Farm Wedding: Morning Reflections (Part I)

(Note to Readers: I apologize for being absent for over a year but a lot has changed in my life since I posted last April. Getting married is an adjustment anyway but when two farmers working on different farms get married and both farms are with family and trying to undergo major improvements in productivity and efficiency there is a lot more to adjust to then just being married. Also, I realize these next few posts about the wedding isn’t my usual and is quite long, even being split up into parts; however if you enjoy my writing I ask that you bear with the length and read the whole thing – it is the most personal and intimate of all my stories thus far. And with any post, if you really enjoy the story, I would appreciate feedback on what you liked about it. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my stories!)

 

Funny how I thought, for months leading up to the big day, I’d have time to go for my usual walk the day before and the day of becoming a married woman and also to write what I was feeling. How silly. Time goes too fast for those things while preparing for such a big day. Also, it seems odd, but I have a hard time actually writing how I feel while it’s happening. And I’m not very disciplined at making myself write about the experience while it is happening or shortly thereafter – something I really need to work on since it improves the quality and accuracy of the telling. I want to describe the day and emotions as true as possible and also the week leading up to it.  

Photos by Ben Paulson

A jumble of emotions tumbled about inside of me as I lay in bed. July 21, 2019 had come, the long awaited day. I had set an alarm on the off chance of oversleeping. I lingered in bed, looking at the large wall map hanging on the wall at the foot of my bed, my bookshelf overflowing with novels and trinkets of nature (rocks, nuts, a couple of feathers), the painting Aleesha had made – this was the last time I would wake up in this room, it wouldn’t be my room anymore, I would no longer live here. I wanted to hold onto this moment, linger just a little bit – I suppose I was saying goodbye. Yes, a jumble of emotions. Such happiness! I had waited so long for this day, and too many times doubted it would come, despite God telling me nearly three years before that it would. So excited to wear the dress, squealing with delight on the inside – this was my day to be a princess, and a prince more handsome than I could believe waiting for me! A smile erupted across my face. I can’t wait to see Jesse in his gray suit. But I wondered: Will the wedding be really beautiful though? Will the decorations turn out as beautiful and elegant as I desire? Will the food impress? Will the kids be good? I hadn’t even seen my sisters and the girls in their completed dresses, will they stun? But other thoughts cast clouds of sadness on my happiness and excitement. This would no longer be my room. I’m leaving Mom, Isaiah, Jonathan, Cian (our dog), and the farm. No more hanging out in the evenings with Mom and Cian. No more relaxing on my spot on the couch. I’m leaving Mom. With these thoughts and feelings swirling around in my head, Mom came into my room to say good morning and spend precious moments alone with me on this last morning of me waking up here, while I was still in bed.  

“Good morning, Peanut. It’s your wedding day!” She was bursting with happiness and yet her voice had a catch as she held back tears. “It’s a beautiful day, just like we prayed for.” She sat on the edge of my bed, a hand on me. “I’m going to cry. I’ve already cried a few times. I was on the phone with Larry and cried; on the phone with Lars and cried.” 

 I smiled, but my throat tightened with its own tears, I felt so overwhelmed with love, happiness and sadness. “I’m going to cry too.”  

“I wanted to pray with you before the day starts.” She prayed a prayer of thankfulness and blessing, blessing over the day and the marriage, and that God would be honored through the day’s events. The dams broke, the tears flowed; neither of us could hold them back any longer. The tears began slipping down our cheeks with the start of the prayer, Mom thanking God for me and what an incredible gift I was to her, and the beautiful person I had become. Mom’s love for me was palpable as was God’s, as if that love had become a being all its own and also wrapped itself about me. The tears had only just begun for the day – Mom shed more than I did, but there were a few times I had to battle them back. 

Mom left my room shortly after she finished praying, back to the kitchen to keep working on preparations. It was time for me to get out of bed and eat some breakfast.  

I’m getting married today! – With that thrilling thought I jumped out of bed and joined Mom in the kitchen. In a matter of minutes I had my breakfast made and sat down in the living room to eat since the table was covered with pans and plates and napkins. Thankfully nervousness hadn’t yet kicked in; other than the unbelievable amount of preparations to do yet for food, cleaning the yard, and decorating, I felt quite calm as I ate my breakfast. My thoughts wandered to Jesse – what was he doing right now? How was he feeling? What was he thinking? I could hardly wait to see him in his suit – gray is such an amazing color on him and suits and tuxes look stunningly good on him. I couldn’t believe our wedding day was finally here! Eeek! I wanted to write down how I was feeling; the tangle of emotions, extreme excitement, thankfulness it was finally my turn – but I failed miserably, too much excitement to be able to write. I wrote one measly paragraph.  

