A Wedding Story: A great cloud of witnesses

Apparently, the original intent in having a bunch of your friends dressed alike standing up with you at the wedding was actually to confuse the evil spirits that might seek to harm the bride and groom.

Now, I think it is more so that you can have an army of photo-enhancing helpers on your wedding day, and force the people you love most to spend extensive time with you.

Whatever the case, I loved our wedding party. In the ridiculous emails that I started sending them months before the wedding, I happily christened them the Sweet Sixteen, with the ladies being the Awesome Eight. (And yes, I am still a camp counselor in my soul. Camp counselorness is an eternal quality, and one of its manifestations is the need to name everything.) 

I could not have asked for a better wedding party, which really means that I cannot imagine having better friends throughout my life. Having this great cloud of witnesses backing us up as we said our vows was a tangible reminder that we have people who care about us, are rooting for us and our marriage.  And considering the total nightmare of trying to get clothing for the wedding party (see unsolicited advice at end) I feel pretty fortunate that they still love us.

I could have easily continued lining up people I loved, but I made myself stick to eight, even though I was tortured to cut friends out of the party. Luckily the wedding industry has fabricated all sorts of other titles and positions so that brides can continue to recognize the ladies they love, things like “guestbook attendant” and “reception hostess.”

Here they are, the Awesome Eight. And yes, I picked this picture to label because I believe people’s de-facto funny faces give you glimpses into their souls. In order from left to right (and order signifies nothing else, as I skipped that maid of honor bit since I don’t have a sister and didn’t want to pick a friend):

Rachel: Sometimes I joke that Rachel is MVB, most valuable bridesmaid, and by that I mean that you should probably hire her to be in your wedding because her life skill is getting thigs done. She designed our save the dates, invites, created spreadsheets to organize me, went to all sorts of meetings with me, counseled me through many distresses, helped throw the best shower ever, AND when her dress fell apart as we were taking pictures (thank you David’s Bridal – see rant at end) she didn’t even flinch, but instead yelled for someone to sew her in.

Fun Fact: Rachel used to dream of being the Tinkerbell figure that comes down the zip-line at the Disney World light show. She also loves the show Duck Dynasty and knows all the words to every song from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

Bethany: Sometimes James and I fight over whom Bethany loves more, since we both claim her as one of our best friends. She and Jenny were there that moment I spoke the words out-loud in college — “ I think I will marry James” – and I borrowed her shirt the night of our first date.  We were also running buddies through several hard MI winters, and let me tell you, you know who your friends really are after they get up at 6:30 to run in the ice with you.  Bethany came to visit for a week in June, after Jared’s wedding, and she did an impressive number of wedding crafts in only a couple days.

Fun Fact: Bethany has seen pretty much every BBC miniseries, loves babies, dogs, literature, and cannot stomach anything with mayonnaise. She can also give you a rundown on all the clothes in Gap at any given moment.

Laura, James’ sister: I. Have. A. Sister. Now. Yay!!!!! After growing up in families with only brothers, Laura and I are pretty pumped to be related. When Laura visited me in France a couple years ago, we actually had this heart to heart where we decided that we would even stay friends if James and I broke up, and maybe she could still be in my wedding if I married someone else.  She is sweetness with a touch of sass and I love her so much.

Fun Fact: So many of the things I want to write here, I can’t put on the internet. So, suffice to say that Laura loves: apple dumplings, bright red pants, good movies, tye-dying unmentionables, and breaking campus rules.

 Megan: Megan threw a birthday part when she was in 8th grade and invited me because she felt bad leaving me out since I was friends with the other guests. And then we became besties. She has been a source of great wisdom, much laughter, and too many happy moments to count. She also assembled all 200+ fans for our reception, and periodically answers my medical questions, as she is in med school, and therefore Source of All Bodily Knowledge.

Fun Fact: If Megan could have one movie to watch forever on a deserted island, it would be West Side Story, because even after getting tired of watching it, she could spend forever learning the dance moves. She also does such a good job cutting up and seasoning her food, that even if we order the same thing at restaurants, I always want to try hers.

Janna: Our dads started teaching together at around the same time, and I don’t remember a time before we were together at holidays. There was that time we fought for a year in elementary school for a reason neither of us can remember, but it ended when Janna sent me a “make-up letter,” as in, an apology letter that had been covered in make-up. She also lived with me the year I taught in KY and was a co-foster mother of all those kittens.

Fun Fact: Janna loves Romania, and just got back from a month working as a nurse there. She also loves all things Japanese, and when we were young, we created our own cooking company named “Stongells” (Stone + her last name of Dongell). We are still waiting for our trademark no-bake cookies (since we were too young to use the stove) to gain notoriety.

