“Does she love the artichoke?” my friend and neighbor Angeline asked in an adrenaline fueled kind of way. I looked at her blankly and she continued. “If she loves it, I will need floral wire, wire cutters and floral tape.”
With two hours until “go time”, my answer was simple. “She hates the artichoke.”
In an instant, said artichoke was tossed onto the floor and we were moving on.
We knew for months that our older son, Kevin, was intending to propose to his now wife, Rachelle. He had hinted at it last Thanksgiving and we waited with anticipation for the official announcement. But Christmas came and went and we decided to go ahead with our plans to cycle from Lisbon to Amsterdam – a three month adventure from April through June. And that’s what we did. So, in early May, Kevin texted us. He had the ring. He was going to propose at the family cabin and they would call once it was official.
It was a few days later, as Rick and I were waking up in Vigo, Spain, when Rachelle and Kevin called. Great news! Marriage! Gorgeous Ring! Happy happy news! “Have you set a date yet?” I asked. Rachelle paused and then answered, “We were thinking of September.” “This September?” I asked, holding back any signs of anxiety. “Yes! And we were hoping to have it at your house.” She said excitedly.
I have to give Rick and I a lot of credit because with huge smiles on our faces, one of us said, “Of course! We’d love that! How many guests do you think? 150? Great!”
Hanging up, I looked at Rick and said with more than a little panic in my voice, “How in the world are we going to do this?” And, in his usual calm Rick way, he said, “We’ll figure it out.”
But none of that changed the fact that we were in Europe until July 1, and there were record rains back home in Washington state that were slowly nurturing the weeds and blackberry brambles to a near jungle-like state. So, I conjured my most zen-like state and attempted to stay in the moment of our fabulous cycling adventure. And when the 2:00 am committee in my head started screaming things like, “You idiot. Three months? There is no way it can be done!”, I would quickly push the thoughts aside with the very grown up reply of, “La la la! I can’t hear you!”
And that worked until I stepped off the plane in Seattle.
Rachelle had a clear vision of what came to be known in our neighborhood as “the wedding.” She had so many lovely details and ideas. Our basement became a staging area for all of the little “things” we would put out to make the day so beautiful and personal. I can’t tell you how many hours Rachelle put into tablescape design, hand-lettered signage, photos, collecting vases and candlesticks to capture the theme of “moody romance.”
Not to be confused with “farm-style”, or “outdoorsy” or “rustic.” Under no circumstance was the use of mason jars or burlap to be included. This became a huge joke between us. I cannot tell you how many people offered up the use of their mason jars for vases, assuming (unsurprisingly) that a backyard wedding would likely include them. I found it hysterical to place a single mason jar in the middle of the growing collection of gorgeous and unique vases. My idea of including a baby goat in the ceremony was met with an eye-roll and laughter. Baby goat video links followed. And whenever possible, I would suggest that a baby goat could manage the guestbook table or that a baby goat wandering onto the dance floor would be really, really cute. Perhaps a baby goat for a quick yoga session to reduce stress before the event?
Over the course of three months, Rick and I worked primarily on the house and yard, while Rachelle and Kevin worked through the minutia. It was actually quite perfect. I know for a fact, that I would have gone bonkers thinking about the detailed decorations that make a wedding really personal.
It didn’t take Rick and I long to realize that we were going to need some help. We started by enlisting our friend, Amy, to help with the yard. She and I worked for hours together. It was incredibly fun to have a friend and work partner to chat with as we worked our butts off. The patio was built by Rick with the skilled help of his brother-in-law, Bill and sister Chris. Kevin came up on weekends to do whatever needed to be done along with Rachelle’s brother, also Rick, and Kevin’s best man and close family friend, Sam. Together we reseeded and planted lawn, built a patio, painted a shed, weeded every inch of the yard, designed and planted garden areas and planters.
But time was moving fast. We still hadn’t figured out parking. I wanted to line my yard with rocks but I was having a hard time finding them. Where would everyone sleep? And then, just a few weeks before the wedding, we got a bombshell. The pet sitter that was going to take Kevin’s beloved long-haired mini dachshund, Lady, backed out.
She backed out. All the other people that Kevin trusted to take an elderly dog that had a strict eating and med protocol were going to be at the wedding. So now, Lady was coming to the wedding.
Who needs a baby goat when you’ve got a little dog?
A few weeks out from “the wedding”, one of our neighbors, Chris, stopped by to say hello while I was working in the yard. He said, “Is there anything I can do to help?” Jokingly, I said, “Well, I’m thinking about lining my flower beds with small, cantaloupe size rocks. I really want basalt. But, they are so hard to find. If you’ve got a pile in your backyard you’d like to get rid of, that would be great!” Instead of laughing, he looked at me seriously and said, “I may know where to find some.” The next day he came by and said if we wanted some rocks, he knew a place we could get them for free from a person that was clearing off an old homestead gone hippie encampment up in the hills. “Are you kidding?” I nearly screamed. “Nope. Meet me in the morning with your truck and I’ll take you out there.”
Which is what we did.
Off into the hills of Swansonville, a hamlet named after the family that founded it about 120 years ago. We drove off the main road down a long dirt driveway. The owner of the homestead had recently died. His family was clearing the land of stuff collected over the course of a lifetime. With several homes, more than 50 vehicles, two buses (one psychedelic) and a derelict dump truck, there was a lot to do. But we were there to help relieve them of the enormous hill of cantaloupe size basalt rocks. They were exactly what I was looking for. I couldn’t believe it! Two loads later, I had lined my property. And ass Chris stated, it was, “the frame around a beautiful picture.”
