Being in the wedding was very cool - it's fun to be part of the cool group with the matching clothes (though for this wedding Emily had us each pick our own dress meeting the basic criteria of brown, knee-length, and V-neck), and to be a part of the hair and make-up prep, the rehearsal and the picture-taking activities. It also poses challenges - standing up front you feel the chance of you somehow messing things up is much larger than when you're in the audience. Also, for someone like me, who is a serious cry-er, there's no incospicuous blinking, looking away, or other trick - you just have to try to keep it together. Luckily this all seemed to go pretty well - so I guess I accomplished my job. :)
This being the first of the immediate family weddings was also really cool - It was really nice to have my aunts, uncles, and cousins there, as well as my grandparents and other, more distant, relatives. I don't see all of them other than on holidays and things, so it's fun to have a whole evening in one place to catch up. At the family wedding I was less focused on the dance/party aspect than the friend-weddings I've gone to in the past - though I did get my cousin Drew to dance for one song.
The fact that it was actually my own brother getting married was really surreal. Though they've been dating for many years and engaged over a year, it still seems like it went by so quickly - I flew in on Wednesday and they were single, and when I flew out on Monday, my brother was married! It was such a busy weekend and visit home that I think it's still sinking in now that I'm back in DC. My brother has a wife. I have a sister-in-law. Wow.
So a bit more about the order of things... The wedding was unique in a number of ways - Emily and Brian decided to do a lot of the work themselves with the help of family and friends and to change a number of the traditions. The location that they had the wedding, a nature center near their house (which was beautiful and secluded - right on a lake) doesn't usually do weddings, so they weren't playing any role in set-up, organization, etc. Emily had made all the decorations herself, and on Friday before the wedding we all went to help set things up. It was amazing to see the room go from a bare all-purpose room to an amazing wedding reception area. Emily is very artistically talented, so it was no surprise that the decorations and color scheme looked great. Since lots of family and friends had come to help set-up, this gave us another opportunity to hang out and get to know people.
Her brother made a ton (really - over a hundred pieces) of pottery in the wedding colors with EB on the side that was used to decorate the tables and to give to wedding guests as a gift. It was really special and really beautiful. Also, Emily and Brian asked a number of people (10?) to make cakes, and then had a diffent cake on each table. This was a particularly tasty idea. ;) Though, in one of the minor mis-haps, an icecream cake was put out on the tables like the regular cakes, so it was pretty melted by the time people came back from the ceremony. Jeff still tried it, though, and said it was pretty good.
The rehearsal dinner was on Friday night at the same location as the wedding. The main event (for me) was that I got to give a quick speech. I had been really nervous about it - in fact, I had never been able to practice it in front of another person without crying, stopping, or both. It mostly consisted of short anecdotes about what a good brother Brian had been and also saying some things about how great Emily is - and I ended up being ok when it was time to actually speak. Friday night the wedding party all stayed out in the cabins on-site, which was nice since nobody had to drive or go far.
The wedding ceremony was the next day, and started with some last minute set-up at the site, followed by a couple hours of hair and make-up prep at Bri & Emily's house, and then we were off to pictures. We went around Excelsior for photos, and there happened to be a festival going on, so we got lots of comments from people. They were impressed with Emily's brown (girls) and beige (guys) color scheme, her hand-made bouquets and jewelry (for all the bridesmaids), and her grandma's additions to her dress. We haven't seen these pictures yet, but I'm sure they turned out amazing.
After pictures, we headed back to the wedding site. We were there about 30 minutes before the ceremony was supposed to start, and it definitely felt like a 'hurry up and wait' situation - after spending all morning running around doing things, sitting still for 30 minutes seemed like an eternity. But pretty soon it was time to go, the music started, and everyone made their way down the aisle according to the plan (though I was already fighting back serious tears).
Emily's grandma is a Lutheran pastor, so she was the one that married Brian and Emily. It was really cool to have the pastor be someone that knows the bride and groom so well. The ceremony was about 45 minutes long, and probably is among the most traditional and religious I've been to, with a number of prayers and bible readings. My dad also did a reading during the ceremony - giving a short explanation and story about a saying he and my mom use when mentoring engaged couples through our church. I believe the saying was 'Before you're married keep your eyes wide open, and after you're married keep them half shut.' Essentially saying that you should be very serious about entering into marriage, but you should also be forgiving of your partners' faults. It was a really good reading - I was pretty impressed with his speech.
After the ceremony, there was a cocktail hour followed by the reception. That was when I first got to hang out with my extended family, which was really nice. Since Jeff knows my family and extended family pretty well, he was also having a good time. Dinner followed - Italian food - it tasted great!
The toasts were also cute - The maid of honor was the first to go - she is Emily's cousin and told a couple cute and embarrassing stories about her. She also talked about how Brian was there for Emily when her mom passed away a few years ago, and how she knows Emily's mom would be really happy with her daughter. (Already prone to tears, this part of the speech - though important and touching - really took away any chance of me staying dry-eyed.) Brian's best man spoke next, starting out by saying, "I knew I should have gone first," and noting that he got the job of speaker just because the other best man 'chickened out', and then basically just said congratulations and good luck. Also a very cute speech.
My dad spoke next - his speech was really sweet, about how you want a lot of things for your kids - health, financial security, etc., but the main thing he wanted for his kids was for people to be able to look at them and say, "Brian's a really good kid." He said that he thought this was really true of both Emily and Brian. He talked about how Brian and Emily had been together through hard times and easy times - sticking together even when living in different states, and through life changes.
Emily's dad's speech was a bit more serious, but personal and touching. He talked about how Brian and Emily had met because our moms (who were friends since they were about 10 years old) set them up, and how after Emily's mom had passed away, he had worried that Brian and Emily would continue to date out of obligation to Em's mom, rather than for their own reasons. Brian and Emily had briefly separated a while ago, and Emily's dad said that Brian 'took on the Rock family' and insisted that they tell him what the problem was or what he could do better, and that's when he realized that Brian really loved Emily and that they were together for the right reasons.
After the toasts, it was time for dancing - Brian and Emily had their first dance, the floor was opened, and a little later they had the father-daughter dance. They had a live singer-guitar/keyboard player, who was really talented. I hung out with my cousin, who had never been to a wedding before, and danced a bit.
Eventually things wound down around midnight, and the wedding party and other friends headed back to the cabins. The whole wedding went really well and was really beautiful!
On Sunday we helped take things down and clean up a bit. Then Brian, Emily, my parents, Emily's parents, Emily's siblings, Jeff, Tom, Katie, and I headed to Bri & Emily's house to hang out a bit, and see the opening of gifts. Most people left and then Jeff, Tom, Katie, and I just stayed and chatted with Brian and Emily about the wedding and the weekend.
On Monday, Jeff and I flew back to DC, and Brian and Emily took off for their three-week honeymoon in Australia!