Farm Wedding: Final Preparations (Part II)

Sunday morning, I set aside my journal and pen, it wasn’t working to write and time raced toward the wedding. I had to shower, pack for the honeymoon, choose books and take them to Anna and Rachel. I had to be ready to have my hair done by noon. Inside, Mom and Cheryl worked preparing the food. Outside was a flurry of work – Aleesha took charge of remaining yard work and setting up for the ceremony. Since it was too wet to drive the skid loader on the lawn, Aleesha, Jonathan, Isaiah, Therese, and Elena hauled away the big pile of wood chips by the garage with the wheelbarrow, spreading them out on the path through the tree line, west of the wedding location. They set up the chairs, put flower pots in place and I’m not sure what all else they did, but they were hard at work all morning long making sure everything would look amazing for my big day. I’m so grateful to have siblings who love me so much. Therese and Elena also finished up cleaning in Isaiah and Jonathan’s house and Therese ironed dresses and vests. Anna and Rachel took care of decorating the tent and setting up signs. Ethan helped set up tables and Wes was helping in any way he could too.  

Photo by Ben Paulson

Choosing books to use as decoration was challenging. How do I choose just a few of my beloved books? Hmm, there were so many and I wouldn’t mind having all of them on display. How to choose, how to choose? Seriously girl, just hurry up and grab some, I told myself. I wanted a good selection, a broad selection, and some classics (partly because Mom had some really old ones that look awesome). There were several books I would have loved to put out but being more like textbooks in size, I figured they would be too big. I passed up The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and went with The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The books had to reflect my interests but also Jesse’s as well or at least of a connection to us. I had to include a couple of bee books – The Sacred Bees, A World Without Bees, A Fruitless Fall (the book that began my interest in beekeeping), Bees, and Bumblebees of North America. Alright, what else do I want out there? Obviously nature books that have inspired my writing and expanded my intellect – The Singing Wilderness, Of Time and Place, The Back Country, Desert Solitaire, Walden and other stories, The Geese of Beaver Bog, The Beaver’s Popple’s Pond, A Wildwood A Journey Through Trees, The Last Rhinos, Song of the Rolling Earth (given to me by Jesse) and not exactly nature writing but science and informational, The Wolf. A Walk in the Woods, Jesse and I both enjoy Bryson. History books – The Greater Journey, Explorer’s of the Mississippi, Canoeing Down the Great River, Minnesota. The History of Birds, not really a history book but a book on nature but mainly a really awesome looking antique book – and I love bird watching. Roadside Geology of Minnesota, because I just had to include a geology book since both Jesse and I find geology interesting. I’m not entirely sure what category it falls under but I had to include Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Field guides: Wildflowers of Minnesota, Mammals of Minnesota, Trees of Minnesota, Reptiles and Amphibians of Minnesota, Field Guide to Nature of the Midwest, Insects, National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms, Mushrooms of the Upper Midwest. Classics, most of which I’ve read and partly for the antique books – Shakespeare’s Masterpieces, A Tale of Two Cities, Tom Sawyer, Notre-Dame De Paris, Robinson Crusoe, Crime and Punishment (and a book of Three Short Novels by Dostoevsky), Pride and Prejudice, Poe’s Masterpieces of Mystery – some of the classics were borrowed from my mom. Some beloved novels – The Chronicles of Narnia, The Heaven Trilogy (Ted Dekker), Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Hobbit and The Fool’s Progress. Wrap up the diversity with some Christian living books – The Sacred Romance, Desire, Waking the Dead, Captivating, Come Thirsty, Traveling Light, and Next Door Savior. Well, there’s so many more I want to include but I think that’s plenty. I stacked the books in several piles as I pulled them off the shelves, and then made several trips, taking them outside to the tent and letting Anna know to include them. Jesse should bring some of his personal favorites; so I sent him a text hoping it wasn’t too late. He brought The Backpacker’s Field Manual, A Man on the Moon, Monkey Wrench Gang, Artemis, Fallen Giants – He didn’t really have time to grab more but too bad he didn’t grab one of his agronomy books, that was a topic we were missing. They stacked two to four books and tied them together with ribbon and some scraps trimmed off my dress and sisters’ dresses. I applaud them and am extremely thankful for the effort they put into the decorating. Along with the books, we used bouquets of flowers set into little wooden boxes (made by Jesse for Rachel’s wedding last year) and little candles set on small blocks of wood – very elegantly done. (Anna described the decor

