Amanda & Joachim’s Rancho Cicada Retreat Wedding

Look, you have to love a woman who had intravenous antibiotics on her wedding morning to treat an aggressive UTI (God do I feel that), and said, “If I had it to do over, I wouldn’t change a single thing. Not one.” Bad-*ss. And after yesterdays pre-engaged discussion, I thought Amanda’s intention to propose to her partner was an important reminder of how much power we strong-headed independent women really have. So here is Amanda, and her once in a lifetime party that changed nothing for her (but still rocked her world):

When Joachim asked me to marry him last year on the shores of Lake Malawi, I screamed “but I was going to ask YOU!” I had been thinking about it everyday for the previous three months, and couldn’t wait to ask him. I would day dream about how surprised he would be, how quickly he’d say yes, and how we’d stay up late talking about the kind of wedding we wanted to have. And that’s exactly what we did. Apparently he’d also been thinking about proposing for about the same time period, and had a similar idea about when to do it. Luckily, we were also on the same page in terms of wedding planning from day one. We wanted to have a small, laid-back, weekend long camping-style wedding, with our priorities (in rank order) being friends and family, good food, good (and plentiful) alcohol, and a beautiful natural location.

Because I am from Alabama and Joachim is from Belgium and we’ve both made several big moves during our adult lives, our loved ones are spread all over the globe and our families hadn’t met before the wedding. So the wedding ended up being like a giant “reunion” of all the different points in each of our lives.

It was so bizarre to look around the grounds and see all the people that I love and that Joachim loves, and that had made us into the people that we are, all in one place, getting to know each other, drinking wine together, telling stories around the campfire and laughing late into the night. The wedding weekend was an absolute blast in every way, but the coming together of our pasts was the single best gift I received, and such a fitting way to make promises to each other about our future.

During the ceremony, my sister (the officiant) said: “It may seem unlikely that a European, motorcycle-driving, death metal listening, long-haired astrophysicist and a Southern, Chic-Fil-A loving, mandolin picking, strong-headed independent woman would fall in love and build a life together in some mountains in California, but they have… Their individual differences make their relationship exciting and entirely unique.” And this is sort of a microcosm of the weekend. Joachim’s Belgian uncles finally got to ask my dad all about the gun collection they had seen in pictures from my family’s Christmas (yes, we shot guns on Christmas Eve!), and we had a perfect balance of American and European style men’s swimsuits! It really was a once in a lifetime event – it’ll never happen again, all those people in one place.

Of course, not everything went well. I had a UTI-from-hell in the two weeks leading up to the wedding, which culminated in me having aggressive intravenous antibiotic treatment on the morning we drove up to the wedding site. A few key people weren’t able to make it, and their absences left some pretty gaping holes.

It was over 100 degrees during the ceremony, so instead of focusing on my vows or the readings, I could only think about the sweat dripping down my entire body and how to keep from passing out. But time has a funny (and fortunate) way of dimming those memories, only leaving an image of the amazing weekend that it really was. If I had it to do over, I wouldn’t change a single thing. Not one.

In terms of the practicality of putting on a wedding weekend, we did almost everything ourselves (read: we planned and organized and our AMAZING friends did everything else). We self-catered two breakfasts, two lunches, and a Friday night filet mignon feast for all sixty people. My mother and I spent $300 at the SF Flower Mart, and the two of us and my mother-in-law arranged them. I designed and printed all the programs and welcome packets, and Joachim built a kegerator.

My sister was the officiant (she was deputized for a day), and she did my hair. We used the plates and silverware from the wedding site, and I bought wine glasses, champagne glasses, and mason jars from thrift stores and post-wedding couples. I also bought the tablecloths, cloth napkins, runners, vases, and other little pieces of the decor from four different couples that had them left over after their own weddings.

I really liked the idea of being surrounded by aesthetically pleasing tidbits that had played a part in other people’s homegrown weddings. The personalized decor was made by my uber-talented mother-in-law – I am not a hoarder, but even I can’t bring myself to throw away the sixty beautiful hand made napkin rings. We collected about 20 hours of music including slow folksy bluegrass for me, heavy metal for him, and eighties classics for everyone else. Then, a couple of friends ipod DJ-ed it on the spot. I’m not a huge dancer type, so I was a little shocked when our wedding turned into the dance party of the century. We (and I do mean all of us, older folks included) danced our assess off under the stars on a tiny wooden dance floor until 2am.

We’ve only been married four and a half months, but so far I haven’t felt any shift in our relationship. I’m as madly in love as I ever was, and so far I feel exactly the same as I did before – in awe of my luck at finding such an amazing soul to share my life with. Meg described the hugeness of the vows as: “It’s about promising to be each others family. It’s about being there through all the births, the infertility, the parenthood. Being there through all the illnesses, the hospitalizations, the tests, the fear, and the pain. It’s about being there until we die. It’s about putting each other into the ground.” But for me, that came before the wedding and the marriage. Long before. We’d already built a life together, made a home together, made sacrifices for each other and our relationship. We’d shared money, owned property together, and planned to stay together forever, marriage or not. So, I’m probably in the minority here, but the wedding hasn’t changed anything for me or for our relationship. For us, it really was just a party – an amazing, once in a lifetime, (almost) everyone there party. And I’m okay with that

Photos By: Diane Jago, and a few by various guests.

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