My family and I had the privilege and pleasure of participating in one of the most amazing celebrations I have ever been a part of. Friends of mine celebrated their marriage this weekend in a fashion so befitting their own, their families' and their friends' personalities - they transformed a chunk of land in the bush into a glorious outdoor spectacle.
It was the second time around for both of them, so neither really felt the need for a large, formal, opulent wedding. They wanted to celebrate their new chosen lives, and they wanted their families and friends around them. But more than that, they wanted it to be an experience for everyone. They succeeded.
Most of us came for one or two nights, camping on the land surrounding the small lake. We were there as families, to help my friends make this one night something to be remembered.
To transform this land into a wedding chapel, restaurant, reception hall and recreation area was an act of pure human will. A small island on the small lake became the alter. The wooden bridge to the island became a bridal path. The entire area was lit by candles and torches. Almost everything used to decorate or function at the wedding came from the land around.
In keeping with the natural surroundings, the wedding vows were witnessed by a group of Cedar Waxwings, that alighted in the tree above the couple, and a large bullfrog who saw fit to float nearby.
The transformation was an example of community at its best. An attending plumber noticed the cook had to continually leave the tent to get water - poof, there was a sink with running water. The horseshoe pits had no sand in them - poof, there were boxes with sand built around them. The plates were sliced circles of wood from trees that had to come down, covered with flatbread tortillas to cover the rough wood. The decorations were dogwood and pine branches in old plastic milk pails filled with sand. The candles were tea candles in mason jars filled with sand. Christmas lights lined the trees. The food was cooked on a series of barbecues by guests who volunteered under the watch of the chef. The large fire pit kept the night bright and warm. Fireworks closed the night off.
Almost everyone contributed in some way, and that, alone, made the entire event special. We all felt like we more than guests. We were part of the whole. By letting us help with the preparations, it became ours as well. The sense of belonging felt by everyone there was huge. We were all, truly, part of them.
It was an experience that won't be topped anytime soon, and one that I will forever be grateful to have been included in.