A magical day! Thank you for coming, those of you who were able to make it. And to family and friends who weren't there, we missed you. The videos are an eclectic musical picture show to give a flavor of the atmosphere. The photos provide a more detailed look.
We were so fortunate to have our special friends and family. Richard's daughter Samantha made the trip from England and was his 'best woman, and Heidi's sisters and her best friend Anna were the Succulent Wild Women escorts of the bride and looked incredible in Leah's beautiful elegant and chic gowns. The weather was perfect ...and as we danced, a full moon rose over the lake.
We were blessed.
love & light
Heidi's story of the day
(as told on Indie Bride)
Our wedding was magical, beautiful, sacred, and relaxed beyond what we could have known to hope for. Richard and I arrived in Northern Ontario about a week and a half before the wedding. My parents recently bought a lakeside house/camp, so we stayed there and had a beautiful setting in which to complete the last of the wedding preparations, and also did not have to be underfoot at my parents’ home the whole time (a very good thing).
The Tuesday before the wedding, Richard and I went to the Sportsman’s Lodge to go through final details with the lodge’s owners and to take a look again at all the rooms and shuffle the room assignments around accordingly. The lodge is family-run, and the owners were fantastic with asking for and then implementing whatever we wanted for the wedding weekend, with no fuss or stress. Everything there was beautiful, peaceful, and relaxed, and in this setting, the wedding seemed so simple: we show up, we stand here, we get married! Nothing to it! We both felt very excited to be there and to know that the wedding was so close. As we stood on the ceremony site sending out positive intentions for our day, a small black bear cub ran past us across the space where the ceremony would be. Richard looked it up and found that a bear symbolizes gentle strength, dreaming, introspection, power, and protection!
That evening, my best friend Anna was scheduled to arrive from NH, Leah (my youngest sister and the designer of all the dresses in the wedding) from Toronto, and Richard’s daughter Sam from England. Everyone was going to be staying at camp with Richard and I. Richard went to pick Sam up at the airport while I switched from wedding mode to hostess mode, cleaning up the camp, getting a BBQ dinner ready, and preparing to meet my future step-daughter. I was thrilled for Richard that she was coming, but also anxious about having to share him during the wedding week and about negotiating female territorial issues and awkward 22-year-old daughter/30-year-old-new-bride dynamics on my wedding weekend. Groundless fears! She turned out to be one of the most unexpected, amazing, beautiful gifts of the wedding. She was an integral part of the ceremony, acting as Richard’s Best (Wo)man, signing the register as his witness, holding our rings through the ceremony, and doing a reading. She became part of the family and fell seamlessly into the close circle of women who were part of the wedding. All my extended family adored her. She represented Richard’s side in a wedding that was vastly overbalanced in the direction of my family and friends. She and I spent time together, talked, and bonded. Sam reminded me that the first thing she said to me when we met the first time was “How old are you?” I said, “No wonder I was anxious about you coming!”
On Wednesday I had a small breakdown and became an incapacitated, weeping mess for a while. I felt overwhelmed with wedding work; felt so close to the goal, but didn’t know how I was ever going to finish the overwhelming number of things that still needed to be done, and was terrified I would remain an incapacitated, weeping mess for the wedding. Richard was wonderful, my rock, but all of my four Succulent Wild Women (my three sisters and friend Anna) had things going on in their own lives that they needed to focus on and were not able to give a lot, and I was bad at delegating and asking for help, trying to be superwoman and do all the wedding work myself in addition to cooking for and cleaning up after and taking care of everyone at camp. Enter breakdown. But by evening everyone rallied round— Richard, Sam, the SWW—and did everything on my to-do list. Table name signs, road signs, and final accommodation changes were made, seating assignments and seating chart were finished, thank yous and money for vendors assembled, dance playlist finalized. Then the SWW enticed me out to the bath-warm lake to skinny-dip under the stars.
I felt detached, though, from the others around me, like they were part of a great fun party that I was outside of. I carried around the to-do lists and pressures in my head, while they could help when need be but not have to keep the whole show together. They could approach it with an abandon and spirit of fun that I could not, because I was in charge and I was tired and had been working on this thing for a year and a half.
