However, I had major doubts about how much fun our $2000 wedding would ultimately be. Our goals were to:
- Create the feeling of a "family reunion" instead of a traditional wedding comprised of "meet and greet" events, so we could spend quality time with our closest friends and family.
- Pay for the whole thing ourselves so we could make all the decisions and truly have the wedding represent us.
- Only invite people with whom we are authentically connected.
- Try not to obsess about details that are actually very irrelevant to our guests' enjoyment or the grand scheme of the universe.
- Host a casual affair so everyone is more relaxed and more likely to have fun--including us.
- Make the festivities special with sincerity rather than money.
- Dance outside.
But I can honestly say--from the deepest, more sincere depths of my heart and mind--that our wedding was everything I wanted it to be.
Over the course of the next several posts, I will talk about how the wedding met each of our goals (and even exceeded them sometimes).
In the meantime, I want to summarize each of the five days of our wedding extravaganza while it's fresh in my mind. My goal had been to post every day, but a lack of consistent internet access thwarted my good intentions (plus, I was having too much fun).
Day 1, Wednesday: Matt and I packed the car and left Denver to head to Sunshine Mountain Lodge. When we arrived, we unloaded all of our food and sundry supplies. Then we met up with my family at Meeker Park Lodge. We enjoyed conversation in their cabin, and then we drove into Rocky Mountain National Park. We went high into the tundra (above the tree-line). We picnicked on a mountain top and slid down a snowy hill on our butts. I was with my Floridan brother as he experienced snow for the first time.
That afternoon, Matt and I met up with his mom at the place where she was staying: Lake Mary's Lodge. Matt's mom treated me to a relaxing manicure and pedicure in the resort's spa, and then we dined together on the premises.
Day 2, Thursday: I enjoyed fresh blueberries and strawberries with Matt's mom and then headed to Meeker Park Lodge for some horseback riding with my family. We followed a trail right on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. Afterwards, we hung out on the front porch waiting for our dearest family friends to arrive.
Once they arrived, we headed into the one-street town of Allenspark (at least it was a seemingly one-street town) and managed to score an 8-person picnic table on the front porch of a delicious cafe without any wait.
Afterwards, I went back to Sunshine Mountain Lodge and finished up some small preparation like ironing our wedding clothes and setting up the nametags for the Friday night Welcome Picnic. My college friend, Marsha, and her husband arrived and we began hanging white Christmas lights (lent to us by the innkeepers, Cathy and Cory) all along the flagstone patio to ensure there was just enough light for night dancing.
We played a few games and then trekked to Estes Park for dinner when our hunger got the best of us.
Day 3, Friday: We ate a yummy, homemade breakfast on the flagstone patio (cobbler, blueberry muffins, fresh fruit, etc.) for a leisurely two hours. Then we finished hanging the rest of the lights and began preparation for the Welcome Picnic. Matt and I made and decorated a cookie cake for his brother's birthday, and we made a chocolate-cherry dessert. We also mixed some iced-tea and lemonade.
People started arriving in the early afternoon. We helped ourselves to a Make-Your-Own-Sandwich bar, chips, and watermelon. The dessert was a huge hit. People congregated in different areas to talk and connect. The nametags were a major help. Underneath everyone's name, we wrote "Ask me about:" followed by three personal things. It helped people have deeper introductory conversations.
People moseyed up to the fire to cook some S'mores, while others found their way to the hot-tub. Around 8pm we had a swing dancing lesson on the back patio. People somehow knew to bring their own alcohol, and there seemed to be enough to go around.
Day 4, Saturday: We started the day with another, two-hour, leisurely, homemade breakfast (frittata, scones, fresh fruit, etc.). Then the wedding party headed to Meeker Park for rehearsal. We ran through the ceremony two times and then found a shady patch in which to practice our rehearsal dance. Very fun!
Next we headed up to Mary's Lake Lodge to attend the luncheon that Matt's family planned for our families and the wedding party.
When we returned to Sunshine Mountain Lodge, we started the preparation for the reception dinner. One crew worked on the fajitas, another crew worked on the 7-layer dip, my crew worked on the guacamole, and others worked on the salsa. There were about 15 of us in all, just chopping and talking. Some people helped Cathy and Cory move some tables and such. Various friends stopped by to ask what we needed help with.
I asked my friend, Laura, to hike through the woods around our cabins to collect wildflowers for my bouquet.
About 45 minutes before we needed to leave, I showered and started to get ready. My friend, Beth, came in to do my hair. My friend, Marsha, was there to document the whole thing with her camera, and, my friend, Marie, was in and out to pack up the drinks for the ceremony. Andy was staying in the second bedroom of our cabin, so he was busy ironing while Matt showered. It was like a little spontaneous party.
