Thursday, June 6, 2013

Wedding Fun

Barrett and Dosha
Well, I've let almost two weeks get away from me without writing about my brother's wedding, so I'd better record something now or I will forget more of it than I care to.

My brother, Barrett, is amazing.  He's an entomologist who teaches at the University of Wisconsin LaCrosse.  He does scientific illustration and sleep research on bees, and is an all around brilliant, compassionate, and funny guy.  I'm constantly floored by his knowledge and talent, and his enthusiasm for life and learning is inspiring.  I adore Barrett and I'm honored to be able to say I'm his sister.

My new sister-in-law, Dosha, is gentle, kind, and creative.  When she heard the news a few years back that Ian was being deployed to Iraq again, her first response was that she would find a week or two to come out to Milwaukee and help me.  And she did.  Living through a deployment with small children teaches you quickly who really means it when they say they are there for you, and it's not always the people you expect.  Those ten days where Dosha stayed with us and made it possible for me to breathe easier for a little while will always mean the world to me.  I love her.

The two of them make a lovely couple.  It's the kind of pairing that seems so natural that it's hard to imagine them not together.  Barrett's energy and extroversion is nicely balanced with Dosha's calm and patient amusement.  Just knowing they have each other makes me happy and feel better about the world.

So, of course, they had a lovely wedding.  It was unique and moving and fun, just like their relationship.

Quinn with program handmade by my mom
Now, I've been to a lot of weddings.  I've stood up for friends in a few, I've been a bride myself, helped with the weddings of relatives, and played more ceremonies, receptions and cocktail hours than I can count as a quartet musician.  And the thing about a good wedding versus a bad one is not that nothing goes wrong (because something always goes wrong) it's how well everyone adapts.  I've played many weddings where, as musicians, we had to make snap decisions to keep things moving properly, and that's really what you are paying for when you enlist qualified people.  (Some high school quartet group may be cheaper, but I was once part of such a group, and I still think about our deer-in-headlights moment when we ran out of music at the wrong time and had no idea what to do.)

Everything about this wedding went right, even as problems seemed to arise.  For instance, our brother, Arno, officiated the ceremony but forgot his suit at our house in Milwaukee.  He ended up wearing the outfit that the bride and groom had originally requested he wear anyway.  My dad had hoped to get through the reading of his poem without getting overly emotional, but when he started to cry it was moving to have Arno stand with him supportively as he finished.

The main potential problem was that the weather at first was disappointing.  It was about five degrees too cold to comfortably have the ceremony outside at the Eco Park in LaCrosse where the wedding was held.  But I think the accommodations indoors were superior to what we would have experienced outside.  Better seating, better acoustics (says the only person there performing live music who knows how poor her viola would have sounded outdoors by comparison), just all kinds of better for that portion of the event.  And the cooler weather was perfect for the post-ceremony hike.  (I'll get to that in a moment.)

The logistics of this wedding were a little involved on our end, because my parents and my brother Arno and his family came to stay with us in Milwaukee a few days ahead of the wedding, both to spend the extra time together and also to make the cake.  Ian (along with Quinn and Aden) waited until the day of the wedding to drive the three and a half hours across the state, and the rest of us went out a day early to enjoy a wedding-eve dinner in Barrett and Dosha's new house and then stay in a hotel.

I got to bring just Mona along with me for the pre-wedding festivities.  It would have been too much to have all of us go, but I really didn't like the idea of leaving my entire family behind.  Mona is the child I have the biggest challenge finding one-on-one time with.  Aden and Quinn are more likely to seek me out if they want me to themselves, and most of the time if I offer to do something alone with Mona she objects to the idea of leaving her siblings out because she doesn't want them to feel bad.  So I asked Aden if she minded if I took just Mona out to LaCrosse, and she thought it was a great idea.  She said she would keep Quinn happy in my absence and that Mona should have some mom time.  With Aden's seal of approval, Mona was happy to go.

Mona and her bird drawing
Another Mona sketch
The evening before the wedding included some of the best pizza I've ever had (pear and gorgonzola, hummus and artichoke hearts.... we're talking seriously interesting and good), ping-pong in the backyard, out for ice cream, and then a visit to Barrett's office in the Biology Department (recently declared the finest of any of the departments in the entire University of Wisconsin system--I'm sure entirely due to my brother who started there this fall).  As part of the tour, Barrett wound up giving an impromptu lecture that mostly made me realize how impossibly little I know and that it is likely I would struggle in my brother's class if I took it (and through no fault of his teaching skills).  Mona remained unfazed by terms like the Krebs Cycle and lots of diagrams labeled in Latin and simply found some space on the white board to draw.

