It has been 35 years or more since my wife Jan and I built our home. I didn’t say house because that is not what we wanted. We both came from close families and wanted to find a place to build a home. It was not much more than a spot at the bottom of a steep Ozark hollow with a beautiful creek and heavily forested. Our budget was thin but, with some help, we had enough to have it framed up and then got to work making it liveable. Our dreams of how it would look and feel. They were wonderful dreams. Wonderful enough to guide our endeavors and, over the years, most of those dreams have come true. Jan designed the house and I designed the deck and the environment that would surround us. Nothing can compare to a young couple working on a dream together.
It is a home built on love. Love for each other. Love for the house we worked so hard to build. And love for the way we treated the environment around us. Any tree or bush that wasn’t exactly in the immediate floor plan of the house was left untouched. For the first few years, it was a house surrounded by paths to our favorite spots in the woods or by the creek. But eventually, moss overtook those paths, leaving our yard a series of moss walkways winding through “islands” of woods. As the years passed the home we had dreamed about so many years ago was finally ours.
Over the years we added a couple of new souls to the family. Sons Matt and Marc. It was a joy to watch them playing in the woods, wading in the creek, and as time passed, the parties. Matt was the master of the party. He had managed to find a place as far from the house as possible for his infamous high school parties. Car keys were collected at the door but the activities beyond that were probably best kept a secret. Still, the spirit of romance that has haunted me since birth, would not let the path to the party spot go unattended after Matt left home. So, like all of our favorite paths, the trail to the party spot received the same care as the rest. Minus the beer cans and such.
Then the fun begins. Matt had fallen in love with a beautiful and extremely talented artist, Ashley Arnett. Matt always ran on his own clock making him late for almost everything from his birth to his arrival whenever he was supposed to be somewhere. However, after a few years and several hints from everybody that knew they were a couple made for each other, Matt finally proposed.
Planning A Dream Wedding
So the next obvious step was a wedding. But when and where. Ashley really liked our home and is an artist who gets a lot of her inspiration from the plants like the ferns, moss, and many of the other living things that make up the woods around our house. So where else could a wedding take place but a little rock outcrop right down from the old party spot. Path and all. Perfect.
What followed could only be described as magic. Matt and Ashley live in Kansas City, about a four-hour drive from our Ozark home. So much of the planning was done by text. Jan was determined to make this the wedding of Ashley’s dreams. Texting that was not an easy task but somehow it all came together. Marc and I did what all good men should do when faced with a wedding. We kept our mouths shut and did as we were told. All that was left for us was to get the woods looking its very best. Nature had graced us with a beautiful spring so, after Marc raked leaves from the party spot, it was mostly a matter of cleaning up the edges, getting rid of unwanted weeds, and making sure the wedding site looked perfect.
Dreamers & Artists Prepare
A couple of days before the wedding Matt, Ashley and Ashley’s best friend, Karla, arrived. Karla is an artist who Ashley has known since third grade. They came with flowers and imaginations full of ideas on how to make a beautiful place even more beautiful. It was a joy to watch them sitting on our living room floor, laughing and trading ideas for the look and feel of the wedding going so far as to encase small blooms in the ice cubes for the reception. Watching those two lifelong friends and artists preparing for the wedding of one of the pair was truly a joy to behold.
The guests were made up only of family and friends. Meeting their Kansas City friends was an unexpected treat. A bohemian group involved in the arts and people who, for the most part, enjoyed the alternative side of this life. Having lived in KC in the early days of our musical career, including the “One Toke” era, they seemed to be a twenty-first-century version of our friends from back in the day. The look was different…more tattoos…less tie-dye…but in every other way they were familiar. The Kansas City arts community and their friends. My only regret was not having enough time to get to know every one of them well enough to call them our friends as well.
By the time the wedding took place the paths were lined with lights and candles of all types for the evening reception. It seemed everyone felt the love. The caterers, “Girls Gone Catering,” took over our kitchen and came up with delightful dishes I could never have imagined. Randy, our friend and the doctor who had delivered Matt thirty years ago, made a special wedding beer for the occasion. There was no wedding cake. It was a stand filled with all kinds of pies from the local pie shop. Everywhere you looked and everything you saw was there because of love. Love for the couple, love for the wedding to come, and love for the environment Jan and I had built over the years. The home we had dreamed about.
Everyone was seated and here they came. Matt and Ashley. A more beautiful couple would be hard to imagine. I have known Matt for thirty years and have never seen that smile. And on his arm the most beautiful girl to ever grace our woods. There was one word that seemed to be on everyone’s lips upon seeing the couple in the place that had become their chapel in the woods. Enchanting.
Josh conducted a short and touching ceremony. And then, with a kiss, Jan and I had a dream come true. Our son Matt had just married the girl of his dreams.
The Dream Reception
The guests had all been given confetti and it filled the air as the newlyweds made their way from their woodland chapel to the house. Their smiles were so big you could feel them as they headed to the reception.
The reception itself was an event all its own. We guessed there were fifty or more people at the wedding and I believe most of them stayed for the reception. First, the bride and groom did the traditional feeding each other a slice of wedding cake. In this case, it was wedding pie which was much better than one of those tiered, white constructions with a plastic bride and groom on top.
There were champagne toasts. Too many to count. Decisions to be made as to which kind of pie to start with, pouring yet another plastic cup of Randy’s special wedding beer, and later in the evening a bonfire at Matt’s old party spot. All the paths had been lined with one light or another making the woods and our house in the distance twinkle. To photograph that was beyond the scope or interest of the father of the groom. He was in full party mode and filled with pride and love for the new member of the family.
The Lovers’ Den
Friends had set up a tent for the couple’s wedding night. It was down its own path to a mossy point where two creeks come together. A fitting place to spend the night after an enchanting day. And what a day it was. Matt, the party master for so many years, had pulled it off again. He had just held his biggest party ever. A party with his wedding right in the middle. Congratulations Matt…on every front.
There was a day to clean up after the wedding and then the drive back to Kansas City. The Shipleys and their dog Bogart, joining their lives in a place where dreams really do come true.