Farm Wedding: The First Look (Part III)

Photo by Haley Hoeppner

On any day, at any time, seeing Jesse creates amazing flutters inside me, my heart leaps, and I’m sure my face lights up, since a smile generally spreads across my face or at least teases at my lips. But here was the big moment, in only a few hours he would be my husband. Excitement and anticipation were building. Here it was. I had been waiting so long for this moment. Wondering how he would react when he first gazed upon me wearing the dress, about to become his wife. I think this was also the moment the jitters and nervousness began to creep in, but they were outdone by excitement, anticipation, and joy. (This is where the photography really shines – where I have difficulty describing how I felt, the photo of me says it very well.) 

Ben Paulson

The shoes and my walking ability were immediately put to the test; down the hallway, out the door and down a step. Someone, I can’t recall who, held the door open while Haley and Aleesha helped me out the door. I had to lift my skirts up while I walked so I didn’t step on them and so they didn’t drag too much on the ground.  Down a couple more steps, across the gravel drive by the garage, over the lawn to a diagonal trail to the path through the north-south windbreak on the west side of the yard. Ben led the way to where Jesse waited for me. Haley followed behind me. Ben told me Jesse was waiting around the first row of trees on my left and then walked on ahead and out of sight, joining Jesse. I turned the corner, going around the Chinese chestnut tree. Jesse stood with his back to me, several paces into the grassy strip between the rows of trees. Ben stood on the other side of him, photographing his response and instructing him. I can only imagine what Jesse was feeling during those moments of anticipation. (He told me later, he was extremely nervous, worried he’d hate the dress, the hairstyle, the makeup, worried I wouldn’t look like me.)  As I came walking up behind Jesse, Ben had to instruct him not to look yet, many times. “Not yet. Not yet. Wait. Just wait.” It was slightly unfair since I had sneaked a peek out the window and was now coming up behind him. Even from the back he looked good – tall, trim, broad, fit. It felt like minutes before Ben told Jesse he could turn and look – of course, Ben had to move faster and get on the other side of us before he did.  

Photo by Ben Paulson

This moment may be the most precious and dearest of all. There was no doubt Jesse liked what he saw. He uttered a little noise of approval that only he can make, and his mouth fell open. We no longer noticed Ben; it wasn’t that we just weren’t paying attention to him; we just didn’t even know if he was there or not so didn’t notice at all when he disappeared to give us a few moments alone. I too was awed and humbled by how handsome Jesse looked. I’ve seen him in suits and tuxes many times and already knew he looks extraordinary in them. And gray is an amazing color on him. But this, this was different. I couldn’t believe how handsome he was; I mean I couldn’t believe what an incredibly handsome man I get to marry. Wow. I am incredibly lucky; especially since he is more than just good looks. (Back around Christmas, Haley and I were talking about Jesse’s good looks and how unfair it was that he has such beautiful blue eyes with extremely long eyelashes – it’s no wonder there’s almost always a girl checking him out when we go places. The best part is he has no idea; he always tells me I’m confused.) And the way he looked at me. I am his treasure. Adoration and love were in his eyes and his voice as he spoke. Tears were there too, not enough to spill over and run down the cheeks, but plenty from a man who is uncomfortable with emotions. He immediately pulled me into his arms and held me close to his chest, resting his cheek on my head. Love stories are real. And I reveled in that most amazing embrace. Somehow, gracefully he shifted us, still cradled in his embrace, hands now on my lower back. He looked down into my eyes, with a sort of fiery intensity and half whispered, “You’re so pretty, babe.” 

“Thank you. You’re so handsome.” 

Breathing deeply, moist eyes, “I love you, babe,” in that same endearing half whisper.  

I received a wondrous gift in these moments. His response to seeing me was as beautiful and touching as I’d hoped it’d be.

 “I love you too, babe.”  Another long hug followed. I pulled back a bit to look up into his face, enjoying the strength and protection of his arms around me, “Babe, it’s finally here. We’re getting married.” 

“It’s true. Very exciting.”  

The wonderful thing about true love is that it grows deeper and stronger, each day you love more deeply, and are awed by that love. Jesse and I have experienced that increase of love for each other over and over again. Another thing that made our wedding so special, we were no longer young, love struck, love sick, star crossed lovers still in the honeymoon phase where he’s wearing blinders and I’m wearing rose colored glasses, the other is perfect and can do no wrong, the place where most marriages begin. We were already long past the honeymoon stage. His blinders had long since been ripped off and my rose colored glasses shattered. A result and exceedingly good thing to come from the difficult life circumstances we had to overcome, battle, and survive. Philip Thooft, the pastor we asked to officiate and counsel us was quite impressed with where we are at with each other. He had us go through a seminar by Danny Silk, Loving on Purpose, Defining a Relationship, but that was it. He asked us a few questions and after hearing our responses said he felt comfortable with where we were. (Apparently very few couples actually talk about the big important things before they get married: money, sex, children, dreams and goals. Jesse and I had discussed all these things, many times over throughout the years – sometimes leading to arguments and creating doubts.) Our love for one another reached a whole new level in those moments alone. After a few more moments, I have no idea how long it was, Jesse said, “Well, we should find Ben. Keep moving.” 

“Yep.”  