Photo by Ben Paulson


 as woodland fairylike.) Now that the books were delivered to Anna, I needed to shower quickly. It’s inconceivable how fast the morning was disappearing. Then there was deciding what to wear between now and putting my dress on – something easy to take off that wouldn’t mess up my hair. With help from Therese, I settled on a plain blue sundress. I still hadn’t packed yet for the honeymoon, time was running out, and other than feeling pressed for time I still wasn’t feeling too jittery yet. However, the excitement and anticipation was mounting. While packing, I was disturbed several times to answer questions. I don’t recall the questions but I remember Aleesha popping in several times. A few times in the past weeks, I had questioned choosing my sisters as bridesmaids but when that final week came and especially that morning, I knew I had chosen Aleesha well for my matron of honor. She did so much to help and was glad too. She was also bursting with joy.  

My goodness, time was flying. I no longer paid attention to all the activity going on outside, who was doing what and all that. I now had everything done that I needed to do, so I could just be the bride. Everything I needed for the honeymoon, except water, was piled neatly on my bedroom floor. Noon was fast approaching, but not quite here yet. I walked over to the other house, apparently unnoticed since someone was looking for me a few minutes later. All of the dresses including my own were now hanging on a clothes rack in Jonathan’s dining room, my shoes were underneath. The marriage license and our rings sat on the kitchen counter, a safe and visible location. I went downstairs to Isaiah’s apartment. It could be hours before the reception and supper, so I thought it best to grab some lunch quick. Leftover pasta salad from Friday night had been put into Isaiah’s fridge. I helped myself to some; eating perhaps a bit too fast but it was almost noon. I didn’t have time to enjoy a lengthy meal. When I got back upstairs, Judy and someone else, perhaps Aleesha or Elena came into the house looking for me. (It felt strange that I wouldn’t see Jesse right away when he arrived.) Ben was also looking for me. He wanted to take photos of the rings and dresses. “Bethany, can I take your dress outside to photograph?”  

Photo by Haley Hoeppner

“Yes, but quickly, so Jesse doesn’t see it.” We’d talked to Haley last night about helping Ben with the photos, particularly those of us girls getting ready and photos during the ceremony (Ben was our photographer and sound guy). Haley stood watch for Jesse’s arrival while Ben was photographing my dress. Judy and I went into the back bedroom for her to do my hair, some place hidden out of sight. Although Judy had already begun, Haley came in and took some photos of the process a few minutes later. I savored the few moments chatting with Judy – enjoying the intimacy of having one of my proud mamas doing my hair. She had known both Jesse and I since we were children and I’m fairly certain had prayed for us many times. She did two French braids, pulling them together in the back. I had gone to her house last Saturday for her to practice. A florist friend of Mom’s, who doesn’t do weddings but made an exception for me, brought a hair piece to cover where the two braids meet. She also brought flowers for the guys, parents, and grandparents, and flowers to decorate the arbor and the picket fence which was the backdrop for the ceremony. (Isaiah and Jonathan had cut some small maple trees down a few weeks ago and from them, Jonathan built an arbor.) Aleesha had brought a floor length mirror over to put in the room and one downstairs for the guys. It was fun being secreted away in the back bedroom, only my sisters, a few nieces and Haley were allowed to see me until the proper time. This was it! It was happening! It was hard to keep from smiling. I want to hold that time getting ready near to my heart the rest of my days. The intimacy, joy, excitement with my sisters, Haley, and my nieces who know me best was incredible and a true gift. And having Haley, a dear friend whom I’ve known for fourteen years, and has been close to Jesse and I for probably six years, photographing us girls getting ready was absolutely amazing – it was just great having an intimate friend, who was super excited for us, taking photos of the intimate getting ready time with my sisters. It was perfect. Judy bowed out as soon as she was done with my hair, aside from the receiving line after the ceremony, I didn’t see her the rest of the evening. Johanna started doing my makeup after Judy left. The most important thing about my hair and makeup was that neither was over the top – I needed to still look like me. I don’t wear makeup very often and I lack the skill (and desire) to do much with my hair, usually just two French braids, which Jesse really likes. His biggest complaint about some of the weddings we’ve gone to is that the bride doesn’t look like herself at all; he wanted me to look like me. Johanna, being four years older, has always thought of me as her doll to dress up; and it must be for that reason that she does my makeup so well. I’ve had it done by hairstylists and am unrecognizable – for both Johanna’s and Aleesha’s weddings my own aunts, uncles and even grandma didn’t know who I was. I’ve had a friend do my makeup and it looked gaudy and clownish. Johanna can enhance or draw out what’s there without transforming me into someone else. Strange though and oddly appropriate, my sister that I have gotten along with the least was doing my makeup. It was heart stirring for me. She may not have helped with any yard work and hardly any baking (she was feeling light headed on Friday; after a traumatic brain injury a few years ago she has become more sensitive to heat and can’t do as much as she used to) but she was there for other things; my dress search, engagement photos, taking them and making a collage poster with them to hang up at the reception, and perhaps more important than yard work or food, she was in charge of making me look beautiful but still look like myself. Of my three sisters, she was the one in contact with me the most in the months, weeks, and days leading up to this day. Of course, sometimes I was frustrated with her, but it all worked out beautifully. Perhaps the text I loved the best from her, although it was advice I didn’t need because I was already mindful of it, she sent on June 6th. I was and still am touched by it, I saved it: “Wedding preparation tip: avoid the sun like death…or be topless when outdoors…to avoid obvious burns and awkward tan lines that will detract from your beauty and lovely dress on your special day!” My beauty? My beauty. Johanna thinks I’m beautiful. It would have been more meaningful to have heard her actually say it, but still wonderful. Being sisters we neglect to tell each other we’re beautiful. I am as guilty as she is. Anyway, it was awesome having these little moments of closeness with Johanna. I am truly moved by her willingness and eagerness to do what she could to make my wedding day stunning, special and memorable.  Before she began doing my makeup, Johanna asked, “How likely are you to cry?” 

