Farm Wedding: Reception (Part V)

Photo by Haley Hoeppner

We had thought about not having a receiving line but we needed time for people to move chairs to the tent and it was a sure way of greeting each of our guests. Mom was the first person; she hugged each of us in a long embrace. She seemed reluctant to let go of me, although Jonathan is younger than me, I’m still her baby. (A difficult thing anyway, compounded by me being unjustly taken away from her by the State for nine months, from April 6th – December 17th in 2004.) Then Larry gave me a long embrace, also struggling with his girl growing up. He embraced Jesse too. Then we received hugs from Jesse’s parents and sisters. Then my nieces, each waiting their turn to hug me; I gave each of Aleesha’s girls a lingering embrace, not wanting to let go. (Did the girls hug Jesse?) And of course, I had to hug Malachi too, squishing Leo in the process. He gave Jesse a handshake. I only half hugged Seth squishing Kalan. Another half hug from my brother in-law, Eric, who was also holding a toddler, Ember. He shook Jesse’s hand and complimented his singing. Lloyd, another brother in-law, somewhat hugged me around Lakira, no longer a toddler but over three, she was feeling shy too. Lloyd shook Jesse’s hand and told him he was a brave man for singing. I hugged everyone who came through, or was hugged by them. Each person, other than immediate family (with the exception of Aleesha’s girls), told me I was beautiful – and the most humbling thing, I think they actually meant it (more than just it being the thing people say to every bride). Jesse received lots of hugs too and everyone told him how well he sang, almost all of them saying they didn’t know he could sing. We thanked each of them for coming, touched that they wanted to be here to celebrate with us. Everyone had gone through the line and now most milled around over by the tent.  

I sat down on the bench, sitting in front of the house, next to Grandma and Grandpa Benike. Bernadette and Lexie each wanted another hug from me, which I was eager to give, those two are my snuggle bugs. The shoes were killing my feet. Elena was nearby so I asked her, “Elena can you get my other pair of shoes for me? They should be under the clothes rack in the dining room.” She went into the house to fetch my pair of flats. When she returned with them, I asked Jesse, “Babe, will you change my shoes for me”. It was a beautiful, perfect Cinderella moment, Jesse squatting down, gently taking the one pair off and putting on the other. And there was no camera in sight to capture the sweet moment. In fact, other than a couple of the girls and my grandparents no one had witnessed it. Oddly, Jesse and I had a few moments alone, for the most part, before heading toward the tent.  

Photo by Ben Paulson

Unfortunately, there was a wait for everything to be ready for the reception to begin, but it seemed everyone was having a good time mingling and chatting. Mom gave the go ahead to Jason to have Doug have the people to be seated, they’d asked us but I told them to talk to her. So Doug called everyone into the tent to find their seats. He then told everyone they were going to welcome the bridal party, but first he had them tap the table to create a beat. He announced, “Ethan Snyder and Johanna Wright,” they walked in together arms linked. “Adam Polson and Amber Hall,” they walked in arms linked, and then took their places at the table, remaining standing. “Daniel Hoeppner and Aleesha Bartelt.” They were the most joyous and comfortable out of the six. They stood next to their chairs at the table. Before he announced Jesse and me, Doug had everyone change up the beat they were creating on the table, and said something about welcoming an awesome couple. And then he said, “Mr. and Mrs. [Jesse] Polson.” Perhaps it was because I was with Jesse or the heightened joy but this entrance was less nerve racking than walking down the aisle for the ceremony had been. I still couldn’t believe it, we’re married now. My hand in Jesse’s; we strode into the tent like celebrities on a red carpet, but with way more joy. Jesse led me around the table to my spot. I have sat at the head table of a wedding a couple of times but never in the middle, actually nowhere near the middle but at the very end, so this was really awesome too. Aleesha took my bouquet and placed it in a vase in front of but between us, and then she and Jesse helped me sit down without catching my skirts under the chair. Sitting down and moving the chair in close enough to the table was a challenge. Doug handed the microphone to Pastor Ken, for him to say a prayer before the meal. Ken is another beloved pastor whose love blessed Isaiah and I. With that the guests were instructed on how to go about getting their food.  

