The lovely Laurel Frick-Wright and I have been friends for nearly a decade, a companionship born in sea kayaks on the waters of Oregon’s spectacular Waldo Lake. True to our shared nature (no pun intended), we both chose to begin our first year at the University of Oregon by partaking in a “new student” trip to crystal-clear, infamous sapphire waters. On a sunny day, it’s possible to see over 100 feet to the bottom!
But, I digress. We have been side by side through countless outdoor adventures, indoor dinner experiments, themed fiestas, wild undertakings, and fifteen-minute-between-class-mental-health-moments. When Laurel took off for a study abroad year in New Zealand in 2004 and I finished at the U of O, we knew the frequency of our shared adventures would suffer. When she fell in love with the blond-haired, blue-eyed, German – Fabian – the miracle of affordable international phone rates and email kept me in touch with the highs and lows of their journey through the land of love and through the countryside of New Zealand.
Now, this woman who, in a sense, I “grew up” (and continue to “grow up”) with has done what neither of us was sure we’d ever do – get married!
After driving cross-country and not sleeping for 36 hours, Pat and I arrived at Laurel’s family cabin Wednesday evening in zombie form. Despite our pre-arrival efforts to rouse our real personalities with a dip in the Tumalo Creek and a change of clothes, we were in desperate need of a nap. The cabin had gotten a serious face-lift since our college-get-away-cross-country-skiing days. Its reincarnation was incredible, and still set in the dry pines on the bank of the crystal clear Spring River. Pat and I found an unoccupied bed and set an alarm for a one-hour nap. When I opened my eyes to the Central Oregon darkness, the silence spoke for itself. Something had gone horribly wrong. Not only did we fail to wake up and socialize over dinner, but our napping room was meant for Laurel’s parents. I allowed my panic to subside to the old adage: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” And I went back to sleep.
With more than twelve hours of shut-eye under our belts, we were bright-eyed and bushy tailed at 6:30 a.m. or so. Laurel’s brother Peter, who had been assigned to rouse Pat in time for the bachelor party rafting-trip departure, was relieved not to have to summon a complete stranger from his slumber. I sent the boys packing with a bunch of bananas, a bag of carrots, and well wishes. Then Laurel, her sister Maren, cousin Kayley, and I flung ourselves head-long into wedding prep. Who knew a rehearsal dinner, wedding brunch, bug-spray, and a white-just-married-bikini could keep us shopping for almost six hours?
In between Bachelorette Party food prep, we managed showers before most the guests arrived. Kelsey is a blond-haired Central Oregon native and cousin of Laurel’s. Carol and Julia (pronounced Karo and You-lee-uh) are the outgoing women-friends of Fabian’s best school-mates. Geeta is a smart, fast-talking Chicagoan currently residing in Germany where she and Laurel met. Imke (imm-kuh) is the sweet wife of Fabian’s brother, Killian.
After games of “two truths and a lie about Laurel” and toss the ring around Peter’s peter (I won!), we piled into a fancy limo and were chauffeured to a Michael Franti outdoor concert. On the way, we cracked open Thai fortune cookies to read Laurel predictions about her future… with a twist. The concert was nice. I’m not a Franti follower, but it was great being in the evening sun on the lawn (Carol couldn’t get over the perfection of the grass). I love to dance and worked my way up to the front of the stage amidst throngs of teeny-boppers and clouds of pot smoke several times as the sun set. Afterwards, we got to play an unexpected game of “find-the-cars-that-had-been-delivered-by-the-boys” before squeezing in the doors of the Deschutes Brewery ten minutes before close. Laurel’s middle name is eponymous with the river after which the micro-brewing company is named. Given that and our bachelorette party status, we felt justified in ignoring the blatant annoyance of our waitress. Afterwards, we found the boys engaged in general debauchery. A few of them elected to ride back to the cabin in the first wave, while the die-hards didn’t make it back until three a.m.!
Laurel had asked me to be her day-of-wedding coordinator. Initially this seemed mostly to deal with a post-ceremony canoe trip for all the attendees. When the trip lost many of it’s complications, I was left with the impression that I’d just be around to pick up any slack. However, after a pre-arrival phone conversation and a day-before-wedding “staff” meeting, I came to understand my real role. In the phone conversation I initiated before Pat and I left Wyoming, I demanded that Laurel make the final decision between the two items I had decided on for her wedding gift. After a long pause, she said in a controlled voice, “Surprise me… I have been making decisions non-stop for the last two weeks. I don’t want to make any more decisions.” Ohhhhh….kay… Duly noted. Then, at our “staff” meeting as Laurel went over her list of chore assignments for mom, dad, etc., I eyeballed the single directive under my name, “see other lists.”
Now I understood my job description was to carefully study what Laurel had in mind, intercept as many logistics as possible, and shelter her from all but the most critical decisions and demands. And so, I had three basic interactions with all the wonderful helping hands:
Let’s ask Laurel (Let’s not.)
Let’s do it this way (Let’s not.)
What can I do? (Let me show you.)
While Pat slept off his bachelor party sins (with my blessing), I put together an hour-by-hour lists of to-dos for the next two days. After double-checking all the materials I needed and assembling a list of helpers, it was about time for the fun to begin! Everyone was invited to the rehearsal dinner, and the guests began arriving two hours in advance. Eventually the open forest around the cabin was filled with happy family and friends as the wedding party practiced their performance. The BBQ lasted for several hours, which gave me plenty of time to covertly unearth and organize the post-wedding reception entertainment (an important German tradition). We still managed to be in bed before ten!
The wedding day dawned clear in the cheerfully sunny woods. With a minute-by-minute list of things to be done and a list of people to do them, the morning went smoothly and calmly.
By 10:30, most the guests were in place on hay bales, picnic table benches, and the fanciest camp & lawn chairs. The beautiful bride had been shuttled away down the serene creek of her youth, food preparation was complete, flowers had been distributed, and everyone was ready. At 11:00 a.m., Laurel arrived at the family dock wearing the gorgeous dress she made herself, perched in the bow of a canoe paddled by her brother and sister. Waiting on the dock were her beau, and his brother and sister – a perfectly symmetrical wedding party.
Geeta played a beautiful serenade as they arrived, and another gorgeous tune as they walked up to the flower covered altar on the porch. Laurel’s childhood friend Sarah, who as a lawyer really does have the “power vested in her by the State of Oregon”, recited a beautiful ceremony full of only the most genuine axioms about love. Laurel and Fabian wrote their own vows, and had all of us (and themselves) in tears. Then he surprised her with the wedding ring he had talked her out of months ago (brought to the altar by his adorable twin nephews), and they became husband and wife. As they left the altar, Maren, her husband Thomas, and Imke worked together to perform Norah Jones’ “Come Away With Me.” It was all so beautiful!
The champagne brunch was up and running shortly thereafter. An hour later everyone was changed into canoeing clothes and launching in pairs onto the Spring River. With “Just” and “Married” painted onto Laurel & Fabian’s backs respectively, and with plenty of fishing bobbers in tow, the whole wedding flotilla paddled down Spring River to its confluence with the Deschutes and on to the Benham Falls Sun River takeout. With 19 canoes in all we were quite a spectacle and drew lots of stares, applause, and excitement from other river patrons. Pat, wonderful man that he is, let me spend most of the trip lounging in the sun with my paddle in the bottom of the boat.
A bus met us at the end of our canoe trip and shuttled the boaters back to the cabin. Everyone scattered to prepare for the reception and dinner, and I rushed to shower and drive to the High Desert Museum to get a few final pieces in place before guests arrived. To my delight, I was met by a wonderful museum employee, Marcus, who also happened to be from Paderborn where Laurel and Fabian first lived in Germany. Marcus was incredibly enthusiastic and limitlessly helpful. Because of the cultural combo the wedding necessitated, I took on the task of making sure the reception entertainment provided by guests (a German tradition) fit into the time we were allowed to be in the museum (an American problem). By the time guests arrived, the schedule was worked out and synced with the band, caterers, and museum coordinator.
A fantastic evening was had by all. Amazing appetizers and a delectable family-style dinner highlighted funny poems, heart-warming speeches, a Bavarian yodel song, piano performances, sing-along parodies, and a dance debut of the Virginia Reel.
The Bluegrass Band was pleased to have some enthusiastic dancers in the crowd, and even broke out a waltz. (Pat asked Fabian’s mom to dance at precisely the wrong time – the waltz is the only dance she knows and one of the dances he doesn’t. Ooops!). During the encore, Killian and Fabian stole the stage with mock, sultry, family-friendly stripteases. It was a great segue to the after party at a neighbor’s empty house down the road from Laurel’s cabin.
We awoke on Sunday with, “Paderborn, Paderborn mein stadt das liebe dich…” (the city song) stuck in our heads. Pat and I joined the packing and cleaning team while trying to decide what we would do with the free days we had worked into our schedule. After packing the car, we found out not everyone was leaving and were invited to stay another day. One day moved into two, and, well… that’s a whole other blog entry.