People began arriving before I finished trying to write. Aleesha showed up sometime between 8:30 am – 9:00 am with Therese and Elena to help with anything that needed to be done. I was amazed and touched by Aleesha and her girls arriving so soon. Jonathan had been up working since 5:30; he milked so I could sleep in. Isaiah started in on things around 6:30. Cheryl Magnell, Mom’s market helper at Mill City and another mom to me, arrived either shortly before or shortly after Aleesha. She worked with Mom to get food ready. 

At least one person, and there were probably others, thought we were crazy to do all the food ourselves since it is so much work. While we worked frantically to prepare food yesterday, the thought probably had crossed our minds more than once. And perhaps Mom was thinking it now as she worked. Actually, Mom had planned to provide all the produce, meat, ingredients, etc. and have a chef friend of hers do the food preparation and cooking, but a family emergency put an end to that plan. Mom did more hands on work with the food than she had intended.  

When you are in the midst of wedding planning and drawing close to the day and things aren’t going according to plan and/or are proving to be more challenging than you’d expected, you begin to question if a wedding (rather than justice of the peace) was a good idea and if it will be worth it. For months, and especially the last three weeks or so leading up to the wedding, I wondered what I had gotten us all into. I worried and wondered if it would turn out as beautifully and splendid as I had planned, hoped and envisioned. Even with only a few hours left to go I wondered – could we pull it off? Will it be as wonderful as I’m hoping and dreamed it would be? How will the decorations turn out? Of course quite a bit of my anxiety that morning could have been taken care of if we had chosen to do a traditional indoor wedding, all of the decorating could have been done the day before. In fact, the decorating would have been done the day before if it hadn’t rained nearly all day, dropping two inches! What a nightmare that was – Jesse’s sister Anna was really stressed; she’d planned to do the decorating then. Karin, Jesse’s mom, assured me a small army of people would come right away in the morning to get everything ready. Sure enough, Anna and Rachel (Jesse’s youngest sister) arrived with Rachel’s husband Wes not long after Aleesha had. Then our friend and groomsman Ethan came and helped set up tables and other things.  

But despite people telling us an outdoor wedding in Minnesota is a bad idea, either it’s too hot or too cold, buggy or rainy, or a combination therein – I had decided a couple of years ago, yes, before he proposed, that I wanted an outdoor wedding on the farm. It is so us – we began dating on a hay bale still in the field; we spend most of our time outside, and we’re both farmers. Plus doing it on Mom’s farm provided a more intimate, private and special location. However, two farmers getting married on the farm did not mean redneck. Oh no, though farmers, Jesse and I are classy – not redneck, hick, hillybilly, or country bumpkins, rather farming intellectuals with taste. I wanted a gorgeous wedding, it had to look and feel bridal; I was going for and hoping to achieve classy, elegant, beautiful, and something reflecting Jesse and me. I wanted flowers, an arbor. We found some neat antiques to use. Classy wooden signs. Flowers and books on the tables. For a couple of weeks, Anna and I messaged back and forth on decorations – she was incredible, so creative! The local flower club offered to provide flowers for the tables. We had planted 29 pots of flowers in May to place around the yard where the ceremony and reception would take place.  

Getting the yard work done while also keeping up with farm work was a challenge, but we prayed for help and help came. In May, Jesse and Ethan cut up a fallen tree and cut down and cut up two more that were looking like they’d come down in a storm. A lady from church came and weeded and replanted a flower bed by one of the houses in the middle of June. Jonathan labored on the yard in the evenings and weekends around a full time job for weeks. Isaiah and I helped him out around farming. Karin mowed the lawn. Aleesha’s family helped the most, allowing her kids to help us out around their own work on their farm. At the beginning of June, all of Aleesha’s daughters picked up sticks in the backyard where the ceremony was to be. On Tuesday before the wedding, Malachi and Elena helped cut down a huge patch of ragweed and other weeds by the barn and helped me weed the flower beds around Mom’s house. They returned on Thursday, with Lexie to finish the flower beds and do some other work. The tent was delivered and set up on Thursday too. It was bigger than we’d expected; we knew the dimensions, at least the length and width but were totally blown away by its colossal height. A circus tent came to mind. Its wavy top created a whimsical feel, perfect for a wedding. 

Since I have so many nieces and nephews (and Jesse has a few), I couldn’t pick a couple to be ring bearer and flower girl and leave the rest out. So instead I included all of them. Mom and I talked it over, way back in November, she would make matching dresses for the girls and vests for the boys – again taking on more work for the wedding but I wanted to do this special thing for the kids. Of course because kids grow so fast it couldn’t be done very far in advance – Mom began work on them in June. Aleesha came over and helped cut out patterns and the pieces of the dresses. For the majority of the sewing Mom was able to use her sewing machine, but there were many hours of hand stitching to do on each dress. She made thirteen dresses. Mom also decided to do the alterations on my dress which was a lot of work, since I am not that tall. The bodice, with all of its layers and beading  took a lot of thinking and time to fix. Shortening the skirt, with its two layers of satin and 4 layers of tulle was also a challenge.  I helped her with hemming the skirts. She worked on it for over a month before it was finally finished. My sister’s dresses needed alterations too but they were relatively easy to do. They were done the Monday before the big day; a lot was accomplished in those six days.  

