Our Surprise Wedding - June 2014

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Three years ago today, I married my best friend.  He's an amazing partner and father, and I often ask myself how I got this lucky.  In celebration of our third anniversary, I wanted to share the story of our unconventional backyard wedding.  Enjoy!

On a rainy summer day three years ago, my best friend and I exchanged vows and rings in front of our friends and family in our backyard. Never ones for the ordinary, our celebration was actually a surprise, as our guests thought they were attending my 30th birthday party! 

Let's rewind a bit, shall we?  When the topic of marriage came up, we both wanted something simple and wanted to avoid the big to-dos that come with big weddings.  After recently combining houses, the last thing we needed was another toaster or crockpot, so we wanted to make sure we wouldn't get any gifts.  Drawing some inspiration from one of our favorite television shows, a surprise wedding ceremony seemed like the perfect idea for us.

One of the first calls we made was to Woody's Smoke Shack for catering.  Several of our early dates were at Woody's and their award-winning barbecue made it the easiest decision. One minor drawback; the owners are family friends of my parents!  After swearing Cheryl and Woody to secrecy, we picked out our favorite foods and enough to feed a small army.  

We sketched out plans to transform our backyard into a wedding venue, adding a privacy fence and ordering tables and chairs.  Since the cover for the party was a surprise party celebrating my 30th birthday, we had to be creative with invitations.  Most of our friends were invited via Facebook event, others by email, and a others received an actual invitation for the surprise birthday party.

A week before our big day, we needed to apply for a marriage license when we remembered our county publishes them in the local paper.  With our newly-ordained friend as our witness, we drove to the next county over, and told them about our surprise wedding.  We were nearly busted a few days before the wedding when James returned to pick up the license and he ran into a friend who works in the county courthouse!  Making up a somewhat-plausible excuse, the friend offered to accompany him in the recorder's office - uh oh!  He was explaining his false reason to the clerk, (who was thoroughly confused) until the friend was out of earshot and he whispered what he was really there for, and the clerk discretely found the license for him.  It was a close call!

The week of our wedding we finished up a few backyard projects, printing programs, purchased flowers from Trader Joe's and drinks from the grocery store.  The forecast looked more and more like rain, so we added a jumbo tent to our order from AtoZ Rental.

My best friend since childhood was expecting her second baby, and I asked if she'd stop by after work on Wednesday, and I let her in on the secret and asked if she'd stand up with me.  Tracey and I shared happy tears and it made me even more excited - it seemed so real to tell people!  James, his daughter, and I spent the night before putting together center pieces and making bouquets.  Around midnight we went to bed, taking time to write our personalized vows to each other.

Saturday morning, we woke up and got a jump start on our to-do list.  As we started setting up, our dear family friend Judy stopped by with flowers and a balloon, so we quickly scrambled to hide everything.  My sister had been tasked with taking me out to lunch - remember, she thought it was a surprise birthday party!  My mom had asked what I was doing on my birthday and I lied, telling her that Meredith and I were going out to lunch and that James wanted me out of the house while my birthday present was delivered, and that I thought it was a hot tub.  Oh the tangled webs we weave!  So a little before noon my sister arrived to take me to lunch when I asked, "Will you be my maid of honor?" She squealed "YES!  Are we going to Vegas?" and I replied:

"The wedding is tonight.  I know about the surprise party, 

and we've got hair appointments in twenty minutes."

She was overjoyed and asked what to wear, so we went to her place to grab a black dress.  In true little sister form, the dress she picked was actually one of mine, she had stolen it!  Then it was off for our hair appointments followed by lunch.  My friend Melissa had been in on the plan for about six months and by some miracle happened to still be in town, and she joined us briefly at the salon before heading home to get ready as my third bridesmaid.  Meanwhile, James and his daughter set up the tent, tables, and centerpieces before cleaning up.

After a couple quick stops, we collected my future bonus kid and met up with Tracey for manicures as the caterers and guests arrived back home.  James kept a close eye on the weather from our home office and he kept the tent structurally sound by clearing the rain that had collected.  Our friend and photographer Sarah Franczyk captured all the details, with special instructions to capture our parents' expressions at the big announcement.  

All photos provided by Sarah Franczyk - Sarah B Photography.

Our guests mingled inside our home as they waited for the rain to pass.  When the time came, we made the drive back to the house, and I was full of excitement.   James greeted me in front of our house with an umbrella and we made our way around to our side gate.  Everyone shouted surprise and I pretended to be shocked - trying to hide my giddiness at what was going to happen next.  

After a few minutes, James took the microphone and thanked everyone for coming and announced that we were liars because they weren't here for a birthday party, they were here for a wedding!  My mom's reaction was absolutely priceless! My parents had returned from vacation a day earlier than they originally planned after James had visited and told them about the birthday party.  
James asked his three closest friends to meet us inside as his groomsmen.  Tracey, Melissa, Meredith and my soon-to-be Bonus Kid joined us inside to get ready, and  my mom helped me pick out my dress.  I had ordered three off-white dresses, and she picked the perfect dress for me to wear.  James shirt had been soaked by the rain, so he put on a white knitted shirt and grabbed similar shirts for his groomsmen to wear while the rest of our friends mingled outside.  Melissa's husband Joey was a huge help by setting up a spot under the crab apple tree and spreading extra cedar chips so we didn't have to stand in the mud.

Without a rehearsal, I had made a list of the order we'd process in.  As the rain changed to a slight mist, I queued up the music and our short ceremony began.  Our guests stayed huddled under the tent and umbrellas, we exchanged our vows and rings and said 'I do' and then the party started!  We ate, drank and danced until long after the sun went down.  Our first dance as husband and wife was to Etta James' At Last, fitting for this moment after a decade of friendship.  Despite the rain, it was an absolutely perfect day.  Enjoy these photos, courtesy of Sarah B. Photography.

Happy Anniversary to my best guy!

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