Surround Yourself With Good People

The internet is full of platitudes, and thanks to AIM, now progressing onto Pinterest and Twitter, platitudes have almost become an industry in-and-of themselves. Many of them are trite, hopeful, and wishful at best; dangerous crutches at worst.

But there’s one I just can’t escape: surround yourself with good people, and good things will happen to you.

Saturday was our wedding day, and never has this uttered phrase been more true.

When Janna and I first conceptualized our wedding, in my parents’ backyard in Fennville, Michigan, we had an idea of how it would look. I have to admit: our wedding planning was decidedly less-stressful than that of many we’ve heard from. Control of the ‘venue’ helps; being particularly low-maintenance as a pairing also helps.

But, in our wildest dreams, we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect evening, in every evening. Most events have things that go wrong, and if you’re good, you can glaze them over and nobody notices. This wasn’t one of those events: literally everything broke right on Saturday evening, to make what Jaik Willis called “Instagram gold.” Whatever weather gods we were praying to were the right ones: it had rained all week, and the weather forecast oscillated between sunshine and thunderstorms. But then about 3 hours before the wedding, the sky opened up, the sun came out, the temperature was absolute perfection, and there were just enough clouds at sundown to make a brilliant sunset over the lake.

I don’t really like weddings, and in fact I hate most weddings, but I loved our wedding.

And I wish we could take credit for it all, but we can’t. We were surrounded by an unbelievable cast of friends and family who helped make the day as perfect as any day has ever been.

At the risk of unintentionally failing to mention a contribution, cheers to the people who helped us have the most incredible day ever.

Our Parents

Thanks must go first and foremost to our parents. To Marlene and Peter Keith, who opened up their home to 55 of the most important people in our lives, and also their other home to some of our out-of-town friends so that they would have a place to stay. The wedding couldn’t have happened without you guys being so generous with providing the beautiful venue, so thank you. They helped in untold other ways, including running the leftover catering items back to the caterer, and we’re so grateful for all of it. To Janna’s parents, thank you for travelling so far to celebrate this day with us, and for providing the other most-crucial element for the event: that delicious food (that my parents will be eating leftovers of until at least Thanksgiving).

Our Volunteer Wedding Executioner

Executioner? Executionist? She didn’t kill the wedding, she made it happen. Alesha Breckon rolled into the house around 11AM on Saturday, and took over. Alesha’s day-job is some kind of hot-shot role at a big national dental chain, and if I thought it wouldn’t be a pay cut, she’d have a career as a wedding-executor. All of the plans we made, she pushed to the finish line. She came up with plans for serving alcohol (we had no staff), she arranged an immaculate drinks table, she helped Janna Pinterest-crush the centerpieces, she spent all night keeping the mess in check and making sure everyone had what they needed, and probably did thousands of other things that I didn’t pay attention to. She even kept Peter Keith in-check and in-line, which we all got a little chuckle of.

I tried to fire her when the wedding began so that she could enjoy herself, but I knew it was futile. Alesha’s just one of those people who sees things that needs to be done, and does them. Thank you Alesha for all of you did.

And Her Cast of Helpers

Mid-day, our group of friends split, and while some of us went out to enjoy a beautiful Michigan Saturday, a small group stayed at the house to finalize the last-minute preparations for the wedding. Thank you to Anne Lepesant for her last-minute trip to the grocery store to retrieve the crucial ice and chocolate pies. Thank you to Jennifer Schababerle for picking up the rest of the pies from Cranes (a local institution, with their own orchards, where my dad went with his grandma for pies as a kid). Thank you to Taylor Schababerle for your help with the lights, center-pieces, and for assembling Janna’s beautiful hair. Thank you to Nick and Chris for making a run for ice.

Our Friends

Almost all of the wedding guests weren’t local, and Fennville isn’t the easiest place on earth to get to. So a thank you to all of our friends who were willing to travel to what might have seemed like the end of the earth to celebrate with us. A special shoutout to Casey Kamerbeek, who after having three planes hit with mechanical issues, finally arrived at a hotel in Grand Rapids at 5AM – 24 hours after she left for the airport in Houston.

