Our wedding was the culmination of the most unpredictable, turbulent year of my life. Type-A by nature, I’m always carefully plotting out my next path before stepping onto it. While in college, I applied to grad school; shortly after graduating, I landed my first job; a few weeks before starting, I settled into an apartment in New York City. I had never taken a leap without a safety net below me.
Until, over citrusy palomas at a Brooklyn bar in August 2011, my boyfriend Sam told me he’d gotten a job offer in Stowe, Vt. I remember watching the last rays of sunset tunnel through the window panes as the condensation from my glass dripped down my wrist, and Sam’s voice sounding very far away. The decision was mine, he continued. He’d love to accept it, but he loved me much more. He’d only go if moving felt right for me, too. And so, that fall, for quite possibly the first time in my scheduled lifestyle, I dove into the unknown, even though there was no guarantee that things would work out. All I really had to count on was Sam, who assured me every single day that we would always take care of each other.
Within our first week in town, we immersed ourselves in the Green Mountain spirit. We got a Subaru and a golden retriever. I signed up for needle felting and cheesemaking classes, while Sam stocked up on flannel shirts and learned how to work a wood stove. That January, during an appropriately Vermont-y snowshoe hike up Mt. Mansfield, he dropped onto his knee and proposed.
Since I was newly unemployed, I had plenty of time for wedding planning, and immediately went into organization-mode. We wanted our wedding to be not only a celebration of our commitment, but also an opportunity for us to introduce our friends and family to Stowe, our new home.
The first task was finding the right venue, and we soon stumbled upon the perfect spot: The Barn at Boyden Farm in Jeffersonville. A working beef farm, we’d been enjoying Boyden’s grass-fed steaks and burgers at local restaurants since our move. Several years ago, the owners decided to transform one of their beautiful turn-of-the-century barns into a wedding hall. Even though it was now decked out with wrought-iron chandeliers and a full kitchen, you could see notches in the beams where stalls had once been, and the wood still held the earthy scent of hay.
Once we nailed down the date, other Vermont-inspired details started falling into place. A graphic designer on Etsy created custom invitations featuring a watercolor drawing of us at Boyden Farm with the Green Mountains in the background. Our caterer, Pace Catering, used local, organic ingredients to create a family-style feast that would be served on big platters to be passed around the barn’s long wooden tables. We filled sap buckets with bunches of wildflowers. The bar service prepared signature “Maple Leaf” cocktails invented by a friend and served in mason jars.
In homage to my felting hobby, we perched a different felted Vermont animal on each table instead of numbers — so guests had to find the animal pictured on their name card. In place of a cake, we ordered nearby Cold Hollow Cider Mill’s famous cider doughnuts, and had I.C. Scoops, Stowe’s ice cream store, dole out hand-churned ice cream. Cheryl Shields, a designer in town, created a spectacular jeweled headpiece for me to wear on top of my veil.
Even our rehearsal dinner was quintessential Vermont. Held at the Cliff House at Stowe Mountain Resort, guests would take a gondola to the breathtaking restaurant at the top of the same mountain where we’d gotten engaged. Following the dinner was a bluegrass party at Stowe’s iconic ski bar, The Matterhorn.
Our other hope for the wedding was that it would be a unique reflection of us. In lieu of readings, we asked each of our parents to give us a blessing for our marriage, speaking about what they believe is the key quality ingredient in a long-lasting union. Our dog, dressed up in a wreath of flowers, would be our ring-bearer. My parents baked batches of homemade granola and trail-mix for the gift bags. We invited guests to decorate quilt squares that my godmother later turned into a big blanket of memories. Since we didn’t have a cake to slice, we decided to cut a pizza from our favorite pizza parlor in our hometown.
Despite all of our planning, when the wedding finally rolled around, another force that we hadn’t foreseen dominated the day: heat. The kind of fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk, melt-your-clothes-off heat you’d expect from Houston, Texas, not Stowe, Vt. Like plenty of brides, I’d been eagerly checking the forecast multiple times a day, thrilled that, despite Stowe’s reputation for frequent summer showers, sunny days stretched ahead. It wasn’t until the day before the wedding that the temperature sunk in: 104 degrees … record-breaking highs … an outdoor ceremony … a barn whose only cooling system was a handful of ceiling fans.
Minutes before I was supposed to walk down the aisle last July 14th, I sat sweltering in a little room inside the barn, convinced there was a radiator underneath my dress, and I must have dusted on about a pound of powder. Flanked by my parents, I made my way past rows of guests, men loosening their ties and women plucking their dresses away from their sticky chests, lazily fanning themselves like ladies in the Deep South with paper fans we’d supplied. Guests occasionally ran out to their cars to sneak in a few minutes of relief in the air-conditioning, and one of the bar-backs fainted from heat exhaustion.
Despite my best efforts to relax and enjoy myself, I couldn’t help worrying that people were uncomfortable. But then, at a certain point, something kind of remarkable happened. Once the ice cream had been devoured and the dancing was on, people surrendered to the heat, casting aside decorum like ties slung onto the backs of chairs. Hair was pulled into fast buns, dresses indecently hiked up, makeup allowed to drip, drenched shirts unbuttoned if not removed entirely. Strangers ran ice cubes down each other’s arms and necks. Guests grabbed the microphone from the band and started singing, a few of our friends actually crowd-surfed, and the bar ran out of everything except rum. It was sweaty and messy, and amazingly, no one — even perfectionist me — cared. We were all having too much fun.
It wasn’t how I’d pictured my wedding, but looking back, I wouldn’t have dialed down the heat even if I could have. Although it was at first an unwelcome twist, it ultimately helped make our wedding wild, wonderful, and ultimately unforgettable. And it imprinted on me a truth that, after years of resistance,
I’m finally learning to appreciate.
O matter how hard you might strive to prepare for every situation, life will undoubtedly knock you off your feet. The secret is to embrace it, because it’s often in the unexpected that you find the magic.
Molly Triffin is a freelance writer and former editor at Cosmopolitan who lines in Stowe with her husband and golden retriever.