Then Matt and I hopped in our car and drove ourselves to the ceremony site. We mingled with our guests as they arrived, and I realized I desperately had to go to the bathroom (even though I went right before we left). So Matt and I walked a little into the woods and he acted as my look-out as I squatted and peed. When I said, "Matt, I'm going to need to stay here and drip dry a little longer than I usually do," he pointed right next to me and said, "Look, there's some clean toilet paper right there." Much to my serious disbelief, there was, in fact, a strand of perfectly clean toilet paper to the left of my foot. It turns out that I was peeing in front of an old, locked outhouse that somehow had toilet paper coming out from under the door.
After the guests finished arriving and received programs and root beer (or bottled water), we started the special song that signaled to the wedding party that it was time to make their way to the front.
Right when the ceremony started, our dog, Hoss, who was standing in the wedding party with Matt's brother, started throwing up all the grass he had eaten. They quickly walked away from the front to take care of the situation.
Then, I felt awkward with my hands at my side and realized I had forgotten my bouquet. I sprinted back to the table to retrieve my wayward flowers.
Those things didn't feel like flaws, however. They felt like well-timed bits of comic relief to inject levity and humor into a potentially serious situation.
I thought the ceremony went exactly as we wanted. The five people who spoke on our behalf (with complete autonomy to craft their speeches and surprise us during the ceremony) said such beautiful and different things.
The tree-planting and quilt-wrapping were exactly the symbolic gestures we wanted them to be, and our vows had the intended effect of making people laugh and cry.
After the ceremony, the photography session was quick and painless and then we followed our guests to the reception site. Matt and I had alone time during the drive to bask in each other's presence. Once we arrived at Sunshine Mountain Lodge, the reception was in full-swing. There were tables set up in a grove of trees, and people were helping themselves to drinks and appetizers. I helped myself to some 7-layer dip, guacamole, salsa, and nacho cheese. I can't believe the $1/bag chips we procured at Sam's Club were actually tasty.
Brent, Laura, and Chong-Hao worked on the fajitas and delivered up a seriously delicious spread. We didn't seem to have any problem getting 80 people through a two-sided buffet line.
The quality of the sound system that our friend-in-a-band provided was so superior that my friend, Jamie, said, "I tried to find where the live music was coming from!"
Matt and I were able to chat with our friends and family as we ate.
After dinner, we had a brief cake ceremony. We decided not to make the cake ceremony all about us and instead used the time to thank our friends and family for making the event possible. Then our guests helped themselves to six different cake options. Many of the guests opted for small slices of several different ones.
After cake, we called everyone to the flagstone patio for our "first dance." Our wedding party stood around us in a semi-circle and pretended to watch. Our friend announced our first dance and started the song. Then the entire wedding party broke into dance to "Kiss" by Prince.
During a free-style section, Matt's brother, John, stripped off some of his clothes and did a bit of a lap dance on his cousin. Even my grandparents were cracking up.
Then the general dancing started and several guests joined us on the makeshift dance floor. The patio turned into a bit of a frat party with keg stands and stripping. Other guests played word games in the living room, while others hung out around the campfire. Some headed for the hot-tub.
One of the innkeepers of Sunshine Mountain Lodge, Cathy, joined us on the dance floor for a while. She and Cory even gave us a present.
I danced a lot on the dance floor, played a game, passed by the fire, got in the hot-tub and mainly just chatted with my close friends. What a night!
Day 5, Sunday: We started the day with yet another, two-hour, leisurely, homemade breakfast. Then people packed up and started trickling back to the airport. Brent, Laura, and I went for a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. We picnicked and hiked and talked.
Afterwards, I headed to Mary's Lake Lodge to nap at Matt's parents' place. When I awoke, I snacked on cake and looked at photos and video from the wedding. Then we walked to dinner and I went to sleep pretty shortly after we returned.
Day 6, Monday: Hoss and I headed to Sunshine Mountain Lodge one more time. Cathy and Cory treated us to a free homemade breakfast (pancakes, poached pears, and fresh fruit). I just hung out with Jeff and Paul, two of my closest friends from college.
I've heard so many people say that there weddings just flew by in a blink of an eye. Mine did not. I was fortunate to be able to turn it into a vacation and a reunion all in one. I had so many different days for different activities and time with different people. I felt completely relaxed for nearly the entire thing, and I am rejuvenated and ready to start the next chapter in my life. Now I'm on my way to pick up the moving van!