He took my hand in his and led me back along the way I had come. Ben and Haley were waiting discreetly by the start of the path into the windbreak. It was time to continue with the photography. Ben had us turn around and go back along the path, but continue all the way through the windbreak, to the other side. He snapped shots the whole time. Jesse joked about paparazzi. Ben did a fabulous job scouting out good places to do the photos, capturing beautiful farm scenery that lent different things to the photos. First the wheat field. Jesse and I really don’t like photos of ourselves, and Jesse really just doesn’t like to be photographed – he has a hard time being serious and not goofy. There were a few goofy pictures, but otherwise we were just so happy and Ben did such a phenomenal job capturing us that the photos turned out great and Jesse and I had fun doing them. I think it really helped that we had our friends, people who know us, taking the photos, so Jesse and I were at ease. After the wheat field, Ben led us back along the path, through the windbreak, past the tent and turning right, to the granary. (Trying to avoid being noticed by people – there was still activity going on with getting everything done in the tent. And Jesse’s grandma had already arrived.) The granary is a beautiful old building, my favorite on the whole farm. I was happy Ben had thought to do photos with it as a backdrop. He again was just shooting away, sometimes positioning us but other times just photographing us doing our own thing. So he suggested, “How about a kiss?” It felt a little silly and a tinge embarrassing and yet fun and liberating that it was now all of a sudden “ok” to kiss in front of people. Daniel came over and stood with Ben and Haley for a bit. Either Daniel or Jesse pointed out the insects getting caught in the tulle layers of my skirts. I replied, “Well, I took an entomology class so I guess it’s fitting.”  

Daniel said, “That’s the nerdiest thing you’ve ever said, but cute.”   

Isaiah came over and hung around for a few moments, I felt bad because he was on the edge of it and he seemed to want to speak to us. Ben also had us sit on the old loading dock in front of the granary. He actually had Jesse lift me up on to it, which he did quite easily. Then he lifted himself up onto it. There were some posed shots taken here but also Ben just simply caught us reveling in our joy and excitement, and love. Haley threw in the artistic shots, such as our feet. When Ben was ready to move on the steps were mentioned, but it was easier for me to have Jesse lift me up and off the loading dock. We then walked down the driveway, past the sheds, to the furthest one at the end of the main driveway. Isaiah didn’t follow. My heart ached; I knew how hard this was for him. – I was leaving him behind. We had said as children we’d get married at about the same time as each other and the four of us would be great friends. Sadly, and it does pain me, my circle with Jesse and our friends, doesn’t include Isaiah, a disparity of interests. I pray he’ll find his wife and circle too, very soon and maybe then we will all have more in common. 

Next we had to have a couple of photos with the hay bales, being dairy farmers, and already close to the shed. And of course the saga of our love story began on a hay bale. Then, we left the shed, turning right (east) to where the cows grazed, to have a couple of photos with them. Then we walked back westward, past the shed, the greenhouses, to an old Farmall C tractor. Ben had spotted it yesterday and wanted to do a few photos with it. 

“Bethany, is there any way you can get up on the tractor?” He asked. 

“No, between the dress and the shoes, there’s no way I’m getting on it.” Little farmalls don’t have steps. Haley and Jesse protested too, both saying I’d get dirty, worried about oil smudging the dress. Jesse, however, climbed up onto the tractor. We carefully got me close enough to the tractor without touching it to take some photos with it. Haley had some artistic ones taken too. Then we stood aside from the tractor and hugged. Haley had taken my bouquet to do some photos on the tractor and to free our hands. She gave them back before asking us to kiss again. So Jesse held the flowers up blocking the kiss from the view of the camera. Again, having our friends do the photos put us at ease and allowed for really great shots. It was time to wrap it up, time was running away on us and we still had to do photos with the bridal party and family. It was awesome though doing the photos far away from the yard, away from the busyness and other people. We walked around the west end of the greenhouse, between the wheat field and potato patch. Isaiah was waiting for us between the trees in the windbreak. Ben and Haley passed by, but Isaiah stopped Jesse and I. He just desperately had to tell us he was proud of us, loved us, and was happy for us, somewhat hugging us. It was moving for me, especially since it had to be hard for him to say all of that to Jesse.  

We continued on to the yard, turning left by the garage to the backyard where the ceremony would take place. It was time to do the group photos. First, Ben took photos of my sisters and me and then the groomsmen and me. Then Jesse with each of my sisters, individually and then all together, followed by photos with Mom and Larry, then Lars and Karin, grandparents, and siblings. Jesse did a photo with the nephews and I did a photo with the nieces; we should have swapped but we were pressed for time. We did a photo with his parents and siblings and then one adding his brothers in-law and nieces and nephew. We didn’t actually do a photo with just us and my siblings and sadly we didn’t get one with him with his siblings and me with mine. Instead we did photos with each of my married siblings and their families and one later with Isaiah and Jonathan. There were more photos I would have loved to do but we were running out of time since I wanted to be hidden in the house by 4:00 pm, before guests started arriving, and Ben needed to set up the sound. I also would have liked a camera on the kids at all times because they did some really cute things while impatiently waiting. (If I could go back in time and do it again, I would have just had my camera on me and taken those photos myself…why didn’t I?)

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