawn, is a corrections officer with the rank of captain and a programs division commander at Riverside Regional Jail in Hopewell, Va. Michael, as Earl is called, is a special-education administrator with the Johnston County Public School System in Smithfield, N.C., as well as a master's degree candidate at Fayetteville State University. The two met through a friend last May.

Love found them quickly, and by last August they were seriously considering wedding dates. Jan, 35, and Michael, 40, knew exactly what they were looking for in a mate. Finding it finally in each other, they were eager to commit to marriage.

On April 2 at Martin's West, Jan took center stage in the event that marked the beginning of their life as husband and wife. Their wedding brought together family and friends from around the country -- including Michael's mother, Bettie Tyson of Raleigh, N.C., and Jan's father, James Lennon of Hampstead, N.C.

As the ceremony began, eight "Men of Distinction" and eight "Ladies of Elegance" promenaded down the center aisle of the intimate ballroom where the wedding ceremony was held.

The lights dimmed and the crowd turned expectantly. A spotlight illuminated the rear of the room. When the curtain was pulled open with a flourish, the crowd gasped, along with the groom, at the first glance of Jan in her wedding attire. Her white gown sparkled with sequins and gold beading; the blusher on her tiara-topped veil was pulled demurely over her eyes.

"You go, girl," some of her friends called discreetly as Jan, her cathedral-length train flowing behind her, descended the small stairway she stood upon to take the arm of her stepfather, Carl Swann.

With a supermodel's bearing, Jan walked down the aisle, her eyes focused directly on Michael. The only crack in her armor: Her hands, holding a delicate white handkerchief, were shaking.

The couple repeated their vows facing one another underneath a white gazebo. As the Baptist marriage service neared its end, Jan leaned toward Michael for the traditional unveiling of the bride.

They kissed as the guests applauded and laughed. There was more kissing and laughing in the receiving line as Jan and Michael warmly welcomed the guests to their wedding reception in an adjoining ballroom.

The festivities were just beginning, though. There were multiple toasts to the couple's happiness. A first dance and then dancing with the wedding party. And, of course, the cutting of the six-tiered cake.

As the meal ended, the real entertainment began. First, a comedian took the stage, his topical humor quickly filling the room with laughter.

Audience participation remained high as Barbara Holt, a friend of Jan, did a dramatic reading of a poem called "Phenomenal Woman." Led by Holt, the crowd quickly learned to repeat the chorus of the inspirational poem, echoing loudly: "Phenomenal, phenomenal woman. That's Jan."

The Delta Sigma Theta steppers continued the momentum with a dance that garnered much appreciation from the crowd. No one applauded more wildly than Jan, a fellow member of the sorority and of the dance troupe.

The piece de resistance of what Jan called a "dinner theater show" came as a surprise to the groom. After the steppers cleared the floor, all attention turned to the bride. Barefoot and wearing a black bodysuit and long, flowing skirt, Jan performed an interpretive dance she had choreographed herself just for the occasion.

Her eyes once more focused solely on Michael, Jan performed a number of difficult moves to a taped-recorded R&B song.

"I love you, baby," Michael mouthed as the music wound to a close. Blinking back emotion, Jan motioned for him to join her on the dance floor.

As Michael gathered Jan into his arms, the guests rose to their feet in a standing ovation.

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