* Bree, Fisheries Biologist & Kyle, Cook at a Vegetarian Cafe *
When Kyle and I first started talking about getting married, we joked that the main reason would be so that Kyle could get on my health insurance whenever I get that dream job where I get to wrestle fish every day AND get benefits. We felt that we were already married in our hearts, having been best buds for ten years and partners for the past three and a half years, so there was no need to make a big fuss over making it legal. The more we discussed and thought about it, though, we realized that having an actual party instead of eloping would be more fitting for us. Our relationship has been greatly influenced by our friends and families over the past decade and we couldn’t imagine them not being there for the culmination of years of friendship, long distance dating, and loving cohabitation. We knew we wouldn’t be having a typical wedding, though. There were aspects of the wedding industry we wanted to throw out the window: no rings (got tattoos of monsters designed by Kyle instead), no garter toss (just creepy to me), no bridal party (too many important people to choose from), no organized dancing to bad music (though our friends did force us to do a first dance to the Star Trek theme…difficult), and most importantly, no crazy $20,000 price tag. We wanted to have a party at my parents’ central Virginian farm, with a homemade taco bar, potlucked sides and desserts, kegs, sangria, mix tapes, yard games, dogs, and no real schedule besides time to show up and time to eat. And we wanted to do all that for 130 people for less than $5000 so that we could afford a honeymoon biking in Croatia.
So we immediately threw ourselves into preparations, with Kyle designing and creating the invitations and me cutting up and resewing my mother’s wedding dress. We spent every evening making paper flowers, sewing napkins, canning giardinara, and hosting mock dinners to get our taco recipes just right. Lunch breaks were times for making recipe lists, task lists, reception set up diagrams, and preproduction DIY schedules. We knew we wouldn’t be able to do everything ourselves, so we asked our vastly talented friends and family if they would help with the preparations the day before and during the wedding. And their enthusiastic support ended up being the most overwhelmingly beautiful part of the entire wedding.
The energy and level of activity at my parents’ farm the weekend of the wedding was frenzied. We had friends drive twelve hours and immediately start setting up chairs and tables when they arrived. There was an army of people chopping, steaming, and grilling in my parent’s kitchen. My aunt and mother took it upon themselves to ensure that all our helpers were well fed and caffeinated. One of my mother’s best friends made my bouquet out of wildflowers from the farm. My father built signs, mowed, trimmed trees, and did a million other tasks, despite being two weeks into chemo and radiation. My brother created a functioning bar, complete with decorative taps. Kyle’s folks brought up fifteen pounds of North Carolina BBQ for the non-taco inclined. My uncle and cousins, amazingly talented bluegrass musicians, played for almost the entire event. My cousin filmed our ceremony, which was beautifully officiated by our mutual best friend. One of Kyle’s old classmates took our portraits using an old fashion large format camera. Two of our friends transformed into event coordinators, busting their asses to make sure everything ran smoothly while Kyle and I were occupied playing host/getting married. This list just goes on and on.
It was wonderful. Because people came for the whole weekend to help with setting up and breaking down, we got to have quality time with each of our friends and family, many of which had traveled great distances to be there. The nature of tasks needed to be completed required our various groups of friends from all over the county to mingle, leading to a sense of mutual camaraderie that lasted the entire weekend. I initially had felt pangs of guilt about leaning so heavily on our loved ones for the creation of our wedding. But after the party was over and done with, people kept telling me how much they enjoyed being a part of the event, being able to contribute by doing more than just giving us an ice cream scoop. Then I realized it is that sense of community, that being a part of something bigger than yourselves, that is the most beautiful and memorable part of a wedding. No material present in the world could have made us feel more loved and honored than watching the dearest people in our lives throw themselves wholeheartedly into preparing for a party to celebrate our union. It reinforced the fact that our friends from many different aspects of our lives are as much our family as our blood relatives. And Kyle and I are lucky to have their support as we continue our lives together.