My husband Dave and I met during our first month of college and were together for 12 years when we decided to get married. We never thought we were “wedding people.” Mostly, we just hadn’t been to many weddings. We love to cook and for years we had talked about making a meal for all our friends and family. Then we were engaged and we started to think about it seriously. Wouldn’t it be great to have all of our friends and family together at the same time? When else was this going to happen? We felt that we would regret it if we didn’t celebrate our wedding with the people we loved and who supported us. We decided that it was worth it to have a wedding: worth the time, the effort, and the expense. Once we made the decision we set about trying to make the wedding the kind of party that would make the trip worth it for everyone: lawn games, pig roast, pie, a gypsy jazz band, a shadow puppet show, and a huge bonfire. The guiding questions through all the planning was how to we include our friends and family, how can we share our relationship and invite our friends and family to help us, how can it be beautiful, how can everyone feel like themselves, and how can it be really fun.
Our friends Blair and Sheri have a lovely farm in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. We asked them in May if they would host our wedding in September and they said yes. They were the most gracious hosts to us all summer. We spent weekends with them cleaning the dairy barn for the reception, grooming the willow archway to walk through in the ceremony. There was a lot of power-washing, wood-hauling, weeding, wasp-killing. We joked that this was how the Kardashian wedding was coming together. We ended up planning a wedding weekend, Thursday-Monday, at the farm. Because we had not attended many weddings ourselves, I relied on the kind and wonderful world of wedding blogs to guide me through the planning. At times we were overwhelmed by the sheer amount of decisions that had to be made about things we never thought about before—C7 or C9 bulb for the string lights? Where do you find 110 embroidered napkins? How many chafing dishes of food do we need and how will they stay warm? How much alcohol per person per hour?
I went to town on DIY projects. At one point my sister and fiancé staged a DIY-project intervention and made me promise, “No new projects.” What is new, exactly? If I was thinking about it it’s not new! For environmental, aesthetic, and budget reasons we decided on succulents and home-grown flowers, and my sister and I made succulent wreaths for the barn doors and my mother grew white dahlias in her backyard all summer. We kept the barn décor simple, with string lights and fabric pom-pom garland strung the length of the barn. The garland took the most time and help and we had many friends and family cutting circles with us all summer—our moms, my friends, our friend’s mom, her mom’s friend from Albania. I found vintage green and white napkins for the reception and vintage tablecloths to cover the hay bales for the ceremony seating, and aprons for our friends who were helping to cook. We doubled up on favors and escort cards by canning vanilla pear butter labeled with guest names and table numbers. My sister created signs with spray paint stencils.
We didn’t spend a lot on wedding clothes, but put some time into the details. I bought a J. Crew dress that was simple and had a necklace made from grey pearls that I found in a shop. My husband wore the same cream-colored suit that he wore at our college graduation, and his grandfather’s shoes. I made his tie from a fabric that reminded me of the Queen Anne’s Lace that grew around the farm. Our flower girl’s dress and her brother’s outfit were made from the same fabric by their grandmother. My sister made necklaces for our mothers from stones that I chose because they reminded me of the oak tree that we were married beneath. I made the fabric feather boutonnieres, ribbon medallions, and ribbon wands for the guests, and we set the wedding attire as “festive” and everyone lived up to it: princesses, ninjas, boy scout uniforms, overalls with high heels, kurtis, fezes, hats, and lots of flower and feather fascinators.
We seriously considered hiring a caterer, but we in the end we made the meal with a lot of help. We found a local farm to do a pig roast, and we made the rest of the food in the two weeks before the wedding. Dave made four different barbeque sauces, and we made the menu based on what was freezable, available, organic, and in season: apple walnut salad, roasted tomatoes, wild rice salad, herb acorn squash, chestnut-shitake cakes. Hoosier Mama Pies made most of our pies with lovely additions by my grandmother, our best man, and friends. My sister’s most incredible friends were the food and beverage managers during the wedding day and their sheer pluck brought it all together.
On the morning of the wedding dark clouds were rolling and it drizzled. There were a few tense conversations deciding whether we should stick with the outdoor ceremony or move it into the barn. After a brief sky assessment we decided to have the ceremony outdoors. A few minutes later I was indoors (finishing the table numbers) and I looked out the window to see Dave’s friends from Pennsylvania (in kurtis) putting out the hale bales in a circle for the ceremony. Sheri and our college professor Cheryl were laying the tablecloths over the bales. I thought, this thing that is happening is not just our wedding, Dave and I, it is about all of us.
And then there were all of the other things that happened that we did not plan. The kids’ croquet mallet versus parasol battle. The double rainbow right before the ceremony. How much our friends got into the animal masks and mobile photo booth. The fire dance to Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang” our friend did for us at the end of the night. The way that the whole farm got quiet, even the goats, as we said our vows and then the sounds of bells and claps and hollers that came rushing in.
All photos by the lovely Lisa Beth Anderson.