“Very likely. I almost certainly will.” 

“Ok. Then I won’t put mascara on your bottom lashes.” It feels very strange to have someone leaning over you, their face very close to your face and then using implements around your eyes. Every time I’ve had it done by a stylist I have felt very uncomfortable. But it felt perfectly natural and not at all awkward having Johanna doing it. With Johanna, I didn’t feel like I needed to apologize for my blinking. Again, I just enjoyed the intimacy of having a bridesmaid, a sister, doing my makeup rather than a stranger who doesn’t know me, hasn’t a clue the journey I’ve traveled to get to this point. It’s almost a relief and humbling to have someone who thought of you as a pesky, bratty, annoying little sister trying to make you look stunning, although she thinks you already do, on your special day. So sweet. Perfect. That is beauty. Some people do just a lot of pretending and mask wearing at weddings to keep things polite and civil. But that wasn’t happening here; despite our annoying and frustrating each other during childhood and more recently, being totally different people, seeing things in a totally different way, she was truly and genuinely happy for me, and honored to be a huge part of it. She was nervous about messing it up or poking me in the eye; as she began she said, “I’ll try not to poke you in the eye.” 

“Oh, I’m not worried. I trust you.” And she did just fine. While Johanna did my makeup, Therese was getting Aleesha ready, doing her hair and makeup. In spite of being only thirteen, she did a marvelous job. Aleesha looked positively radiant. I’m not sure there’s ever been a maid or matron of honor who has glowed as much as she did. Elena, Therese, Amirianna, Lakira, Jadion, Ember, and Elisa all came in and out while we were getting ready. Amirianna, Lakira, and Jadion all followed Amber in and clung tight to her; she was last to show up. Elena was just hanging out and Therese was waiting to do Aleesha’s hair and makeup. Poor Jadion, being a boy, was sent out pretty quickly and not allowed to return. I can’t recall if he went out before or during Johanna doing my makeup, but his sisters went with him. Ember wanted to be near Johanna. And Elisa came in to take care of Ember and get Johanna’s phone to play a video for her; she took Ember back to the living room. Therese and Elena stayed the longest but were sent out before we changed into our dresses. Haley asked Johanna about what all she was doing for my makeup and suggested she put some sort of cream/foundation on to dull the bright spots on my face for photography purposes. Haley even had some in her bag. Johanna gently rubbed some on my face in the places Haley suggested. Now I was ready for my dress.  

Photo by Haley Hoeppner

Johanna and Amber didn’t need their makeup done. Unlike Aleesha and me, they never leave the house without it on, just part of their morning routine. They did however, have to do their hair. There again though, they both did their own. Now that I was ready to go; Johanna began to do her own hair as did Amber. Aleesha’s hair and makeup was complete too. The next step was to get me in my dress, something I couldn’t do alone. Being my matron of honor, the sister I’m closest to and most comfortable with, it fell to Aleesha to help me into my dress. But before we did, Haley wanted to photograph me alongside, admiring the dress first.  

