six months later, i finally found the time to reflect on september 28, 2019. our american wedding…
(all images in this blog post by the fabulous kirsten ellis of beaux arts photographie)
as a little girl, and then as a teenage girl, and then as a young woman, i was surrounded by love stories. books about love at first sight. movies about happily ever after. songs about forever. despite my tendencies to fight against the stereotype, i have dreamt of this day since richard geer fell for julia roberts.
in a college creative writing class, i even wrote an entire essay examining this contradiction. entitled “cynically in love,” my 20-year-old self waxed and waned on the intricacies of love and marriage. finding my way through the different ways love can look. questioning the notion of a soulmate. noting the flaws of forever.
but we did it. i found the perfect white dress. he wrote the perfect vows. and instead of a cake, we cut a perfect homemade pumpkin pie. and it was better than i could have ever imagined.
after six years of loving ryan, it was so easy to stand by his side, in front of 130 friends and family (mainly from our american adventures), and promise a lifetime of memorable moments.
the weekend started with rain. close family and friends came together to help us set up the venue, river bend nature center.
a beautiful 80-acre nature center in racine, wisconsin on the root river, just ten minutes from lake michigan. the ground was muddy, and the air was misty, but i was on cloud nine.
as the lights were strung from the rafters and the sunflowers filled my grandmother’s vases, a smile conquered my chubby cheeks and did not let loose for the next 48 hours. we transformed a dingy little taxidermy-filled lodge into my dream wedding getaway.
friends and family from all over the world began to arrive. as we hugged each and every one of them, my smile grew bigger. my heart on the verge of combustion. a quiet pub in racine bursting with laughter and light. (and this was only friday night.)
although i had drafted a detailed itinerary for the weekend, i plowed straight through our 10pm listed bedtime and basked in the beauty of the life we’ve created.
this is why i had a wedding.
there is no other time when all the people from your life will gather in one room (except your funeral). no other time that you can look out over the crowd and share a special bond with every set of eyes you meet. no other time when every one you love is loving you right back at the exact same moment.
saturday morning we awoke. tired, but ready. excited, but relaxed.
the weather predictions said the sun would come out by 4pm, but rain or shine, there was literally nothing that could ruin my high.
the groom and his ridiculous crew of groomsmen reluctantly got ready in their lakefront airbnb.
my bridesmaids, mothers, and i spent four hours at the local salon repeatedly telling the hair and makeup artists to keep it natural, none of us really wear makeup or do our hair.
around 2pm, slightly behind schedule, my mother and sister helped me into my BHLDN dress.
high neck and cap sleeves. open back and beautiful lace. proudly purchased online on cyber monday for over 50% off (gotta love a good deal).
and then… the hair, the makeup, the dress, i was almost ready. three small wildflowers picked from the land and tucked into my curls. carpe the fuck out of this diem socks and leather lace up boots. transformation complete.
breaking tradition, we did the modern “first look” photos. ryan stood awaiting his bride. i felt his eyes see straight through me as he turned and stole a glance. with the camera and crowd on either side, i felt his shyness shine, but i felt his love shine brighter.
the sun had broken through the clouds. it was chilly, but the rain had retreated. we hiked around through the woods for a couple hours fake laughing to make ourselves actually laugh. trying to look natural, so that we could relive this day eternally. a smile still plastered on my chubby cheeks.
as a classic yellow school bus shuttled guests from the hotel to the venue, i casually waited back in the bridal cabin. without an ounce of stress, i sipped a glass of white wine and reapplied my lipstick. it was time.
each bridesmaid strolled down the aisle arm-in-arm with each groomsmen. a best friend’s old time string band fiddling a waltz. as the last couple took their place at the altar, the music shifted. the band began to play nick cave’s “into my arms.” our song. a surprise for the groom.
waiting in the wings, my father pointed out a honey bee who had made his home on my bouquet of sunflowers, white roses, and eucalyptus. i carefully found him a new home and began the short stroll to my husband.
this is the moment. a daughter being walked down the aisle by her daddy. i am so lucky to have such an amazing man to call my father.
and as we approached the altar, i melted into overwhelming gratitude. my big brother ready to marry me to the love of my life. my mother and father to give me away. my sister standing by my side. both of our families lining the front rows with pure happiness. what a blessing.
we listened to my brother dan’s wise words.
we asked our community for support. we exchanged personalized vows.
we exchanged custom made rings.
we kissed too many times (before we were supposed to).
and we became wife and husband. but most importantly, we laughed. all of us. together.
there was an unbounded joy that filled the pavilion. an outpouring of optimism that we will work to cultivate the rest of our lives. it was not the beginning of our love story, and it is far from the end, but this chapter will be bookmarked for years to come. so thank you for helping us write the perfect addition to our happily ever after.
more photos, followed by food and drinks and dessert. barramundi, chicken skewers, and sweet potatoes served through a milwaukee food truck window. beer, wine, and whiteclaws chilled and ready for sipping (despite three boxes of misplaced collector edition “better together” wine glasses featuring a kangaroo that looked like a rabbit and an eagle that looked like a chicken, if you still want one or two or ten, let me know). freshly baked mini pies flying off the table, key lime a family fave.
ryan and i sat down outside at a picnic table in the center of it all. old time tunes filling the air, delicious food filling our bellies, and love filling our souls. the perfection continued.
inside the dancing was about to begin. as my brother announced the wedding party, we entered a room transformed by its contents.
we cut a homemade pumpkin pie baked by my stepbrother and his daughter.
we danced our first dance to a jimmy barne’s cover of “higher and higher.” a perfect compromise, an american classic sung by an australian legend.
we laughed and cried through well thought out and not so well thought out toasts and speeches. (in case you were curious about my dad’s blog reference, you can find gratitude day 5, #5 here.)
i danced with my father to tim mcgraw’s “my little girl,” and ryan danced with his mother to elton john’s “can you feel the love tonight?”
all my little girl hopes and dreams came true.
and then, the dancing began.
the rest of the evening is a blur of happiness and glee, but i do believe i was a dancing queen.
even broke the zipper on one of my boots. it is impossible not to tear up a dance floor with a killer saxophone laying down motown classics.
and my sister rapping with the band to “bust a move.” (don’t worry, there is video.) and my aunt dancing with the lead singer during set breaks.
apparently, with all the dancing i did, i missed our late night chicago style hot dog bar and s’mores by the campfire. as well as an ape index measuring session happening out in the lobby.
but it is so hard to do it all in one night. there were so many people that i barely got to hug. so many friends that i wanted to talk to more. so many family members that i wanted to laugh with more. so many dances left to be had. so many drinks left to be drank.
as the clock struck midnight, the music stopped. the lights came down. the tables and chairs were broken down. and the last school bus of guests pulled away.
we sat by the campfire in the silence. sweat dried down by back, dirt coating the lace rim of my dress, and a smile still stuck to my face.
oh what a night. the perfect addition to our love story.
and we get to do it all again. down under…