Mona snuggled close in the hotel bed we shared, happily made a waffle at the breakfast buffet in the morning, and got to play in the hotel pool with her cousin.  She even made my dad's day the morning of the wedding when he read her his poem for practice, and then she told him it was the most beautiful thing she'd ever heard.  Getting the chance to spend time with Mona apart from her siblings was one of my favorite things the whole weekend.

We met up with the rest of our family at the Eco Park building, which is a nice learning facility right on a marsh.  Aden and Quinn were busily making a sign to guide guests, and had helped their Uncle Barrett decorate the reception tables with small trilobite fossils and foreign coins with animal life depicted on them (including several with bees).  One of the guests had contributed fresh cut lilacs and other flowers which made the room smell terrific. 

The reception room was adjacent to the main room of the Eco Park building which had a tree as its centerpiece, and enough room for all the small children in attendance to run about in.  (There were large cardboard blocks under the stairs that kept all the kids entertained for hours.)  

The ceremony itself was both touching and heavily science-themed.  Arno had received some kind of online authority to wed people, and his words were both funny and profound.  My dad read his poem, a friend spoke, there was a reading from The Origin of Species, and I've never seen a groom as actively involved in an event like this before.  Barrett was up and down and thanking people and praising everyone's accomplishments.  He even plugged my book before I played.

For music I selected two pieces.  I was invited to play one tune during the ceremony ("Something Renaissance-y"), and I added a transposed version of the same tune I used for Arno's wedding years ago (which was an aria from Handel's Ariadne that my parents had at their own wedding) to play in the moments when people were getting seated.  For my standalone piece I chose Carabanda (composer unknown) off a CD the hospital gave us when Aden was born.  It was something I used to dance with her to in our kitchen and she loved it, so it still makes me smile.  It's cheerful, but complex, so I had a composer friend help me write out an arrangement into something that would work on solo viola.  Everyone seemed to enjoy it (particularly the bride and groom), so it was worth the effort.

Here's a snippet off my sister-in-law's phone.  Supposedly there is a longer version and I'll put that up instead when I get it.

The rings were really interesting.  Barrett had them custom made: His from a small image of a bee, and hers from an actual trilobite fossil:
After the ceremony there was a Marsh Mosey.  Barrett handed out butterfly nets and made sure everyone knew who the naturalists were in the crowd in case anyone had questions about birds or plants or fungi.  The walk was leisurely and fascinating.  I think to truly enjoy a nature hike you need to go with an entomologist.  You begin to appreciate natural wonders on a scale that has you stopping every inch instead of passing so much by.  Barrett showed us how to sweep an area of grass with a net and then he could identify everything caught in it, from damselflies to midges.  Quinn told me several times about how he managed to catch a spider.  Mona was simply happy to be out in nature and was the best at spotting herons.  The marsh hike was the part of the day my kids enjoyed best.
Aden, Barrett, Mona, Ellora and Quinn right before the hike

After the hike there was vegetarian Indian food, and Dosha's family provided dishes for the meat eaters in attendance (including a Puerto Rican rice dish that her mother prepared that was just delicious).  There was story telling and good wishes and cake.

My mom and I teamed up on the hive cake and all the kids helped decorate the accompanying bee and flower cupcakes.  (Earlier post about how we made the cake here.)
Eventually we got to the bottom layer

Then there were dancing lessons!  Barrett and Dosha arranged for someone to teach us Swing and Salsa.  We had a great deal of fun, but mostly I learned that I am horrible at both Swing and Salsa.  But who cares?  I got to dance with my handsome husband, which is rarer than it should be.
Dad and Deepanjana dancing away!
Barrett and Dosha
Me and Ian
We helped clean up, then danced some more, and eventually gathered up our kids plus my niece and loaded them all back into the car for the nighttime drive to Milwaukee.  (We left our other car for my brother and his wife to drive back the next day, but thought their daughter would have more fun spending her morning with her cousins.)

I'm leaving out a million things.  The wedding already feels like it was more than a month ago because back here in our regular life school is winding down and Quinn learned to ride a bike and dozens of violins and bows have gone in and out of our shop.