My dress was actually the first wedding detail, aside from setting the date, to be figured out. Aleesha, Johanna, Mom, and I had a day to look at dresses back in November. Leo and Ember tagged along. Mom and I were thinking we’d just decide what style we liked best and then maybe find one online to buy. The wedding consultants were fantastic. There was only one dress that they picked out for me that was an absolute no before I even stepped out of the dressing room. Several were ruled out. It was a blast. The woman pulled it out of the bag, “I know this really isn’t what you are looking for, but I think you should try it on anyway.” 

“Alright, I’ll try it.” I wasn’t impressed at first. It wasn’t even white, rather a champagne blush, and had more embellishments on it than I had been looking for. Mom and I were thinking something simple but elegant, and since I’m short, definitely not a big poofy skirt. But once I had it on, I lit right up – and everyone noticed. It wasn’t at all what I thought I would choose. Therese had asked me several weeks before, “How can a bride choose one dress when they are all so pretty?” When she first asked, my reply had been, “I have no idea.” But after trying on the dresses I knew how; you don’t choose the dress, the dress chooses you. It may sound silly but that is exactly what happens. You go in with an idea and come out with something you thought wouldn’t work at all. It was the layered skirts and something about the horsehair braid across the bottom of the skirts that appealed to me; and the roses on the bodice and top of the skirt, they reminded me of Beauty and the Beast somehow, which is Jesse’s and my favorite Disney princess movie. I feel silly and childish for feeling and sharing that I felt most like a princess while wearing that dress over the others – I wanted to feel like a princess for my special day. Johanna said I was most comfortable and confident in this dress. I loved having Mom and my sisters there for this huge moment. And it was perfectly natural to have two toddlers there with us; they behaved extremely well. One dress was a questionable color; Leo clapped when I stepped out of the dressing room and in front of the mirror. Ember thought the mirrors and the curtain of the dressing room were great fun. The dress search was when it really started to feel real.  

Photo by Haley Hoeppner

Some people don’t seem to be bothered at all by changing in front of other people; but I’ve struggled with it my whole life. My sisters have never had any problem changing in front of me; they’ve been doing it forever. So although I’m not exactly comfortable with it, it made perfect sense for us all to change in the room together and for Aleesha to be the one to help me with the dress. Wonderfully, I was too excited to feel shy about changing in a roomful. Haley, Johanna, and Amber discreetly turned away. Aleesha held my dress so that I could step into it but still give me some measure of privacy. Stepping in is slow, one foot at a time, searching for floor instead of skirt to stand on. Once I found the floor, I could step in with the other foot; not stepping on the skirts, there were seven layers, was a challenge. Then arms through and I was covered. Next, Aleesha had the daunting task of hooking the eyes and doing up the buttons. She fumbled with it a little. Both Haley and Amber had only seen pictures from a phone of me wearing the dress and none had seen it on me since Mom did the alterations. None of them being super girly, the admiration was fairly quiet. Aleesha adjusted my skirts after she finished fastening the back. Haley, of course, was quick to capture these moments with the camera.