Thirteen year old, Therese was an amazing helper. She came the week before – just a week and a half to go – to help with whatever she could; she was dying to help with wedding preparations, especially the sewing. I am so touched by this dear girl’s desire to make my wedding perfect for me – she is amazing. I am humbled that I have a niece who loves me so much. Initially, she was just going to spend the one night, but Jason and Aleesha were really awesome to let her stay two nights. She and I had a wonderful time together. Honestly though, she accomplished more than I did. She arrived Wednesday evening, so of course we had amazing girl talk, mostly about Jesse and my love story and the wedding stuff but we covered many other topics. Thursday morning, we worked in the greenhouse for a couple hours before it got too hot – talking mostly about the power of prayer and hearing God speak, miracles happen. Then we went into the house to work. Therese cut out all the patterns and vest pieces for the boys, staying fairly focused even though it became tiring very quickly. I was antsy, short attention span; I couldn’t focus on one task for long before I jumped to the next. I was jittery and chatty with excitement, thankfully not nerves yet. I was working on getting the house cleaned up so that we didn’t have to worry about it during the wedding week and to have it clean before my sisters showed up to help with things. Therese laughed at my lack of focus, thinking it was cute. – I felt like I was the child and she the adult, but in a good way. It was the most time we’ve been able to spend with each other and most of it just the two of us. It was also the most special time we have ever spent together thus far, mostly because everything was about to change, our last girls’ day/night before I became a married woman. And we had the best conversation about prayer and how God loves doing amazing things for his children, we just need to pray bigger, let God show off. The time spent with Therese was or rather is so dear and precious to me, I am so thankful Aleesha and Jason let her stay the extra night. With the anticipation and jumble of emotions, anxiety over how we’d pull it off, I really needed a best friend to talk to, someone who wouldn’t mind listening to me babble and bursting joy, even though they’d heard it already. Therese also did a lot of the hand stitching on Mariya’s dress and she did all the hand stitching of the vests, during the wedding week.  

Amber, my sister, and Lloyd arrived on Monday. Lloyd spent most of his time watching their kids so Amber could participate and help out with wedding stuff. Amber cut out tablecloths and quilt squares for guests to sign from cream colored muslin. On Friday, she began the pie making. Johanna helped a little with the pies that day too but also made hair pieces for the three of them and all the girls. We got a late start on things on Friday, Mom, Isaiah, and I had to get ready for Mill City Market and Johanna and Amber were later than they planned on arriving. Friday’s dreadful heat also lowered productivity. Malachi milked at the Polson’s Friday morning then came to our farm and helped with yard work and whatever needed doing, then went back to the Polson’s to milk so the guys could do a bachelor party for Jesse and come to the family party that night here. Aleesha brought Elena and Isabel, and Leo, twenty month old, over mid morning. Isabel helped in the kitchen and she also put the papers with the lyrics for the hymns in each program. Elena helped wherever she was needed, staying the whole day. Aleesha worked on flowerpots – weeding and mulching them, moving the pots out of the shade. Leo tagged along. She left shortly after noon to get home to take care of her other kiddos. That night we had a family party; Mom, my siblings and their kids, Larry, Grandma and Grandpa Benike, Jesse, Lars and Karin (his dad and mom), Anna and her family, his brother, Adam, his girlfriend, Courtney, Ethan and Daniel, our best man. It was just fun, low key family time, letting the two families mingle and have a chance to visit before it got crazy. Before the party began, Sylvia, Aleesha’s three year old, asked, “Is this the wedding?” – She was eager to wear her new shoes, her wedding shoes. It was an awesome night with the family, celebrating and anticipation building, but the best part was Jesse’s text to me after the guys left early to continue the bachelor party, which was, “You looked so pretty tonight babe,” with a smiley face. And he looked so handsome and ready. It was a good night and I felt so blessed.  

