Dale & CoralThis post has nothing, really, to do with life in Alaska, besides maybe some side-notes about the shock of going back “Outside,” as we say. (Did you know that there are restaurants that won’t let you in if you’re not dressed nicely enough? I had forgotten. And there are mosquitos in October! And [marginally] more sedans than SUVs! And old southern ladies who are passive-aggressively mean to you just for having bright purple hair! And, most importantly, cheap and plentiful fresh food, especially fruit! What a strange place.)

Instead, I want to write about what a lovely place Janes Island State Park is and how nice it is to have had the ceremony we always intended to have–even if it was a year and a half after what we call “our paper wedding” (a very nice ceremony, itself, made all the nicer by Dale’s immediate family; but not really the real one, in our minds, even if it was the legal one). And, if I’m feeling sentimental, I might wax melancholy about how many wonderful people live much too far away–not that there’s anywhere we could live and be near everyone we care about, or even necessarily most of the people we care about, but, wow, are there great people, living at great distances from one another!

The Location

So, the park. First off, the main question we got was “How did you find this place?” Sometimes, it was delivered in a pleasant tone, as if to say “It’s lovely and very well suited to this kind of event, but you live awfully far away to have known that.” Other times, there was an edge of “It’s so freaking far from everything!” … Which I can understand, I guess, because I remember thinking of 180-390 miles (the range of distances our east coast friends and relatives traveled) as a long way, too. I mean, it sort of is a long way. But it wasn’t really that far off the beaten path; it’s right near Ocean City, after all. And his whole family is concentrated in one place, so they could ride together (and several did). Pittsburgh friends could ride together. Some of my family could ride together (and a couple did). (Also, we flew 12 hours to get there. Our Californian friends also had to fly, of course. So, while we understood the complaint and were at least abstractly sympathetic, we didn’t actually apologize for the length of anyone’s drive. ;))

We wanted to be fair, distance-wise, to the CT and VA contingents–we did look in both places, but nowhere really met our requirements (enough space for a large guest list [which ended up being less of a problem than anticipated], alcohol permits available, cover in case of rain, cooking facilities, real restrooms [look, Pittsburgh’s parks don’t have those, so it was a thing we searched for]). At some point, it became obvious that the Chesapeake Bay, while not truly equidistant (my family had a bit of an edge), was at least reasonably equitable, travel-wise. More importantly, I have spent some of my very happiest times by the Bay and have a surprisingly strong emotional attachment to it, given how far away from it I actually grew up. Dale was more or less neutral about the Bay, liking the general idea of a body of water, but not having direct experience with that particular one, himself. So we started focusing our search there, and we came up with Janes Island. My dad (who was, by the way, amazing, in all of the prep work he did, along with my stepdad, Mike, and my pretend half-brother, Ray [long story] — this whole thing would so not have happened, at least not nearly as well, without their part in planning) did a recon mission and took a bunch of photos. And we decided that was the place!

Seriously, I want to go back and do a vacation there again. Beautiful location. The Conference Center, as they call it, has room for 16 people to sleep (if you can find 8 who want to sleep on top bunks, anyway :)) and room for at least 65 indoor partiers. There’s no drinking outdoors, which is a minor bummer, but our guests didn’t seem to mind. The three cabins around the Conference Center each have room for up to 3 couples. There’s air conditioning. There are kitchens–the one in the Conference Center had a really sweet oven, too! It was well-stocked, in terms of cooking equipment, and had a full-size freezer and a full-size fridge. Upscale appliances aside, there’s sort of a rustic feel to the whole thing, which suited us fine. And there’s a dock for fishing–or, as we used it, for enjoying sunsets and watching wildlife. We saw herons, egrets, hawks, an eagle, several tiny crabs, a bunch of mussels and oysters, snails, many (many!) little fish, and some honest to goodness blue birds! The only complaint I could possibly make, besides maybe the outdoor-drinking, is that it was so windy on the day before and the day of the wedding. And it was so still the following two days–people wouldn’t have recognized the place!

Preparation

As far as our guest list, we invited a whole lot of people. Honestly, we got a bit out of hand, when we were planning whom to invite. We’d have been delighted if they all could have made it, but we also would have been hard-pressed to fit them all in and around the Conference Center. We’d have needed to spring for a pavilion (which they have, but they close at dark and are something like half a mile away), on top of it. Or something. Anyway, a bit more than half of our guests RSVP’d. We knew the “no” responders weren’t coming, but the standard number for non-RSVPers showing up anyway is around 10-20% (and there were several we knew would be there, even if they didn’t say so), meaning we needed to build in an error margin of something like 5-10 people. Then, of the 60-70 who said “yes” or “probably,” about 30 of them either emailed us in the two weeks before the wedding to say they couldn’t be there, or they just totally didn’t show up, with no word. To our great surprise, nobody from the non-RSVPers showed. Out of the people who came, only 3 or 4 had been in touch to say they were bringing a potluck item and what, so we were convinced people had missed the “this is a potluck” memo. … Which I only mention in hopes that our parents see this and stop thinking I’m insane for how much food we bought and cooked. Seriously. It was way too much. We had so many fewer people than we were expecting (40ish, out of up to 80), and pretty much everyone brought something (though, if we hadn’t done at least some of that cooking beforehand, everyone would have mostly had cheese and cookies to eat–and there would have been major fights over the chicken. :)).

