All weddings are inevitably labors of love. But Anna and Jamie’s homegrown celebration redefined this phrase. My dear friend Anna grew up on an organic vegetable farm in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Her parents, Judy and Bruce, bought Riverside Farm in the 80s. Here they would share in all the seasons of life; this earth they would turn over again and again with their hands; where their two children would roam wild and learn the value of eating tomatoes like apples and how community in farm country is as important as fertile soil. Judy and Bruce married wading in the river that runs through it.
I had the honor of wading in this same river the week of Anna and Jamie’s wedding. I got to return to this homestead to help Anna and Judy harvest buckets and buckets and buckets of flowers Judy had started from seed just weeks after the engagement. Amaranth, sunflowers, cress, sage, eucalyptus, poppy pods, sweet annie, queen anne’s lace, echinacea, asparagus foliage, zinnia, lisianthus, spirea, peonies, black cohosh, white finch orlaya. There is palpable sanctity in knowing the journey of each and every bloom I get to design with. More power in knowing the hands that cultivated them did so in the name of her daughter’s love. As we cut and bucketed the heaping swath of amaranth, I asked if I could take their portrait. It was the first time I had really taken in their striking resemblance. The way their laugh lines echo one another’s and the way they carried themselves with such dignified strength. During this pause in the day's work we all were flooded with the deep love these flowers grew from and radiated. It seemed to hang in sky with the late July sun. Weighty but buoyant.
And during the next few days as those flowers moved through my hands this is what I felt. I hoped that weight and buoyancy would come out in my designs. I hoped they would do Judy’s bounty justice.
There were long nights and early mornings in which I undoubtably overtook the couple’s cottage rental (the only cool place on the premise). Buckets took shifts in proximity to the dinky AC unit during the 95 degree weather. During several of my design sessions I had the company of chickens, alpacas, and pups. This was a real farm wedding. And thus full of authenticity.
As the wedding came together all around me, I realized how the flowers were just a small fraction of the homegrown heart this wedding had. All the vegetables served were grown by Bruce and Judy, 150 jars of strawberry-rhubarb jam made by Judy, loaves and loaves of bread and a cake baked by their long time neighbors, live music played by dear friends. And the list goes on.
I recalled a couple days earlier harvesting with Anna and Judy. A few of the supplemental flowers had been cut from neighboring farms in exchange for vegetables. I had asked Judy, “is that pretty typical for the farming community, this sort of give and take.” She responded with, “Oh yes. Farming here is such a precarious endeavor you wouldn’t be able to survive without each other.”
This sentiment seemed to be ringing true in the endeavor of a wedding. Perhaps that’s what a wedding is all about: the growing, the giving and the nourishing that both partners offer one another. And the community that shows up in support of your love. The fertile soil of their faith in you.