Colorado Rocky Mountain highI’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky Friends around the campfire and everybody’s high
Everyone has heard John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High, but we got to experience it. Our son and daughter-in-law, who got married in November, held their reception this past weekend just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park. The roughly 80-person reception was held at a YMCA camp in Estes Park, CO, at about 8,000 feet elevation with gorgeous views in every direction.
First off, credit to Rachel and Drew in conceptualizing, designing, planning, managing, and executing this incredible event. Yes, they tasked many others to contribute to this shared experience which “made the day”, but in the end credit goes to these two. We are so proud of both.
If you separate out us old dinosaurs, the attendees were mostly twenty/thirty somethings who have yet to recognize or appreciate their incredible charm, intelligence, and potential. Don’t get me wrong – we can revisit the whole “potential” thing in about 10 years to see how things materialize, but I have confidence. If you want to be depressed, watch the news. If you want to be inspired, spend time with young people. Absolutely delightful.
Let’s talk about the setting. Whatever preconceptions you may have about YMCA camps? Throw them out. This is the YMCA of the Rockies, nearly surrounded by Rocky Mountain National Park. This camp is just fabulous – and huge!
The lodge was big enough to house all 80 participants, most of which flew or drove in from out of town. The lodge held many bedrooms, an oversized kitchen, a dining area, a huge lounge area, and outdoor seating on a beautiful porch.
There was a campfire, horseshoes, basketball court, grill area, deck seating – all part of the Barclay Reunion Lodge, which the kids renamed Camp Roberts for the weekend.
The challenge to all wedding receptions are the many constituencies to be considered – family, friends, work associates, weird uncles, wedding crashers… A typical reception involves awkward beginnings, socialized silos, and somewhat predictable results. And really, what you want are for the members of these varied constituencies to somehow come together to better share this incredible experience and the love they have for the newlyweds.
What Drew and Rachel brilliantly created was an event – a shared experience through games and other activities that brought together members of all these varied constituencies (technically no weird uncles or wedding crashers that I am aware of) and caused them to willingly come together to achieve common, shared goals – celebrate the union of Drew and Rachel, have fun, and make a difference in someone else’s lives. Done.
Self-catered, this has been months of planning for Karen and the kids, and I know it must be a relief to have it in the rearview mirror, fun as it was. Having seen the planning and activities largely from the sideline, there is no question in my mind that traditional caterers earn their keep.
Part of the food choices included some briskets from our stop in Austin to Franklin’s BBQ. These poor young wolves must not have eaten for a month preceding the reception; I had to keep my fingers away from the serving platter. Cater Karen made (amongst many other things) tins/tons of home-made baked ziti for Saturday’s dinner, and I can tell you with affirmation that it was devoured. Make no mistake – this was a total team effort.
On Saturday night, a service was held celebrating Rachel and Drew’s marriage, as these guests were largely not in attendance for the small wedding back in November. One of their friends, Shimon, conducted this service with characteristics that would typically be part of a traditional Jewish wedding (like I know what would or would not be part of a traditional Jewish wedding). This was truly a beautiful service, delivered perfectly. Mazel tov!
If you or your own kids are looking for an alternative to more traditional wedding activities, Drew and Rachel’s approach could clearly serve as a modest yet fun-packed model. Congratulations again to Rachel and Drew. Woop woop! We all love you both.
Below is the script from Shimon’s beautiful wedding service:
Welcome friends, welcome family, welcome everyone to the ceremony that is the center of the Camp Roberts Experience. We are gathered here today to celebrate for the second time the union between two very special and very important people in our lives. While they each have their own individual thoughts, feelings, and emotions, there is an amazing cohesion that this couple experiences that is quite clearly unique to them. Their interests and desires, their quirks and their outlooks all mesh in a way that makes it easy to believe that the terms soulmate and true love really do exist. Which other pair of humans would ever enthusiastically agree to move into a bright purple house together? Or have their wedding party at a YMCA mountain camp? Or allow one of the youngest people at said camp who hasn’t been to a wedding in 10 years officiate theirs in a Jewish style? The only thing that would have made this ceremony any more ‘Roberts’ would be if we had to take public transportation to Estes Park and rode bikes the rest of the way. This all goes to show how amazing it is that these two beautiful souls found each other and correctly realized that they would be perfect for each other.
