I'm not very fond of the wedding ceremony as it is most often held. All the lace and ribbon, silk flowers, and fussed-over food leaves me feeling uncomfortable. And the cost! I can only hope that when my own daughters marry, they will be more creative than to spend the cost of a small farm on a single afternoon party.
I recently attended the summer wedding of a friend, though, and it was refreshingly different. It was held outdoors in a small-town park, a heavily wooded valley enhanced with old stone terraces and pathways. Colonies of wild dwarf iris, mayapple, and wood violets cover the terraces in the shade of dogwoods and redbuds. And over those rise hundreds of giant oaks, pines, sycamores, and maples, sheltering the entire landscape with a giant green canopy.
The wedding guests—about 100 of them—were escorted from the upper level of the park down the tiers of stone stairs to a small amphitheater tucked under the giant trees. The afternoon sun had retired over a nearby mountain, leaving the valley quiet and anticipatory. Robins sang their twiddle-tweeds and a turtle dove cooed as if on cue. Even the wildlife seemed to be settling down for the event. Just in front of and below the stone benches of the guest seating area, an energetic creek bounced along over rocks and outcroppings, adding music to the whole.
Pathways where the guests trod and where the bride would enter were strewn with great quantities of calamus leaves and rose petals. Flower children, dressed in matching outfits, took giant steps down the stone stairway, strewing more of the fragrant rose petals along the path the bride would take.
When everyone was seated and quiet, someone in the crowd stood up and began singing quietly. Then another person, in another section of the assembled guests, rose and began singing with the first. A third person stood and began quietly strumming a guitar, adding restrained rhythm to the duet. The sounds harmonized with those of the stream, the robin, and the dove, and it seemed as though all sounds became part of the song.
The bride glided down the stairs in the twilight, seemingly floating on the sounds. Her feet crushed anew the strewn calamus and rose, and a fresh, spicy fragrance wafted on the gentle breeze.
At the bottom of the stairway was a small bridge that crossed the singing stream. The groom appeared on the bridge and joined hands with the bride, and the couple walked together across the bridge to a small rock outcropping where the minister waited.
The fern-covered cliffs behind the minister echoed the vows like a microphone, and even with the stream in between, the guests easily heard the words of the couple and the minister.
When the ceremony was over, the couple crossed the bridge again. Another song began, and this time all the guests sang as they followed the couple up the stone steps.
The reception was held in the same park on an ancient stone patio where a spring flowed down to the creek. The tables were delightfully decorated, and baskets of flowers were everywhere. Still more calamus leaves and rose petals had been strewn here, making a fragrant connection with the ceremony that had just taken place below. The movement and trampling of the party’s feet crushed the fragrant herbs, releasing more of the rich aroma.
Servers wearing flower garlands in their hair offered cold sumac punch and rose geranium cake with candied pansies and fruit. Pitchers of ice-cold spring water steeped with mint sprigs were also served.
Everything about this wedding was delightful, and the event is etched into my memory. Many guests commented that the strewing herbs made the wedding unique, and they noted how the fragrance of the calamus leaves and rose petals tied the ceremony and the reception together. The aromas seemed to quiet the group of guests, bringing us together in spirit for the sacred event. From now on, every time I smell calamus, I will recall that evening and my friend’s special wedding.