Photo by Ben Paulson

Let the celebration begin! – with feasting and merriment. Food was brought to the bridal table in serving dishes: A fresh salad, roasted vegetables, tomato salad, pork loin, wild rice salad, bread and wine. All grown locally, right here in Minnesota; the wild rice hand harvested by Larry and friends, from a Minnesota lake. The food was absolutely phenomenal and impressed our guests. I wish I could have eaten more of it, but I was full. As the guests stood in line for food, most of them passed the bridal table so we were able to greet them again. It felt odd sitting down and eating while people stood there across the table from us, waiting for food. It also felt strange being on display, but also wonderful being the bride. One of my cousin’s kids while they were moving along in line blew out each of the candles on the bridal table as she passed them. And of course, throughout the meal, people kept clinking their glasses to get us to kiss. Seriously, why is that a thing? 

Photo by Ben Paulson

Paul Meyers, a cousin in-law to Jesse, came up behind us to greet us. He said, “Parking people was a challenge, they thought they needed to park on the road.” 

Jesse replied, “The fact that we didn’t know it was going on means you did your job well, Paul.” 

Before long, it was time for speeches. Daniel told us months ago that he was giving a speech whether we wanted him to or not. He led in the speech giving – and did it well; striking a balance between humorous and serious. Of course he had to talk about how long we had dated – “People were born and lived whole lives…when Jesse and Bethany started dating, I didn’t even like girls. Now I’m married to one.” Eight years today. He also told of Jesse telling him about me when we first started dating, how I had big arms and could move hay bales. There was a lot more Daniel could have said, he had been there through it all, prayed for us, and spent a lot of time with us, but we didn’t want the speeches to go too long. Daniel was bummed though that he forgot to say Jesse was the brother he never had. Before he finished, Daniel had everyone raise their 

glass for a toast. Jesse stood up to hug Daniel. Aleesha’s turn. She didn’t say much but the fact she said something at all was enough for me. While she was speaking, Leo sneaked around the end of the table and up behind us, lifted his arms up for Aleesha to pick him up. He’d gotten away from his siblings to find mommy. Aleesha expertly and gracefully picked him up without skipping a beat in her speech. Within moments of picking him up, Leo was asleep on her shoulder. I’m not sure if anyone else noticed him but it was so our family, always a baby or toddler in tow. Larry, Mom, and Lars all spoke too. Shortly after the speeches, Mom had Doug announce that there was plenty of food left over, particularly pork, so people should go back for more. And people did. Between greeting guests going by, Jesse and I talked to each other – about the food, and the people. The only conversation Jesse and I were able to have was with each other and Aleesha and Daniel; everyone else it was just a passing greeting. Aleesha said she liked our choice in music; Jesse made a playlist for the reception and another one for the dance. We felt bad that we weren’t able to interact with our guests more but the bride and groom are always too busy for that. (We had to tier our guest list, some people were invited to the reception only to keep the ceremony small and more intimate.) I can’t recall if there was an announcement for dessert or not, but that was more relaxed then getting the actual meal. Jesse and I were talking about getting pie and cookies when a cousin of his standing nearby asked if we would like him to get it for us. Of course we said yes. While people were eating their dessert, chatting, some (mainly kids) played yard games, Phil, Daniel, Aleesha, Amber and Adam signed the marriage license. Daniel and Haley agreed to mail it for us.  

With people fed and milling about, it was time to start the dance. Doug made the announcement for the first dance. Jesse and I like to dance but we aren’t dancers and weren’t too comfortable with the idea of people watching us dance, just the two of us, all eyes on us; so we told Doug to have our bridal party and their spouses (girlfriend in Adam’s case) join us half way through the dance. As our first song, we chose “I Swear” by John Michael Montgomery. Poor Johanna though, was without her husband, Eric had to leave early; so she danced with Ember instead, her two year old daughter. I barely noticed the others dancing with us; I looked over at them just briefly, only long enough to know they were there and that Jesse and I were no longer dancing alone. I was hardly aware of people watching us dance. I really only noticed Jesse, his arms wrapped around me, hands on my back, singing along. Still amazed we were now married. I leaned my head into his shoulder and closed my eyes, enjoying the feel of his strong chest against me. Listening to the lyrics of one of my favorite love songs, which took on a whole new meaning after I’d fallen in love with Jesse. This was contentment. We’d finally made it. The ceremony was beautiful, the food was amazing, people were enjoying themselves, so now we could relax and have fun. He looked down into my eyes, and I looked up at him. At that moment, I think we were actually the only two people there. But not star crossed lovers, no, we were battle tested over years lovers. It certainly felt like we’d earned the right to marry. The song ended. Jesse had to relinquish me to Larry for the father daughter dance.  

