ok, where was i?
oh, right! up in ithaca at the beginning of an epic long weekend filled with love and friends (who feel like family) and good food and awesome music and gorgeous autumn foliage.
after getting a little bit of a later start than we originally planned last friday, laurel and i made it up to gretchen & mj's place in new york with just enough time to drop our stuff off at their place, say hello to sarah & laura (who were also staying at the house), change out of our comfy travel clothes and into more weather-appropriate clothing and head over to gretchen's parents' place for the welcome bonfire.
there was some light rain falling as the evening began, but it eventually stopped and everyone had a great time getting to know each other, eating, drinking and making s'mores around the huge fire. laurel and i brought up a few of our own seasonal beers from our autumn beer run a few weeks ago and they definitely added to the festive, "fallish" feeling of the evening. we headed back to gretchen & mj's at the end of the night with full bellies and hearts and slept very well.
the next morning, laurel and i had big plans to go for a run, but the temperatures were in the 40s and there was a steady rain falling, so we decided to hit up the farmer's market instead.
we enjoyed breakfasts of sticky rice with mango (for me) and a breakfast burrito (for her) and then hit up a few more stores in ithaca for some last-minute errands before heading back to the house to relax for a little bit before we had to shower and get ready. (well, laurel might have relaxed...i was starting to get nervous about my duties as officiant and kept reading over my ceremony script.)
soon, it was time to pack up our wedding clothes and overnight bags and head to gretchen's parents' place again!
(oh, we did.)
we were planning to camp in the backyard after the reception, along with the newlyweds and a few other brave souls (they were calling for temperatures in the 30s overnight), so the first thing we did was set up camp. we found a spot for our tent, blew up our air beds and unrolled the sleeping bags that gretchen & mj were letting us borrow for the night, since we knew those would be the last things we'd want to do after partying the night away at the reception.
once our home for the night was ready, we headed inside the house to change into our dresses and pretty ourselves up and then i took a quick walk around the property to take some detail shots before everything got started.
(everything was SO pretty!)
right before the ceremony, gretchen called me back into the house to give me my lapel pin (click the link for photos of all the ceremony flowers - gretchen had them custom made by megan of princess lasertron and they were so pretty and fun. AND, they'll never die!) she and mj also presented me with one of the most special gifts i've ever received - an 8 knot (the climber's knot) ring to thank me for "helping them tie the knot". i love it and i've worn it every day since.
there were definitely a few tears shed as i put on the ring and i joked that it was good that we were "getting them out" now, in hopes of making it through the ceremony without crying. wellllll, that definitely didn't happen.
(photo by brian kirkwood)
we didn't stand a chance, man. it was, hands down the most gorgeous wedding ceremony i have ever been a part of or witnessed...and considering the amount of weddings that i've either attended as a guest or worked as musician or photographer, that's saying something. even if i hadn't been standing up there with the two of them, i never could have made it through this one without some tears. their love story is just so amazingly beautiful and they are such wonderful people...and they had such a intimate, loving and supportive group of people gathered around them.
oh, and did i mention that the rain from the morning totally stopped and how gorgeous it was by the start of the ceremony? here, see for yourself -
(photo by brian kirkwood)
(oh, and yeah...that's totally gretchen's parents' backyard. it's okay to be jealous.)
after the ceremony and a few group photos, it was time to head into the barn and the tent to celebrate!
we dined on a pig that had been cooking in the ground all day, along with mac & cheese, roasted seasonal root vegetables and the most delicious quinoa i've ever had (cooked with cinnamon sticks, cranberries, spices and pecans). we filled our mason jars up with ithaca beers and the awesome dj kept us on the dance floor for most of the night. there were candy necklaces and bottles of champagne being popped open on the dance floor (i *may* have started this...) and some heated rounds of beer pong. and when the clock struck midnight, laurel had the dj play neil diamond's "sweet caroline" for my birthday, as i celebrated the 31st year of my (pretty effing fantastic) life.
by the end of the night, we were so tired that we crawled into our sleeping bags in our party dresses and slept hard. the next morning, we crawled out of our tent joined everyone once again (in a *slightly* belated fashion, since neither of us thought to set alarms before we fell asleep) at the "recovery brunch" before breaking down our campsite and heading back to gretchen and mj's place. our original plan to spend the day (my actual birthday) visiting some wineries in the finger lakes region ended up being scratched, as we partied pretty hard the night before and the thought of lounging around all day sounded far more appealing. eventually, we showered and when gretchen and mj returned from the wedding site, we treated them to basically ALL the thai food in the world and watched cheesey, romantic movies together. (and though you might think it's weird that we were spending the night after the wedding with the newlyweds, it was only on their invitation and insistence!)
it was the perfect way to end the weekend and spend my birthday, with three of my very favorite people in the world. when we left the next morning, i was filled with so much happiness for them, but so sad to be leaving. i can't believe that all the months of excitement leading up to last weekend are now over, but it's even more exciting that they now have the rest of their MARRIED lives together and i'm so honored and happy that i was able to help them celebrate that and be a part of their special day.
(and that i now have a "home away from home" 4.5 hours north in "gorges" ithaca. after visiting three times now, i finally, truly understand the smile that gretchen always had on her face whenever she talked about her life "back home" in ithaca. it really is such a special, MAGICAL place.)