Saturday, I woke up to the sound of rain hitting the roof of the house. No, no, no, not rain! We have too much to do. I prayed all morning and most of the afternoon that it would quit – it was late afternoon before it did. Aleesha came mid-morning with all her kids, except I think Malachi came later. They had no power at their house. Thankfully, we did. The power was out for a bit at the Polson’s too. I was busy making bread for crostini. Mom was doing lots of different things at once. Aleesha and Elena started in on pies right away, they had twenty to make. I believe Therese was working on finishing touches on sewing vests. Lexie entertained the younger kids, but she and Isabel also helped with crostini. At this point there was a lot going on so I don’t remember who all did what. Jason came and got Sylvia, and I believe Bernadette went with them, to have naps; Leo was going to go as well but fell asleep before that. Johanna and Amber showed up too but it was afternoon when they got there. We had leftovers from the previous night for lunch; good thing there was plenty because no one had time to make lunch. Isaiah and Jonathan were cleaning their house since we were going to use it for getting ready and to hangout in between photos and ceremony. Cheryl arrived around 4:00 pm to help with food preparation. Thank goodness Anna and Rachel were doing the rehearsal dinner. Ben, our sound guy and photographer arrived late afternoon to scout the place. Thankfully, the rain had stopped so we could do rehearsal. Then everyone began trickling in for rehearsal. We weren’t ready at all – Larry was seasoning the meat, my bridesmaids were still making pies, I was still doing bread. Cheryl took over for me once I had it all kneaded, still needing to be shaped and baked. I got dressed and went out to greet people. I asked Haley, Daniel’s wife, and Rachel if they could take over the pie making. They jumped right to it. Rehearsal was a little slow to start and chaotic to get everyone rounded up. My sisters barely had time to change into something nice, and clean. But we did finally manage to get everyone together for it. Surprisingly, although we’d just had two inches of rain, it wasn’t too muddy. We had a great time with rehearsal, shared lots of laughs. It was getting more and more real with each passing day; it was really going to happen. We had everyone there to practice, including Jason who would be in charge of lining everyone up – the most difficult task partnering the kids. (Just before rehearsal began, Sylvia asked, “Is this the wedding?” I explained to her that we were practicing for the wedding.) Phil had us all walk down three or four times to get the hang of it, make sure everyone was comfortable. The main challenge was we didn’t have the chairs set up for a frame of reference. One time Larry playfully scolded Jesse for trying to take me before he was ready to give me away; so the next time Jesse didn’t step forward to take my hand, Larry asked him if he was going to and Jesse said he didn’t want to get in trouble for taking me too soon. After Phil was satisfied we’d gone through it enough times, we went over to the tent to eat supper. Rachel and Anna had decided to do tacos for rehearsal dinner. I sat next to Jesse, Ethan was on his other side, Daniel across from him and Ben across from me, while we ate. Jesse and I were leaning into each other. Ben commented, “I’ve never seen you two together this way,” referring to our intimacy and being really comfortable with one another, touching. Our intimate group found it fascinating that at the other table Larry, an atheist, Phil and Michelle, liberal pastors, and Jason, a Catholic, all with very different ideas, having a really good and respectful conversation about Christianity while drinking wine. After eating, Johanna turned on music and a disco ball for the girls/kids to have an impromptu dance lesson, which really didn’t have much instruction. This was perhaps the best part of the whole day and the most memorable. I joined in, dancing with my nieces. The intimacy, joy and a tinge of sadness because everything was about to change, made it so incredibly special. It was almost like I was saying goodbye to them. I danced with each one of Aleesha’s six daughters; although at first, Therese was too embarrassed to dance, which added to the fun. Jason and Malachi tried to get her to dance. Elena, Lexie and I tried. Amirianna, Amber’s eldest, who was eight, danced too. Ember, Johanna’s two year old, preferred dancing on the table and walking all the way across the tent on table tops, charming our friends and Jesse’s family. Aleesha and Jason danced a little bit, but I don’t recall if Amber and Lloyd did. I tried getting Jesse to dance but he was too busy talking to others and told me to enjoy the kids. Jason danced a little bit with his daughters and Leo. It was so precious and sweet – I found it interesting that the people I spent the most time with that night were the people whom I’d spent a lot of time with throughout the past week, but they’re my closest people. I will always hold that dance party with my nieces as a dear and precious gift. Happiness overflowed; it truly was a celebration but also a farewell. I paused dancing to say goodbye and goodnight to Jesse, hugging him tight – I didn’t want him to leave yet, saying goodbye to him has always been hard. But this would be the last time I would say goodbye to him because we were parting for the night. Strange thought! I returned to dancing with my girls, embracing Lexie and then Bernadette as we swayed to a slow love song. My heart was bursting. So much love. So much joy. And so strange to think this was both an end and a beginning. I will always be their beloved Aunt Bethany, but I would no longer be their unmarried aunt who lived with their grandma, which brought both joy and sadness. I wish words were adequate to describe that dance, the intimacy, love and how I felt. I embraced each girl long and hard as if it would be the last. How blessed I am to have such relationships. The night was incredible and a bit surreal. It ended with Leo saying my name for the first time ever, while they were saying goodbye, a cherry on top. It felt strange to lie down in my bed, it being the last time. Excitement, anticipation, and nervousness, danced around my head as I tried to fall asleep.  

That was Saturday. Wow, so much happened in a week. 

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