On Thursday afternoon, suddenly THERE WAS NO MORE WORK TO DO! I couldn’t think of a single thing. It felt so strange. After a year and a half, everything was done.
Then I was taken for the best stress-relief, pampering, marriage preparation time I could possibly have had. A small gathering of women friends and relatives came together at my aunt’s camp. They lay me down on a bed at the edge of the lake, brought me wine and strawberries and chocolate, and read out notes they’d all written about what I have meant to them. We all had a sauna together. We ate food and drank more wine. They sat me down in a comfy chair and gave me a 5-person full-body massage, manicure, and pedicure that relaxed me to the point of sleep. Sam offered to give me a French manicure for the wedding, something I would not have chosen, but I immediately wanted it. It was part of our bonding experience, as she sat beside me for over an hour, meticulously working on my nails for my wedding to her father.
On Friday we loaded up and drove the forty minutes of gravel road to the Sportsman’s Lodge Wilderness Resort. Richard and I were elated. “Want to get married?” one of us would ask, and the other would reply, “Nah. Not today. Maybe tomorrow.”
We arrived at the lodge early in the afternoon, the SWW, Sam, Richard and I. Everyone went swimming while Richard and I went around to all the rooms to place our welcome letter and chocolate on each bed. We moved into our room: a beautiful, woody space with windows overlooking the lake and a door that opened onto a secluded balcony. I had time to hibernate and write for a while about how I was feeling: quiet and pensive after the high of the morning, happy to be marrying the man I love, drawn to him in a new and deeper way. I could hear my friends and sisters splashing in the lake below, while I felt like I was in a cocoon, preparing for metamorphosis.
Our officiant arrived for a brief walk-through of the ceremony. We figured out the logistics of the handfasting and of the circle that our guests would form around us for the ceremony, and I gave the officiant the final revised draft of the ceremony I’d written. Guests began to arrive and check into their rooms, hang out by the lake, visit. My parents were in charge of the evening’s BBQ, and they arrived behind schedule and finally got it going.
It rained that evening, but it didn’t matter; we ate on a covered deck, and the setting was still beautiful. The sky cleared into a beautiful golden light, with a rainbow across the lake. My dad lit a fire on the beach and we gathered around for chatting and a mini jam session. The younger set streamed back and forth between the Jacuzzi and the lake. Everyone seemed to be having a fabulous time. I felt out of sorts, detached from the group, struggling to make the sudden transition from event-planner to event-enjoyer. I’d invited all the people who were now swarming around me, and for over a year I’d been planning the proceedings that were now unfolding. I had difficulty relaxing into it and allowing it to happen now that all the work was done. I was annoyed with myself for this, but tried to allow myself to be present in whatever I was feeling. I was also glad that I had time to ease into the weekend, rather than facing these feelings the day of the wedding.
Richard and I left the group by the fireside around 11:00 and snuck to the Jacuzzi on our own. It was such a relief to leave hosting duties behind, snuggle in the warm water together and talk about how we were feeling.
On Saturday morning I woke up at 5:30. I knew I was not going to be falling back to sleep. Richard and I both got up around 6:00 and crept downstairs in search of coffee. Only one of my aunts was up, with coffee already made, and we got cups and went down to the lake. We sat in Muskoka chairs, held hands, talked about the day ahead. My sister Marja appeared and we talked with her and were all excited, relaxed, and happy. My detachment and tension from the evening before were gone. At 8:00 the rest of the SWW, Sam, and my cousin Darlene came down to the lake for meditation. My sister Becky led a meditation in which we each envisioned ourselves in a space where we felt completely loved and happy, then surrounded that vision in pink light, and invited other people into the light one by one. I went through the entire guest list until I was comfortable with and feeling loving toward every person who would be at the wedding. Afterward we all sat together and talked about the meditation and about the day. I felt radiant, euphoric but peaceful, entering an altered state but also very present in everything I was experiencing. We all went for a swim together and then got ready for brunch.
