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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Marriage in Massachusetts

Our wedding was perfect.
As a recovering perfectionist, I don't take that word lightly. Most of the time, there is almost always some detail that could be improved upon, some fault to be found if you look hard enough.
But I would not change a thing about our wedding. Not one single moment.

It felt as if the seas parted just for us, to make our wedding possible. Hurricane Irene came and went, just in time. The sun came back out, the floodwaters receded, the roads were opened and the flowers and the caterer both survived the deluge. 
No tantrums were thrown, both families got along, everyone looked their best, the food was fantastic and we danced in that barn 'til we couldn't dance no more. 
Best of all, Annie and I were officially joined as Partners In Marriage—at least in the eyes of God, our families, and the State of Massachusetts.

Our intention for the ceremony was to make it very personal to us and our relationship, without completely abandoning the traditional aspects of wedding ceremonies we still find meaningful. I believe we achieved this balance perfectly. We owe most of that success to Dennis LeBlanc, Annie's childhood minister. He's a soft-spoken man, but when he speaks, the combination of his speech and his presence is quietly captivating. The words he chose for our ceremony completely captured the essence of our relationship, from the things we have already experienced together to our shared visions for the future.  

We chose to get married in a hayloft, which created some unusual aspects for the ceremony on a purely physical level. Since neither of us felt the need to be "given away" by our fathers, we had both sets of parents come down the aisle first, each stopping to light a thin tapered candle. Dennis came next and we followed him, hand in hand, through the crowd and up into the hayloft, to the sounds of "Everybody's Free" by Quindon Tarver.  (Those of you who were teenagers in the mid '90s may recognize this song from the Claire Danes/Leo DiCaprio version of Romeo+Juliet. Don't judge us. It seemed appropriate on many levels.) 
After having watched several episodes of TLC's bridal-competition show Four Weddings, I knew that one of the biggest obstacles in a wedding with no PA system is making sure all the guests can actually hear the ceremony. The hayloft was about ten feet or so above the ground, which was great for sight-lines, but I feared sound would be a problem. Dennis already had to compete with the noises of passing cars and the brook breaching its' banks at the edge of the yard. What if our loved ones had to watch us standing there mouthing words for half an hour, and never heard a thing?
Ever the calming presence, Dennis suggested he stand to the side of Annie and I during the ceremony—instead of in between us—so that he could be sure to project his voice loudly enough without bellowing into our ears.
Though the decision was made for practical considerations, I felt it was very symbolic that Annie and I ended up standing side by side during the ceremony. What a cool way to get married. Holding hands and smiling out at our families. 
That was really the best thing about how the hayloft came together. Being elevated above the ground made it possible for the crowd to see everything happening between us, as well as for us to be able to make eye contact with all of them. 
I think I will always be able to re-create in my memory that small semi-circle of people, staring up at us, sending us love.

Besides Dennis's own words, our we chose these readings to capture the spirit of our union: a Cherokee Prayer, Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, A Moment of Happiness by Rumi, and Ruth 1:16-17, (which is not only a bible verse but a Fried Green Tomatoes reference, and therefore doubly appropriate.)
After our readings, our vows—we each wrote our own "declaration of intention" and then recited traditional wedding vows—and the exchanging of rings, we proceeded down out of the hayloft back to ground level. There we used the individual candles our parents had lit to light one single candle, which represented our new union. (Dennis also made clear the symbolism of leaving our individual candles aflame, as we do not extinguish ourselves as individuals when we enter into a marriage. I liked that.)

We ended the ceremony with a blessing—The Northfield Benediction, a prayer from Annie's High School days—then the quintessential Marriage Proclamation (ours went "I now pronounce you Partners in Marriage," though we've since joked that Fart-ners in Marriage would probably be more appropriate. Ha-ha.) And then, of course, the kiss!
After that, 500 Miles by the Proclaimers started playing as the photographer scrambled up to the hayloft to get a big Group Shot of us with everyone. 
We didn't think we needed anything so formal as a receiving line, so we ended up just mixing with the crowd, hugging everyone and posing for impromptu group photos (which I will post as soon as possible, I promise). 
Many people had tears in their eyes as the ceremony concluded. I like to think they were simply tears of happiness, and that they weren't crying for the tragedy of Kia the Cancer Bride. 

The rest of the evening was, as cliche as it sounds, a blur. Some of my most vivid memories include smiling so hard it hurt, Annie's fierce grin and the depth of her dimple, the taste of the fresh People's Pint ginger-ale, thinking all the food looked lovely but hardly eating a thing, my parents dressed in their best and looking incredibly happy—what a relief!—mopping rivers of sweat off my bald noggin so it wouldn't run into my eye makeup, watching Annie out-do me on the dance floor—she brought out moves I've never seen and had enough stamina to dance two dances for my every one—Dr. Dad fanning me with a paper plate during my dance breaks, and the palpable aura of joy and happiness radiating off of everyone present, including the caterer.
The intimacy of the event felt incredibly special, and I couldn't imagine having had a crowd three times that size to mingle with and attend to. That said, if I could change anything about the wedding, I would have loved to have more of my friends there with me to share the magic. We had to scale it back so much that there remained an incredibly long list of loved ones I would have been thrilled to celebrate with. Hopefully this blog, along with more photos and the video I'm going to post—as soon as I can!—will make everyone else feel as though they had been there with me. It really was one of the happiest, best days of my life. 

Finally, to all of my new family in the Clarke clan, thank you so much again for working so hard to plan, decorate and execute the whole event, and rallying together to support Annie and me in such a vast variety of ways. I am so blessed to have become a part of your family. I cannot wait to be back there with you in body as well as spirit. I love you all so much!


  1. Sounds incredible. So happy for you both...

  2. Congrads to you both,beautiful and having the pics helped me picture everything. I wish You and Annie great happiness!!!

  3. Kia it's Eileens friend Lindsey who was in the cave in Joshua Tree with you. She told me about your blog. What a lovely writer you are - I mean really really good - congrats on your marriage- much love and many blessings for a happy life together!!

  4. Looks like it was definitely perfect! Congratulations!

  5. I couldn't help but cry when I read this, but in the good way, the way that lets me and you know how much I sincerely love you guys and am so happy for you and have so many memories of you and I'm just so, what's a better word than happy?, fiercely GLAD that you're together forever. XOXOXO

  6. I can assure you that my tears were of the this is I am overcome by your love for each other and the beauty of your families and this is the most beautiful wedding ever variety.


  7. Thanks for letting me know where that song, "everybody's free" was from. I thought it was a perfect, beautiful way for you two to come down the aisle. And, no, I won't judge you. I never saw the movie, but i love both Claire and Leo and Willie the Shake, so what could be so bad!!! hahahaha

    Hope you're holding up well out there. You are always in my thoughts. Thanks for letting Doris and I take you and Annie to the airport. It was sooo great to see you!!!


  8. Congratulations! Yay!