ummm, a wedding with apples to apples cards used in their centerpieces?! sign me up! i love how rustic/casual, yet ridiculously beautiful this wedding is. plus, their story is lovely as well. enjoy!
how did you meet:
There are so many fun details to how we met, but I’ll stick to the basics. We met in person for the first time at an Indigo Girl’s Concert at Mishawaka Amphitheater outside Fort Collins, CO. When I finally asked Suzanne (who actually goes by Suz) out, it was to see Melissa Etheridge playing live later the same summer. It seems so cliché, huh? First the Indigo Girls, then Melissa Etheridge. After the concert, we headed to the only gay bar in town to dance and once I offered Suz a tequila shot (a favorite of both of ours), we knew we were probably going to see a lot of each other.
A year after we got together, Suz went on an almost month long backpacking trip on the John Muir Trail. She started in Yosemite and ended at Mount Whitney, just outside of Lone Pine, CA. About a week after no communication I decided I wanted her to be around forever. I pictured our whole lives together and decided to drive two days to the end of the trail to surprise her and ask her to marry me. I didn’t think through how I would ask her or what I would say so much as I planned how I would find her. There was a 48-hour period in which she would be exiting the trail and I planned to wait the whole time to meet her. I got there only about an hour before she came off the trail, but I was afraid I was going to miss her entirely because she sent a text from the top of Mount Whitney when I was in Las Vegas, about 5 hours away. I drove the rest of the way with a very heavy right foot and luckily didn’t get caught.
Suz was so surprised, but she thought something was wrong because I was acting strange and she kept bugging me about why I was there. She thought I was there to tell her someone died or something (since she had no communication with the rest of the world for so long). When I finally told her, it came out really fast and not romantic at all and made for a completely awkward few minutes. After about three days together in the Yosemite area, Suz asked me to marry her too. We were under the canopy of Tuolumne Redwood Grove in Yosemite National Park.
We wanted a whole weekend instead of just a couple of hours. We wanted to actually spend time with the guests and we wanted the guests to get to know each other. So, we picked a place where there was enough room and enough lodging for everyone, as well as spectacular views and plenty to do. The ranch itself has 3 cabins and a lot of camping space. There are also a lot of lodging options within 15 minutes.
Our ceremony was amazing. We both wanted to have our closest friends and family there. We wanted the community support and encouragement that comes with the right of passage of a public ceremony. We both thing marriage is a public statement (not all a private matter as some would say.). One of the coolest things about it was the love we felt from our guests while we stood together. Our dog lay right in between us and looked up, stealing the show. It still makes me smile to think about what it felt like to occasionally look out at all the people who were there to support us and see huge smiles and winks.
On Friday night, we had our guests tell stories about us as a couple or as individuals while we all sat around a camp fire. We provided ropes to tie knots into for each story. We each had our own rope and during the ceremony on Saturday, we tied our two ropes together. We literally “tied the knot” to represent the joining of two lives into one relationship. We also asked our guests to bring a rock for us and we collected them at the beginning of the ceremony. We hope to put them all in a fountain (when we get around to it). Directly after the ceremony, we got into a small rowboat to get to the reception on the other side of the lake. While our guest walked around the lake, we enjoyed a moment of peace with each other amongst all the craziness. Once we arrived in the party tent, we served everyone tequila shots and limes in lieu of champagne.
How was your experience with the wedding professionals that you worked with?
The night before we went to see the location, I laid awake in total anxiety. It was early January and the location is located at least 45 minutes from town on a small dirt road. I was so afraid the man who owned the place would be mean about it all and although I was prepared for bigotry, I couldn’t stand the thought of seeing someone treat Suz horribly. She sees the best in everyone and it would never occur to her that someone would not love us for who we are. So I was preparing all kinds of exit strategies and arguments to give this guy in the event he was a total jerk. Once we got to Midnight Ranch though, Steve was absolutely wonderful. We spent a lot of time with him before the wedding and fell in love with him.
We had a great experience with everyone else as well. Our photographer came to Steamboat from Lawrence, KS (and wore a bowtie!) and we loved everything about him. He took pictures from Friday afternoon through Sunday morning, so he documented the whole weekend. Our officiator was a retired pastor with a church in Fort Collins and he had never done a gay ceremony before. He gave us couple’s counseling and the whole bit beforehand and he truly made it the ceremony we wanted.
We had told our caterer and the rental company that we were having a family reunion so they didn’t give us wedding prices (I know, lying is bad…) but when the caterer showed up to set up, we were clearly getting married. She had made a paper menu with the title “Melsen/Hartung Reunion” that was framed on the buffet table. I think someone gave her a Sharpie and she crossed out “Reunion” and replaced it with “Wedding.” We had a good laugh and she and her friend stayed for a while to enjoy the party.
A few words of advice/tips/lessons learned when planning your wedding to share with other couples:
- Know that you might have some hard decisions and you might get mad at each other in the planning process. A lot of emotional stuff came up for me (Lindsay) as well, I think in preparation to be married, and I had to deal with it in order to be ready but it got in the way of some of the fun.
- Don’t’ get too worked up about government stuff. You’re in it for each other, not a tax write-off. Yes, it sucks that we are not granted equal rights, but ask yourself, “Do I really want one of the best days ever to be ruined with anger?”
- Invite the people you want to be surrounded by.
- Do whatever it is that will make you both feel loved, supported, and happy on that day. No more.