We had a surprise wedding at the farm over the weekend.
Our friends and family thought they were coming to a casual reception, until I walked out of the house in a tuxedo and gathered the guests around. I explained that, yes, Kayla and I were married in Ireland, and we wish we could have taken everyone with us. But we had decided from the beginning to also have a simple ceremony on the farm, to share our marriage with our loved ones, and to make it official.
We made it a surprise to save our guests from the headaches of a traditional wedding: bride’s maid’s dresses, suit jackets, wedding gifts, and all the rest. We wanted to provide only the up side; great food, great music, a great party.
Our guests sipped cocktails during the short exchange of vows; except, hopefully, during the prayer. The dress was casual. It was so casual that my father, who drove himself to the party on a tractor, and who stood at my side, as surprised as everyone else, wore an old t-shirt and burmuda shorts.
Kayla appeared in her beautiful white dress, and everyone knew that I am the luckiest man in the world. I told our guests that the last time I saw Kayla in that dress, she was walking up a long winding road (the coolest thing I have ever seen) to a grass-covered cliff beside the ocean. But that is not technically accurate. My wife and I respected each other, in a very old-fashioned way, until our wedding night. The last time I saw that dress, it was flying across the room of quaint little guest house.
Dr. Yandell, Kayla’s mom, who has always been there for her, walked Kayla down the aisle (across the lawn). She placed Kayla’s hand in mine and said, “I’m turning her over to you, so take good care of her,” and I will. Later, Dr. Yandell said there was a silent clause that she could take her back anytime, but I don’t think she can legally do that.
Our friend Karey Johnson of GLOW graciously agreed to cater the event. Karey managed her own catering business in Europe for many years before she relocated to Rockport and opened GLOW Boat House. GLOW is one of the finest bistro restaurants on the Gulf Coast.
We sent Karey a list of farm fresh items we would like to feature at the party: our own sausages, chicken, tomatoes, ground pork, peppers, and etc. We asked her to prepare them, somehow, in a theme of “Ireland” and “Greece”. Since these two countries have the worst cuisine on the planet, you can imagine what a challenge that was.
Karey responded brilliantly with the following menu. We called it Four String “Bangers and Mash”:
Platter of Four String Chicken Pate, Glow Bread & Balsamic Red Onion Marmalade
Rosemary & Honey Glazed Four String Sausages with Bourbon Mustard Dip
Greek Four String Meatballs with Tzatziki
Crudités Platter with Four String Vegetables, Chipotle Hummus & Grilled Eggplant
Four String Tomato Galettes with Four String Chili, Mozzarella & Basil
Four String Homemade Wheat Bread and Mesquite Pecan Shortbreads
The food was unique, interesting, and so incredibly delicious. Fortunately, no one was bothered during the meal by the distant view of chickens and pigs whose relatives helped with the menu.
We asked several of our guests, wonderful bakers, to bring their favorite homemade desserts. We didn’t want a big fancy cake, but instead wanted our guests to enjoy a variety of unique and delicious sweets prepared by our nearest and dearest.
There were carrot cakes, chocolate cakes, white wedding cakes, cookies, brownies, crème Brule, tiramisu, sweet yogurt with fruit, and more. Just one example from the desserts: our friend Gerlinde made an apple pie with every thin slice of apple amazingly carved into the shape of a leaf, with the ribs of a leaf carved delicately into each slice, and every slice lined on its side in a continual circle growing from the center of the pie. My mom, ever thoughtful, saved a piece for me in the fridge, and later that night, after all the guests had gone home, I visited apple pie heaven.
Years from now, when our kids ask us why we think we’re so cool, we’re going to say, “Put it like this, children, HOBO played at our wedding.” HOBO plays high energy country music, rocked-out bluegrass, with virtuoso skill. They have long beards like Civil War generals. They are brilliant and funny and they write completely original songs about love and fried chicken.
They use racy language, to put it mildly, in some/most of their songs. They asked if they should reel in the language for the wedding party. I pointed to my Aunt P at a far table, and said, “Keep an eye on that lady. If she looks at you over her spectacles with narrowed eyes, reel it in right away. If she doesn’t notice, let it fly!”
If you can possibly catch a HOBO show, don’t miss it. It’s hard to appreciate how good these guys are until you see a mosh pit develop in front of the stage to a bluegrass tune. When the entire bar sounds off with a long wolf howl, you’ll know what I mean.
My oldest friend, Sam, came down and helped with the party. Sam and I formed a band in junior high, and played ‘80’s cover songs when they were new, and even after 20 years of stockbrokering, he still rocks. Kayla’s friends from kindergarten, and since, were there. All of our family came, and our friends, old friends and new, from Rockport, Corpus, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, California, and as far as Portland, Oregon.
Some of them arrived early to help set up the tables and chairs. We didn’t ask them to do this; they just did. Kayla’s cousin picked wildflowers from around the lake for the table arrangements. I counted seven different kinds of flowers, from frog fruit to sunflowers, and we still have them in every room of the house.
Other guests kept the coolers and cattle watering troughs full of ice, for the beer and cokes. Everyone took their dishes to the cleaning table and rinsed them. People took down the tables, folded the chairs and stacked them by the porch, and brought in all the linens, dishes, flowers, and decorations. We didn’t ask anyone to do this work; they just did.
What’s more, we asked our guests prior to the party to please not bring gifts. But they brought gifts anyhow: enough cash to pay for the party and enough Lowe’s gift cards to turn this “sharecropper’s shanty” into a real shack.
Thank you, friends and family, thank you so much for sharing that special day with us. Thank you for your presence, your prayers, your best wishes, the desserts, and all the other gifts. Thanks for making it possible for us to have not one, but two dream weddings.
Come back and visit soon. As you know, you are always welcome.
Justin and Kayla,
My dear Kayla, you are a beautiful lady and the most caring person I know. I am glad that you have found a man that compliments you in everyway. Thank you so much for providing us with yummy delicious foods, amazing music and a surprise wedding reception. I really enjoyed myself. Justin, I am so glad you found love in my amazing friend, Kayla. I wish you many, many years full of much love and happiness. LOVE YOU BOTH and Justin welcome to the “family” (family of friends).
Congratulations and Best Wishes to a very nice couple. I’m glad everything went perfectly for you.
Congratulations and Much Happiness to you both .. thanks for sharing your day! You both look so happy!! Can’t wait to see what your future brings. Blessings, Donna Pazera