Wedding #3: Matt & Mandy, September 27-29
What you need to know about Matt: Matt and I have known each other since 2003, when we met in Co-Choir. Matt is an honest man. He confessed in his senior speech for the choir that he never memorized a word of German and wasn’t terribly sorry about that. That’s how he rolls. He tells you when things are dumb or brilliant, and he’s generally right. Therefore, he tends to be the voice of reason in our group of friends. But he tempers his reason with some seriously imaginative interpretations of what is reasonable. For instance, he is by nature a coordinator, planner, and treasurer, but the events he plans are riddled with puns, themes, contests, costumes, and often the invitations are in free verse. He is also by nature one of the most genuine and generous people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing–I sincerely, truly mean that–and he is instrumental in bringing all of us together at multiple points throughout the year.
What you need to know about Mandy: Mandy and I…you guessed it, met in 2003 in Co-Choir. She has an astonishing voice, and I think if given the choice, she would prefer to just sing all of her conversations and dance and sparkle through the world. But, on the other hand, she can curse like a sailor, level you with a one-liner, and she hits pretty hard. Mandy also, like many of my friends, is a voracious reader of unexpected literature, and she has a taste for vocabulary like a sommelier has a nose for wine. Which is to say, she’s a very erudite sailor. Mandy has also always and implicitly trusted my ability to write, which has buoyed me up on a number of occasions, whether she knows it or not. However, her fake Scottish accent infuriates me, which is why she does it all the time. Apparently she thinks it’s funny when I’m two seconds away from lighting her on fire.
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With the combined generosity and spark of Matt and Mandy already at sky high levels, their wedding was basically like boarding a rocket ship and blasting off into, “we completely outdid ourselves because it’s our special day and please, please, please won’t you share it with us” land. The entire weekend, from the moment of arrival at the wedding location to the moment of exit, was a cascade of luxury and happiness.
Let me explain to you what it was like to arrive in this place.
We pulled in to the check in/gift shop cabin–the whole place is a campus of adorable cabins–and one man immediately opened my car door while another reached over aforementioned car door to take my box of kleenexes from me while I got to my feet, and a third asked for my car keys. Naturally, I assumed they were going to steal my car while I was off my game. Oh, no, we just want to park it for you while you check in.
I allowed it.
So we checked in, and I came back out to find that not only has my car disappeared to some magic Blackberry Farm car hotel, but also all my luggage was loaded onto a golf cart, and a young man named Simon was sitting there smiling at me and offering to drive me to my guest room…
…which was named Foxglove and had it’s own golden key.
Simon proceeded to drive me precisely ten seconds up a hill to the main cabin and then help me unload my stuff into my room.
I was still getting my bearings, perching with my kleenex box on the end of my four foot tall, pillow covered bed, listening to the bluegrass music playing from my bedside table when there was a knock at my door. It was Simon. He had brought me Claritin, and he held it out to me and said in a southern accent, “pardon me, you looked a bit sniffly.”
I blinked and thanked him. He beamed and left. And I began to wonder exactly where it was I’d been transported to.
The Downton Abbey of Tennessee without O’Brien.
I checked my schedule for the next amazing place I was expected, and then dressed up in a tie, hopped a golf cart, and drove out to this picturesque, A-frame barn with a huge porch/bar on the front of it. There was a band, and designer cocktails modeled on the tastes and personalities of the couple, and more food than you have probably ever imagined being asked to eat. The whole scene was framed by a forest to the left and a meandering creek to the right. It was too dark to get a snapshot of the place, so here’s a picture of the cabin in spring, taken from the Blackberry Farm website.
I turned in pretty early because of allergies and nonsense, but I was up early the next day to take in the sights of the Farm. The scenery…god. These pictures don’t really do justice to the sheer rolling-ness of it, but I tried.
And aside from all this gorgeous scenery, we had the most amazing facilities to lounge around in all day while we waited for the evening ceremony. The free amenities included a pool table, grand piano, game sets, sodas, snacks, and golf carts to drive by the ponds and horse stables and gardens. And a number of my friends took part in pricier adventures involving horseback riding, skeet shooting, biking (aka getting lost on on a mountain), and fly fishing with Emeril Lagasse.
To be clear, Emeril doesn’t always come with the fly fishing, but that weekend he was totally there and one of us talked to him.
As the evening approached, we all suited up for the ceremony and took our seats outside on rustic benches to await the bride. The altar stood small and sparse against the sky and the hills, the expansiveness of the backdrop providing the perfect foil to our intimate party.
I felt like I had joined in audience with the trees and clouds, in a very transcendental sense–a lot of love and spirit flowing through us.
The ceremony was beautiful and simple. It spoke about the intertwining of tree roots, called open lore and myth to express the quiet grandeur of life-long relationships, and left a number of us teary-eyed as we were asked to join hands with the person next to us and concentrate on the trust and love of friends and partners.
And things drew to a close when Matt and Mandy literally “tied the knot” as part of a Scottish tradition. I guess Matt’s…formal kiltwear? kilt-xedo? was vetoed pretty early on in the wedding planning. But he got his family tartan in there, in the end, wrapped in three different layers around his and Mandy’s wrists, and then pulled together to form a single knot.
Following the ceremony we all took our golf carts over to a barn that had been converted into an entertainment space. And when I say “barn” I really mean…well, this barn had thousands upon thousands of bottles of wine in its cellar, a gourmet kitchen off an enormous dining area upstairs, and a grand reception hall and outdoor dance floor. Matt and Mandy arrived by carriage, and popped open a bottle of beer, brewed specifically for this occasion, and then we headed upstairs for our meal.
We enjoyed some of the finest, toasted the bride and groom a number of times, and then stepped out into the cool September night for virtuous things like cake and dancing, and villainous things like cigars and far too many whiskey sours.
We also at one point lined up alongside the back of the barn in two rows, holding up enormous sparklers to form an illuminated aisle for the couple to run through. When I asked Mandy to send me some pictures to include in this post, I figured she would include one of her and Matt doing this dive into luminescence. But, she actually surprised me with this incredible candid of me and my newly lit sparkler. She said in the accompanying note, “it looks like you rediscovered your childhood.”
I think it’s fair to say that every one of us, at some point over that weekend, felt something similar. Some sense of wonder or awe. Some sense of catapulting out of our daily lives into a world of softness and shabby-chic fantasy.
Although, to be honest, I’ve heard less about the ephemeral parts of the weekend than I’ve heard about the food. We all talk about it like it was some transporting sensory experience or some mystical, faerie-made banquet fare.
Cuz it was.
And in balance to the richness of the weekend, Matt and Mandy have kept their retrospective of the events quite light.
This photo surfaced a few weeks after we all got back to Chicago, emblazoned across Mandy’s Facebook cover.
And then when Mandy found out that Kelly Clarkson–yes, Kelly Clarkson–had her wedding at Blackberry Farm, too, she created this…
Like you do.
Mandy, may you never lose your wicked sense of humor.
Matt, may you never lose your honest, heart-felt generosity.
And may the two of you together have a happily ever after.