Brunch was a fantastic buffet spread in the lodge dining room. I could eat only little bits. It was wonderful to be surrounded by family and friends. Mid-brunch one of my aunts suggested we sing a favourite song of my Grandpa’s—I am from musical families on both sides—and so the singing began. We sang hymn after hymn in beautiful harmonies, and I loved every second of these words and music of my roots, the togetherness in song.
Richard and I swam together after brunch, and I felt free and happy and delighted. The SWW and many others hung about the lake, swimming, sun-bathing, canoeing, kayaking. One of my uncles took out several pontoon boat tours of the lake. Everyone was having such a great time, so relaxed and carefree, in this beautiful place with the lake and the sunshine. You could see the relaxation on every person’s face. I was so grateful that this was my wedding morning: sun and water and loved ones, including the man who would be my husband in a matter of hours.
Just after 1:00 I waved goodbye to everyone on the beach and announced that I was going to my room to become a bride. I was alone for a long time in our beautiful suite with the warm wood and quilts, the open door to the balcony, the windows overlooking the lake. I had a bath and lingered over each piece of bodily preparation like a ritual. I dressed in a beautiful ankle-length white robe my sister Becky had given me. My mom came in with a plate of food for me and we ate together. After she left I was alone again for a while. I could hear our wedding guests laughing and splashing down by the lake. Periodically one or another of the SWW came in to see if I needed anything or to talk about how I was feeling. I lay on the bed for a while and rested. It was very calm and peaceful. I could feel myself being ushered into this other-worldly state, and I was so glad I had the time to allow it to happen and to savour what I was experiencing.
Then the SWW began to enter my space with me. My sister Marja did my hair, fastened my red rose, applied makeup. The others watched and gave input (we didn’t completely know what we would do with my hair before) and took pictures. Sam was in and out as well, looking glamorous and radiant in her floor-length black and gold dress, tiara and earrings and necklace. We hugged and wished each other luck and she left for her Best Woman duties. We could faintly hear our pre-ceremony music playing as our guests gathered for punch on the lodge’s back terrace. I felt both detached, in my own world, and hyper-aware of everything that went on.
My mom, nieces, and all the SWW were there as Leah helped me into my dress. I turned and looked in the mirror and I lost it. I began to sob at this picture before me that was me, a bride. That first image of myself encapsulated everything that this day signified and I couldn’t control the visceral, emotional response that came out of me. I thought, oh my god, I can’t go to the ceremony if I don’t stop crying!
It was time to walk. The SWW surrounded me and tried to keep me steady. The little girls kept asking “Is it time to go yet? Is it time now?” My parents went first—I was so glad later that I’d chosen to honour them with an official entrance even though I wasn’t having them escort me—then Maddi and Fiona, hand in hand, clutching their single flower each, floating in their princess fairy dresses. They were superb—there was no balking or shyness, no uncertainty; they knew exactly what they were supposed to do and they did it. And then it was us: me in the centre, with the SWW fanned out in a horseshoe behind and around me. We were walking to Melanie Doane’s “Never Doubt I Love,” most of the words from Hamlet: “Doubt that the stars are fire, doubt that the earth doth move…” I wanted only to get down to Richard, and I was worried we would run out of song; I tugged the SWW forward while they tugged me back, whispering that there was plenty of time and I could take it slow. Richard said it looked like they were keeping me from running away.
The guests were all gathered in a circle at the edge of the lake, most of them standing, a few of the older people seated in Muskoka chairs. When we reached the bottom of the hillside stairs, Richard sprang from his space in the circle to meet me. He said he was afraid the SWW would leave me on my own before he got to me, and I looked so fragile he didn’t know if I would be able to stand without help. He arrived and took my arm and kissed my hand; the SWW walked on toward the ceremony circle, their floor-length raw silk gowns billowing. “You look beautiful,” Richard whispered to me. Together we walked to the circle and took our places in the middle of it.
