Early this month, my sister Gayle and I traveled to Oregon for the wedding of our niece Erin, the now-all-grown-up daughter of our younger brother Michael and his wife Inice.
Rather than farming it out to an event coordinator, Erin planned her own wedding, and she did a great job. Hers was one of the simplest and most interesting – and therefore thoroughly enjoyable – weddings that I’ve ever attended. The ceremony was held on the deck Mike built behind the house he built for his family near Bend, located in Oregon’s high desert east of the Cascades.
Gayle and I arrived a couple of days before the ceremony, hoping we might be able to help with some of the preparations. Although the wedding and reception were informal affairs and took place outdoors, the run-up to the ceremony was a madhouse of overlapping last-minute activity.
For example, Mike had to clear part of his property so it could serve as a parking lot for the dozens of visitors who drove their cars to the wedding from out of state: Erin and her husband, Evan’s family, and many of Erin’s and Evan’s friends live near San Diego. Mike’s grass had to be cut, all the outdoor furniture on Mike and Inice’s deck had to be temporarily relocated to the yard behind the nearby resort where the rehearsal breakfast and wedding reception took place. And of cours all manner of foods and beverages were constantly being purchased and unloaded at various locations from multiple vehicles.
The deck in Mike’s and Inice’s back yard, once cleared of its furnishings, had to be decorated with garlands of flowers, space had to be cleared for a videographer and his equipment, the resort had to be stocked not only with copious amounts of food and beverages, but also with linens for the numerous people staying overnight there. A hundred things were borrowed or purchased to set up for the large night-time reception extravaganza: lights were strung up on multiple poles that had to be properly assembled and anchored, tables and chairs were planted around the property, a large stage was hauled in for the live band, vans were rented to chauffeur people from the wedding to the reception and then back to their cars after the reception, dozens of chairs had to be rented and set up, etc. etc.
Fortunately, my brother and his wife were hardly dependent on Cal and Gayle for helping them with the staggering number of wedding prep chores. Mike and Inice have lots of friends and neighbors, and all of them seem to be extremely generous with their time and energies. (A single example: Mike’s and Inice’s friend Stephanie drove to the airport to fetch Gayle and me when we arrived, and drove us back to the airport after our visit, freeing up Mike and Inice to attend to their dozens of other chores and errands.) Roger Gatlin, a longtime friend of Mike’s from his Atlanta days, flew in the day before Gayle and I did to help Mike, and Roger stayed a day longer than Gayle and I did to help Mike break down part of the equipment that he’d helped Mike set up before The Big Day.
Erin’s numerous bridesmaidsand and Evan’s equally numerous groomsmen were completely adorable, and completely – almost alarmingly – young (most of them in their mid-twenties). Their affection for Erin and Evan was obvious, and they all seemed to regard the wedding as a weekend-long party, which is exactly what it was intended to be.
Officiating at the ceremony was Evan’s grandfather, Randall Mann. If I ever get married again, I would want Randall to do the marrying, and to use the same beautiful sentiments he expressed at Evan’s and Erin’s nuptials. I was lucky enough to spend a bit of time with Randall, and he seems every bit as gentle and wise as his grandson. After Randall’s initial remarks, Evan’s step-dad Michael Seskin read a poem that Evan had asked him to write for the occasion.
Erin and Evan then read to each other the vows each of them had written – vows that were clearly heartfelt in both cases and so romantic and thoughtful that they brought tears to many an onlooker’s eye, including both of mine. And I was so relieved to realize they were reading their vows from pieces of paper they’d written them on, rather than from their cell phones!
It was fun to be exposed to such a lively crowd whose high spirits were in evidence throughout the weekend rather than merely at the night-time reception party. (And, yes, dear Reader, Cal did manage to momentarily stir himself from his observational perch to do a bit of dancing; he even joined the conga line that formed spontaneously mid-way through the evening.)
For me, the most impressive wedding prep achievement miracle of them all was Mike and Inice;’s orchestration of figuring out places for so many overnighters to sleep! They put some guests in bedrooms at the huge and spacious resort, bedded down others at a neighbor’s house, set up their camper to house one of the visiting guest couples, and I think I heard that some people stayed in tents somewhere. Gayle and I were provided mattresses in the smaller of two yurts in Mike and Inice’s back yard, that yurt generously loaned out by Mike and Inice’s friends Hank and Kim, who for several years now have been renting both yurts.
Gayle and I didn’t see much of Erin or Evan, but we did get to meet and visit a bit with Evan’s mom and step-dad. Another highlight of our visit were the moving remarks about Erin and Evan made by Evan’s mom, Evan’s biological father, and by the bride’s parents during the pre-champagne toasts at the reception.
Beyond the pleasure of representing Mike’s family at the wedding, it was wonderful for Gayle and me to spend several days in Mike and Inice’s part of the world – a world that is so different, climate-wise and scenery-wise, from Georgia – especially Georgia in August! (The temperature dropped down into the 40s on our final night.) Mike and Inice moved to Oregon decades ago, when Erin was still a child; although Gayle and I had each separately visited Mike and Inice in Oregon before, and although they visit Atlanta periodically (Mike was able to spent a whole month with me a couple of years ago when he built me my garden house), we don’t get to visit with them often. So it was gratifying to share with Mike and Inice something so important in their lives. Merely hanging out in their beautiful environment was enjoyable and refreshing all by itself. Mike and Inice have created a wonderful home and circle of friends, and it was great to immerse ourselves, however briefly, in their world – so different in so many respects from the worlds Gayle and I inhabit – and under such happy circumstances.
Our mom’s health prevented her making the trip out to Oregon with us, so Michael arranged to live-stream the ceremony on the Internet, hoping our mom would find a way to watch it back in Georgia. She didn’t manage to get to see the wedding as it was happening, so I am posting here a link to the YouTube video version of the ceremony so my mom – Erin’s grandma – can watch it someday soon.
Gayle and I had a great visit, and we have every reason to believe that Erin and Evan (who, decided to honeymoon in Iceland) stand a very good chance of continuing to make each other very happy.
Note: I took about half these photos, Roger Gatlin took the photo of the Goughs, and the other photos were posted to Facebook by Karen Byrne, Evan’s mom.