On a beautiful June day, I married the love of my life amidst the hills of Western Wisconsin. I never knew I could be overwhelmed by so much love.
Tomorrow is my wedding anniversary. It was a beautiful wedding, but today I’m not thinking about that. What I am remembering, with longing, is the week spent with women who had flown in from all over the world to stay in a tiny 100 year old Norwegian cabin in the valley below our farm.
A cabin full of wine and laughter was the least I could provide for those girls, who had been swept into a full scale Wisconsin ridgetop wedding. In case you’ve never been involved with one of these, let me tell you a couple things. They’re large- we had at least 250 people at our mass and the reception in the pole shed turned ballroom- and they involve lots (and lots, and lots) of work.
For instance, we grew the food for the wedding. The morning of the wedding, I was in the field picking lettuce early in the morning and headed off to top strawberries before donning my bridal gown…
But before all that, we raised the chickens. Then, just after my bridesmaids arrived, we butchered them. So romantic!
After photographing the King brothers at work butchering chickens last week, I have been thinking a lot about our bridal butchering party. Granted, it was quite a bit more chaotic than the serene process at Freedom Farms. Our knives were dull, our crew was inexperienced, and I may have been a bit out of practice myself. Still, this is still my favorite photo of my engagement ring.
The chickens were plucked and cleaned and cooled and eventually cooked and served, but in the meantime there were flowers to pick. This meant a month of picking and wrapping peonies, storing them in newspaper to save them for late June. It also meant a trip deep into Amish country…
where an abandoned kitchen garden ran riot, with hundreds of roses and a profusion of other blooms that needed to be gathered.
I have rarely felt as free and deeply happy as I did that morning, gathering flowers with great friends.
Back at the pole shed, there were lights and banners to hang, and ladders to climb.
It took some power washing, the remover of a rotochopper, and about 10 people working 12 hours a day…
but by the night before the wedding, the pole shed looked fantastic. I think that if I could time travel, that is where I would return, with a cold beer in hand, to spend another evening with Julia, Maqui, Susannah, Lisa, Adrienne, Emily, my siblings, and the rest of the hardworking crew who made our homegrown ridgetop wedding so beautiful. It wouldn’t have happened without all of them, and I am more grateful than words can say.
For pictures of the wedding, see this post:
Another family wedding is springing upon us and you all can bet that the celebration will be getting blog coverage from us Slattery girls. Family weddings are a pinnacle time of celebration, and is something of which the entire family looks forward to months in advance. Looking into the archive of this blog I realized that there has been a whole lot of sweet wedding posts hosting pictures of our enormous family in rapt happiness.
Well… it has been said many times by my father that we need to give an accurate projection of our lives, so perhaps I should confess that many pictures and sentences get culled. Do you have any clue how hard it for us to get a family photo that makes us all look semi functional? More difficult than even that is getting us all together in the same place at the same time. Typically there is always someone hissing for us to gather as they hunt the entire mass of us down while a crowd of us gather and complain while the missing persons are rounded up and herded in for a family photo. When Gabe and Aurora got married Patrick couldn’t be rounded up for a family picture because he was studying abroad in Rome. However, Kate just so happened to find a plywood reproduction of Michelangelo’s David that was used to represent Patrick in the pictures. Afterwards, David ,also known as Patrick, was propped in a corner to view the reception festivities after duct taping a maple leaf to it for the sake of modesty in lieu of a fig leaf. We all thought it was a perfect representation of him – just without the sarcasm. But hey, the skin tone was the same shade as was the commanding presence in a mute lofty way, even if it was a few inches too tall.
Robert and Nicole’s wedding family photo goes straight to my heart. Claire was pretty exhausted after her duties of being a flower girl. BOOM! Too bad there were no more flowers to strew.
While Kate may be the dancer in the family, it’s Colleen who always gets down on the dance floor. The other night Colleen and I were laughing until we nearly cried at disastrous wedding photos and these two made us gasp from hysterical hollows.
Clare is soon to be getting her driver’s license so it seems like forever ago that she was the flower girl for Aurora’s wedding. She hates this awkward phase that she was going through. I, as a big sister find it adorable. But she seems to like her new grownup, beautiful, red-headed look much better.
While Clare was a flower girl for the first wedding of the family, I was the Maid of Honor. As you can see, my poise was… well, a bit off. Mom and Kate might just be submerged in a tense conversation on modesty while I am beaming and perhaps laughing over something of which most likely involved a horse story. Since I am the publisher of this post, and filled with pride, I will refrain from uploading a picture of me making a toast with my skirt covered in a large pattern of a beer stain. Yeah, I know. Smooth. Real smooth, and fortunately for me it’s documented rather vividly.
Being single can be rough….and Kate was feeling it at this wedding, when exhaustion and frustration hit her like a tornado at about 3 o’clock in the morning.
However, she was not aware of the tall, handsome Scottish- Mexican man with an outrageously hilarious sense of humor and a gentle nature in her near future.
But Lienkugels was there for the moment. Lot’s and lots of it as a matter of fact.
And when the time did come for Kate to get hitched, our family photo turned out surprisingly well…
Perhaps it is because in all truth, Kate does happen to be the most willing to stand in front of the camera out of all of us.
It is a sure thing that this upcoming family wedding will be full of joy and excitement. Perhaps, I will be the one to take on the tradition Kate has set as a jovial mess. Undoubtably, there will be an outpouring of love, laughter and craziness, because this is a celebration that involves a lot of Slattery’s and Cummings. It will be a delight to gather and celebrate Cale and Katelyn’s union with my poised and pretty sisters!
