One month ago today, amid pandemic conditions which caused venue plans to change every other month since March, my beautiful daughter, Rachel, and our amazing to-be-and-now-is son-in-law, Sean were married in an outdoor ceremony filled with sunflowers, sunshine and, most importantly, lots and lots of love.
(And, we all - including bride and groom -got Covid tests before the wedding and we were all negative, thankfully!)
Planning a wedding, although fun and exciting, is truly a labor of love in "normal conditions". Add quarantine restrictions filled with daily uncertainty to the mix and Rachel and Sean were up against a constant roulette wheel of choices for their special day . What started as a guest list of slightly over 100 in a picturesque orchard on the west side of Michigan began to devolve into less than a quarter of the original invitees to congregate in the yard of my oldest son, Rob.
Although Rob's yard is truly impressive - it's two acres of mature trees mixed with ground cover and manicured lawn (and professionally landscaped last year) - it wasn't even in the mix of considerations until two weeks before.
As last-minute venues were becoming undesirable options for a variety of reasons, we literally called on Rob to host Rachel and Sean's nuptials. I'll never forget his immediate response when I phoned him, in that deep baritone radio voice of his, "oh, that will be fun!"
And, in two weeks, with a lot of help, a south Oakland county suburban yard turned into a magnificent wedding site.
|Siblings Rob, Matt and Rachel, posing inappropriately for family photos since the 1980's.|
The day before the wedding, the party-supply company dropped off and assembled tents and tables. The linen lady delivered white and burgundy tablecloths and my sister-in-law and Rachel's godmother, Sandy, decorated every chair with a burgundy sash cinched with a silk sunflower, which looked spectacular (it's all in the details!).
|Archway festooned with flowers and lights, each chair a burgundy cover cinched with a sunflower|
An arched gateway from Wayfair, garnished with sunflower garland and fairy lights, served as the spot for the wedding ceremony, officiated with just the right blend of outrageous humor (how many couples have "Buddy Hackett" mentioned in their nuptials?) and stoic reverence, by my brother, Ed, who is also Rachel's godfather.
|Rachel's godfather and uncle, Ed, officiates the wedding. Who is Buddy Hackett?|
My artistic brother-in-law happily agreed to paint the "Welcome" sign a few days before the wedding, when it occurred to me we didn't have one.
My son, Matt (in from New York), along with husband and father-of-the bride, Chris, drove across the state to pick up the wedding feast from the caterer and filled up five coolers for transport.
|The Gulley clan |
At the rehearsal dinner, bride and groom feeling a little more comfortable with the amount of outdoor space for social distancing, called in last-minute invites to local uncles and an aunt and uncle who live four hours away. They all said "yes" immediately, even if it meant checking on suit availability or driving 300 miles one way.
|Last minute set up before the wedding|
On the day of the wedding, while Rachel and I were getting our make up done by Kelsey Roman of Roman Beauty in Rob's spare bedroom, Sean's mother and grandmother assisted in setting up the outdoor dining room and putting the final touches on the sweetheart table for the bride and groom. We had a small, but mighty army, of designing women who knew how to get 'er done.
|Beautiful bride and verklempt mom|
|Kelsey of Roman Beauty|
And, although the bridesmaids (and groomsmen) who weren't immediate family, were not in attendance, two of those lovely ladies dropped off champagne and balloons earlier on the wedding day to still be a part of the reception.
|Bridesmaids dropped off balloons & champagne and artistic bro paints sign|
Everyone pitched in - cousin/bridesmaid took on the video recording and brother/groomsman queued up the sound system. Relatives, including Rob's fiancé, Haley, doubled as guests and food servers and the entire clan helped with after-hours disassembly.
|Chris toasts the married couple in Sunrise/Sunset fashion|
As the mother-of-the-bride, I was right on script, verklempt with tissues at the ready as the father-of-the-bride walked Rachel down the "aisle". Later, Chris evoked more sentiment as he toasted bride and groom, noting Rachel's path to this day seemed to have passed by us at warp speed. Here's where we all feel a bit like Tevye and Golde: "I don't remember growing older, when did they. . .? "
But, with legions of love and support, it all comes down to this awesome couple, Rachel and Sean - who put in numerous hours getting this event off the ground, all while still working full-time jobs and experiencing new-house anxiety (complete with emergency plumbing issues).
|Guests - without hesitation - double as food servers.|
I know I can't be incredibly objective here, but they really are two of the brightest, kindest, easy-going folks you'll ever meet.
They're also respectful and approach life with equal doses of adventure and humor. It was summed up perfectly in their vows, which mirrored each other's love and commitment. I'm paraphrasing an excerpt, but here's the gist:
"I will love and respect you and . . . join you in all your journeys and passions, those that interest me and those that may bore me . . . and to do my part to make sure that you never know the difference".
|The recently minted Mrs. and Mr. B. Oh, yes, they've got this! We couldn't be prouder!!|
Extraordinary couple indeed!