When Spencer proposed, I was so excited that I yelled out "Wow! I've never been engaged before!" He looked surprised and then relieved.
We were both really into having a long engagement, and didn't want to even think about wedding planning at first. We wanted to enjoy our time and stretch it out. So we totally stretched it...for almost two years. But a lot happened in the year and a half that followed. We sold all of our stuff, moved to Mexico, traveled around the country for a year, bought a house in Missoula while still living abroad, drove back to the States, yada yada, all that stuff. It was so much. So we just delayed until the time was right. Why rush it? Let's enjoy it, we thought.
From the start we both agreed on exactly what this wedding should be - a huge campout party with all of the people we loved most in the world, held at a very special place. This is the place...
My aunt Carmela and uncle Joe graciously offered to host us at their beautiful ranch that backs up to the Tonto National Forest in the desert outside Scottsdale, AZ. It's a truly special area where we both love to spend time hiking, biking, and riding around the area with them. The landscape stretches forever, the sunsets light up the earth like you're viewing it from another planet, and it's just a totally awesome place built and cared for by really wonderful people. We're lucky, and we say it out loud frequently.
We talked about how the whole thing would play out, where we'd set up the camping, the showers, the food, the coolers, games, all of it. When some one mentioned "what about the chance of rain?" Carmela and I looked at each other and smiled. "Nana wouldn't let that happen" we both said, then moved on to figuring out how to get the pizza truck down the driveway.
It was no surprise that Spencer and I came from two very different camps when it came to organization. My planning strategy involved sketching out a flow chart on a piece of paper and making sure there would be ice cream. Spencer's process included a 12 tab spreadsheet with minute by minute instructions for anyone who might be walking by and needed a task. I made so much fun of him for this. Like, I even showed his lists a bunch of my girlfriends so we could all laugh about how insane he was. My little groom-zilla. But then we showed up to put this whole thing together and I was no longer laughing.
Instead, I was frozen in the middle of Carmela's driveway memorizing all of the tasks that were listed out in such a perfect, logical order and I realized something very important. I made the right choice. Never had I been so sure of that. You need a visionary who can figure out how to make everything look pretty, absolutely. But when you're standing there totally zoned out trying to remember where those string lights are supposed to go? You really need a tactical, strategic person to come along with an insane to-do list and save you from early demise.
When my friend Andy showed up, he sent me a text that said "we're in the lot." That was the same text he would have sent me to meet up at a Phish show ten years ago. At that moment, the whole thing started to feel just right.
We hiked, ate, biked, ran around on perfect trails where the only people we saw were those we knew, played games, and talked to every single person. My dad told stories about being a pilot in the Marines and landing on air craft caries in complete darkness. My brother practiced the Lone Ranger theme song on guitar for the ceremony and flipped pancakes for breakfast. Dan double checked his officiant certification from the Universal Life Church and explained the significance of signing the Ketubah. My uncles ran out to grab more ice. I ran out to get more beer. M.E. persuaded almost every person to play board games. Spencer led mountain bike rides, Lindsay led a beautiful yoga class. Katherine motivated folks she'd never met before to go running in the mornings. I wanted to stay there forever, with these people.
True to form, Nana made sure the sun was shining.
After the ceremony, Spencer said that his face hurt from smiling so stupidly for such a long time. But he was still smiling when he said it. I was too. In the back of my head, I always wanted this wedding to be about a group of people, not just about me or Spencer. I know it's a celebration of love and marriage, but I knew it could be more than that. It could be a party, a reunion, a chance to connect with the colors of the desert, to remember that there isn't just one love in our lives, but so, so many loves. You know that heart full feeling that extends all the way up into your throat sometimes? That was it. Fully.
After drinks were filled, pizza was consumed, and people were relaxing around the pool, speeches started. We presented Dan with a medal of honor for his services as best officiant ever. He totally deserved it. Phil produced a series of incredible/embarrassing pictures that confirmed everything I'd imagined Spencer to be in high school. Hemp necklace, bandana, Chacos, and never one to admit he was lost on a trail. Again, reaffirming I'd picked the right guy. My brother got up and said that Spencer was one of the top three guys I'd ever dated. Michelle talked about a life less ordinary. Alexis pointed out in high school I'd written the name of every boy I dated on my wall with a start and end date, and she was glad that Spencer wouldn't have an expiration date. Rhonda sweetly talked about adventure and family, how we were joining together our two tribes. Then my parents got up and my dad started out with a nice dad speech. Then he started talking about Fiddler on the Roof, the story of Tevye and his daughters. "That's cute," I thought. But where was this going. And then. Oh my god. He and my mom started to sing the wedding song Sunrise, Sunset. He sang the first seven words"Is this the little girl I carried?" and I 100% completely lost it. Their voices were the same as when they would sing me to sleep 30 years ago. Ten minutes earlier I'd been up by the pizza truck wondering why I hadn't cried yet, and now I couldn't stop.
And then. Every single person joined in for the chorus. The stars were out, the sky was dark, we could see faces in the candlelight and they were all singing in unison. We were surrounded by song and more love than I can even describe.
Apparently, when we were out on a hike earlier in the day, my parents passed around these lyrics and explained the plan. They organized everyone to learn this song, and to sing it in tune at the right moment. I could not believe it.
It was a perfect finale to a perfect adventure. I thought I had planned out all the joy that we could experience that weekend, but family and friends topped those plans by a million. It was a reminder that we are all connected, we can trust each with open hearts. When we show up in this way, ready to enjoy ourselves, ready to connect "beyond the ideas of wrong doing and right doing" (as Rumi says), that is where the real magic happens.