Monday, December 21, 2015

'Whals in the Woods: Parent Dances

One of the first concerts Mr. Narwhal and I ever went to was an acoustic Ben Harper show. It was a pretty epic night. A couple got engaged in the front row, and Ben proceeded to sing Forever to them. During the concert he also shared the story behind his song When She Believes. He explained that mothers and their children have a pre-existing love and connection, but fathers have to work at it and eventually their children fall in love with them. He told the audience that he wrote the song about the moment when he knew his daughter loved him. I remember thinking that one day I would dance with my dad on Mr. Narwhal and I's wedding day to that very song. My dad didn't have a specific song he wanted to dance to, so I surprised him with this song, and shared the story behind the song while we were dancing.

Sometimes I'm a bit too poetic for my own good, and in hind sight I would have instructed them to fade out the song after a few minutes, because it got pretty long at the end. Not to fear, my mom joined in for a few family spins around the dance floor too (which I don't have a better picture of!).

All photos courtesy of Isos Photography*

Mr. Narwhal's mom didn't pick a song for their dance because she wanted a surprise. We spent many hours discussing song choices, as it's hard to find a song to dedicate to the woman that raised you. In the end we narrowed it down to two songs. The runner up was Lynyrd Skynyrd's Simple Man, it has such lovely lyrics, but is a very very long song. So, in the final days before the wedding, Mr. Narwhal decided to go with Wildflowers by Tom Petty. I think it was the perfect choice as a dedication to his mom, and I know this was a moment she will cherish forever. 

I love the lighting in this photo 

After our parent dances, the band took the stage for their first set and the dance party got started!

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*Some photos cropped and converted to black and white by me

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

'Whals in the Woods: Is this Love?

Long before we got engaged Mr. Narwhal and I were driving somewhere one day and Bob Marley's Is this Love? came on. Mr. Narwhal (a huge Bob fan) said, "I want this to be our first dance song." I kind of gave him a funny look, because it was an upbeat song and we had plenty of other songs that felt like "our" songs that felt like more obvious choices. He told me he loved the message behind it and I sat back and let the lyrics sink in.

As the months led up to our engagement, and our wedding, every time the song came on I would smile and think of dancing on our wedding night. In the weeks leading up to the wedding, we had a few practice runs in the middle of our kitchen, and the way Mr. Narwhal lit up and sang along as we danced, it just made the song that much more special every time I heard it.

After our toasts were completed, GM Bro told everyone it was time for our first dance. By this point in the night, my dress was starting to get quite filthy and it was getting hard to move around in (seriously, the progression over the next few posts is humourous), but we made it work, laughing, singing and smiling as we danced our first dance as husband and wife.

All photos courtesy of Isos Photography (some cropped by me), unless otherwise noted

I wanna love you and treat you right;
I wanna love you every day and every night:
We'll be together with a roof right over our heads;
We'll share the shelter of my single bed;
We'll share the same room, yeah! - for Jah provide the bread.
Is this love - is this love - is this love -
Is this love that I'm feelin'?
Is this love - is this love - is this love -
Is this love that I'm feelin'?
I wanna know - wanna know - wanna know now!
I got to know - got to know - got to know now!

 I'm willing and able,
So I throw my cards on your table!
I wanna love you - I wanna love and treat - love and treat you right;
I wanna love you every day and every night:
We'll be together, yeah! - with a roof right over our heads;
We'll share the shelter, yeah, oh now! - of my single bed;
We'll share the same room, yeah! - for Jah provide the bread.

Is this love - is this love - is this love -
Is this love that I'm feelin'?
Is this love - is this love - is this love -
Is this love that I'm feelin'?
Wo-o-o-oah! Oh yes, I know; yes, I know - yes, I know now!
Yes, I know; yes, I know - yes, I know now!

Guest photo - our niece came up and asked, "What are you doing?" during our first dance  :)

I'm willing and able,
So I throw my cards on your table!
See: I wanna love ya, I wanna love and treat ya -
love and treat ya right.
I wanna love you every day and every night:
We'll be together, with a roof right over our heads!
We'll share the shelter of my single bed;
We'll share the same room, yeah! Jah provide the bread.

