Whirlwind Wedding

Everyone warned me that my wedding would be a blur, and it was.

I will talk more about the road to the wedding another time, but I’m going to take this opportunity to reflect on the actual ceremony and reception.

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Daniel and I picked the venue first, and after that things sort of fell into place. We got married at Historic Shady Lane in York County, Pennsylvania. It’s a sprawling property with rustic charm that reminds me of a combination of his parents’ backyard and Longwood Gardens. We had our first look in the ruins of an old bandstand on the property after we got ready separately in the bridal cottage and men’s den. Our ceremony was in the old rose garden, which has an old stone path and a sundial. We processed from the main house, across a small bridge to our friend David playing “Hallelujah” and “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” on acoustic guitar. I barely remember hearing it, but I’m sure it was beautiful. Our other friend David officiated the ceremony, and his words received many compliments from our guest—but I’d have to consult my gmail to remember what he said. Our vows touched on our love, our silliness and our respect for each other and then we kissed. And, in the eyes of our friends and family, the knot was officially tied. We recessed to David #1 playing “The Girl” by City and Colour and our guests descended upon the property’s greenhouse for cocktail hour. We snagged pictures where we could with various family members and each other. Hugs and hellos and beer and lawn games until we finally lined up to enter the reception—everything was a blur.

Our first dance was to Beck and St. Vincent’s cover of “Never Tear Us Apart,” a song that so summarizes how I feel about Dan and our relationship. It was a beautiful moment we shared, spinning around the tent in front of our friends and family, chatting and sweating and wondering how long this song could possibly be. In that moment, though, I felt like no one else was there. It was just us. I think that came through in the pictures—and I’ve only seen pictures taken by friends so far.

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Where we received some of the biggest compliments? Food and drink. Look, if we waited this long to get married and we were doing it at a perfect venue, we wanted our friends to enjoy it. Our menu included pulled pork and pit beef, macaroni and cheese, baked beans and potato salad from Sensenig’s Meats. We served craft beer from Pizza Boy Brewing and Tröeg’s. And instead of cake we had Maple Donuts. Yep, you heard me. Donuts. We fed each other a cookies and cream donut, which proved to be entertaining since it was cream filled.

Our friends also danced their hearts out and played with lawn games—the most popular being bean bags (can we please just stop calling it cornhole?) and the giant “jumbling towers”/Jenga that Dan’s dad created from 2x4s.

I look back on the night and wish it could have lasted longer. I wished I could have spent more time with friends—especially those who traveled across the country to see us. It seems like I hardly spoke to anyone for more than a few seconds—even my own grandparents. But knowing that all of these amazing people were there to support me on this next step in my life fills my heart with an indescribable amount of joy.

So yes, my wedding day was a blur, and I’m only just starting to recover from the heat exhaustion and overall exhaustion a week later. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

On Losing My Grandfather Two Weeks Before My Wedding

I will readily admit that I did not know my Papa as well as some of his other grandchildren. I’m the Yankee grandchild, the daughter of his firstborn daughter who disappeared off the grid for a while and surfaced in Pennsylvania. Throughout the years, my visits with him were limited by distance, by money, by age. But I know that he loved me, and I believe that he was proud of me.

What became evidently clear at his vigil and funeral was that my Papa was a helper. He went above and beyond to help anyone—blood or not—in any way that he could. My mother and I benefited greatly from having such a kind and generous man in our lives. He helped make college a possibility for me. He always had good advice and a shoulder for my Mom—even when she didn’t want it. He was a rock. Not only was he a rock to our family, but to his community and to his friends.

He knew what was coming better than any of us ever could. We thought our rock was invincible. And in some ways, I kick myself for not seeing the signs.

Knowing that the odds would be extremely slim that Papa would be able to trek to Pennsylvania for my wedding, Dan, my Mom and I took a road trip to visit him for my 30th birthday. My Mom stayed at the house, reading while her Dad—who was probably sicker than I realized—napped in his chair with the television volume up high. Dan and I explored Moore, Norman and Oklahoma City, joining the family for dinners at the house, sharing our stories of museums and the zoo. Papa, in his motorized chair, showed Dan and me his shop and his collections of tools and all things useful. I saw a picture of Lebanon Levi from Amish Mafia that Mom and I had sent to him in his office.

We left on my birthday. I wanted so badly to see Memphis that I had planned a more extended route back. Instead of spending another day with family, I wanted to see Sun Studio. Papa understood my wanderlust; he’d seen the city before and understood why I was interested. If I’d known then that it was the last time I’d see him, I would have stayed as long as I could. As we took family pictures, he put his arm on Dan. He told him it was up to him to take care of his girls.

As we pulled out of the driveway, I cried silently. I tried to think about the next time we came back to visit, picturing dinners with Papa at the head of the table, making jokes, picking on Dan.

Now, at home in Maryland, this all seems surreal. Did I really just spend three days and four nights in Oklahoma? Did I really say goodbye to a man who, despite a physical barrier of miles, helped shape the person I am today? I think he knew, when we left the last time, but he didn’t want me to miss Memphis. He wanted our trip to be full of good experiences, of love, of reflection.

I am so proud to call this great man my grandfather. I’m determined to continue to make him proud, to carry on his legacy as someone with a big heart and willingness to help others. My wedding day will be bittersweet without him there. But I know I am marrying someone who he trusted to take care of me, and I will carry him in my heart as I always have. There has always been distance; instead of miles we’re separated by mortality, but it doesn’t mean there is any less love in my heart. I know he loved me and that his love for his family is eternal. That is what will keep me smiling as I walk down the aisle next week.

My Papa, always in my heart.