Thursday night was the rehearsal dinner. Half of a pole barn had been transformed into a formal affair with lights strung along the rafters and wildflowers in glass vases on each table. There were a lot of Schrotenboers and Finkbeiners along with some relatives and friends. We enjoyed some pasta, lasagna, and salad for dinner.
Later Matt and Jill sat down on a black leather sofa facing us. It was time for a game. Each of them had one of their shoes in one hand and the other person’s shoe in the other hand. The best man would ask them a question like, “Who was the first to kiss someone else?” If Matt thought it was him, he would hold up his shoe. If not, he would hold up Jill’s. Jill did the same. It was a fun way to get to know Jill a little better (I wasn’t too surprised by Matt’s confessions).
Later my dad opened up the floor to sharing memories about the couple. It was a good time to share how each of them had impacted our lives. I talked about my brother’s competitive spirit and kindhearted nature. He hated to lose in any game (as do I) but was very generous too (letting me borrow his car when I moved to Detroit). It was good having another brother in Michigan, even if it was for just a year. At the end of the reminiscing, several of us prayed that God would bless the couple as their married lives began.
Friday was here. Today was the big day. But there was still time to have fun in the morning. Most of the groomsmen and some of my cousins played Bocce ball, Kan Jam, and Spike ball on the shores of Lake Michigan. And most plunged themselves into its murky depths. I refrained this time. It was too cloudy.
Later some of us headed to Matt’s house to eat a quick lunch, shower, and head to the farm. This farm had the usual pigs, goats, ducks, and horses. But it also had a well-manicured lawn with a small pond in the back and a raised hill with an ornate arch on top. There was also a covered patio nearby with plenty of room for eating and dancing.
The groomsmen crowded into a little dressing room in the back of the farmhouse, and the bridesmaids went to a changing room near the patio. We changed fairly quickly and waited for the bride to make her first appearance. When she came out, she looked like one of those cover models you see on bridal magazines. Matt was quite pleased to see her. They took several pictures together, and then eventually the whole bridal party joined them. One of the more unusual shots was one where we walked toward the photographer and laughed deliriously. Some were better than others with that one.
Slowly, guests began trickling in, and at 6pm, it was time to begin. All eight pairs of the bridal party walked to the front where Matt and my dad stood. Then everyone stood up as Jill strode down the aisle, her arms linked with her father’s. It was time for him to hand over his daughter to another man. I think Jill had chosen well.
My dad officiated for the wedding, which was certainly an honor and delight for him. He briefly challenged them in the Word, and then the bridal party walked behind the pond and up part of the hill, bridesmaids on one side and groomsmen on the other. Matt and Jill walked to the top of the hill, said their vows, kissed, and went back down the hill, hand in hand. The ceremony was over. Now it was time to party.
But first, two of the farmhands led a large, horse-drawn cart to the bridal party. We all climbed in and went on a little excursion through the woods. There happened to be a pond near the cornfields. So some of the groomsmen couldn’t help acting like they were going to throw Matt into the pond. They didn’t, but it certainly would have made the day more memorable. Once we got back to the patio, the emcee announced the bridal party, and it was time to eat.
Later the best man and maid of honor gave their obligatory speeches to the bride and groom. When it was time to cut the cake, Matt and Jill were quite cordial to each other. No smearing the icing on the other’s face. Just a nice plop in the mouth, and it was done. There was cake and iced donuts for all the guests.
Before the DJ started cranking out the tunes, Matt danced with mom, and Jill danced with her dad. Then the group dancing began in earnest. I had finally steeled myself to jive with the others when Austin (the best man) tapped me on the shoulder. It was time to decorate the couple’s car.
We filled the car with as many balloons as we could. Some of us wrote various sayings on the windows. One guy put a roll of toilet paper on the antenna. Others strung toilet paper and string all around the seats and the steering wheel. It looked like Mischief Night and April Fool’s had exploded inside Jill’s car. A final addition was a string attached to the trunk with several metal cans trailing it.
I went back to the dancing. Most songs I didn’t know, but I proudly joined in for the “Chicken Dance” and “YMCA.” I wasn’t completely song-illiterate. Queenie and I attempted to dance for some of the songs. For one, we basically hugged each other and swayed (I didn’t mind that one). For the more upbeat ones, I watched one of the guys spinning his partner around and flipping her too. Glad that wasn’t me.
Finally, it was time for Matt and Jill to leave for Jamaica. But first they had to get into their car. Those of us who were left formed a gauntlet and pelted them with marshmallows (felt right at the time) as they walked to the parking lot. Matt struggled to open the door (probably because it was tied shut), but eventually, a switchblade solved his problem. The metal cans clanged and clattered on the pavement as Matt and Jill left for their honeymoon.
It had been a good day for an outdoor wedding. No thunderstorm. No animal disturbances. No fainting or excessive crying. Now the first of the brothers was married. And I was glad for him. I was glad he had found someone to share his life with, someone to love and respect him, and someone who would be his best friend. Out of the many choices that one makes in a lifetime, thank you for choosing my brother, Jill.