The first part of the ceremony is a bit of a blur to me. There were opening words from the officiant, a moment of silence, more words from the officiant that I had written, explaining the meaning of the circle and a few of the reasons why we had chosen to be married. Because I had written all these words and knew them so well, it felt surreal to hear them spoken by someone else now in this setting. I wasn’t concentrating on them, but was glad for the time to try to settle myself, still myself, centre myself. I was intensely focused on Richard, looking into his eyes, while he stared straight back at me.
Then it came time for the readers. The officiant announced them, stumbling over Marja’s name, and as soon as I heard it I knew she had the wrong draft of the ceremony. On Friday I’d given her the final, revised draft of the ceremony, printed on creamy linen paper, which did not include Marja as a reader. I looked down at the page she was reading from; it was plain white paper—an intermediate draft, before various subtle changes had been made, and before we had started over on the handfasting ceremony, changing it entirely. I was distraught. I loved the handfasting ceremony. The earlier draft was nothing remotely like what we’d come up with in the end, and I felt sick that it was not going to be part of our marriage ceremony. As our readers proceeded, I pulled myself completely out of my bride-state and returned to playwright and director and stage-manager (do I have a control problem at all??), whispering to the officiant that she had the wrong ceremony! She was obviously flustered, she whispered back that it was ok, she’d made the changes, she’d just missed that one change, but she was looking so not in control of the situation, and in our frantic whispered exchange I didn’t catch everything she was trying to say, and I realized that I had no choice but to let it go. “Please calm me down,” I whispered to Richard, and he put his arm around me and held me tight, physically grounding me, whispering, “It’s fine. It’s going to be fine.”
The officiant proceeded into the ring warming. My dad began to play his guitar and sing—“It’s golden, it’s golden, it’s golden, this moment that we’re in…”—as Sam held our rings and then passed them to the next person in the circle. I looked at my dad as he sang and almost burst out laughing: he was wearing a brand-new suit, tie, and…crocs! Apparently he’d forgotten his dress shoes at home. I smiled and let go—I was standing next to the man I love, my father was singing in his suit and crocs at my wedding, and all of my loved ones were holding our wedding rings, whispering words to them and kissing them and blessing them. There was no point in being uptight!
The ring warming ended up being one of my most treasured parts of the ceremony. The rings were tied together with ribbon, and they were passed around to each person in the circle for everyone to bestow their own blessing on them. We looked at each person as they held the rings, and each person looked at us, and it was an opportunity to register where they stood in the circle, to focus for a moment on each one, and to acknowledge them as witnesses and participants in our ceremony. Each person’s action when they received the rings was surprising and moving. Anna held them to her heart. One of my uncles held them out in front of him, looked at us, and whispered, “Bless you.” My 17-year old brother looked us both in the eye with the most beautiful, heart-wrenching look of love. Fiona held onto them for a long time, examining them, looking like she intended to keep them, until someone nudged her to pass them on. Richard and I stood in the centre with our arms around each other and turned to each person as the rings reached them. By the end I felt relaxed and present.
The other surprise to me was what Richard would say in his vows. We had written our own and planned to read them. All I knew beforehand was that his were a page long (mine were one paragraph). I loved everything he said; it was so him, so authentic and beautiful, and of course he managed to reference acting and Shakespeare (Brutus, to be specific) in them. It made me laugh.
After both of our vows was the handfasting: the beautiful, meaningful handfasting that surpassed anything I had envisioned. The officiant had the final version. She asked us each question—“Will you support and sustain each other, treating each other lovingly and with respect, in joy and sorrow, in plenty and want, in sickness and health?”—“Will you look beyond outer appearances to each other’s essence?”—“Will you be genuine and vulnerable with each other, revealing yourselves to each other in trust?”—and with each question we looked into each other’s eyes and in unison said, “We will.” With every two questions she placed a ribbon across our clasped hands. With every question the energy built, until it really did feel that we were being united, question by question, ribbon by ribbon. We had to look deeply at each other in order to know when to say “We will” at the same time. It was an amazing, powerful ritual. After the last question, and the last ribbon laid across our hands, she tied the ribbons together so that we were bound. It was at that moment that I felt we had been joined as husband and wife.
