wedding weekend: the officiation

When my son and his fiancé decided they wanted the officiation to be a private affair — just the two families and grandparents — in a neutral location, it took some thinking. Where to find a cozy space with decent ventilation and a homey vibe? And then I remembered that a friend of mine had a yurt. Sometimes she escaped there for a weekend just to get away from her family, and sometimes they rented it out to guests. I’d never seen it, but maybe it could work? My son and his fiancé went to see it and came back with glowing reports. It’d be perfect, they said.

(Funny story: when they were describing it to us, my husband started asking questions — and then more questions. He was being weirdly specific. Finally, he asked, “Does it have a wire railing on the outside deck?” My son said yes, and then my husband announced, “I built that yurt.” What a sweet twist!)

Grandma Carol on tie duty.
photo credit: my mom

The plan was simple*: first the officiation and then dinner. The two of them planned and managed the whole event, outsourcing tasks to family members, hiring a photographer, thrifting materials and ordering supplies, and preparing the space. Our pastor — who’d been counseling them throughout their engagement — would be present, but the plan was for them to marry themselves. Which makes sense, when you think about it. No one can force marriage on two people — marriage is the commitment they make between themselves. 

The groom and his vows.

When we arrived, the place was a hubbub of introductions, final preparations, and outdoor family photographs. (The entire weekend, I hardly took any photos, and the ones I have aren’t very good, but still. Gives you an idea. Maybe later I’ll share some of the professional ones.)

My mom and younger daughter were still putting the final touches on the wedding cake, and my husband had to run back to the house for the forgotten wine glasses. 

As we entered the yurt and gathered around the table, they handed each of us a stone. They’d created a “talking piece” — a wooden box — and, to start the ceremony, they poured sand into it, sand they’d filched from the university’s volleyball court and that my mother cleaned for them. As the box made its way around the table, each person was invited to place their stone in the box and share a blessing, affirmation, or reflection, or they could say nothing at all. Simply placing the stone in the box was blessing enough. 

It was beautiful. All the different perspectives, the quavering voices, the passing around (and lobbing across) the table a huge roll of emergency paper towels to mop the tears, the laughter, the unbridled admiration and appreciation for these two young people and their love for each other. 

When the sharing was over, they read their vows to each other and then moved their wedding bands from their right hands to their left (they’d skipped the typical engagement ring custom and instead worn their wedding rings as a sign of their engagement — a Brazilian custom they’d learned about from friends), and the pastor presented them as a married couple with their new, joined last name.

And then dinner!

The gas lanterns were gifted to my husband and me during our wedding.

Her mother and grandmother had made the lasagnas and salad. Her sister brought the sparkling cider, wine, and champagne. There was Magpie sourdough and homemade strawberry jam. My mother brought brown butter green beans, and the wedding cake, which she and my younger daughter had made together. 

During the meal, I visited with her younger sisters and parents. We talked about cheesemaking (her father’s the one who loaned me the wine fridge for my cheese cave — to him I am forever indebted), and my younger son held forth about the intricacies of milking a cow. In his vest and tie, and with his older brother’s wedding cap perched jauntily atop his head, he looked every bit the gentleman farmer. (During the post-dinner conversation, he suddenly raised his sparkling cider wine glass and cried, “A toast!” When everyone automatically raised their glasses, his face lit up in startled delight, and he did a reserved, Napoleon Dynamite-esque fist pump and whispered, “It worked!”) 

There was the cutting of the cake, then.

photo credit: my younger daughter

And the traditional feeding of it to the other (i.e. smashing it into each other’s faces, ha).

video credit: my younger daughter

And then, just when the evening was drawing to a close, my daughter-in-law (!!!) surprised my mother with a birthday cake.

In the midst of all the wedding hubbub, her mother and grandmother had gone out of their way to make their family’s traditional birthday cake just for her. How sweet is that?

The pastor signed the official marriage certificate document thingy…

And we all pitched in to clean up the yurt and then scurry home to our beds.

They are MARRIED.


*Regarding a wedding, nothing is simple.

This same time, years previous: chocolate bourbon pie, or something like that, 2018 book list, sex for all creation, 2015 book list, 2014 book list, the quotidian (12.23.13), flat, raw.


  • Peggy Hoeppner

    sounds beautiful!! I do have one question however I am curious about the brown butter green beans. Can you tell me about them? How to make them?

    • Jennifer Jo

      She cooks her green beans (usually Romas or Tenderettes) in a bit of water and salt until very soft — bring to a boil and then simmer for 20-30 minutes. Drain/cook off any excess water and drizzle over a couple tablespoons of brown butter. Add more salt, if you want.

  • Pauline in Upstate NY

    Please pass the paper towels… Needed here now. Many blessings to this young couple on this very intimate and beautiful occasion!

  • Becky R.

    Wow, just wow! It all looks just perfect. That is a delightful way to get married, from the yurt, to the food (beautiful wedding cake), to the ceremony, to family participation. I am incredibly impressed, and I wish my wedding had been this intimate and inclusive. Kudos to the couple and the entire families. Very well done! They make a beautiful couple. I would have needed several paper towels.

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