Merging Kitchens

I have had this inexplicable sense of assurance that we were going to spend our whole lives together from our second date. So when we got engaged in March, of course I was overjoyed, but by that time we were already living out complete commitment to one another so I wasn’t sure what our wedding day would/should feel like.

We knew we wanted the day to be about us and family and food. While that may seem like every other wedding on the planet, we really meant it in no uncertain order: us, then family (and friends that are like family) and food.  With most weddings feeling like productions these days and brides everywhere stressing out about how to make these runaway productions “customized” to their personal tastes [or to impress their guests], we opted out. We said we would rather elope than make our day about other people and miss out on the real reason for the day: him and I becoming us. Not that we don’t love our people immensely, but at the heart of the day we knew it was about our own beginning. With that in mind, we focused on what we would do if it were just the two of us celebrating the beginning of the rest of our lives together. To us, that looked like a hike and a picnic.

Our first weekend together included a hike over and down a mountain to a huge rock on a quiet lake with Adam’s backpack stuffed with hard meats, cheeses, fruits and a whole baguette sticking out the top of the zipper.  [Have I mentioned I love this man?!] While I had a pretty good idea I was  crazy about Adam after our first meal, laying on this rock after a strenuous hike and picnic of charcuterie, I felt this peace that surpasses understanding. My doubts and buterflies were gone and I was left with this deep, consuming calm and joy. And it has never left.

I once heard a Pastor say that the difference between joy and happiness is perminance. We cannot be happy all the time. The circumstances in life don’t allow for it. But we can have joy despite our current situation, knowing that what we do have is deeply rooted in good. This is the joy I found that day.

So back to the wedding: us and a hike and a picnic. Now that we had the “us part” figured out, thinking about brining in our closest family who will be with us for the duration of this great journey brought only one thing to mind: a family dinner table.

One great long dinner table. I couldn’t settle for anything less. If there was anything I felt very strongly about in planning for the day (besides who and where) it was the family style table. Do people celebrate new unions just fine on 10-tops? Sure. But is there anything like coming home to a full, loud, bustling dinner table? No. No, not at all.   

Neither of my parents claim to be great cooks and if I am being terribly honest, I didn’t learn a lot about food from them. But what I did learn – and what none of us will ever forget – is the dinner table. With 5 kids, both parents and any honorary family members for the evening, our dinner table was always full. This was not a place for occasional holiday meals, this was where real life occurred. Laughter, spilled milk, paper plates and respectful, um passionate disagreements. If there is one place to remember you are alive and not alone it is the family dinner table.  There was no other place I could possibly imagine more fitting for our first meal as a new family.

The rest of the details came together easily once we had our priorities straight. Four months later we proclaimed our commitment to one another in front of our families under the grandest of old trees while our favorite people ate from a lovely cheese board and popped champagne.

 Dinner was a joyful occasion under cafe lights with bare feet on lush grass, at one long dinner table full of family – old and new – laughing and  savoring the best things in life.
This post doesn’t have recipes (since we didn’t get to cook on our big day, although Adam did for everyone the day before!), but instead the most sincere appreciation and recommendations for the people giving up their Saturday evenings to make our celebration priceless.

Boathouse Restaurant

Where to start…. the Boathouse on Old Mission. My mouthwaters just waters thinking about the Boathouse.  I was absolutely thrilled when Doug the proprietor, called me back and said they were free for our big day (just a short 4 months from when we began planning). He not only exceeded our expectations from a food perspective, but was the most relaxed vendor we talked to and didn’t bat an eye when we said we wanted to serve food during the ceremony….under a big tree…in the middle of the field!

…then a full plated dinner served outside with minimal facilities in sight!  Were it any other day, it would have absolutely made my day to see Executive Chef Jim Morse himself cooking in our cottage backyard by the lake. All of the staff were a joy to be around despite us being poor dinner guests and showing up late to our own party. Since we won’t be celebrating anniversaries picnicking under the tree, we will certainly be visiting the Boathouse for many, many years to come.

Wedding Pie  While the Boathouse did an amazing job with a cherry cobbler and ice cream for our guests, we couldn’t stand to break our Saturday tradition of diving into all the deliciousness that is Meckley’s Flavor Fruit Farm. Whenever we are home on a weekend morning, we swing by to grab a coffee, doughnut and / or a pie before heading to the dog park. Our wedding was no exception , Meckley’s made up a bunch of pies for us to take up north and adorn the center of our table perfectly.

