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Chris & Dinah’s Picture Perfect Outdoor Wedding in Concord, MA

On the first Saturday of September, on the historic, lush green grounds of The Old Manse in Concord, MA, Christian and Dinah were set to be married. For a couple who together appreciated the outdoors and all it had to offer, this was the perfect site for their wedding day. The gravel drive brought you to the front doors of the modest home where famous American philosophers Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau did some of their finest thinking and writing. Adjacent was the white tent topped with sails waving joyfully in the light breeze, under which the couple’s wedding guests would enjoy an evening of food, music, and celebration. Down the soft path to the lower yard we went, strolling between small apple trees, arriving at a fairytale ceremony site, stream and antique boathouse in the rear, set in the foreground with a large stone, representing the strong foundation on which this marriage was being built. Just steps beyond lay the site of the first shots of the American Revolution. The sun was bright; the air was fair.

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An instrumental duo provided soft music for the ceremony, and we provided the Justice of the Peace, and the couple’s guests, with wireless microphones.  Two features of this ceremony were unique to me, and I loved them both. First, the Justice of the Peace passed the wedding bands to a guest and asked they be passed around to each person in attendance and that everyone make a prayer or wish for the couple. Also, later in the ceremony, an opportunity was presented to the guests, in which they could share aloud a story or well-wishes for the couple. It was great to see so many people have the confidence to speak and make the ceremony that much more special and memorable for Dinah and Chris.

Following the ceremony, guests partook in cocktail hour on the lower lawn, as the bride posed for photos in the nearby field, the sun’s rays complementing her lovely complexion. Up the hill and under the tent, the final touches were put on the dinner and dancing area. Once everyone was there and seated (greeted by “lobsters” at their seats!), the bride and groom themselves were introduced grandly into the tent, to a long round of applause, and made their way to the dance floor for their first dance to “Moves Me Deeply” by Will Kimbrough. We then introduced the Father of the Bride for a welcome toast, who in turned brought up his new son, the groom, who introduced the rest of the head table himself (and did a tremendous job!).

Dinner music was a mix of the couple’s love for blues, classic country, and bluegrass, including a set of bluegrass cover tunes of classic rock songs that we found. This wedding was a bit offbeat, and in following suit, so was the cake cutting ceremony – they actually did a pie ceremony, with several flavors of freshly baked goodness from a farm just down the road in Concord! We helped them find the perfect song: “Country Pie” by Bob Dylan. After a joint parents’ dance, the dance floor opened up, the party went strong for several hours into the night, and the guests were able to indulge in the delectable baked treats. The last song of the night, “Home” by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, was a real hit – an upbeat song with a very sentimental touch.

Big thanks to the bride and groom, Dinah and Chris, for letting us be a small part of their big day. Shout outs to the day-of wedding coordinator Karen Murphy of Celebrations by Karen F. Murphy (http://www.celebrationsbykfm.com), Becky and crew at East Coast Grill (http://eastcoastgrill.net), photographer Matt Grazier (http://www.grazierphotography.com) who took photos a million times more amazing than those we took and display here, Sperry Tents (http://www.sperrytents.com), pie provider Verrill Farm (http://www.verrillfarm.com), and of course, the managers of The Old Manse.

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Our Massachusetts Wedding Retrospective, Part 2: Pre-Ceremony

Somehow, following a long, raucous post-wedding rehearsal dinner at the local Polynesian pop-spot, Hu Ke Lau, I still wake up bright and early in our master suite at the Hampton Inn Chicopee, with two of my groomsmen stirring in the adjoining room. Through our negotiations with Sandy at the hotel, we had procured one of the hotel’s two master suites for our wedding weekend, for two nights, one of which was complimentary (a stipulation we set with the sales manager, upon our block of rooms selling out), the second of which was at the discounted rate we arranged for our guests’ standard rooms. [Note: A friend of mine in the hotel industry in Boston once told me that it costs a hotel approximately $17 per night to maintain most rooms, so when you bargain for a hotel block for wedding, be polite but hard-nosed, as now you know the whole story.] Some of the guys stayed with me, while some bridesmaids stayed over at my mother-in-law’s house with my bride.

That morning, after a complimentary breakfast at the hotel (something other local top-brand hotels in the area did not offer), I took off with the maid of honor to receive the manicure my mom-in-law had so lovingly and readily booked for me. This was only the second ‘mani’ of my life, accepted only slightly less reluctantly than the first. As we ventured out we encountered rain, and according to the Weather Channel, we could still expect a solid sixty percent chance of rain well into the early evening. We kept our fingers crossed. Rain aside, we had other issues that weighed on our minds, namely Alison’s father, who was now guaranteed to miss the entire wedding day due to the status of his health. He found himself bed-ridden in the intermediate care unit of the hospital instead of rightfully by his daughter’s side at the altar. (Although both Alison and I were raised Roman Catholic and still practiced our faith, a church marriage was one of the few wishes her father and mother held most dear.)

The fantastical thoughts and discussions I had shared with Alison and family the few days leading up to this one now turned more pressing and realistic: What if I could set up a Skype teleconference between that isolated hospital room and the warm interior of St. Stan’s? After the salon appointment, I, with the support of my best man, his fiancée, and my new cousin-in-law, ventured to my new dad’s bedside. We had many concerns, including being able to tap into the hospital’s restricted wireless signal, positioning the laptop so that everyone could see one another later in the day, properly instructing and trusting hospital staff to operate the program and accept the incoming call when the time came, and of course, ensuring that my father-in-law would be found fashioned in the crisp white tuxedo shirt and berry bowtie we brought along with us. (The man had always been an impeccable dresser, and we would certainly not have this day be different from any other.)