We'll share the shelter of my single bed.

guest photo

Up next, we have our parents dances!

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

'Whals in the Woods: The Toasts

While we were grabbing our photos, guests were getting drinks from the bar and hitting up the food tent for the first wave of yummy appetizers*. We also had a few servers circulating around with food. While we don't have too many photos of the appetizers, I had several guests come up to me throughout the night raving about the food, and some noted they had never eaten so much at a wedding before. I think the freedom to graze made all the difference. I will note there were a few select guests that said they "forgot to eat" but they blame that for spending too much time at the bar station, and not enough at the food one. ;)

As guests settled into seats and mingled around, GM Bro (acting as MC) was preparing to get the evening festivities started, and I had my one zilla moment of the day. The skies had cleared and I really wanted the ugly red small tent covering the stage (to protect the bands equipment) to be gone, and asked for them to remove it before we got started. Best decision ever. It took a couple of minutes for a few guys to lift it over the stage and take it down. It was a bit of a nuisance and I got a crazy look from my dad when I asked, but everything just much more magical on the stage without it there.

Once it was down, GM Bro took the stage. He shared some logistics for the evening (food, bus times, bathrooms, etc.), and announced that we would be starting everything off with toasts. Having been to plenty of weddings with long winded speeches for the couple, we set a hard cap time of three minutes per toast (ours being the exception to that rule). They were incredible. Everyone said such beautiful things. They made us laugh (a lot), cry, reminisce and feel so grateful for all of the love in our lives. These photos flood me with memories, and always crack me up.

All photos captured by Isos Photography, several cropped by me.

First up was Mr. Narwhal's mom. She was so excited about the wedding, and said a lovely toast to us both. Sharing funny insights into Mr. Narwhal's rather loud entrance into the world, which was quite reflective of his personality and hearty laugh. She also shared her appreciation for Joel always being the "Momma's boy" of her two sons, and that he always made an effort to tell her he loved her.

Next up were my parents. Much to the dismay of my father, I asked him to share a short toast, knowing my mom would have a lot to say. My dad isn't a fan of public speaking and is a man of few words (unless you get talking to him on the phone),  but he shared his congratulations and happiness for us both, and welcomed Mr. Narwhal into our very larger than life family.

A couple days before the wedding my mom said in passing that she still needed to get us a card. I told her that was ridiculous, and she told me that she had to get us one. She then offered to make us one, to which I encouraged her and told her I would love it more than a store-bought card. Well, wouldn't you know that this was a total hoax, and she had already made a larger than life card for her toast.

It was short and sweet (just like her). She spoke to Mr. Narwhal and I's relationship and their confidence us together, as well as her love for us both. She noted our mutual love for poetry and decided to end with a poem, that definitely brought me to tears.

When Amy Met Joel

You met one day just by chance
It took a mere look, just a glance

You knew right then you were made for each other
A special bonus that he knew your brother 

A relationship began, which led to today
A day to celebrate, in your own special way 

All the best for the years ahead
On this day that you are wed.

Next up was my cousin and maid of honour Cass. I know she worked for months crafting the perfect speech and it was truly amazing. She first gave a toast to Mr. Narwhal, telling him that the two of us as sisters had been through all the ups and downs of life, and she was so thankful for how happy he made me, and that he was truly the highest of my ups and then deeply apologized that he had to join our crazy family, which included "giving awkward Cards Against Humanity dirty word definitions to our Gramma" (which explains my face in the next photo). Next she shared some of our favourite memories together and her appreciation for our amazing friendship that goes above and beyond just cousins. She ended by thanking me for honouring our 20 year agreement of being each others maid of honour.

After my cousin, GM Duffy took the stage. While there was a no official best man, as Mr. Narwhal's best friend, we asked GM Duffy (who ended up winning the best man battle) to say a toast. GM Duffy is always full of jokes and everyone expected him to take the stage and have us in stitches. Instead, he went up there and poured his heart out and brought a tear to everyone's eyes with his incredibly touching toast.

"Amy I have ton of stories with this guy, but the best story of all is the one you two are writing right now. You two are the definition of soul mates. I'm so happy for the two of you... and Nelson! Joel gave me a gift one time that had a saying on it that said 'It is not happy people who are grateful, it is grateful people who are happy.' I am grateful to have the privilege of knowing you both. I love you two." 

