Sunday, June 30, 2013

Our Wedding

Levi and I have made the leap! After several years of discussing it, we decided a brief, private ceremony was the quickest path to a happy marriage for us.
At our beautiful ceremony site, on one of the tallest pines, I tied fluttering ribbons to all the branches- one ribbon for each of you, for every person we wished could be with us. I hope you all were present, for we certainly felt many blessings and much love on June 9. We would love to celebrate our journey ahead with all our friends and family. We hope through the following entries you'll get a glimpse into the special celebration we hurriedly planned to tie the knot. (Just keep scrolling down through the next few pages to read them all.) With many thanks for your blessings, and all our love, Ciara

The Dress

With only a little bit of notice, I raided my paypal account to afford a beautiful gown. My horses must have gotten wind of it, because two days before I went shopping, my mare went through a barbed-wire fence. Her vet bill ended up being exactly the amount I had saved for the dress! Oh well, I said, money is no object: credit cards are there for “emergencies” like this. About a week before the wedding, I went into town with two requirements of my dress: nothing strapless, and it must fit right off the rack (no time for alterations here!). The dress I found is a lovely satin gown with 1920s-style beading.
The moment I put it on, it was just like they show on television: I didn't even have to look in the mirror to know it was the gown. Thankfully, it fit perfectly. It had been marked down twice from its original tag price, and when I got to the register, it rang up at a ridiculously inexpensive number. I had no doubts about it being the “right” dress, but that discount deal was the icing on the wedding cake!
(The black-and-white photograph in some of these photos shows my grandmother and great-grandmothers on her wedding day. Also, the reason the horses are not in the wedding photos is simply because Cleo had so many stitches, she looked like a Tim Burton creation! She has since healed up, and is doing fine.)

The Location

Our move to Montana has been an important catalyst for the two of us. Leaving everything familiar, from the guest ranch industry to our families and friends, behind us, we struck out on a new venture in a new place, and feel we have succeeded. While hiking on the ranch where we live and work looking for shed antlers, we came across a particular spot on top of a ridge that was pretty spectacular. Surrounded by a few gnarled pines and an old abandoned seeder with wooden wagon wheels, it had a backdrop of Red Lodge Mountain to the south and Granite Peak to the west, while the Crazy Mountains and the Pryor Mountains lined the opposite horizons.
This was the home of Jeremiah Johnson, who was sheriff in town in the 1890s. It is the home of the Crow people, whose burial sites are strewn across these foothills, and of legendary figures like Calamity Jane, the Sundance Kid, Buffalo Bill, and Kid Curry. The views seemed to encompass all of that. Two abandoned log cabins sat at the base of the hill, just as our pioneer ancestors would've left them.
Because our families weren't going to be present, I wanted to capture extraordinary photographs to share the beauty of the place. Thankfully, nationally-renowned photographer and author Merv Coleman, who lives here in Red Lodge, was available on very short notice! (The photographs here were taken by myself and our friends. To see the professional photographs of the big day, please contact me for Merv's website.)

The Big Day

Levi was away for work all week, so I was absolutely crawling with anticipation. He arrived home on Friday, just in time to travel up into the mountains and pick out the perfect site for our “honeymoon” tent. He had a place in mind, but when we reached it, he declared it all wrong and we set up on a little saddle between a field full of wildflowers and a mountain lake. I spent the afternoon at the wedding site, hanging ribbons on our ribbon tree: one ribbon for every person we wished could be with us at the ceremony. As the wind lifted all the ribbons, I felt so much love would be surrounding us on Sunday. For dinner, we had a special meal: champagne, hard salami, prosciutto and salmon, cheeses and fruit. We ate in the grass looking at the twilight sky over the mountains, and generally got lost in one another's eyes. Scotch must have felt quite neglected, because when we finished eating and lay back in the grass, he darted in and scooped up all the prosciutto!
Ever since I was a little girl, I get sick on my birthday. The excitement of it is just too much to handle, and even at 30 years old, I wake up on December 13 feeling as though I'm going to throw up. Every morning preceding the “big day” felt like my birthday-- I was so excited I just couldn't stand it! I warned Levi that throwing up on the day of the wedding didn't mean I was having second thoughts. (He knows all about my birthday sickness, so he just laughed.) Sunday morning dawned, and to my surprise I felt 100% calm and serene. I felt as though I were walking through a lovely dream world. In contrast to every Bridezillas episode ever, I felt like nothing at all could possibly upset me. If the dress started on fire, if the dog ate the rings, if it snowed all day and the photographer took his money and ran, I would still have a wonderful day. The wind raged all morning, foiling my attempts to set up flowers at the site. Instead, I fed the horses and packed our tent. I did my hair (which took several attempts) and makeup, and then my friend (and one of our legally-required witnesses) Kirsten arrived to button me into my dress. Levi spent his day washing his truck and polishing his White's boots-- his famous “twenty-minute boots,” that his friends once teased him he loved so much he'd probably get married in them. Joke's on them, I guess. At 5:45 sharp, Levi jumped in the Toyota and I sort of waddled and wiggled my way into Kirsten's car, and off we went.
Our chosen location wasn't exactly what you'd call accessible. After a mile of unmarked dirt road, we parked in a mud hole on a dead-end, then went through a locked gate, put the truck in 4WD, and bounded up a two-track. After crossing through both an irrigation ditch and a tricky bog on a sidehill, we arrived at the top of mountain. I hitched up my skirt, Levi took my hand, and we hiked through the wildflowers the last 100 yards to our “altar.”
The wind died just as we arrived, and a gentle breeze, enough to flutter the ribbons on the tree and float my veil most gracefully, was all that remained. Amy, our officiant, was warm and sweet and led a lovely, touching ceremony, and even got choked up with us while we said our vows. My mom and our friends Kirsten and Doug had sent so many beautiful surprises, from baskets of flowers to a beautiful chocolate cake to an artfully placed wine cask, which served as our table to sign our wedding certificate and share a champagne toast. We are so grateful they turned our simple, unplanned ceremony into a beautiful event.

The Honeymoon

After we changed into more appropriate camping attire, we hopped in the Toyota with the dog, motored out to a rough trail more suitable to a horse than a truck, and drove up to our little campsite on a mountain lake. On the way, we spotted a beautiful, healthy-looking cow elk, certainly hiding a little calf in the trees. We arrived at our campsite about 9:30, and by ten had our tent set up complete with flowers, candles, a little banner reading “Just Married,” (the world's best) s'mores, and champagne. We sat around the fire together, took a walk to the lake to watch the stars, and talked about what a beautiful day it was. In the morning, we prepared a huge, luxurious breakfast of champagne, cheese, eggs and bacon over the fire, coffee, frappuccino and tea. We spent most of the day hiking in the backcountry, where we were blessed to find two incredible treasures: a winter-killed 4 by 5 elk skull, and the largest set of whitetail antler sheds we've ever found! Although our ultimate goal was finding moose sheds, we took the other two as a fair trade. We packed up camp around 2 pm, just in time for a thunderstorm to roll through. We stopped at the river to catch a few fish, and then headed into town to our favorite bar for some impromptu dinner.

What's Next For Us?

We love the Montana/Wyoming countryside we're living in, and enjoy finding time in our busy ranch lives to visit Yellowstone, fish and hike, ride our horses and snowmobiles, and hunt in fall. We are working hard to save as much money as possible, with the short-term goal of buying land where we can build our own home. We hope to stay near our current home base of Red Lodge, Montana. We invite all our friends and family out to this beautiful country to see for yourself why we don't ever want to leave!