Photo by Ben Paulson

There was a lot of heartache in trying to find a father daughter song that would be appropriate for Larry and me. And as I passed over songs that I absolutely loved but wouldn’t work, such as “My little girl” by Tim McGraw and “I loved her first” (my favorite), I had cried and once again became filled with anger toward my dad. I was also frustrated that I couldn’t find a good song about a stepdad or a fill in dad of any type. But then I found “My wish” by Rascal Flatts. The song was absolutely perfect, bittersweet, sad and happy, slow and one of my favorites. When I played it for Mom and told her it was the song I’d chosen for Larry and me to dance to, she said, “he’ll cry and I’m going to cry.” Tears were already filling her eyes.  

Photo by Ben Paulson

As Larry replaced Jesse as my partner on the grassy dance floor, there was no remorse over who danced with me as my father. In every way that counts, Larry is my real daddy and I was happy to have him there taking on that role of honor. Larry sang along with some of the song. Happiness and contentment, pure joy, were the feelings that filled me now. I have an awesome husband. I am far from fatherless; aside from Larry, I have Lars, Phil, and several others. I am a lucky woman. I was never without a Mom, and yet I’ve gained so many of those too. And you know, I didn’t even think about my missing biological father all afternoon and evening – so many had taken his place. The dance came to an end. Larry gave me a big hug and disappeared. Jesse was immediately beside me again. Ben wanted a couple more photos of us, set against the descending sun; so we reluctantly left the dance to go back to the wheat field. (We also took a photo with Isaiah and Jonathan because we hadn’t earlier and a photo with my Uncle Don, my only biological uncle, my dad’s brother, who has been very kind to me over the years.) Before we resumed our place on the dance floor, I took off my shoes by the gift table. 

Photo by Ben Paulson

Now all our obligations, performances for everyone gathered were through, Jesse and I were finally able to relax and celebrate for ourselves. We danced. It was our playlist and we wanted to dance every dance. (The string wasn’t strong enough to hold my skirt up in a bustle, so if I did anything more than slow dancing I had to hold up my skirts so I didn’t step on them.) Perhaps it was the one thing that was truly for us. Our closest friends and family joined us. Jason made a point to dance with each of his daughters. Ever the gentleman, Malachi pulled Therese out on the dance “floor”; I thought it an extraordinarily sweet gesture – and how many older brothers would do that for their little sisters without being asked? Amber danced with her son Jadion, who’d just turned five the past week. We received compliments from our friends about the music selection. It was the first time in my entire life I danced in public without feeling awkward; even at other weddings, dancing with Jesse, I felt awkward and stiff, I was tense. Tonight that was totally gone, I wasn’t stiff, I didn’t feel awkward or uncomfortable. Why? Was it joy and happiness that did it? Or being married? What had banished those feelings of awkwardness and discomfort? I have no idea, but it was definitely absent and so very liberating! I basked in the love and joy of Jesse’s. Maybe it was just simply joy. We didn’t just dance with each other; we also danced with our nieces. A couple of them, and I can’t remember who came first, came near and I took one’s hand, she took the hand of the other, and Jesse took hers and then a couple more joined the circle. I think we had Lexie, Isabel, Bernadette, Amirianna, and perhaps Elena in our dance circle. It warmed my heart to have Jesse dancing with my nieces and enjoying them; it felt like in that moment, they had become his nieces too. We also danced with his (our) niece Lilian. Friends and other family danced around us. Jadion danced solo nearby. Daniel was jealous of Jadion’s dance moves, a five year old showing him up. Very few of our guests danced, but those who did had a blast and it was really for Jesse and I to celebrate. All of the people who danced were those that were quite close to Jesse and me. The dance was a wonderful, intimate conclusion to a beautiful, soul-stirring day. (Sad that there were a few people missing that I really wanted there; the one I ached for most was my niece, Faith.) My heart was full. Papa, God, had gone all out for me. Perhaps the most breathtaking, wondrous thing about the whole wedding, God cared immensely that the day, the decorations, the photos, the ceremony, the reception, the dance, be beautiful and everything I’d hoped it would be. He had been looking forward to this wedding too. And it was stunning. It had taken lots of prayers and a small army, but we did it. Finishing with a dance was absolutely perfect. I mean honestly, when you’re super happy and just received your heart’s desire, don’t you just want to break into a little jig? We danced and the world disappeared.  