The Rest of Our Families

Like everyone else, you all had to travel, some a few hours, and some from as far away as Texas and California. Janna’s sister Leah and her son Jacob, my brother Nick (who is now an ordained minister and legally wedded us in April) and his boyfriend Chris, and all of my cousins, aunts, and uncles who made the time to be there. We know that in the crazy, hectic lives that everyone has these days, opportunities to travel and take vacations are limited, and we cannot express enough your willingness to use that time and energy to share this day with us and enthusiastically throwing yourself into a weekend in the middle-of-nowhere.

An especial thank you to my cousin Katie (Keith) Staron for tolerating my antics, and taking exactly the right number of pictures (which, friends have already declared ‘the best wedding pictures ever,’ by the way).

To My Parents’ Friends

We had never met most of you, the “Wacky Wednesday” crew, before our wedding weekend, and yet you all felt like old friends. It’s clear now why our parents love living in Michigan so much – the fruit orchards and beaches and views are beautiful, but you, as a group of people, are what is truly stunning about the lakeshore lifestyle. You all were so wonderful to us, and you elevated the energy at the party until the late hours of the night. Thank you for being there with us.

The Incredible Professionals Who Made the Day Happen

I think we’re a bit spoiled. As I mentioned, wedding planning for us was very low-stress. The “it will come” that everyone tried to warn us about never came. And we owe that to the incredible group of professionals that made the wedding happen.

  • Adeline Leigh Catering tolerated all of our questions and changes to the menu, and the on-site manager Hai and his assistants (whose names we didn’t catch) couldn’t have been warmer, prompter or perfect-er. They had exactly the right approach and attitude for the wedding, and were so kind to our guests – not in a formal way, but by showing true warmth and hospitality.
  • Jaik Willis, who I think is my new favorite musician, absolutely rocked the place. As much as I love him on the internet, in person, his performance is stunning. This guy is so talented, so unique, and so special. For those who were asking about him, here’s a link to his Facebook page, to keep up where he’s playing in the Midwest (and an upcoming tour in Georgia). There’s a reason he plays 300 shows a year. He’s so incredibly professional – he declined Janna’s offers at a break or a mid-set meal, informing her that he was there to do a job, and that was his focus. After he was done, he spent some time talking music, travel, and life, and I think made everybody there fall even a little more in love with him. Add this to the list of “Times Jaik Willis Made Us Say ‘Wow’“.
  • The Rental Company, who provided the tents and tables and chairs for the event. Your guys were fast and professional, and in a week of commotion slipped in and out like ghosts assembling and then disassembling the venue.

Those Who Couldn’t Be There With Us

To those of you who couldn’t make it, and I sincerely mean this, thank you. We heard from so many other people in our lives who were happy for us, who wanted to be there but couldn’t – and we don’t want you to feel as though you’re any less special to us because circumstances couldn’t make it work. To our Houston Christian swimming family in Houston who put on our (one and only) shower, to Catherine Lee and Ben Aertker who desperately tried to make it but couldn’t for reasons beyond their control (we’re holding you to the promised visits later this year – it’s in the blog, can’t get out of it now ;-)). We’ve already seen one of our friends, Mitch Bowmile, so far on the trip, and he and his friend Ebony showed us a great time in Toronto. We’ve got plans set to see others of you already, and sincerely hope the rest of you can come visit us somewhere on the road. First round is on us.

So, now we’re off. We’ve crossed into Canada, and have begun this adventure. As we ping-pong between “this is the greatest time of our lives” and “what the fuck are we doing?”, we’re ready to share the ups and downs with you… We’ve already had plenty of both (we’d been married less than 24 hours before Janna wound up in the hospital – more on that soon), so bon voyage for now, and we’ll touch base real soon.

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