“And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the [straw bale timber frame] stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
– Kahlil Gibran, On Marriage
I was sure, in the days leading up to our wedding, that we must be crazy. I mean, we’ve never been overly sensible, but this time maybe we’d overdone it. We were hosting relatives, getting ready for a wedding, and doing it all at our under-construction straw bale house. It was insane.
And, given the choice, we’d do it all over again.
The decision to host more than 100 friends and family at our house was made almost a year before our August wedding. We considered other venues, but the house, like marriage, had been a painstaking journey: both challenging and rewarding. It was the only place in the valley—heck, the world—that seemed fitting for our vows.
We made our decision one day last fall as Nick looked at the “practice timber frame”— a 12×18-foot structure he built before the house and has since been used to store our straw bales. We would move it to the driveway, stretch the 60×30-foot white tarp to its fullest, and host our friends and family for the reception.
The ceremony, we decided, would be on the lawn. We didn’t actually have a lawn, but by then, we were sure, we would. It all seemed so simple.
One thing this grand plan did was set some hard deadlines. We would need plumbing, toilets and a functioning kitchen. Stairs would also be nice (I insisted I wasn’t climbing a ladder on my wedding night.) The house would need to be safe for roaming children and inebriated guests, so railings were a must (even if they didn’t prevent one toddler from taking a chin-first plunge off the edge of our deck.)
I woke up one morning shortly after New Year’s panicking with the reality of what needed to be accomplished in 2013. From then on, it was hair-straight-back, sending wedding invitations, organizing food, and wasting countless hours on Pinterest creating additional work for myself in the way of DIY projects.
Every day (including most weekends) Nick went to work on the house. I helped him as much as I could. I sought solace in knowing we were making great leaps. Even if we didn’t have time to mountain bike, socialize or—often—shower, once the dust settled, we’d be on the home stretch.
We brought in a backhoe to level our lawn and remove some trees. We raked and planted grass seed and spread fertilizer and did it all over again.
We counted down the months, then the weeks. Nick moved the practice timber frame with a borrowed tractor, lifting each bent precariously on the bucket. The expression on his face told me all I needed to know about how safe he felt under those swinging timbers: My god! I was going to kill or maim my husband and we weren’t even married yet!
When it was over, I hugged Nick. I swore off Pinterest. I vowed to let go. The wedding would be perfect, because, well… because it was our wedding. Timber frames and shabby-chic-country-themes with burlap-wrapped table favours be damned. For all I cared, we could say I do while standing naked in the rain.
Then we were days away. Nick’s parents arrived from Italy and his brother from Tennessee. My family arrived from Ontario. It was all a bit surreal and cyclonic and awesome.
The temperatures dropped. A quick decision was made to move the ceremony under the practice timber frame (which was getting used, come hell or high water) and the reception to our backup venue, the Bulkley Valley Nordic Centre’s ski lodge.
As Nick puts it, it was a blessing in disguise. The venue was perfect, thanks in no small part to an army of friends and family who pitched in. Our guests partied to the wee hours. We emerged married and feeling loved and still in love. I couldn’t imagine a better outcome.
Weddings, like house building, post-graduate degrees and (I imagine) child rearing, are a beautiful chaos that can only produce something great. To do two at once was silly. I wouldn’t suggest it to my worst enemy. But given the chance, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Photos by Quintin Winks