My nephew Andrew just married a girl named Elizabeth, who grew up a couple of cornfields away from him in Ohio. They’ve known each other their whole lives, but it took a change of scenery a few years ago — a college trip to Europe with fellow students — for them to really see each other. Since that overseas trip, they’ve been steadily inching toward marriage, with the whole thing culminating this summer in a wedding in Ohio.
About a week before the wedding I checked in with my sister, Andrew’s mother, to see how things were going. We were traveling from Massachusetts and I wanted to know if she needed help with anything before I got there. Well, my sister told me, she wasn’t really involved with the wedding itself, just the rehearsal dinner. And she didn’t really know what was going on with the planning, actually. As she hesitated while trying to give me the details over the phone, I could feel her trying to lower my expectations. She had good reasons for underplaying things. Among the people who know them best, Andrew and Elizabeth have a notorious reputation for being easygoing. So easygoing, in fact, that they sometimes appear to be enjoying a reality the rest of us are not privy to. An alternate universe where there is, quite literally, nothing to worry about. All she knew, my sister said, was that Elizabeth had been “making crafts”, as my sister put it, for months and months now.
But as it turned out, Andrew and Elizabeth, floating along in their parallel universe, were right. There was, in fact, nothing to worry about. Because they managed to create just about the loveliest wedding humanly possible — with a little help from their friends, not to mention the heavens, which cooperated in the end after pouring buckets and buckets of rain all morning long. Sometime late in the afternoon, alarmingly late in the afternoon, the skies suddenly cleared, the sun broke through, and everything and everyone was imbued with a golden glow.
The vortex of those months of craft-making resulted in the most thoughtful of handmade experiences, where we, the guests, were treated as if we were the ones being honored, while at the same time we were expected to fully participate in the festivities, to the point of being asked to wash our own dishes at the wedding. Yes, you read that correctly. While it sounds insane to ask your wedding guests to wash their plates — and it is — somehow it suited the occasion, much to my shock and to the shock of everyone else I met in line. Yes, you read that correctly as well. We stood in line to wash our own dishes. And as I stood there waiting to plunge my hands into dishwater, I had conversations with people that I would never have met otherwise, and it felt, altogether now, like we were helping this young couple by taking a quick turn at cleaning up. And in return they treated all of us to a lovely wedding ceremony followed by some awesome food, great music, crazy dancing, homegrown flowers, funny stories and of course, lots of crafts. The good kind.
Those dishes, by the way, were all vintage and collected one by one by Elizabeth and her friends at various second hand shops over the last few years, in anticipation of the day when she would need to find place settings for well over two hundred people. Elizabeth also hand wrote the name of each and every single one of her guests on individual place cards.
How could we feel anything other than loved?
They were married in the front yard of Elizabeth’s parents’ house, under a canopy Andrew and Elizabeth made out of saplings. After the ceremony, which invoked the solemn prospect of marriage across space and time while also managing to make everyone laugh more than once, we all trekked one hundred feet or so to the reception, which took place just behind the house under a big tent, as is the fashion these days. Actually, Andrew and Elizabeth incorporated a lot of ideas that are the fashion these days: mason jars, a photo booth, wildflowers, old windows, pennants — but every single handmade detail felt so imbued with their young love and enthusiasm that it all transcended a cynical scroll through pinterest and became greater than the sum of its parts.
Just thinking about the wedding makes me happy, and (I must confess) half-wistful about my own wedding many moons ago, which was an equally handmade affair but not quite as mellow. Because attending to the details and worrying about the details are two different things entirely. If Andrew and Elizabeth can go on to achieve the same balance in life that they achieved on the day they started their life together, they will be blessed indeed.
You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have truly lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.
— Henry Drummond