About an hour’s drive north of Seattle, there is a small farm growing hay and working a few cattle in bucolic pastures on either side of the Snohomish River. The river flows sleepily here, not many miles from where it empties into Puget Sound. Pebble beaches and cottonwood trees line its winding banks. And on a bend in the river next to such a beach, the family maintains their private campground, shaded by cedars, pines, and those enormous cottonwoods.
They gather here every summer for a reunion, lining up their RVs and tents around an open air dance hall, made from the timbers of the old dairy silo. A carefully stoked bonfire burns in a steel half-ton mortar from a nearby rock quarry, once used to crush local stone. The kids twirl sparklers at the river’s edge, guided by tiki torches from camp to beach and back. Sloppy Joes and s’mores are the traditional cuisine.
This year, one tent was decorated differently: the words “Just Married” were spelled out on a hand made sign.
The farm is connected to the bride’s family. I am connected to the groom by way of having painted his brother’s wedding in 2006. None of us can remember how the first couple found out about my services.
I have been to some very elaborate weddings. I’ve been to weddings where a lot of money and effort is spent on creating an appearance of simplicity. But I’ve never painted at such a straight-forward, come-as-you-are, downright joyous celebration. The groom’s mother made an arbor of curly maple and flowers from Michael’s. The bride’s brother went out and got a license so he could marry them. They said the plans grew from there; four groomsmen wore sand colored suits with coral ties and boutonnieres, four bride’s maids wore coral dresses and teal necklaces. The groom’s ten year old son wore a teal bow tie and suspenders with a white shirt and shorts that matched the men’s suits.
As many couples do, they wrote their own vows. The groom’s were so earnest and thoughtful as to inspire me to strive to be a better husband. One line of advice from the officiator will always stay with me. He urged them to support one another’s dreams, “and if those dreams don’t come true, keep supporting until another one comes along.”
And when they kissed, the party began. The dancing went well into the long, warm, starlit night. But by the time of this writing, the couple will have decamped for their honeymoon in Maui.