(KAC in brown. DJS in orange.)
KAC: Looking out at all the amused and giggling faces of our friends and family at Camp Spoonhowopic, spoons and I were wondering if people recognized pieces of their own events and weddings in our Camp plans. We have been thanking many people who helped at the Camp weekend, but there are others who taught us something much longer ago.
Brian and Dana Manning’s wedding was probably the first wedding spoons and I went to together. The entire thing was traditional but also personally hand-crafted. The vows were so specific (”Here, on this beautiful farm…”) and the Manning milk bottle centerpieces and ice cream cake were homemade. I remember sitting down before the ceremony with a bunch of college friends and just reading the vows in the program was making us cry. The officiant of the ceremony also did an excellent job making it clear why all the guests were in attendance, something I hadn’t really thought about before. She explained that it wasn’t just Brian and Dana that were involved in the ceremony, but all of us who were there. All of us are a part of their lives, important to them as they are important to each other. They passed the wedding rings around the whole group in attendance so that each of us could touch them and be a part of the ceremony. Our friend J made them a wedding video, and I got a copy of it on my laptop. I must have showed it to everyone I knew, because both the wedding and the video were so well done. One of my favorite scenes takes place after the ceremony when J asks Brian, “So, you’re married! What are you gonna do now?” Brian grins in his tux and said, “Stay the same!”
We really enjoyed all these things that Brian and Dana emphasized in their ceremony: involving their whole community of beloved family and friends, their personality and do-it-yourself-ness, and the fact that the wedding (while a big, fun, important thing) wasn’t changing their day-to-day relationship much. In the following years, a lot of other people we knew shared similar ideas in their events.
Involving a whole community means getting everyone in the same room. Getting them to feel comfortable enough to get to know each other and have fun is another challenge. Ann Arbor friends Sara & Brian had some skeptics when they announced that they were having a karaoke reception, but after they had the guts to sing the first duet (”Don’t go breaking my heart!”) how could we refuse? Next up was a little girl who sang “Dancing Queen” with an older family member — if you need a fearless leader to get up in front of strangers and show you how it’s done, sometimes a ten year-old is the person to ask. Whether or not people were serious or silly, the karaoke gave everyone an opportunity to participate and to laugh together.
KAC: Tom and Laura managed to get their parents and siblings in to NYC for almost a week so that they could spend some time together. Tom’s mom gave a particularly memorable toast at their post-ceremony picnic in which she explained that there are words in Russian for “my son’s wife’s mother” and “my son’s wife’s father” and that she was welcoming not only a new daughter, but a new “mother of my son’s wife” and “father of my son’s wife” into her life — people she will know and share things with for the rest of her life. Not only did Tom and Laura get to spend with their own families, but they also created a way for their families to get to know each other much better over a shared NYC vacation.
So after all of these great ceremonies, why were we still holding out? Was there not clear and indisputable evidence that weddings could be awesome? Last year at Graham and Sarah’s wedding, we had one more log to throw on the proverbial campfire. In addition to lots of singing and music (and a marriage contract that we all signed and a homemade chupah and a quote from a Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling), Graham and Sarah decided that they needed a unity ceremony that was entirely their own. And though peanut butter and jelly has long been used a metaphor for good two things that are even better together, Graham and Sarah took this metaphor quite literally. In the middle of their ceremony, they got out two jars and a loaf of bread and explained how two things, which despite being different, can be great together. They made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and then they ate it! It was great!
It made us think: if a particular piece of a ceremony doesn’t fit, you can decide not to do it, but you can also create of your own instead. When you omit something (like… a wedding?), people might notice its absence, but by creating something new (like the PB&J) Graham and Sarah really got our attention! And they shared something about themselves and about what was important to them: not taking things too seriously, doing things that felt true to them, and feeling free to make something new.
Camp Spoonhowopic: so crazy that it just might work, or just so crazy?KAC: So, to create something new, we had to figure out how to do it. Could we cook dinner for 100 people? We have been cooking seven course meals for spoons’s birthday for years now. Sharing a long, slow meal is another good way of getting people to get to know each other. (And what would a copic/spoons event be without yummy food?!) At Daniel and Katrine’s combined “57th” birthday party, they and their friends cooked a multi-course meal for nearly 50 people in their own tiny kitchen. We also been going to (and helping with) similar gatherings hosted by my dad and big dinners and receptions with homemade food on both sides of our families.
KAC: So, weddings, birthdays, programming contests — all of these and more helped inspire us. The celebration that we owe the most to is Daniel and Katrine’s wedding in the woods. They asked family and friends to spend a weekend together around the campfire, they had a blog with family introductions, they served a ton of people a sit-down dinner… sound familiar? When I talked to Daniel after the weekend, I asked him what he liked best about the whole thing. He talked about how amazing it was to have so many friends and family in one place, where they could relax. While that is a common sentiment expressed by anyone having a wedding, he went on to describe the coziness that the camping atmosphere provided. Daniel said one of his favorite moments was waking up to find his friend Mike making french toast in the big kitchen for whomever was hungry, and I thought: “I want that!” Daniel and Katrine had created an environment where people could feel at home and be themselves.
Even after the excitement generated by the idea of inviting everyone to a camp with a big dining hall, believe it or not, we still couldn’t get excited about having a wedding ceremony. But, we did want our family and friends to be under one roof. We did want to recognize and thank our parents: we wanted them to be our guests of honor. We wanted to give our families some time to bond, like Tom and Laura’s families had. We wanted an environment where people could do projects together and participate and get to know each other while they were doing it. And we wanted to have french toast. (With Manning ice cream on top!)