Susannah: I usually refer to her as Suze on this blog, but growing up we were Susannah and Hannah, two dorky girls, one with head gear and one with horse t-shirts. I feel so blessed that our lives have led us to now live in the same city. Because she is a wedding photographer, Suze was my source for all random wedding questions. There at the end I am pretty sure I called her every single day. And of course, she was the hostess of that amazing shower.

Fun Fact: Susannah is crazy flexible, and sometimes as you are talking with her, she will just stretch in kind of weird ways. She is also an insane game player, makes awesome soup, and speaks fluent Spanish.

Jenny: Jenny started out as my RA freshman year, then we led a Bible study together, and she has remained one of the people I respect most in the whole world. If Jenny says something unkind about someone (which happens rarely) than it must actually be true. I asked her to give the toast at our reception because I selfishly wanted to be the subject of her kindness and eloquence. Also because she took a speech class in college and the mock toast she wrote about Winston Churchill and Clementine made me cry.

Fun Fact: Jenny hunts, she shoots, and yet she is the sweetest most ladylike thing ever. She also falls asleep during most movies, makes French bread to die for, and would just as soon roller-blade as walk.

Amanda: I guess it could seem odd that I have only known Amanda for 2 years, and yet she was in my wedding party. But sometimes you meet someone and know almost instantly that you have found a kindred spirit, like Diana Barry and Anne Shirley. That is what happened with me and Amanda. And over the past 2 years we have wept, laughed, argued, shared, and grown together and I wanted to have her beside me. I also appreciate that in this world of Pinterest-induced Martha Stewarts, Amanda declared that she would love to help with wedding crafts, but she can’t even tie bows.

Fun Fact: Amanda loves Southern literature, cites poems and books all the time, insistes that she didn’t know what feta was before she came to KY (from Alabama) and loves her dog Chester fiercely. She is also the mother to a sweet baby girl who is due in just over a month!!!

And of course, we also had some handsome men as members of our party: four brothers, best friends, new friends, and one groomsmen who was absent at the last minute because his wife gave birth to their first baby (a totally legitimate reason to miss : ) ). And I picked the serious picture because I think James is especially cute in it.

Add to that 2 precious flower girls that I have babysat since their birth, and our army of 19 was ready to get this marriage going! 

Unsolicited Wedding Advice #5:

  • Pick clothes early and buy quickly:  Dressing that many people was nothing short of a nightmare, and not because our friends were slackers. We finally opted for David’s Bridal and Jos. A. Banks because they were the cheapest option, and seemed to have the best variety of fits. However, even though these two places are known for doing weddings, they were absolutely no help. David’s Bridal discontinued all of our dresses mid-spring (despite that being height of bridal buying season) and didn’t contact me (despite having all my info, including that I had chosen those dresses), which meant that I spent spring break calling David’s Bridals across the county tracking the dresses down one by one. Furthermore, as we found with the exploding zippers, the dresses were pretty shoddily made. The guys’ suits were equally difficult, though the service was much kinder.
  • Tie Bar: such a good decision for buying ties. So cheap, quick, useful, etc.
  • Think about what will really matter: In the end, does it matter what color my bridesmaids painted their toes? No. Does it matter if their jewelry was “blush and gold” or “blush and silver” No. Does it matter if they wore wedges or strappy sandles? No. Would it have maybe been better if I just said “Get a navy dress and clear it with me”? Yes.  So many things seem like big deals at the moment and they just maybe aren’t.
  • Spend your life cultivating good friendships.They will enrich your wedding day, and your entire existence.

Photos by Whitney Neal Photography.

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7 Responses to A Wedding Story: A great cloud of witnesses

  1. asilvercord says:

    Such beautiful pictures. I love the navy and grey together…it is very classy and calming. Ans how we wish we could have been there!

    • Hannah says:

      Me too!!! But you were engaged in something pretty consuming, if I do recall ; ). And I would say that you probably made a good call in not traveling with a 2-day old baby….

  2. bkjergaard says:

    I love you both the same! Also, Thomas looks unutterably cool in the jumping photo.

    • Hannah says:

      We are exceptionally pleased with the jumping performance of our wedding party. More people should take that into account when selecting their bridal party.

  3. Pingback: Wedding! | The Joy As It Flies

  4. Karissa says:

    Ah! We are having navy and grey for our wedding as well! Also, I read somewhere in the deep realms of the wedding internet, that “If you have an ivory dress, make SURE your groom finds an ivory shirt, because if he wears WHITE, your dress will look DIRTY.” Thus ensued one of my more ridiculous internal bridal meltdowns, & I began panicking that we wouldn’t find the “right” shade of ivory shirt for all the guys to wear. On seeing your many men wearing white shirts, I can rest easy that my ivory dress will, in fact, look beautiful. 🙂

    • Hannah says:

      Yeah… I totally mixed white, ivory, and that overly pale grey (way paler than we intended) together and just decided not to care. : ) GO FOR IT!

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