Before I left for Macedonia, I told all my friends, quite rationally, not to have any big life events without me. I wasn’t coming home.
The number of births, engagements, and weddings I’ve watched via social media continues to grow, but when my best friend Anne started planning her wedding during my service, and asked me to officiate, I started planning my trip back to the states.
Anne and I have known each other since we were little kids, in the era of bike rides and beanie babies, memorizing landline telephone numbers and handwritten, elaborately folded notes. We spent our pre-teen years playing in the creek and in the woods near our homes and biking everywhere else. We did middle school dances, and shopped at Pac Sun, even though we lived in landlocked Pennsylvania. We gave every crush a code name, and it was always a food item. We also fell in love with a pair of garish straw hats that we wore everywhere one summer, including to our weekly trips to the $6 movie theater.
She moved to Texas when we were in high school and we were both devastated. I think we may have cried, but I don’t quite remember. We’ve never been big on tears. Peanut butter? Big. Inventing foods like cake shakes? Huge. Tears? Not so much.
Through the years, that friendship has stuck it out. It’s always felt easy. We’ve met up all over the country, and once on the other side of the world. So it was fitting that I trekked across the ocean to officiate her wedding ceremony.
I’d never met her husband Michael before I landed in Colorado, outside of video calls and the thorough social media stalking he got when we became friends. I suppose flying that far having never met in person is testament to the faith I have in them both. But they’re perfect together. I don’t know that I’ve ever known her to be as happy, comfortable, and content, as I saw her with him, surrounded by some of the best looking mountains and scenery Colorado has to offer. (Total Colorado convert. I’ll be back.)
Because our friendship goes back so far, there were only a handful of people at the wedding I only sort of knew, but Anne and Michael’s friends were all wonderful too. We all did our best to interpret what the “mountain formal” dress code meant and after a few Moscow Mules, enjoyed the day and the dance floor.
Throughout the day, as each detail fell into place (in the location with cell service or internet; our motto was, “if anything happens, we probably won’t know about it.”), I loved watching her reactions. There were multiple moments where she just gushed that something was exactly as she’d pictured or hoped.
And the wedding itself? Perfect. You couldn’t have painted a more stunning scene and put together a more beautiful ceremony. She started crying as she walked down the aisle toward me and Michael, and as she approached, I realized that I was wiping away tears too.
I’ve just never been prouder of her, and never loved our friendship more. And then I remembered that I had to say words, a good number of them, before they could kiss and everyone could start in on the cocktails. So I got it together, checked my notes, and we began.
A blur of smiles and tears later, I introduced the new couple. (And after smiling dreamily for a moment, I even remembered to step to the side so the photogs could get a good down the aisle shot.)
The food was great. The dancing was a blast. They had homemade marshmallows for s’mores after dinner. And then my crazy friend and her crazy husband climbed across the river so they could take some more mountainy photos. They’re definitely a match.
The rest of the trip was spent in Telluride where Colorado continued to impress me, and everyone got to take a breath after the wedding whirlwind. We hiked, ate, puzzled, caught a few Pokémon, and then I introduced everyone to ajvar. (They loved it, of course.)
It came to a close too soon, and I headed back home to Macedonia. It was strange to be in America after nearly two years, especially being in a totally unfamiliar place. I saw my mom, the dogs, and another friend during my long layover in DC on the way in, on a day my mom needed to see me most, but the rest of the trip was all new places. All of the English was odd. I was outraged at the price of everything. (How many denars is that?!) And I was the most gracious patron at every restaurant. (Cheddar?! Why of course I’ll have that, please. English muffins! Oh my goodness, thank you!) But Anne, Michael, her parents, my dear, sweet friend Meghan who picked me up from the airport, and a slew of other wonderful people, made it an amazing visit to the mother land.
Till next time, America!
*All of these beautiful photos, outside of the throwbacks of course, were shot be W&E Photograpie.*