And more importantly than that, it will be a delight to gain Katelyn as a family member.
Bring on the festivities. The only thing I can think of missing is the fig leafed image of Patrick. Being that he is here to represent in person, it will make for a less eccentric family photo. I can’t say that’s a bad thing!
There is so much more I should be doing in my study hall right now other than a blog post. But, I haven’t written in a while and couldn’t resist sharing this. This is my bit of wedding nostalgia:
I loved the wedding, every minute of it. From the rehearsal dinner to the end of the reception, it was beautiful and perfect. But, my most favorite part of the whole Oklahoma trip was not the wedding ceremony or even the reception following (although I did end up catching the bouquet!). My most favorite part was spending time with my older brothers and sisters after the reception, just talking and laughing out in the night air in a gazebo behind our hotel.
Being the seventh of nine children, I have always been considered one of the “little kids”, and that night was the first time that I did not feel “too little”. I got to spend time with my older brothers and sisters and be considered, at least for that one night, part of the “older kids”. This was an amazing experience for me, and like the dork I am, I loved it. I went to bed that night feeling so very loved by all my family and loving them with a ferocity that surprised myself. The poet in me knew that this was perfect fodder for a poem and so the following was created.
Laughter in their eyes, green, brown, and hazel, all around me
It sparks against the soft, warm-taffy night air from mouths wide in smiles,
More precious to me than any of the brilliant stars that dot the skies.
The long, festive day is done, but the happiness, joy, excitement, lingers on,
Sweeter than the chocolate wedding cake that still lingers on my tongue.
The wedding finery has been laid to rest in heaps and piles on hotel room floors,
And white cotton shirts and jeans now relax upon relaxed figures.
As the night deepens, tongues loosen, and stories come pouring out,
faster than the amber liquid sliding lazily from glass bottles into mouths.
Words clamber happily over each other and fill the night with sound,
The best and brightest of all these sounds is the laughter,
Which spreads out from my brothers and sisters in pools of happiness,
In their eyes, green, brown, and hazel, there is laughter
And timidly, I join in, my own eyes alight and glowing in the knowledge of their love.
At last we come to the finale of the exciting Red Dirt Wedding Series with the gorgeous reception. The dinner and dance portion of the evening were held at the historic turn of the century Harn Homestead.
This little farmstead was as close as you can get to Wisconsin in the heart of Oklahoma City within sight of the capital building.
Rob and Nicole appeared at the barn door balcony looking like the red dirt royalty they are.
Speaking of dirt, the little ringbearer who didn’t bear the rings had gotten plenty of sleep by this point, and led the other kids in aclassic farm wedding game consisting of digging, tossing, and pouring dirt upon themselves.
There was a red velvet stagecoach.
And a pretty darn impressive cake.
Let’s take one more look at that cake and the stagecoach. I do believe that is a surrey with the fringe on top.
Of course the rugged wooden beams were hung with tulle and strung with lights.
There were also mason jars of lemon drops on every table. Altogether lovely. Of course the loveliness of the bride outshone all else. Here is the fantastic back of her dress.
Girls had flowers in their hair.
And a good game of horseshoes was going on.
Slowly the sun set.
The two stepping wound down, and then it was time for the happy couple to be on their way.
I didn’t photograph the end of the night, but it was beautiful. All the yellow rose petals had been gathered and were handed out to the guests, who made two lines at the door of the barn. Rob and Nicole headed into the farmhouse to change, and camerunning out into the deep dusk hand in hand. Rob was wearing a flannel shirt and Wranglers, and Nicole had on the perfect honeymoon sundress and cowboy boots. They passed through the lines of cheering, laughing, crying friends and family in a whirl of yellow rose petals, and then they were through the barn and off in the big white truck to take on the world together.
Now in Wisconsin, this would have been when the real party kicked into high gear and raged on into the night. In fact, one of the most vivid stories at the reception was that of a Wisconsin couple from our ridgetop parish of St. Peter’s who have been married 50 years or so. They were able to attend the wedding in Oklahoma since they have a daughter in Dallas, and they told us that when they were married in Middle Ridge, they had 21 kegs of beer. 21! Every drop was gone by the end of the night, which I imagine was also the beginning of the morning. That is how we do it on the ridge. The reception is only partially about the glowing new couple and also very much about the rest of the community, from babies to couples married 50 years, who are ready to dance and drink the night away. In Oklahoma, when the bride and groom head off into the sunset all the guests do too. As soon as Rob carried Nicole off in that huge white pickup truck the music went off, the lights went down, the lemon drops got loaded up, and the kegs were wheeled away- to the slight consternation of the young Wisconsinites.
All is not lost, however, and kegs of beer beckon on the horizon. If you’ll recall, when Rob asked Nicole to marry him he was building a barn. Well, that barn is done now.
On June 25th my parents will be hosting a Barn Dance and Wisconsin reception for Rob and Nicole and all the folks who couldn’t make it to the Oklahoma shindig. There will be lots of music and cheese and my Mom’s fresh bread. The Slattery girls are baking and there will be babies and farmers and city folk and wine and beer, and a bonfire. You’re invited, of course- if you can’t make it to Wisconsin we promise we’ll keep you posted right here.
In case you missed the rest of the series: