With humility, I have to say…my daughter’s wedding this past weekend was simply perfect. Why? Because she and her fiancé stuck to the simple mission of sharing their lives and their love with family and friends in a way that reflected who they are and not who they want to impress.
Acknowledged…the location was the breathtaking Camp Hale, outside Leadville, Colorado (9,200 feet above sea level), where the Army had trained the warriors of the 10th Mountain Division to fight in the European mountains during World War II. Camp Hale is deep in the Colorado mountains—and those mountains have been an important part of both the bride and groom’s families’ lives. Frankly, with the autumn colors at their peak, we could have served peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and it still would have been perfect.
But there was something else that created the magic. It came from the bride and groom’s deep belief that this moment in their lives was bigger than them. They viewed everyone involved with the wedding as an equal and important part of the team. And both families felt that we were not simply sharing a night…we were uniting our two families. The focus of every element of the wedding was about these bigger beliefs.
The waitstaff told us that it was the best wedding they had ever worked at…the photographer voluntarily worked several hours beyond her contracted time…the videographer hugged us all good-night…and the dance floor was overflowing—even my 89-year-old mother was up dancing!—until the lights went on to signal the end of the evening.
Frankly, we made assorted choices that many would think were cost-cutters not because we were aiming to save money, but because more was unnecessary. We had a DJ rather than a live band. The flowers were extremely simple, accenting the beauty of the location rather than distracting from it. Guests left well-fed…not overfed. There was a small cutting cake rather than a giant one since, in our experience, wedding cake usually tastes like it was baked days, if not weeks, earlier and no one eats it anyway. We hired a young upstart videographer who will create a simple documentary of the day, rather than an overproduced masterpiece.
With each of those choices, we did something else that was even more important. We didn’t hire vendors. We treated all of these very important people as the vital part of the wedding they were. Every professional who helped create this day was a participant, and so was treated that way. My daughter and her husband both live by the core values they learned from their families—everyone deserves respect and appreciation no matter their age or profession.
As an example—and this sounds so obvious and simple—when the wedding planner and photographer came to our house where the bridal party was having hair and makeup done, I offered them some of the refreshments we had laid out for “the girls.” Shockingly, both of them said that they had never been offered that before! I can’t even imagine that others had not done the same. But, when our amazing photographer, Callie Riesling, posted sneak-peek pictures on her Instagram account (@CallieRieslingPhotography), she commented: “[These people] probably treated me the best I’ve been treated by a couple in my career. And not just [the bride and groom], but their parents, their family members and all of their wonderful friends and guests. Being a wonderful person really does make a difference to others. It was their wedding day…but the love they showed me and the trust they gave me just allowed me the creative freedom and energy to deliver something amazing.”
It’s remarkable that simply being polite and generous with people can make such an enormous impact.
Our makeup artist now is the proud owner of my younger daughter’s rolling dance duffel bag leftover from her competition days. He was wowed by the bag when we went to get the portable stool from it for use during preparations. Rather than continue to collect dust, we were thrilled to have the duffel find a new home.
Our young videographer not only got a client but also business advice on creating a more professional agreement than the single paragraph he had forwarded to us as a “contract.”
We all deeply cared about everyone who worked with us on the wedding…and in return, they cared about us.
One other critical thing we all cared about—joining the two families into one. My family feels so blessed by how wonderful our new in-law family is and how similar in style and values we are. We all just fit. So when it came time to seat the guests at the wedding, there was no “Whose side are you on?”
With the majority of people traveling to attend the wedding, we had several days and opportunities for cross-pollination among groups and subgroups. A casual dinner at our house for early arrivers was layer one—shuffling together the pockets of family and friends. There was no “rehearsal dinner”—it was a fabulous welcome barbecue for all, complete with lawn games, a photo wall and open seating. Friends and family were as happy talking to their own relatives who they hadn’t seen in years as they were talking to “strangers” they had just met over the brisket table. Shuffle the deck some more.
Van rides to the venue had some people clutching their neighbors on the windy mountain road, while there was “singing on the camp bus” by others.
By the time we reached the actual wedding reception, it was more a party of old friends than a patchwork quilt of micro-groups evaluating the lay of the land. The wedding couple led the way onto the dance floor, and for two-and-a-half hours, it was one giant swaying family celebrating all their new connections.
My daughter thought I was crazy to host a breakfast at the hotel on Sunday morning after the wedding: “No one will get up that early, Mom.” But I didn’t want the connections and loving energy of the wedding to evaporate. Nor did I want to send people off on their travels with an empty stomach. It was standing room only and lively chatter in the MountainView ballroom—tables were filled with combinations of new friends and family members trading contact information for future visits and communication. And when the sleepy bride and groom arrived an hour after the breakfast had started, I got a big “Wow, you were right, Mom.”
Weddings change lives. But living with civility and respect offers opportunities to touch lives every day. I am so proud of my daughter and my new son—they sprinkled their loving hearts and genuine integrity like fairy dust to everyone involved.
May the magic continue.