Photo by Ben Paulson

It’s challenging to describe these preparations without sounding sappy and sentimental. – But isn’t that how we’re supposed to feel getting ready for weddings, particularly your own or that of someone close to you? All of us had waited so long for this wedding, most believing it would happen and yet doubting it ever would, so it was more than a celebration for just Jesse and me but for everyone involved. The last eight years had been filled with so many ups and downs, struggles, pain, shadows of doubt, all these things were felt not just by Jesse and I but all the people who love and care about us and knew the struggles we have faced – perhaps more felt by these people because they know and love both of us. I know all couples have their ups and downs, their struggles, but Jesse and I had more right at the start than most couples have in their entire relationship. We both brought a lot of insecurity and anxiety into the relationship, compounded by childhood trauma. His dad almost died numerous times in just a couple of months’ time only a year after we started dating, pushing Jesse out of his comfort zone and raising questions about the farm that Jesse wasn’t wanting or wasn’t ready to deal with just yet. He was thrust into a management role on the farm that shook his confidence. All in all he handled it fairly well but it almost drove us apart. Sexual abuse from my dad as a child, and the damage it did, brought a whole host of issues to our relationship. There was a lot of growing up and healing I needed to do for us to be able to keep going. Jesse had to come to terms with it and be alright with being patient with me while I continue to heal and grow. And sometimes, he wasn’t sure he wanted to deal with it. (He has never met my dad.)There were at least three times we barely made it. My poor family had to suffer through those times with me. The last and perhaps the worst time was in September 2016. Jesse was ready to be done. He wanted a break; we wouldn’t see or talk to each other for the whole month. It was heartbreaking, and yet it provided a wonderful time of healing for me. I took everything to God and spent days in intensive prayer, inviting Jesus into all the broken places, some of which I didn’t realize had caused so much damage. I had a vision. While Jesus and I were on a path for healing from the emotional wounds my dad caused, all of a sudden we were in a huge heavenly cathedral. Jesus walked Jesse and me down the aisle to Papa, God the Father, who performed the wedding ceremony. The Holy Spirit stood off to the side of us. The guests were angels and everyone was laughing, a happy, we -just-fought-a-huge-battle-and-won laugh. I hadn’t heard from Jesse at that point for a few weeks and here, God was showing me that we were already joined together by heaven. I had to wait another year and a half before he proposed though! All weddings are special but this was even more of a celebration because of the long time in coming and the fight to get here.  

It can go without saying, being the bride; I was incredibly happy and more than likely, positively glowing. I also couldn’t believe I was actually the bride this time. It was my turn. Finally! 

Photo by Haley Hoeppner

The other advantage to us girls getting ready in the north bedroom, other than being secluded, was that we could peek out the window at the guys and they had no clue. Of course, they were dressed and ready before us. Ben was taking photos of them outside in the backyard, in view of the window. But given the position of the window and time of day, they couldn’t see us. It was exciting to see them milling about in the backyard; being able to sneak a peek was thrilling and heightened my anticipation. Given the many layers of my dress, I needed help putting on my shoes. This also fell to Aleesha. I carefully took a seat, mindful of my skirts and with assistance from Aleesha slipped my feet into the shoes. Aleesha struggled with fastening them because they hook together, the buckles are just for looks. Also the hook came undone immediately on the first shoe, adding to the struggle. The shoes were slightly too big for me and not at all like what I usually wear, so I was really nervous about walking in them and not stumbling, tripping or having my walk appear clunky. Thankfully, most of the walking I would do, or at least that in front of an audience, would be done leaning on either Larry or Jesse, giving me stability.  While Aleesha was dressing me, Johanna and Amber put on their dresses. Given the nature of fancy dresses, they couldn’t zip their own dresses. Amber was already in her dress and zipped up, and in the process of zipping Johanna’s when I asked Haley to capture that with her camera. I didn’t want that moment to be missed. It can be a little awkward having a photographer capturing these intimate moments but with Haley as the photographer it wasn’t awkward or uncomfortable but perfectly natural. Aleesha wasted no time getting into her dress, while Haley photographed me by the window; she took some artistic shots of me looking out the window. All three of my sisters went with flat comfortable sandals. I had told them since their dresses were so long and being an outside wedding, I didn’t care what they wore on their feet as long as it was nice. Each of them were also wearing matching hairpieces that were complimentary to those of the little girls, but with different hairstyles that suited each, and all were low key. 

Now we were ready, or so we thought. Aleesha opened up the door and we were about to head out, when it was wondered, and I can’t recall by whom, if I needed a necklace to complete the ensemble. The consensus was yes, so Aleesha went over to Mom’s house to get a necklace. She had planned to give me hers that she wore on her wedding day but didn’t know where it was and ran out of time to look for it. That was incredibly sweet and thoughtful, truly a gift from the heart. I was deeply moved. Instead, she went and got a pearl necklace from Mom. It was extremely long, but with help from Johanna, she doubled it up to make a shorter necklace. It was perfectly natural to have my sisters fussing over me; I had always been their doll to dress up. And although youngest sister is a tough position, I believe I am very precious to each of them even though they don’t express it. Aleesha’s love for me shone through this day; she was positively glowing with joy and happiness for Jesse and me. I was overwhelmed by her joy and happiness, moved to thankful tears. Ben had come to check if I was ready just before it was decided I needed a necklace. So with the necklace now taken care of, I was ready to meet up with Jesse. I now had my something borrowed, something old, something new, and something blue – I was set.


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