We exchanged rings, a simple wordless exchange. The officiant pronounced us husband and wife and invited us to seal our vows with a kiss. Richard shouted, “Hurray!” I was not aware of both of us wrapping our arms right around each other in a full embrace, but in the pictures, that’s what we’re doing. The Dixie Chicks came on singing “Can’t Hurry Love.” I think everyone started clapping. The SWW and others nearest to us engulfed us, and more people joined until we were one huge group hug, and I remember laughing a lot and holding onto Richard and smiling non-stop.
It was fabulous to sit down for dinner—finally! I had no idea how in need I was of sitting—and to relax, to let loose just a bit, to be with those closest to us and talk about everything that had just happened. Our tables were named after Shakespeare plays. We were at Much Ado About Nothing, the play in which I laid eyes on Richard for the first time. We didn’t have a head table but sat with Sam, my sister Becky, and Anna and her husband. Dinner was fantastic—ginger peach chicken—and I was famished. By this point I didn’t care too much about how things unfolded; I was emotionally spent, we were married, and whatever happened next was just icing on the cake for me.
There was a small program afterward, for which Becky and my 17-year old brother Johnnie were the MCs. The best was Anna’s surprise song about “The Girl Who Never Said Yes,” which detailed in humorous fashion several of my refused suitors and my determination to remain single, and had everyone, especially me, roaring with laughter. The other best was Sam’s sonnet. I cried as she read it, toasted “Dad and his beautiful bride” and welcomed me to their family. I cried again—sobbing crying—when Richard and I stood up at the end to thank everyone. I tried to say “I want to thank my step-daughter Sam for travelling all this way,” but I couldn’t get the word step-daughter out of my mouth; I was too overcome with emotion at the unanticipated realization that I had one.
We danced outside on the terrace, facing the lake, with white lights and lanterns. Our first dance was Sinatra doing “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” which has been “our song” from the first week of our relationship. As we danced to the second song, Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade,” a full moon rose above the water, hanging huge and luminous over our gathering. We all stopped to gape at it and take pictures.
I’d thought I’d want to dance all night, especially considering that I’d handpicked nearly every song on the playlist, but by the third dance I was longing for bed, emotionally and physically exhausted. I visited with guests, danced some more, and Richard and I followed advice we’d been given and left the party to walk down to the lake in the brilliant moonlight, to stand hand in hand looking up at our wedding celebration, as our guests danced under moonlight and twinkly white lights.
We left the party around 12:30. We walked up to our warm wood room, closed the door, and looked at each other. “I am your husband,” Richard said, over and over as I tried to comprehend the fact. It felt surreal. “You are my husband,” I said. “I am your wife.”
Over the next several days I needed many reminders of this. My wedding ring was a useful visual aid: look, I’m wearing a wedding ring. This means I’m married. I am a wife. I am Richard’s wife.
Sunday morning we woke up shattered. We went down to the lake and basked in the sunshine and visited with guests, then were late for the farewell brunch. Most people were packing up and leaving after brunch for their journeys home, and by noon it was just our core group left. We packed up leisurely, spent more time by the lake, and headed out around 2:30. Richard and I brought Sam to the airport for her 5:30 flight. I cried watching her get on the plane, and felt a real loss after she was gone. My step-daughter!
Our honeymoon was exactly what we needed it to be: seclusion and privacy, sunny warm weather, nothing to do but read and talk and swim and lie in the sun and make love and make breakfast and lunch and dinner. We had a week in a cabin on a lake. The cabin was beautiful, sweet, simple (no running water or electricity; propane lights and appliances) but very classy, with gorgeous Italian sheets, one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept in, beautiful log construction, a luxury outhouse. There were four cabins spread out along a quiet, motor-free lake, and the cabin closest to us was empty. We had a private dock on the lake, a sauna, a screened-in gazebo, our own canoe. Loons and whippoorwills called constantly.
I was constantly surprised at how different being married felt. I didn’t know if it would, after years of being committed partners, but it was. I felt tied to Richard in a way I did not before, that he had become a part of me that he was not before, that we were connected for life in an astounding and beautiful way. I thought this was how I felt before, and that marriage would not be able to make me feel it any more strongly, but it did.