Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Together AS One - The Wedding of Shauni and Alex

Alex and Shauni John and party.  Freshly married.
These past few weeks we have been gearing up for something that wasn't hiking related which consumed most of our time.  Last Saturday, it all came to a head as my first born daughter, Shauni, married the love of her life Alex.  

Just like hiking, things weren't "ideal", but thanks to my daughter's meticulous planning, preparation and flexibility, it ended up being "perfect".  

For the last two weeks or so, we have been checking the weather. Fretting a bit here and there as the forecast constantly changed from cloudy, to rainy, to windy.  It ended up being a bit windy, with temperatures in the 50's, but hey, it's October and we half expected it while hoping for a burst of Indian Summer to come along.  

Shauni had always wanted an outdoor wedding and I'm proud to say that Lisa and my influence had a little to do with it.  Here's a quote from her card to us.
"Thank you for instilling the love of the outdoors in me so that I had the desire to have a wedding outside.  Rain or shine.  I'm glad to begin this new journey surrounded by nature."
All her life, we have been camping and hiking with our kids.  One clear memory I have of Shauni is walking (and carrying) her up a steep trail in Yosemite to the top of a raging waterfall.  It was raining or misting and a little chilly as we continued to the top, singing "rain, rain, go away" together.  She was only about two at the time, but I could see the wonder in her eyes as we watched the power of nature in that waterfall.  Another memory is when we were being transferred back East after a tour in California.  We had stopped for the night in Utah, camping on the edge of the salt flats.  The wind kicked up fiercely in the night, pulling the tent stakes from the sandy soil.  Lisa and I spread ourselves out to each side to hold the tent in place as Shauni slept soundly in the cacophony of the roaring wind.  

Dad and Daughter at Vernal Falls, Yosemite, CA

Lunch at the falls

Car camping in NC

Patapsco hike

Fast forward two decades and here we have the whole family taking a short backpack trip up in PA on the A.T. and a nearby trail for a nice overnight.  The hike went well after one of my unplanned tangents and we had a pleasant night in an established campsite, making s'mores around the fire.  A year or so later, Shauni, Alex and I did a 20 mile section south of Harpers Ferry.  The second day gave Shauni a crop of painful blisters, but she soldiered on the final day.  Moving slow, but moving forward nonetheless.  We completed our goal as we had planned.

Hiking in PA

Hiking in VA


So, I was happy to learn that she wanted an outdoor wedding and the venue she chose was very nice.  A Nature Center in Owings Mills.  The small rise above a large meadow was the perfect backdrop after a short walk down a path.  The reception would be back near the Nature Center in a large tent, with walls and a couple of heaters.

It was Friday, the day before the wedding and time for the rehearsal.  A line of storms rolled through the area as a cold front arrived.  The cleansing rain that pattered on the windshield as we drove North had stopped when we all came together to go over the ceremony with the wedding planner and the freshness you could see and feel was marvelous.  

After a very nice dinner at a nearby Green Turtle, we all headed to our resting places for the night.  Shauni to the hotel, Alex back their new home so he wouldn't see his bride until the appointed time and us back to our home where the dogs waited for us.

Maisie, their pup, doesn't like when we leave her.  She finds things to destroy that she knows are dear to us.  She wouldn't disappoint that night and the next, but my grand doggy can do no wrong.  She is quickly forgiven her tantrums as we love her to death. 

After Rehearsal Dinner

After the Wedding
The wedding day arrived with a chill temperature and blustery winds.  As I got ready to leave home, I went out on the deck to a beautiful blue sky with puffy white clouds that were quickly moving across the sky in the strong breeze.  The wind would dry up the field, but also chill the guests and wedding party, but we were prepared and ready to carry on.

I threw my base layer merino wool long sleeve shirt on under my suit, just in case and was pretty comfortable the whole night.  

We all arrived at our appointed places at the correct times.  I hung out with the men for a while.  Watching the nervousness on my soon to be son-in-law as we waited for 5 o'clock to arrive.  I was called into the room where my daughter was waiting to see her fully dressed in the most amazing gown and was stuck by her beauty.  It was hard to believe someone so beautiful came from me.  

Men prepare

John Family
The guests arrived; the time arrived; we all came together for a wonderful ceremony.
Most of us forgot about the cold and wind.  There was a super blast of wind right at the beginning of the ceremony that filled the air with leaves.  It was amazing and everyone commented on it later.  We came to believe that it was Shauni's grand mothers checking in and giving their blessing.

MeMom Esther

Grammy Clare
The ceremony was short and sweet (although a couple of the bridesmaids were shivering a little) and we all headed up to the Nature Center for some cocktails and h'orderves.  We then moved to the tent for introductions, dinner and dancing.  The wind tried to get under the walls and one of the heaters wasn't working and needed some maintenance before they could get it going, but everything was still perfect. 

Bride, Groom and his Men

Brave Bridemaids
After dinner and the obligitory first dances, the dance floor filled with revelers and didn't clear out until the music stopped at 11:00 pm.  Everyone had a great time.  So many people came up to me saying this was the best wedding and all the credit goes to Shauni and Alex who did almost all the work themselves.  

From making her and her bridesmaid's bouquets from the pages of Harry Potter books, to hand made wooden place cards, to every centerpiece of pine cones, acorns and slabs of wood picked up by all of us in the woods of MD and PA.  Everything came together to make a most memorable event.

Handmade Place Cards

Center piece and favor of S'more ingredients

Handmade bouquet
I had a great time being the Father of the Bride.  I cried a lot, but anyone who knows me, knows I'm a "sensitive" guy.  Every time I looked at my baby, I saw that two year old I'm carrying and singing with.  I saw the wonderful woman she has become and I thank the gods that her and Alex found each other and will have a perfect and happy life together.

Proud Father of the Bride
Here is the text of the toast I proposed at the reception:
I'm pretty sure that every father of a daughter has worried that his baby won't find the right man to be her partner in life. 
When I first met Alex, I had a strong feeling that this might be the man.  As I saw their love for each other grow over the years, I became sure of it. 
I could see that both of them had found someone to keep watch over and keep safe. 
So, as they say in the services and on the job, you have the watch.  I stand relieved. 
To Alex and Shauni, may your watch be long and sweet.  

So, here's to Alex and Shauni.  May their love last forever.  May they continue to enjoy the outdoors and nature's beautiful bounty.  And, may they find the time to complete the bucket list item I assigned them to hike 500 miles together.  

I love you baby.  Congratulations!

Mr and Mrs John

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