The last toast before ours was from my cousin, BMan TLW. He squeezed his way in there for an extra toast, so we labelled it as the "toast to the bride." TLW is an aspiring broadcaster, and knows how to please a crowd, so when he begged me for an extra minute of time, I knew it would be worth it (and then he outted me during his speech!).  TLW and I have a bit of a brother and sister relationship, which includes many big sibling-like blow up fights.

He chose to share the story of the argument we got into when I first met Mr. Narwhal and me glowing talking about the guy I had just met and had an "instant connection" with, and that we were destined to be together, "no questions asked."  TLW Mr. Sceptical came into the picture and a big fight erupted (because he has the worst way of showing he cares).  After parting ways for a "breather" we had a good cry together (TLW sharing that he felt he needed to be a protective brother to me now), and I told him with conviction that he needed to "just trust me," to which he agreed.

About a month later, TLW was visiting me with friends, and he met Mr. Narwhal for the first time. He described the moment as, "Amy shot me a look, and remembering our agreement, I put on my game face and I shook his hand. And, GUESS WHAT!? We had an instant connection!!" He shared that from that night on, he never questioned what we had together.  

And, lastly we took the stage and shared our speech. I recently learned this isn't always the norm (although it is in my area), but we really wanted to stand up and share a few words with everyone. We thanked our guests from coming from near and far, we thanked each of our members of our wedding party individually and then spoke to our parents and thanked them for everything they had done for us to make it to our big (and best) day.

And with that our speeches were over and it was time for our first dance.

Aren't speeches/toasts just the best part of weddings??

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*Unfortunately I don't have too many pictures of food because our photographers were with us when the food went out, and the photos we do have are images of picked through food. Things we served included mac and cheese, hamburger sliders, shredded chicken tacos, vegetable cups, fruit skewers, chocolate mousse cups, a full antipasto table (cheese, bread, pickles, etc.), a candy and sweets bar, and a late night snack of baked potatoes with all the fixings (after the photographers left). 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

'Whals in the Woods: Recess and Receive

And so with that, we were married! Our officiant Johnny announced us and one of our most favourite songs ever (Good Rain by Trevor Hall) came on as we all walked down the aisle with ginormous smiles on our faces.

In the few weeks leading up to the wedding I was starting to have some lay awake at night worries that I wouldn't get a chance to visit with everyone. I didn't want to feel like I had to be in eight places at once or worry that somebody had left before I ever got a chance to thank them for coming. So, we talked it over, I consulted other bees, and we decided to do a receiving line. Receiving lines can eat up time, but thanks to Mrs. Sword's super useful post, we were able to say hello to everyone in record timing (seriously less than 15 minutes). This was one of my favourite moments of the day! Guests walked past us to get to the food and drinks, and after saying hello to everyone, we grabbed a few pictures.

A teeny small regret of mine is that both of our photographers came with us afterwards, and I kind of wish we had asked one of them to stay and take pictures of the guests enjoying the food tent and getting drinks.

After grabbing a few pictures, it was time for us to jump into the reception!

All photos captured by Isos Photography 

Next, we get the reception started!

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Monday, November 30, 2015

'Whals in the Woods: The Ceremony

For the sake of those in their ceremony planning phase in search of ceremony inspiration I've decided to opt for a very long post to have it all in one place. Scroll through the photos or read through the words. We gathered bits from here and there and everywhere with the intention of only using words that were meaningful to us and our wedding ceremony. So, I'm going to jump write in and add some commentary in italics throughout. :) 

All photos captured by the talented Isos Photography

On behalf of Amy and Joel, welcome and thank you for joining us today. They are so grateful that you have traveled from near and far to share their joy during this wonderful moment in their lives.

Your presence here today is special. You are celebrating with them the love they have discovered in one another and supporting their decision to commit themselves in their journey through life together.  We would also like to acknowledge those joining us in spirit today.

Address friends and family
Today, their relationship changes. All of us know it will grow, and become stronger and better.  Indeed this day is a day of hope. A day in which Joel and Amy demonstrate their commitment, devotion, and mutual respect, as well as their faith and love in one another.