Life can be such a whirlwind it's important to stake out certain days for special moments or it all blurs together.  People can argue that there is too much put into weddings anymore, and I am quick to agree having participated in some ceremonies that were unnecessarily over the top, but it depends on how you do it.  There was nothing over the top about this wedding aside from the amount of affection and fun found there.  It was a day to celebrate a relationship we believe in.  The beautiful thing about weddings is they are one of the rare rites of passage that overlap different areas of your life and you get to have family and friends and colleagues in the same place.  It was wonderful to meet so many of the people that are important to both Barrett and Dosha.  It was a privilege to be a part of their day.

We love you Barrett and Dosha, and wish you as much peace, adventure, and joy as you can stand.


  1. Sounds like such a wonderful, lovely day. I loved the cake, the decor, the music, and especially the hike. My boys would absolutely love Barrett. Liam tells everyone he meets that he wants to be an entymologist and our house is filled to the brim with books about insects (even his 4th birthday was bug themed). It's always so nice to see two people who just "fit" together get married.

    p.s. you and Ian are adorable :)
    p.s.s. Started the book and you hooked me right away with the prologue...the before and after description is spot on from someone is lives with that reality

  2. That. Is. Amazing. The hike - what an amazing idea!!!

    They should totally submit this to Offbeat Bride - they would love it.

  3. So many thoughts swirling I don't know where to begin. In no particular order:

    *I was so bummed the video wasn't longer as I was thoroughly enjoying the music--what a happy piece
    *I LOVE the rings and think the trilobite is incredible
    *Trilobites on the table? Sweet!
    *I would LOVE to do a marsh walk
    *How wonderful to have time alone with Mona :o)
    *I can feel the love and joy radiating throughout this post
    *Dosha's dress is gorgeous
    *What a fun wedding to attend

    Your family is simply beautiful! :o)

  4. The wedding sounds amazing; very unique and reflective of the personalities involved. I so enjoyed the re-telling of it, and was particularly touched by your mention of the special time that you spent with Mona. It's been a big struggle of mine, of late, to try to get in time with each of mine, particularly with an infant in the mix, so I can empathize with the joy it must have brought you to "reconnect" under such special circumstances.

  5. Thank you for encapsulating portions of our nuptial flight in your blog! I loved reading about the event from your perspective. You were instrumental (figuratively and literally) to the weekend, and I personally hope to have boffo bonanzas in the future that are as fun and filled with love, creativity, and dancing! and ping pong.
    It has rained everyday since the nuptial flight, so we were super-fortunate to make the marshland mosey without returning sopping soaked.

    By-the-by, the bee image in my ring, is a 2000-year-old Greek coin featuring a honey bee on one side, and the face of a goddess on the other.

    I received videos of the nuptial flight, including insanely funny dance videos, and a recording of your playing!

    I loved attending Ian's and your wedding, Deepanjana's and @rno's wedding, and now I am so happy to have had the great good fortune of marrying Dosha.

    love from your brother,

    1. More bashes would be fun! Maybe the three of us can team up on an all-purpose sibling anniversary event.

      I knew there was more the bee ring--thanks for filling me in! Funny how old a 2000 year old coin sounds until you think about the age of the trilobite fossil on the other ring.

      Love you

    2. That's right. 2000 years is nothing compared to 100s of MILLIONS of years.

  6. Thank you for this wonderful description of the events! I am a friend of Barrett's from graduate school, and it helped so much to have your words and pictures to describe the fabulous special day! Wishing the lovely stupendous couple all the love and joy in the world, their whole lives long. (I'll send Barrett an email too). Thanks again! what a wonderful talented family. Anna Himler, from Tucson, AZ

  7. Thank you, Kory, for this beautifully written and touching post. I love you very much, and am so happy to have been given a place in your amazingly talented and loving family. Thank you for everything you have done, both small and large, to help create such a special day for so many.

    Your New Sister,


    1. I'd say "Welcome to the family" but I would hope you have felt a part of it for a long time now. Nice to have it be official, though!

      Love you, too.

  8. What an interesting wedding, reflective of the bride and groom. Thanks for sharing all of the details and your lovely performance - the image was a bit blurry but the gorgeous music came through loud and clear.

  9. Loved this post a lot. Such pretty photos! Everyone is just gorgeous. We have also started the preparations for our big day. At one of the rustic themed Seattle Wedding venues we are marrying in this year. The theme is not decided yet. I wonder if you have any suggestions here.