Saturday's awesome family wedding went off beautifully! Of course it had its moments, because nothing on earth is perfect, but those aren't the moments one records for all of history. The moments we write and photograph and talk about for years to come are the ones that fill us with joy. Like the entire church bursting into laughter when Abigail walked all the way up the long aisle without tossing a single flower petal, arrived at the front and dumped her entire basket upside down at once, then turned and bolted across the front of the church in the opposite direction the flower girls were supposed to proceed. There was the moment during pictures when the bride with her sexy red lipstick kissed her groom and he kissed back, leaving her own lipstick kiss on her cheek. Or when everyone started tearing up when the father of the bride gave a moving speech drawing similarities between the newlyweds and his own parents. And then there are the moments I will be sure we remember, like when the entire bridal party (8 couples plus the bride and groom and a few random flower girls and ring bearers) played musical chairs at the reception and I made it to the top two. The bride was stunning, the food was delicious, and the dance floor was always packed. It was a raving success.
Matt's family has some really incredible blessings going for it. The first is a really loving extended family. My mother-in-law is one of nine, all of whom live in the southern half of Michigan and still come together for Christmas, a yearly family reunion, and family weddings. Her sisters support one another at weddings by picking up wedding cakes, decorating churches, watching each other's nieces and nephews (like my kids) during the ceremony. My father-in-law's family all live out-of-state, so getting together can be much tougher, but when they do, they pick up right where they left off.
The second huge blessing is that they belong to a community of really long time family friends. When they grew up, the S's lived next door, and the D's around the corner, the P's across the cornfield, the R's went to the same church. And even though the kids grew up, the families moved to new cities, and everyone got jobs and settled down, the families all stayed friends. Some of the kids married one another, some brought in fresh blood. But the community stayed together. And when I married the K's, I joined the community. And even though we moved to Florida and Chicago for four years, when we came back, we took our place back up in the community like we never left. We get together for summer barbecues and delight in each other's kids like aunts and uncles. Our friend's parents become like bonus grandparents who give our kids big hugs and ask how terrible twos/potty training/school is going. Because life and relationships are complicated, sometimes we annoy one another, sometimes splits happen between people, and sometimes people say insensitive things about Abigail. But somehow through it all, we still love one another. It's like something out of a freaking Norman Rockwell painting if his subjects were big, Catholic families.
The week of the wedding is packed with memory-making awesomeness: the bachelorette party, the rehearsal, the day-before-the-wedding trip to the nail salon. The forming of inside jokes that keep running all week, the hilarious stories we swap of other weddings, the delight we take in each other's latest kid stories and pretty dresses, the bonds that form over our mutual love of the bride. And then comes the big day. When I snuck up to the front of the church to drop off a few items in the bridesmaids' pew just as guests were being seating. Tip toeing back down the aisle, smiling and waving at everyone on the bride's side. "Hi!" "You look beautiful!" "I love your hair!" "We'll talk at the reception!" At the reception, Matt's aunts wrap me in big bear hugs and tell me they love me and I'm a beautiful person. We make our way to those long-time family friends, asking about summer vacations and promising play dates until the DJ starts playing the cha-cha slide and we all bum-rush the dance floor. And the dance floor? It's the ideal metaphor for people coming together. Circles form made up of people from her side and his side, everyone shaking their hips, raising up hands, and doing the fish reel move beneath the disco lights. The groom's cousin teaching the bride's side how to do a new group dance. Everyone scoffing when a Taylor Swift song comes on, but no one leaving. And then there's the day-after family brunch for all the out-of-towners. When we all show up with our slept-in wedding hair, the "I stayed up way too late last night" bags under our eyes, and the big "yesterday was awesome" smiles.
It's impossible to walk away from these parties that my family throws and not feel like the world is a wonderful place full of love and joy and beauty. It's impossible to walk away from these parties that my family throws and not feel like I'm an important part of that world. I am very, very blessed.