Before we begin with the marriage ceremony, I would like to explain what it is that Drew and Rachel are sitting under. This shawl, called a Tallit, held up in this fashion is called a Chuppah. The Chuppah is a traditional covering used during weddings to symbolize the home that the couple will be creating together. The chuppah intentionally has no walls, and the reason for this connects very well to this specific couple, as it symbolizes the invitation to have people, namely their friends and family, come into their home to experience the joys of life together with them. There is also a very important distinction to be made here: Drew and Rachel are some of the most selfless and giving people we all know. The support they show to those who they care about is so immense that sometimes it feels hard to show them the same level of commitment to the relationship. So it is symbolic to show that the home that Rachel and Drew are creating is also supported by the love and connection they have with their friends and families.
Now. Drew, Rachel. I would like you to look deeply into each other’s eyes for a moment, and then close them. Now I would like you to think back on a time that must seem like forever ago, a time before you had ever met each other. Let your mind begin to think about the times you did not have each other, where you may have felt alone and going through the motions of life without a companion to lean on. This could be moving away from home for College or coming to Denver for the first time. This could be hearing some difficult news while away from your family that was hard to conceptualize internally. The moments where you found yourself inexplicably longing for something more in life, without truly knowing what it was you were looking for. Now open your eyes and recognize that from here on out, you will never have to experience any of these feelings without the companionship, support, and love of your dedicated partner by your side. What you may have been looking for has finally been found, it is yours, and no one can ever take that from you. With this feeling in mind, I would like to invite you, Drew you can go first, to speak some vows, wishes, hopes, dreams, affirmations, or any other collection of words, to your partner.
Now if the Maid of Honor and the Best Man could light their respective candles and hand them to the bride and groom…
Alone, their lights are bright and beautiful. As individuals they have created lives for themselves that they are both proud of and very happy to be living. However, as symbolized by the intertwined wicks of this special candle here, their conjoined light is stronger and more powerful to behold. Together, they will be able to maximize the goodness and joy they can spread on the world.
I wrote some words in Hebrew in the style of a prayer I will now say:
Baruch ha-heetztarpot shel hazug hazeh, Drew ben Brad v’Rachel bat Jeanette, mee yachad l’hoheeach chabra’am v’meeshpacha shelahem v’haolam ha’ahavah sheesh lahem hatza’ah achad lehatzeeah v’ha’tov sheesh lahem lehatzeeah lechaim hazeh.
Blessed is the joining of this couple, Drew son of Brad and Rachel daughter of Jeanette, who together will show their friends, family, and the world the love they have to offer to each other and the good they have to offer to this life.
Now I would like you to take this glass and extinguish the flame so that you may keep this candle as whole as possible. After the blessing, I would like each of you to dip a finger in the wine and offer it to your partner by brushing it on their lips as a testament to the support you will always show each other: Baruch atah Adonai eloheinu Melech haolam, borei peri hagafen. Lechaim.
Now, I would like you to please repeat after me:
I have agreed to enter into marriage with one whom I love – and who loves me- We have committed ourselves to one another with joy and in hope – may I be worthy of my beloved’s trust – may we be faithful friends – each a help and support to the other in all that befalls us – and may we be blessed with children – a new generation that will grow in health and in beauty of spirit.
OR – We will create a union of hands for honest labor and fruitful effort – in joy and sorrow we shall work together – to achieve the happiness for which we yearn.
Do you, Rachel Roberts, now affirm your marriage with Drew Roberts, and do you promise to love and honor him, to sustain and help him, and to keep faith with him always?
Do you, Drew Roberts, now affirm your marriage with Rachel Roberts, and do you promise to love and honor her, to sustain and help her, and to keep faith with her always?
To symbolize the fragility of life and relationship, to remind you that you should live your lives together as if each day was your last and to always remember the care required to maintain this sacred bond as you settle into your life together, I invite you to both smash your glass and then kiss to officially seal your fates together in marriage.