Photos 

 Rachel Kaye Photography captured our day so perfectly without ever making things feeling staged or rushed. She was a welcome, joyful wedding guest who also brought her gift of priceless moments that we will love forever. We would strongly recommend her for future fuss-free affairs.

Video

While my mom was supposed to be on vacation during the wedding, she couldn’t help but do double duty and shoot a wonderful, funny and happy-tearful video of our ceremony that I could watch a million times over! My parents are both wonderful photographers but just happened to be Pastor, Videographer, Father and Mother of the Bride that day! Check them out at http://leeses.com

Herbs/flowers

 A dear family friend of Adam’s, Marge (who happened to be his grandmothers college roommate, and my mom’s friend from her role running the charlevoix farmers market – small world!), was one of the best surprises of the day. Adam’s mom, Marge and other friends and family stepped in to build so many beautiful flower arrangements when I had been less than particular about providing any sort of direction or guidance!  Marge is a well known flower designer, garden club leader and someone who judges flower competitions all over the world, and she was kind enough to donate her time and home to give life to our table and bouquets that day! Flowers were low on my list of priorities for our short engagement, but even if I was the most picky person in the world she would have exceeded my expectations. The women mixed all sorts of aromatic herbs in the bouquets and centerpieces without any prompting and it again [nearly] made my day with her thoughtfulness and care!

I have to mention also, that Adam and our mothers and Marge picked all the flowers a couple days before on a beautiful morning on a hill top farm in Charlevoix. Kiteley’s Farm was so inviting and made for a relaxing first day up north, picking flowers like we had nothing else in the world to do… the perfect vibe to start a relaxed, food-filled weekend.

Hair & Makeup  

We do not look like this on a normal basis, ha! I wasn’t sure the majority of our friends and family would recognize me without my hair in a sometimes-unbrushed ponytail or bun.  Heather and Jessie were absolutely amazing and so fun to be around. [Are you noticing a theme yet, that we only wanted fun, joy filled people around on our day?!] The results were better than I had hoped and my hair miraculously didn’t end up in a pony tail 5 minutes after the ceremony! I will be back again soon to let these ladies whip me into shape for any other events up north!

Samels Farm
 The big tree at this beautiful farm, that we had walked to so many times, seemed like the only place we could picture starting our story together. While they don’t typically host events, our family has been members for years, and I think there was some jumping around the house with excitement when they not only said we could come out, but they had a line on a horse drawn wagon. A truly beautiful location, and we feel so humbled by being the last couple to have the privilege of getting married under the big tree. We will be sending the farm heritage society some pictures soon, to remember everything in all its glory.

Music


Live music was something that we were really looking forward to including in the day, but weren’t sure if we would have a lot of choices given our unique venue, limited space, and short planning time. I was just thrilled when my mom reached out to the Younce Guitar Duo who was donating their time to the farmers market she manages, and they agreed to play our ceremony on the way to another gig that night. SO appreciated, and no one could get over how great the music was for the picnic by the tree. Definitely go out and see these guys if you are in Northern Michigan.

We were awfully adventurous and decided to take our newly restored 1956 Bluestar Islander (a little two bench seat classic boat) from the ceremony to the reception, and as we drove up not only did we hear the cheers of our guests but also Matt Walch singing Beyond the Sea! He set the mood and made the evening absolutely magical under our cafe lights. We cannot wait to have him come sing at a dinner party or holiday party at the house for a special occasion.

 Last, but certainly not least, my baby brother who pulled out a surprise duet while he played his guitar and we danced in the yard. Hardly a dry eye in the place! I wish he had a fan page to link to, but apparently he reserves his talents for family weddings only these days, to which we are eternally grateful.

Camp Kenlands & our dear families 

…and that brings me to mentioning our wonderful families who rallied around us with so much love and support to help with planning, countless errands, hosting dinners, carrying live seafood on airplanes, painting boats, laying sod, hanging lights, officiating!, planting flowers, buying last minute flights from Alaska, Texas, D.C, Seattle, Boston, Rhode Island, California, and so, so much more. You all made this day perfect as we celebrated the beautiful joining of two great families….and Adam and I officially Merging Kitchens.

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