Homegrown Wedding

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George DeVault
The happy couple.

Weddings take place in all kinds of places: country clubs, cathedrals, old mansions, museums, famous parks, city halls and even a judge’s chambers in a courthouse. Or, people may decide to stay closer to home, like our 25-year-old daughter, Ruth. She chose to have a simple ceremony – and a big party – on our small Pennsylvania farm.

Ruth and her fiancé, Eric DeLong, had been to a lot of fancy weddings. So, my wife, Melanie, and I were surprised and actually flattered when the couple announced their intention to stay at home. They wanted to get married in our backyard, and then treat friends and relatives to an old-fashioned pig roast. The pig roast was no surprise. Eric’s father, Randy, is known throughout the area as a master pig roaster and often caters special events.

The whole wedding theme was as down-to-earth as Ruth and Eric. As much as possible, the food would be organic and locally produced. Of course, the flowers – centerpieces, bridal bouquet, corsages and boutonnieres – would come from our own farm, compliments of The Flower Ladies, Melanie and her flower partner Linda Essert-Kuchar. Invitations, decorations and even name tags would be handmade. We would have chairs, but many guests would sit on bales of fresh straw. Dress would be casual.

Preparations for the wedding soon resembled an old-fashioned quilting bee or community barn raising. Everyone remotely connected with the bride and groom pitched in and helped out with whatever needed to be done.

Eric’s aunts and mother, Debbie, joined Ruth, Melanie and their friends during the spring months decorating 225 handmade invitations and stuffing envelopes.

As the August 20 wedding drew closer, outside work began with chain saws, tractors, mowers, rakes, hoes, brooms and paint brushes.

The morning of the wedding, dozens of people were busy around the farmstead. A constant stream of pickup trucks, work vans and trailers surged up and down our driveway, bringing borrowed tables and chairs, and a friend brought dozens of bales of straw that he had grown, mowed and baled just for the wedding. Electricians, plumbers, carpenters, engineers and laborers – all friends of the couple or their parents – gave of their time, tools and special talents. A young couple couldn’t ask for better wedding presents.

“It was truly a community affair. I haven’t seen anything like this since I lived in Malaysia, and the whole community helped out with special events,” says Marlene Cohen, of Silver Spring, Maryland, and a long-time friend. “We just don’t do things like that in America, I thought at the time, yet here it is on your organic farm!”

The ceremony was set for 5 p.m. Most of the guests were from nearby, but a few came from the far corners of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, New Jersey and Maine, some traveling nearly 600 miles. When the ceremony began there were only a few minor glitches, including the anxious groom blurting out “I do!” long before it was time.

The fresh country air whetted everyone’s appetites. After the ceremony, the horde descended on the feast, and the food disappeared as quickly as the tents had gone up. Many had never eaten farm-fresh, organic fare before.

“Those were the best cherry tomatoes I ever ate,” exclaimed our old friend Steve Bulkley from Columbus, Ohio.

As darkness fell, the volunteer fire companies arrived with their trucks to stand guard for a 20-minute fireworks display.

Through it all, I kept thinking of the old Russian saying: “Don’t have 100 rubles, have 100 friends.” Ruth and Eric easily have that many friends. That’s why we know they will always be more wealthy, secure and happy than their acquaintances who have only chests of gold.