It was growing late, the guests had dwindled away; some came to congratulate us, give hugs, and say their goodbyes, before they left. Now close friends and family were all that remained. Though we had plenty more songs yet to go through but with the late hour it was time to surrender the day and call an end to the festivities. I told my nieces that they could each pick a bouquet or two of flowers to have; they all lit right up with this simple gesture. I gave Therese my bouquet, which made her beam, but told her to promise me she would wait at least ten years.  

Photo by Ben Paulson

My sisters, nieces, nephews, and I’m not sure who all else helped clean up, take food into the house. It felt strange that Jesse and I weren’t helping and weren’t expected to help with the clean up – it went on around us without us being involved in any way. We didn’t have to take charge or manage; everything was being taken care of. And as far as I could tell, everyone was doing so willingly and joyfully. Ethan volunteered to take the suits back. Jesse and I just had to get ready to leave. The first thing first though, we needed to change. We went into Jonathan’s house. I got a bit side tracked by the situation in the living room – most of the little kids, ages five and down, were asleep on the couches, Jason asleep with them. It was so cute and so precious that I had to go back to the kitchen for my camera and then returned and took a picture. Originally my plan had been we’d change in the room I got ready in but upon seeing the uncovered windows, Jesse wanted to change elsewhere, despite me telling him no one was going to look in. Everyone who wasn’t busy cleaning up was asleep on the couches in the living room. Also, given the height of the windows, it would be quite challenging to peek in them. So instead we took our clothes over to Mom’s and into her room. 

Now this was another beautiful, wondrous, intimate moment. Mom came in with us to unhook and unbutton my dress, since Jesse was nervous about being clumsy with his bigger fingers and wrecking the dress, so Mom did it for him and then slipped out of the room. My heart fluttered. This moment took our relationship to an astounding new level as Jesse slid the straps of the dress off my shoulders and helped me step out of it. I shivered, partly from delight and excitement, and suddenly, I was a tad cool. I unbuttoned his shirt. We were now husband and wife; crazy how much some spoken words and a legal document changes everything. We were beholding each other in a whole new way; our relationship, intimacy had become deeper and soared to new heights, and to think there was even more to come. We didn’t linger long, Ethan needed the suit and we needed to load my stuff in the car. Jesse had had Jonathan hide our car just in case anyone had ideas about vandalizing it; so before we’d gone in to change, we’d asked him to bring it up by the house so we could load it up. It was parked there waiting for us. We grabbed my stuff from my room and packed it into the car, going through the checklist. Jonathan filled up a five gallon water cooler for us and put it in the trunk. Mariya, a niece, got my camera and phone from Jonathan’s house; yes, I hadn’t had my phone on me or anywhere near me since just before Judy started doing my hair. My nieces and nephews were still carrying in pies and books.  

Johanna hugged Jesse while we were still by the car, welcoming him to the family. We congregated on or around the deck. Tony apologized that he came late. We’d hugged Daniel and Haley; I think they were the last to leave besides my siblings. Mom and Aleesha had put leftover food into containers to divide up between them. Amber’s kids were giving everyone hugs; they were headed off too, back to Virginia. And so we were sent off not with a shower of rice but hugs. Each of my siblings and nieces and nephews (except for Seth and Tony) gave me hugs – all of Aleesha’s girls gave me lingering hugs.  

