As the doors to the sanctuary of the First Baptist Church in Bentonville, Ark., on Saturday, Nov. 1 swung open wide and Jessa Duggar, on the arm of her father, Jim Bob, made her way down the aisle in a sweeping, blush-colored princess gown with a billowing train, there was an audible gasp from the more than 1,000 guests in attendance.
But the radiant bride was looking for just one reaction: that of her beaming but noticeably stunned husband-to-be, Ben Seewald, who surreptitiously wiped away a tear before clasping her hands.
“I know,” he told PEOPLE earlier that afternoon, “this is a day I am going to remember for the rest of my life.”
Combined, the bride and groom have 24 siblings and literally hundreds of extended family and friends, but their wedding was all about the two of them.
Ben, 19, and Jessa, 21, stars of TLC’s hit reality show 19 Kids & Counting, now in its eighth season, showed the world they were doing things their way: selecting the very untraditional University of Arkansas Razorbacks fight song to play as they walked out together, choosing not to have a wedding cake and skipping entirely the public “You may now kiss the bride” thing.
Though Jessa – who with Ben set up their rules of “courtship,” including no hand-holding until engagement and no kissing until marriage – admitted that waiting for that first kiss was “really hard,” she was determined it would be a moment she and her new husband kept to themselves.
When the newlyweds left the altar without so much as a peck on the cheek, Pastor Mike Schadt said, “It was their desire they would share this unique and precious time intimately alone, so just respect that.”
As the crowd erupted in applause, Schadt added, “It is very untraditional not to kiss onstage, but I can tell you they are smooching now. The fact they want to do it alone is very precious.”