I way over-planned some aspects of the food (my plan being to have nearly enough for 60-70 people, if possible, in case of potluck failure), and I way under-planned others. We brought many kitchen supplies (“we,” here, includes our families, who all shared a Google Doc full of equipment we’d need–very little of it came from Alaska, though some did) that the park already had. We neglected other supplies, such as a pizza peel, which it turns out is really necessary for making recipes from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. (Boy was my bread ugly.) We over-purchased some foods, due to miscommunications, and we missed a couple of others we needed. But it sort of worked out.

Celebration

Anyway, as far as the party aspect of it goes, I think everyone had a great time. I know we did! I feel bad that we probably didn’t split our time equitably between everyone who came, opting instead to just do what seemed fun at the time and hoping we’d run into everyone at least a couple of times. There was a fire (at least for a couple of hours), and there were pictures on the deck, and there was crazy dancing (no, really, we danced like idiots :)), and there was chatting on the dock and in the kitchen and all over. It was very fun. A number of people got into some boardgames, or card games, or something–which makes me happy, because we have some introverted friends, who probably appreciated that more than the dancing, at least. The smokers all hung out on the deck in the evening (I felt bad about closing the door on them over and over, but it all kept trying to blow indoors). The dancers had lots of space. The drinkers were … everywhere, I think. And I know of one group who decided a walk was just the thing and seemed to enjoy that, as well. Something for everyone, it turns out.

And as far as the ceremony goes, it was pretty much exactly what we had hoped for. Due to the wind, we held it indoors, in the beautifully decorated meeting room that later served as our dance hall. (We’d been hoping to have it on the dock, but it was not to be.) Our friend Warren officiated and did an amazing job. The first reading was an excerpt from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court 2003 decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, legalizing gay marriage, which I’ll include below; it was read by Dale’s sister, Meghan. The second was The Day the Saucers Came, by Neil Gaiman, read by our friend Marc. And the third was an excerpt from Robert Fulghum’s book True Love, the last couple lines of which keep being misattributed to Dr. Seuss, on the internet, read by our friend Jen. My bouquet was daisies and statis, held in a mug. (Well, the florist cut the stems pretty short.)

We wrote our own vows–or, well, at least remixed them. I was so totally blown away by Dale’s reading of our vows (if I ever manage to post the video, you’ll see what I mean) that I completely stumbled through my own. And we both botched a word, which is funny. But it was nice to have chosen for ourselves what promises to make to one another.

And it was all very sweet and just a little strange, which suits us.

Thank Yous

We owe some serious props: of course, to my dad and Mike and Ray, as I said before, for so many things, including decorations and a sound system and alcohol; to our moms for their help in pulling together cooking materials and in preparing the [way too much] food and also for all of the kitchen cleanup they did after the fact; to Dale’s dad for making both fire and ice; to our wonderful officiant, Warren, and his amazing wife Diana, for officiating and taking video, respectively (and for being generally awesome); to our fabulous readers, Meghan, Marc, and Jen, for being willing to read the weird and political things we gave them–and for doing it so well; to our super sweet friend Jason, for his help with, um, everything on the day of (my mom just keeps raving about his helpfulness, no joke); to DJ and Ian for all of the carrying we had them do, which, it turns out, was a whole lot; to my cousin Lauren and (again) DJ for the beautiful photos they took; and to everyone who showed up, brought potluck items, gave us drinks throughout the evening, and made the day so thoroughly enjoyable with their presence. We had a great time, and we hope that everyone else did, too.

And now, we’re nesting in the new house. Our next post will probably be about that. :)

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court excerpt:

“Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family. Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.

It is undoubtedly for these concrete reasons, as well as for its intimately personal significance, that civil marriage has long been termed a ‘civil right.’ Without the right to choose to marry, one is excluded from the full range of human experience.”

The excerpt from Robert Fulghum’s book True Love:

“I think what we mean by “weird” is that we wouldn’t do something like that or that’s not love to us. Or else it’s weird because we’ve added our imagination to the story–details and motives and reactions–that are not really in the story as written but in our minds as readers. The story isn’t weird, we are.

“A psychiatrist once told me that if we knew exactly what went on in the minds of the apparently normal people around us all the time we would run for our lives. Or if our friends and families knew what happened in our own secret minds, they would have us arrested. But when we’re in control of our weirdness and it works in our favor, that makes us at least appear normal.

“Recently I went to a Friday evening Big Band Dance in Seattle. Hundreds of couples waltzing and two-stepping and fox-trotting around. Tall blond stick of a woman dancing up close and tight with a a huge fat guy with tattooed bald head and a bushy beard. Weird. Across the floor, an ancient couple–Asian–dressed almost exactly alike in khaki pants, plaid shirts, and tennis shoes–wrapped in each other’s arms like vines–not dancing, just swaying to the music. Weird. Beyond them, a flashy young woman dancing like she was in a chorus line, while her dull little man stood in one place like a ship anchored in a storm. She kissed him between pirouettes. He just grinned and held on. Weird. Everywhere–weird love.

“There were no glamorous couples–no perfect matches–but so what?

“You want my opinion? We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness – and call it love – true love.”

Dale & me on the dock

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