Address to the couple
Joel and Amy, as much as today it is a celebration of your marriage to one another, it is also a celebration of your love. Your love and understanding of each other has grown and matured, and now you have decided to live your lives together as husband and wife. This marriage is both a pledge of enduring love, and an expression of your commitment to each other.
Marriage is the most important of all earthly relationships. It should be entered into thoughtfully and with full understanding of its sacred nature. It’s fragile because it requires exactly the right mix of freedom, creating an atmosphere of care, consideration, and respect, and by a willingness to face the tensions and anxieties that are a natural part of human life. As with any aspect of life, it has its cycles, its ups and downs, its trials and triumphs. It will take faith to go forward together without knowing exactly what the future brings. It will take commitment to hold true to the journey you both promise today to share together. Remember that this marriage ceremony is only a symbol, a celebration, and a public recognition of what already exists in the silent places of your hearts. This is your marriage to define, yours to make real, yours to live.

Now, I am going to ask for Amy’s Aunt Michelle, or Ciocia (pronounced Cha-cha, Polish for Auntie) to come up and share a reading with everyone. Note: We only wanted to have one reading during our ceremony, and without hesitation we both decided to ask my aunt. We are kindred spirits in many ways, and her and my uncle's marriage offer a beautiful inspiration to us both.

by James Dillet Freeman

May your marriage bring you all the exquisite excitements a marriage should bring, and may life grant you also patience, tolerance, and understanding.
May you always need one another - not so much to fill your emptiness as to help you to know your fullness. A mountain needs a valley to be complete; the valley does not make the mountain less, but more; and the valley is more a valley because it has a mountain towering over it. So let it be with you and you.
May you need one another, but not out of weakness.
May you want one another, but not out of lack.
May you entice one another, but not compel one another.
May you embrace one another, but not out encircle one another.
May you succeed in all important ways with one another, and not fail in the little graces.
May you look for things to praise, often say, "I love you!" and take no notice of small faults.
If you have quarrels that push you apart, may both of you hope to have good sense enough to take the first step back.
May you enter into the mystery, which is the awareness of one another's presence - no more physical than spiritual, warm and near when you are side by side, and warm and near when you are in separate rooms or even distant cities.
May you have happiness, and may you find it making one another happy.
May you have love, and may you find it loving one another.

The exchange of vows
Amy and Joel are going to present their vows they have written together. They have spent time reflecting on what is important to promise to one another in their relationship and through their sacred bond of marriage.

Note: We had our vows inside our leather bound journals (I wish I had a better picture to share), and each recited half a sentence, and the beginning of the next sentence. There was no way we could say them together coherently! At the end we both said, "for life."
We share our lifelong promises out loud to each other in front of the most important people in our lives, both in person and spirit.
We promise to love one another and continue to choose each other every day.
We promise to put our friendship and our marriage first.
We promise to always respect one another and cherish our shared honesty and trust.
We promise to always appreciate and be grateful for one another and never take each other for granted.
We promise to always have each other's back and help and support each other no matter the circumstance.
We promise to always search for common ground and find balance in who we are together and as individuals.
We promise to be there for one another as best friends and partners through everything life brings our way.
In times of Growth and times of change
In times of Prosperity and times of challenge
In times of health and times of sickness
In times of celebration and times of loss.
We promise to help each other find the positivity and lessons in the best and worst of times and continue our daily practice of gratitude.
We promise to hold our marriage and these vows to one another to the highest regard for life.

and as soon as we both said "for life" together, Nelson let out a loud bark, and everyone started laughing.

Affirmation of friends and family
As Joel and Amy's friends and family you are gathered here today to celebrate the beautiful vows they have just shared with one another.
Now, I ask that you stand, and that Joel and Amy turn and acknowledge everyone, as they acknowledge you.

As family and friends, you form a community of support that surrounds Joel and Amy. Each of you, by your presence here today, is being called upon to uphold them in loving each other. Always stand beside them, never between them. Offer them your love and your support, not your judgment. Encourage them when encouragement is needed and listen to them when they ask for advice. In these ways, you can honour this marriage into which they have come to be joined today. Do you offer your love & support to strengthen their marriage & bless this family created by their union?
Please answer by saying: WE DO
Guests: WE DO

Thank-you you may be seated.

