Wedding in the Woods

Photo by Paulina Sliwa. Fabric for Sophie's dress is from her grandmother's first sari.

It finally happened. After all the planning and discussing and deciding, the list-making and ordering and organizing, on Sunday Sophie and Henry got married.

(click on the thumbnails to see full size)

Saturday afternoon we gathered at Camp Kiwanee, on a lake south of Boston. Think tall pine, rustic cabins, picnic tables encircling a fire pit. Garlands of ribbons were strung between the trees. We swam, played games, visited, shared grilled goodies and a feast of potluck sides and desserts, sprayed on bug repellent and built a fire.

By the time we got around to making the flower arrangements for the wedding lunch tables, it was dark, so we worked by flashlight, grabbing random stalks of Queen Ann’s lace, sweet William, zinnia, daisy, and dozens of other multicolored varieties from their tubs, cutting the stems to size, and planting them in the field of mason jars that covered the table. We figured that whatever we did would look great, and when we came back to look by light of day, we weren’t disappointed.

The main event happened late Sunday morning, on the porch of the lodge. The lake behind created a beautiful setting, if an extra challenge for all the nice people who’d brought their cameras.

The ceremony blended elements from Sophie and Henry’s religious backgrounds and political principles, without mentioning any gods or being explicit about the politics. A friend officiated, certified for the occasion by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The chuppah they stood under was a bedspread crocheted by Henry’s great-great grandmother, supported by poles Sophie’s brother fashioned from driftwood he gathered on the banks of the Hudson and then cut, buffed and oiled. A vase of white roses memorialized three pairs of grandparents. Indian designs on the floor, stenciled in chalk dust, marked the specialness of the space, and the occasion.

Photo by Paulina Sliwa

We sang “Enter, Rejoice and Come in,” a Unitarian hymn Henry’s mom remembers hearing when she was pregnant. We heard excerpts from Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the decision that made marriage equality legal in Massachusetts, parts of Kahlil Gibran’s “On Marriage,”  and Charles Darwin’s notes to himself on the pros and cons of getting married (con: less money for books; pro: a soft wife on the sofa). A friend performed a stunning rendition of Bellini’s “Vaga luna, che inargenti,”  accompanied by another friend on keyboard.

After the vows and the exchange of rings, guests read a reworked version of the Jewish Seven Blessings (a process I described here.)

Sophie’s grandmother performed a Zoroastrian blessing. A silver tray held a variety of symbols, which she explained: rice for plenty; fish for festive feasting; cloves, nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon for savoring life; pomegranate – for its tartness, to add zest and color to life; betel nut – for life’s more astringent and bitter passages (with hopes that these be few); and coconut, sugar, nuts and raisin for times of plenty and sweetness (with hopes that these be many). She hung flower garlands around Sophie and Henry’s necks, marked their foreheads with red kumkum paste and tossed rice over them. To ward off evil, she broke an egg at their feet.

Then Isaac pronounced them married, they stamped on a pair of wine glasses, and everyone applauded.

Lunch was delicious barbecue, followed by delicious pie.

People made toasts. In mine, I recalled the first time Sophie and Henry met, eight years ago. We were dropping Sophie off at college. Just as we climbed out of the car, another first-year student came walking up the sidewalk between his parents. He looked at Sophie and said, “Sophie?” and she looked at him and said, “Henry!” They had already met online, and recognized each other in person right away. I had been a little apprehensive about my older child leaving home, but, as I said in my toast, Henry’s warm greeting reassured me that she would be among friends.

I talked about the attributes that make these two such good friends (caring for each other, giving each other space, enjoying each other, being similarly serious while not taking themselves too seriously), and suggested that a strong friendship makes a good foundation for a strong marriage. Finally, I thanked Sophie for bringing Henry and his family into our family, and thanking Henry for reassuring me that now, as I watch Sophie embark on this next phase in her life, she will be among friends once again.

Among all the planning and discussing and deciding, the list-making and ordering and organizing, figuring out my toast was one of the easiest thing I had to do. I just told the truth.

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4 Responses to “Wedding in the Woods”

  1. nomi Says:

    Very moving, thank you for sharing this…

  2. Amalia Gladhart Says:

    A lovely description of a very thoughtfully designed wedding.

  3. Robin Herskowitz Heald Says:

    Oh Ruth,
    Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were celebrating Sophie’s first birthday, and she was calling me “Rah.” I loved reading what you wrote. The photos are fabulous. Thank you for sharing.

    Robin (aka Rah)

  4. My End-of-Year Meta-blog « Giving Up The Ghost Says:

    […] is when readers do it for me, on their own. Nothing makes me happier than hearing, “I sent your post about you daughter’s wedding to my […]

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