With the grace of God, everything worked out at the hospital, and again with His grace, the same would happen when my best man’s fiancée called the laptop from the Skype application on my Evo 4G inside the church at 3:25pm. I could not thank her enough as she offered to walk around the altar and crowd during the Mass, connecting the world of that hospital room and the world of the wedding. We made our way back to the hotel with safety in mind, as we encountered yet another flash downpour.

After returning to the hotel in the early afternoon with an unnatural sheen to my finger caps and a glowing optimism toward my new father being able to virtually attend the wedding, following one quick check-in phone call to my lovely bride, I did what was natural to me in times of growing pressure: I chatted with anyone and everyone (read: procrastinated). At some point – only an hour before the limo bus was to arrive and transport my groomsmen and me to St. Stanislaus Basilica – I made my way to the room and began getting ready. Within an hour, I found myself boarding the bus with my groomsmen and others, popping open a bottle of champagne, and rolling toward to the church, with rain smacking the windows.

In the third installment of Our Wedding Retrospective, you’ll get to read about and even see photos of the ceremony, so stay tuned!

Our Massachusetts Wedding Retrospective, Part 1: The Final Prep

Hampden Country Club.

The beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows of the Hampden Country Club function space in autumn.

As our Friday wedding date approached, we watched the weather carefully. Although both the ceremony and the reception were taking place indoors, the travel into and out of each, and the travel on the several miles of road between the venues (i.e. the safety of our guests) were still a concern of ours. And this is putting aside the fact that we had planned very carefully in order to ensure that in the event of sunshine, we would have a perfect opportunity to photograph at our reception venue with a glorious sunset as a backdrop, overlooking a lush and multicolored valley. There was more than a week of bold sunshine leading up to our rehearsal dinner, and more sunshine on deck, slotted for after our wedding had ended. As much as we planned and hoped and followed the meteorologist’s every word, the sad truth was we would be going about our wedding day in the rain, with an inevitable 70 to 80 percent change of precipitation. But we were determined to make the best of whatever situation came our way.

In actuality, weather issues aside, both Alison and I needed to have our optimism on high gear anyway. About two or three weeks prior to the wedding, Alison’s dad, who has a history of heart and respiratory problems, was admitted into a Springfield area hospital, where he was to have another important procedure pertaining to his heart condition. Under normal circumstances, this procedure would understandably take a stressful and frightening toll on an individual and their family. With tons of final wedding preparations to nail down and organize, it became a taxing time. It was a bittersweet final path to the Roman Catholic Church marriage, to which her parents so thrillingly looked forward. We did not know how everything would turn out, though hoped Alison’s dad would make it through the procedure unscathed and recover in time still to walk his beloved daughter, my bride, down the aisle.

With tears in at least one person’s eyes at any given time, we worked together with my bride’s mother, and cousins and friends, to finish the following:

fall impressions glass coasters

The glass coasters (sets of two) imprinted with white leaves, in which sat our guests' seating assignments. The coasters served as our thank you favors.

– writing out and packaging with lace ribbon the guests’ party favors / seating cards (glass coasters shown here; a link can be found in our last diary entry);

– welcome (“goodie”) bags for our guests staying in our select hotel block (at the Hampton Inn in Chicopee, a fabulous hotel with nice amenities including a full complimentary breakfast and a can-do staff) which included personalized bottles of spring water (labeled them ourselves with “Alison & John’s Wedding”), chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies from a Springfield area bakery, small autumn-scented votive candles, a schedule of wedding day events and key addresses/directions, and mints that read “thank you” on them;

– writing, designing, printing and assembling programs for the ceremony (which we made on Alison’s mother’s home computer — they came out very classy without too much fuss);

– packaging / organizing everything to be brought to the church and the reception hall (i.e. pew bows, Unity Candles, remaining centerpieces, guest book/matted photo, etc.), and the list of who was to bring what, where.

We couldn’t have finished everything in time without the help of our family and friends. Furthermore, we would never would have had time to finish other vastly important items — like writing our vows!

Two nights before the wedding, we sat down and came up with our pledge to one another:

John/Alison, my best friend and partner,
You love me, and I, you.
You inspire me to be a better person.
You inspire me to change the world.
You remind me to care for myself.
You remind me to breathe.
You are imperfect, but you try your best.
You forgive readily, and are always forgiven.
You accept me for who I am, and you make me stronger.
You are my rock in times of frustration and sorrow.
You are the light of my day.

These things I promise in our marriage together;
I commit to progress, not perfection.
I commit to strength in God, our family, and friends.
I commit to the practice of patience, listening, passion, and compassion.
I commit to be true to you, in good times, and in bad.
I commit to care for you, in sickness and in health.
I commit to love and honor you all the days of my life.

After finishing our vows, we also needed to connect once more with our photographer and DJ, to apprise them of a couple last minute changes to the day, especially the fully yet sadly anticipated absence of Alison’s dad.

At the end of the day, we both felt quite accomplished — and exhausted — and slept like babies. What was in store for us the next morning?  Yes, you guessed correctly: manicures.

Stay tuned for the riveting second installment of Our Wedding Retrospective!

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