A few days later after talking with our neighbors about guest parking in their fields, I got an email from one of them, Angeline, that said, “I’m going to take care of the parking details. Don’t think about it again. You have enough on your plate.” I was astounded. But not as astounded as I was later that week when she ordered a dump truck of dirt to flatten out a spot that was “just too bumpy to park on” and then when another neighbor, Lynn, drove his backhoe down the road to smooth it down. And to top it off, the other parking neighbors, Jennie and Donnie, starting stringing yards and yards of twinkle lights, because as Jenny said (as she put in her Amazon order), “you can never have enough lights!”
Suddenly, it was the Wednesday before “the wedding.” Tent folks came and set up two gigantic structures. Kevin, Rachelle and their dog, Lady, arrived. Porta Potty delivered. Rachelle directed us on where to string lights, arrange tables, and hang draping. So far ahead of the game we thought. Plus, we still have all day on Friday to get those the last little details organized.
Except that Rachelle needed to get her nails done.
No big deal in the “big city.” Drop in any old place, any time. Not so in my rural location. Two weeks out for appointments and the nail ladies are more like “Madge” from the retro Palmolive soap commercials. Old school. We don’t do “dips” and certainly not spur of the moment. After a number of phone calls, Rachelle found a place. In Sequim. A 45 minute drive from my home. At 1;00 pm on Friday. Basically, Rachelle would leave at noon and not return until the rehearsal, and then off to the “bridal house” with her tribe to get ready for the big day.
And gone with Rachelle would be everything in her brain about the little details. We were on our own.
Luckily, Tricia, the fantastic, amazing, goddess-like, “day of” coordinator arrived Saturday morning. Like a quiet cloud of calm, Tricia floated in and said, “So, where do you want me to start?”
“Flowers!” I babbled.
My basement had quickly become known as the “Floral Shop” because Kevin and Rachelle had purchased beautiful fresh cut flowers from a local farm. Buckets and buckets and buckets of flowers. All to be sorted through and arranged into 22 small arrangements for the tables. Bridal bouquets were already created along with one large arrangement. Delivered the day before, I dutifully put all the bouquets in the fridge to keep them fresh.
But it didn’t. And they weren’t. Every single bouquet had wilted. They all needed to be redone. Especially the bridal bouquet. As Tricia was redoing flowers and I was emptying water with a turkey baster out of the keg buckets (melted ice left the kegs practically floating, causing an overflow onto the very crowded basement floor), my friend Angeline casually texted me, “Do you need any help this morning?” My reply? “Yes! Right away! We need you!” And she and her husband Andy were there in less than 30 minutes remaking bridal bouquets just hours before the wedding.
My son Phillip and his fiancé Tristan were suddenly in charge of tablescapes. Looking at the single picture we had taken of our “sample”, they set out golden runners, all of those damn flowers, the greenery (to be strewn casually amongst the beautiful objects) and then, the candles.
The candles. Black, taper candles needed to be put into the candlesticks. But, they didn’t fit. They flopped or they didn’t even go into the opening. With paring knives to cut the “too big” ones, and cellophane to wrap the “too little” ones, they worked for more than an hour just getting them to fit. And when done, their hands looked like they had been playing in a fireplace.
Luckily, they left only one handprint on an ivory tablecloth.
And Lady. We had been able to borrow a kennel from yet more neighbors, Maggie and Steve, who from Maine, texted where it was and “to just let yourself into the house” to get it. With all of Lady’s people busy, Rachel, Sam’s wife, stepped up. And it was not a simple task. To begin with, there was first breakfast. Just a little food. Then one hour later, second breakfast with all of her meds. Followed quickly by a potty break. Being quite old, she would need to be pottied every two hours and then have first and second dinner later in the day.
At this point, I was pining for a baby goat.
But, Rachel was amazing. Setting alarms on her phone, she quietly slipped away to manage Lady’s needs throughout the entire wedding. I’m not sure anyone even knew. Except me. And I remain very, very grateful.
Because we had an M&M situation.
Just before the wedding began, Tricia came to me and said, “Why are there M&M’s everywhere?” I looked out the window and M&M’s had appeared at random locations. On the guestbook table, the gift table, everywhere. While I am not against M&M’s, and understand they can be a symbol of good luck, this was not “moody romance.” We agreed. Discreetly remove the M&M’s. Tricia was on it, quietly scooping up the lucky candy into her pockets. Later she came by and whispered, “They’re in your silverware drawer.” Very undercover.
Then Rachelle arrived. As beautiful as you can imagine. Glowing and happy. It was time.
And then they got married and the party was fabulous. There was a ton of laughter and tears of joy. Babies and grandpas. Teenagers with cell phones. Parents cutting loose and little kids running around. Fantastic food and delicious cake. Drinking and dancing.
And no one was injured (said the homeowner).
Would I do it again? Yes. Every moment spent digging weeds, laying pavers, spray painting wine bottles, and figuring out how that gifted arch was supposed to be assembled. Beers on the patio with so many family and friends that showed up to help. Being so very busy with a clear goal in sight. It was a wonderful experience from the very first moment we got that phone call in Spain. I am grateful.
And good thing because my younger son Phillip and his fiancé Tristan announced their own marriage! Joy of joy! Happiness overload! When? One month later. No problem. Thirty days to pull a mini-reception together? Piece of cake.
But this time, I’m pushing for the baby goat.