Last weekend was a big one for my family — Steve, my younger brother, got married to his long-time partner, Liz.
It was a wonderful celebration — and one that I had the privilege of helping to plan. Almost every weekend this summer found me at the farm, planting sunflowers and trees or clearing brush and laying woodchips. There were tasks I did at home, too – I designed the save-the-date and invitation, and I painted about a dozen signs to help direct guests, and to add a little color and fun to the festivities. It was great – I got to use my creative and crafty side, which doesn’t get nearly enough attention in my daily life.
And of course, I made the dessert — 300 cakeballs, to be exact (actually, my grandmother gets 1/2 the credit for these, since she came early to help me roll all those balls!).
The highlight was the cake topper, which was designed to match the image on Steve and Liz’s wedding invitation. Steve is wearing chaps and a helmet, and holding a chainsaw, while Liz is doing yoga. The entire sculpture is edible — made from modeling chocolate and gumpaste.
Steve and Liz designed a really lovely family ceremony for Friday night — we honored relatives who have passed, but whose spirit still is with us. We also helped build the chuppah for the following afternoon’s ceremony, which was also very personal and thoughtful. So many weddings seem to treat the actual ceremony like an after-thought, and put all the emphasis on the reception and party. Steve and Liz had clearly spent a lot of time designing their ceremony, and they incorporated our family in some really wonderful ways.
One of the best things about this wedding was that it was truly a collaborative affair. Friends and family spent hours upon hours helping to craft a perfect day — from performing manual labor and arranging thousands of flowers to decorating the tents and lighting the fireworks. My parents came early in the week and helped wire the tents for electricity (dad) and finish all the favors (mom). (I should also mention that my mom did an amazing amount of work helping to organize everything, including managing RSVPs, arranging the rental items, cutting and folding more than 200 napkins from multi-colored fabrics collected over the past year, making the table runners… the woman is incredible!) Even the reception meal itself was a community effort — each guest was asked to bring a favorite family dish to share with everyone. The result was a wedding that felt incredibly intimate and special — one that we all helped make happen.
Scott even got to participate in his very favorite activity – fishing! He entertained several of my cousins for quite a while after dinner, helping them to fish the farm’s pond… and everyone who tried managed to catch at least one fish!
I could go on and on about the weekend’s events, and how ecstatic I am for Steve and Liz, who really are a perfectly matched couple. But as soon as the wedding ended, Scott and I had to start focusing on our next major “event” – our move! So I’m going to wrap this up and get back to packing…
Congratulations to my baby brother and my new kid sis! Couldn’t be happier for you both!
(Several people asked me for a copy of my toast, so I’m pasting it below. I did manage to get through it without breaking down in hysterical sobbing… although there were a couple tears.)
When I was about 8 or 9 years old, I was really into gymnastics. One evening, my gymnastics school was having a little show, so that we could impress our families with our amazing moves. It was a very important day for me. My mom insisted that we have dinner before the show, so that night, the four of us sat at our kitchen table and shoveled food into our mouths so we wouldn’t be late.
And that’s when adorable little three-year-old Steve decided it would be fun to stuff sausages up his nose. I’m not making that up. He actually stuffed sausage so far into his nose that mom and dad couldn’t extract it and had to take him to the emergency room.
I mention that because this is a very important day in Steve’s life. And… revenge is a dish best served cold. I’ve been a vegetarian for more than 15 years, but make no mistake about it: I am not above stuffing sausage up my nose.
Being six and half years older means that I can remember literally all of Steve’s life. I remember the first time I ever held him in his candy cane onesie. I remember when he was a bit older and decided that his name was Chad and he was a police officer — he would write tickets to our neighbors for parking in their driveways. I remember playing house and dancing with him to Johnny Rivers’ “Swayin’ to the Music.”
But being six and a half years older had its drawbacks as well. When we were little, we were too far apart in age to be able to relate to one another. While we had plenty of fun playing Nintendo and Legos and make-believe, we didn’t get to grow up as each other’s best friends.
In fact, ironically, our real friendship started when I moved out of the house for college – Steve called me when he needed to talk because he’d had a fight with mom and dad, or he needed help with working through an issue with a friend. He was just about the age when the opposite gender was becoming interesting, and our phone conversations covered deep topics like the decline of our country, the meaning of life… and what his girl crush really meant when she made fun of him in science class.
In those phone calls, I came to deeply respect and admire my little brother. He struggled with many of the issues that every young man needs to address. But he was coming into his own, and over the course of hours and hours of conversation, it became clear that his path in life would be one that is both unconventional and spectacular.
In my 20s and early 30s, our relationship continued to deepen. He was there for me during my lowest point in my adult life, and he’s been there for me for plenty of highs too. We’ve gone on epic road trips, kayak trips, hikes, snowshoes and backpacking trips, and we’ve enjoyed long conversations about life, love, death and everything in between.
It was on one of those backpacking trips that I first heard Liz’s name. Steve and Liz had met through a professional network, but Steve admitted that he was making up excuses to reach out to her. As we started our trip through the Trinity Alps in California, Steve wondered aloud if maybe he should re-evaluate his ban on long distance relationships.
Over the course of the next four days, I heard all about Liz, and in a weird way, though she was more than 3,000 miles away, I’m pretty sure I witnessed Steve fall in love. When we parted ways at the end of the trip — me back home to San Francisco and Steve towards DC (and Liz) — I reflected on our conversations. Something was different this time around. I had a feeling that he might have found the one. And clearly, he did.
It’s been an honor to watch this relationship grow over the past 4 years — and even more of an honor to help execute what was possibly the most romantic proposal ever crafted.
As the older sister, I feel like I should offer the happy couple some words of wisdom. But the truth is, my little brother’s been inspiring me for his whole life, and this couple is an inspiration to every one of us. Scott and I can only wish you a lifetime filled with laughter and adventure.
Liz – I whole heartily welcome you and your family into ours. I feel so lucky. I already had a best friend in my brother, and now I have a best friend in his wife.
But more importantly, Steve is lucky to have you. May your marriage be everything you’ve hoped and dreamed for. And when it’s not, let your love carry you through.
I’d like to invite everyone to raise a glass with me and toast this wonderful couple.
Liz and Steve, may your love grow like a beautiful tree, sending roots deep and branches high, with new beauty every season of your life together. Congratulations!