Hand Fasting Ceremony
Joel and Amy have decided to include a hand fasting ceremony in lieu of the exchanging of their rings during their marriage ceremony. Hand fasting is an ancient Celtic tradition symbolizing the joining of two people in marriage.

Joel and Amy, know now before you go further, that since your lives have crossed, you have formed eternal and sacred bonds.

As you seek to enter this state of matrimony you should strive to make real the ideals that to you give meaning to this ceremony and to the institution of marriage.
With full awareness, know that within this circle you are not only declaring your intent to be hand fasted before your friends and family, but you speak that intent also to your individual creative higher powers.
The promises made today and the ties that are bound here greatly strengthen your union and will cross the years and lives of each soul’s growth.

In many cultures it is believed that the human soul shares characteristics with all things divine. It is this belief which assigned virtues to the four cardinal directions; East, South, West, and North.
It is according to this belief that we align ourselves with these elements. Each of these blessings from the four directions emphasizes those things which will help you build a happy and successful union.
May this union be blessed with the gifts of the East and the element of Air, for openness and breath, communication of the heart, and purity of the mind and body.
From the East you receive the gift of a new beginning with the rising of each Sun, and the understanding that each day is a new opportunity for growth.
May this union be blessed with the gifts of the South and the element of fire for energy, passion, creativity, and the warmth of a loving home.
From the fire within you generate light, which you will share with one another in even the darkest of times.
May this union be blessed with the gifts of the West, the element of water for your capacity to feel emotion.
In marriage you offer absolute trust to one another, and vow to keep your hearts open in sorrow as well as joy.
May this union be blessed with the gifts of the North, the element of earth, which provides sustenance, fertility, and security.
The earth will feed and enrich you, and help you to build a stable home to which you may always return.
Joel and Amy, please join hands and look into each others eyes.
Will you honour and respect one another and seek to never break that honour?
We will.
(First wrapping around hands is made.)
Will you share each other’s pain and seek to ease it?
We will.
(Cord is draped over the hands again.)
Will you share the burdens of each so that your spirits may grow in this union?
We will.
(Cord is wrapped again over hands.)
Will you share each other’s laughter, and look for the brightness in life and the positive in each other?
We will.
(Cord is wrapped again over hands.)
Do you choose each other as husband and wife?
We do.
(Cords are tied together.)

Joel and Amy, as your hands are bound together now, so your lives and spirits are joined in a union of love and trust.

Affirmation of marriage
Now may the love which has brought you together continue to grow and enrich your lives.
May you meet with courage the problems which arise to challenge you and may your relationship always be one of love and trust.
May the happiness you share today be with you always and may every word you have pledged here be a living truth in your lives.

Declaration of Marriage
Joel and Amy, we have heard your promise to share your lives in marriage. We recognize and respect the covenant of marriage you have made here this day before each one of us as witnesses.
Therefore, in the honesty and sincerity of what you have said and done here today, it is my honour and delight to declare you henceforth to be husband and wife.
You may seal your vows with a kiss.

After our kiss, it was time to sign the register. As per recommendation of our officiant Johnny, we played a song. Our choice was Back to You by Trevor Hall. 

Introduction of the couple
Joel and Amy are going exit first and will be waiting on the path for a greeting and congratulations before you can go get yourself a drink and enjoy some of the amazing appetizers that are waiting over in the food tent. After saying hello to everyone they’re going to grab some photos for a few minutes and be back in time to jump right into this evenings festivities. Note: Having our officiant say this was really great to move along our receiving line efficiently (which I'll talk about in my next post).
And so now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…
It is my personal privilege and a great joy to be the first one to
introduce Joel and Amy  as husband and wife.

And just like that, we were married! Our ceremony went by pretty quickly, I think it was just under 20 minutes start to finish. We had a ton of positive feedback from our guests (and our officiant too!). The common review was that it was nice to attend a ceremony that was so clearly a reflection of the couple. Mission accomplished!

Next up, we recess and say hello to everyone.

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