HOME PLACE - A whole lot to do before saying 'I do'

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Now let's see. I last left column readers at elk camp, as I recall. Needless to say, a lot of life has been happening since then.

Things like Camo Man and I finally setting a wedding date.

After weeks of fretting about when.

Should we try for this year? Too cold already. And I had a December anniversary for 34 years. I've put in my time shivering between restaurant and car, or not going anywhere because who had any money between Thanksgiving and Christmas -not after our two November birthdays turned into five and Christmas for a duo grew into a gifting occasion for eight.

What about September or October?

Autumn has been my favorite season since I first linked the time of the year with going to school. The colors of the leaves, the crispness in the air, the end of gardening season ... .

Not to mention I look my best in fall, the seasonal wardrobe colors of olive, bronze and cinnamon working nicely with my skin, even as my skin and I don't always work well together.

Why not get married to the man I love at such a perfect time of the year?

I'll tell you why.

As our relationship has evolved, we realized we couldn't wait out the three years I first suggested. We couldn't even wait for the autumnal nuptials I dreamed of. Instead we picked the day in June that coincides with our first date, the day the seed was planted that is now growing into a family tree.

Which we thought was the hard part until we starting looking for the perfect "I do" spot.

Now there are wonderful commercial wedding venues in the Walla Walla Valley. Owners have worked hard to make beautiful spaces in which to frame lifetime memories. There are gardens and barns and sculpted green spaces. There are vineyards and hospitality inns and ballrooms.

I'm certain those are worth every penny asked for - an average of 200,000 little copper coins. We just don't want to put that many pennies into a day of rentership. Better, we say while smiling at each other, to use that sort of cash for a honeymoon.

So where to wed, then?

My church is cozy and snug; his is contemporary and open. But neither will hold the number of guests we anticipate.

Let's talk about that. Suddenly, I'm very aware of how quickly this slope slicks up and weddings slide out of control. We sat down with pen and paper for a preliminary count, starting with his family.

Now, me, I'm kind of light on family members, even given the number of children I claim. You could fit all of us in a metro bus and leave room for the driver to squeeze through.

Not Camo Man. By the time we named every child, sibling, grandkiddo and cousin, not to mention his parents, we had 60-some marks on his side of the paper. Then we began counting his friends ... .

I was feeling a little smug until we began my list. I won't go into more detail, but our total count (thus far) leaped into the 200s. Yes, I insisted, I do have to invite that many people and maybe more. Really, my base of support is broader than I deserve and I want those people to get a little payoff for all the tears they've mopped up.

Meaning we're looking at the great outdoors as the wedding venue.

Of course, with an outdoor wedding comes a whole set of worries, like rain and wind and lost children and cake-seekers crashing the reception. I've chosen to believe it will be the most perfect day ever recorded by the National Weather Service and check into renting a tent in case God decides to, well, play God.

This brings me to my moment of brilliance. Sit up, City of Walla Walla, you'll want to take notes.

That Blue Mountain Mall mess? Clean it up, plant grass and flowers and put in public restrooms. Surround the whole thing with a few rows of trees and a wooden fence to keep out the deer and idiots, and call it a wedding venue. I promise you, there will be much more income from that property than what you guys are seeing now. Rent out your own white tents and the idea is a complete win.

You're welcome.

But that's not going to happen in time for a June wedding.

So we went park shopping. Milton-Freewater's Harris Park, along the Walla Walla River with mountainous beauty, was first on my list. I called the office.

"Oh, we really discourage weddings," the manager told me.

"Is that official policy?

"Well, if we say yes to you, we have to say yes to everyone," he said, Eeyore style.v

"But could I have a wedding there if I really wanted to?"

"Gosh, we really don't like people have weddings here."

"Is that official policy?"

A few more rounds and I broke. Message received and mission accomplished on the manager's part - no wedding in Harris Park for this couple. Even if we do both pay taxes in Oregon.

We've looked here and there and under rocks. City parks surrounded by two-story houses didn't match my "hippie-cowboy wilderness love fest" vision. Pioneer Park is classic, of course, but such a well-used park that there is little hope of privacy.

Yes, I get the irony. I'm inviting a village and asking for privacy.

Finally, we took the trip to a large park just out of town. I'd never explored it beyond the picnic shelter and had been told it's notorious for hiding high-school drinkers.

Nonetheless, it's perfect. River, trees, shrubs, hills, room for kids to run wild ... I could not have designed a more fitting venue. Unless I could get all that under a leak-proof roof.

I booked the park online as first official act of a bride-to-be. I was a mess of nerves the rest of the day. This wedding stuff is not for the weak.

And yet, think about it - I'm going to be Mrs. Camo Man. It's a title I could have never dreamed up but one I can't wait to claim.

Now, on to the dress. Can't you just wait for that whining and carrying on?

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