Photo by Haley Hoeppner

Besides the moments alone with Jesse, the building anticipation, basking in the joy and realization it was finally our wedding day, and then that we’re finally married, there were some other really amazing moments throughout that I will always hold dear. Xavier’s happiness about just the two of us having a picture taken together. Elena was in tears because she spilled lemonade on her dress. My sisters helped me with whatever I needed. My brother-in-law, Lloyd, said, “You’re a beautiful woman, Bethany,” after the dance, somehow it felt the most special of everyone telling me I was a beautiful bride. Little kids who didn’t know me wanted to hug me because I was a beautiful bride. And one of those kids, a boy named Paul, danced alongside us, thoroughly enjoying himself, by himself. When it was time for him to leave, he came up alongside of me to get my attention to tell me that he was leaving and gave me a departing hug. Our closest friends, Becky and Freddy, and Daniel and Haley danced near us. Dancing with my nieces and watching Malachi dance with his sisters. Thanking Jason for being master of ceremony and his reply, “No problem; it wasn’t much” – he did a lot. Walking up the deck steps, Therese said, “Aunt Bethany, you really are the most beautiful bride I’ve seen.” I could have cried! “Aww, thank you,” I hugged her. And Elena weighed in, “to be fair, we haven’t been to very many weddings.” Thanks, Elena. But it was precious all the same. Receiving a text from a friend reading, “Great day! Everything was beautiful, especially you! Congrats!,” with a photo of Jesse and me walking down the aisle.  

And then there were all the wondrous little morsels that I heard about later. On Saturday night, when Rachel and Haley took over pie making for my sisters, Mom overheard Rachel ask Haley if she was going to cry at the wedding and Haley responded, “ of course.” While Jesse was waiting for the go ahead to turn around to see me in my dress for the first time, he was really worried he wouldn’t like the dress, that the makeup and hairstyle would be over the top and he wouldn’t like it. Mom had overheard him say, “What if I don’t like the dress?” She assured him he’d love it. Isaiah told me later, while we were off on our photo shoot, Daniel paced by his car, practicing his speech. Isaiah said it was cute and thought it was great that we had someone who cared so much for us. Waiting for the ceremony to begin, Jesse didn’t just disappear to go to the bathroom but went downstairs to Isaiah’s apartment to get away from the chaos upstairs and to practice the song one more time. My sisters helped Jason line up the kids to walk down the aisle. Isabel was mad at Sylvia while they walked down. People oohed and awed over the girls’ dresses. Karin cried after hugging Jesse, as she turned to take her seat (and Ben caught it on camera!). Lars cried. Mom cried. Larry cried. After escorting my mom, Jesse forgot he was supposed to stay up there and started to head back up. Daniel thought about going over and picking up Jesse’s lyric sheets when they blew off the stand but decided against it. People thought the ceremony beautiful, others described it as lovely. Shirley, Jesse’s grandma, said it was the most beautiful wedding she’s ever attended. Grandma Benike was delighted that her dress matched the little girls’ dresses. People asked Mom how we managed to come up with such a good looking group for the bridal party, and received compliments on how beautiful my sisters were. Lot of people, ladies, commented to Mom on my dress and how it was so me, like it had been made just for me. Isaiah, Jonathan and Mom received lots of comments on how beautiful the farm looked, that it was a lovely and beautiful location for a wedding. (My brothers also heard people say how beautiful the whole bridal party was and the bride.) People complimented Jesse’s hair. The food was praised so much, people told me how delicious it was while we were at another wedding. At least a couple people loved our book selections. The decorations were praised. (Anna described the decorations as having, “a romantic, woodland, fairy wedding vibe.” She wrote in her blog, “Seeing their personalities and stories come together in the details was so sweet…I love how soft and dreamy Bethany’s dress was.” And, “Jesse surprised us all and sang “If I Stand,” by Rich Mullins. He did a great job and was definitely a highlight of the ceremony.”… “Everyone worked together, each using their talents and skills, and a beautiful wedding was the result.”) Xavier danced with Madison, classmates and second cousins. Jesse said only twenty percent of the people danced but Mom said the people who didn’t dance had just as much fun watching the dancing. Mom also said people really enjoyed themselves and had a lot of fun. Jesse said later, “I know it’s cliché, but while we were dancing, I wasn’t aware that people were watching us.” We received praises for using real plates. And many people wondered at the lack of biting insects, there really weren’t any. (I had prayed there would be no biting insects flying around the areas of the yard we were using for the wedding.) People in the community who weren’t even there mentioned to Mom that the food was fabulous and everything was beautiful. It was like the best dream becoming reality. Another awesome thing about our wedding was the variety of people present and that so many of them knew each other outside of knowing us. A whole community came together to celebrate with us.

Photo by Ben Paulson

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