The weekend before Christmas I had the honor of participating in a Winter Wedding Retreat – a small, intimate, multi-day wedding celebration. Every time I have sat down to write this, I have ended up at a loss of words. Not because there is little to say, but precisely the opposite – there is so much to say, and so little of it can be said in words, but only captured in the wholeness of the weekend. I hope that this shares some of that beauty.
26 of us – family and friends – gathered at Reneeâ€™s family home and two nearby cottages on the shores of Lake Michigan Friday through Sunday. We each came with our own story and our own connection to Renee and Kylie. Everyone had someone new to meet, and yet each was an integral part of their community, and as a whole we represented a much larger community gathering around them to celebrate and support their marriage. At the weekendâ€™s close, we could honestly call each other friends.
As for me, I met Renee ten and a half years ago as a freshman in university. We were instant kindred spirits and have since then spent years living and laughing together. We have weathered tempests of storms and soaked in the calmest of waters together. I loveÂ Renee and Kylieâ€™s story – what it is and what it will be – but that is for them to tell. What I can tell you is that they were made for each other and that I am blessed to be a part of their community.
I flew in a day and a half early to help with wedding prep – buying food and wine, making welcome baskets for the cabins, fixing a few beads on the wedding dress, soaking in the hot tub, and talking with Renee late into the night. Then the we did the airport runs. So much contentment in welcoming loved ones. Then the celebration began.
Pizza and pasta dinner surrounded by graffitied brick walls. Touching stories, laughter, and tears shared as a group. Morning devotions and prayer led by Grandma and Grandpa, who have been married for 55 years. The picture perfect dusting of snow. The men bonded over laser tag and lunch out. The women stayed in for relaxation for a simple spa time, mimosas, and lunch. The living space was rearranged three times in a night – for a wedding ceremony at sunset, a Thai dinner, and a dance floor. The bride was stunning and the groom handsome. They committed themselves to each other in marriage. There were tears shed and there were smiles filled with joy.Â And on Sunday we gathered once more for a large brunch – one last meal over which to linger before goodbyes. It was a blessed time.
I have heard people say of weddings, â€œThat was a good party.â€ And this was a good party – but not in an out until 3 am kind of way. It was good because we all left wishing we could stay longer and yet our hearts were content. It was good because we truly celebrated Renee and Kylieâ€™s marriage – not just the act of the wedding, but their marriage. It was good because we celebrated as community. It was so good.
My camera was put away during the actual wedding and evening celebrations, so I have no glamorous photos of the couple in their wedding best. But Saturday morning I headed outside with the two of them to get some pictures with the freshly fallen, perfect dusting of snow. I hope you can see their joy.