>The Wedding in the UP


The first wedding we attended was Senor’s older sibling to his long-time girlfriend. J and R had been together since high school and were on their 10th year together before they tied the knot.

The UP, I think, is in general a weird place. It’s one of those pockets of the country that is incredibly isolated thanks to a declining population and a large lake that keeps them from easily accessing ‘lower’ Michigan. The population of the UP has been steadily declining since the 1970s when logging and mining began the process of outsourcing to cheaper countries. Now when you visit the UP you will find a large number of the population works in service industry jobs or retail, while there are few professional establishments. The main industry of the region moved out and with it, specialized jobs moved out as well. There are still a few mills and mines operating and those places keep the UP afloat in terms of economic development.

The UP is weird in other ways. Everyone seems to like the same things, eat the same things, dress the same way, etc. I think this is more about the way of life in a small, isolated town which I am unfamiliar with than anything else. I’ve discovered this painfully slowly each time I try to cook a meal for family. Eggplant gratin? Not a hit. Baked brie? We made two for 40 people and brought one, untouched, home with us. And one day I asked if there were any vegetables and was told, “we eat what we like here.” But I like veggies! I’ve come to realize that as much as I like cooking for people, my food is probably not going to be enjoyed and I usually just feel sad that no one seems to like it. Best leave that one alone I think.

Weddings in the UP are not dissimilar to meals. They are done a certain way by most everyone and everyone is familiar and comfortable with that way and there’s little left to debate when you simply know what you’re going to do. I think it probably takes away a lot of the anxiety of wedding planning, but also possibly a lot of the unique moments.

The wedding was in September. The ceremony was at the family’s Episcopalian church followed with a reception in a smaller town’s senior recreation center. That is to say, a very large room to hold all of the guests. The ceremony was a traditional wedding in a Protestant church and the pastor’s words were the same as the words of the pastor in the closing scene of Pride and Prejudice, which made me ridiculously happy.  The bridal party was quite large and after the ceremony there were pictures in the church and then again at a park on the shore of Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan is a BEAUTIFUL setting.

The bride wore a pin-tuck, a-line, strapless gown while the bridesmaids wore red and white two-piece dresses. The groom and groomsmen wore tuxedos. The bridal party rode from the ceremony to the park to the reception in a bus that indicated that we were incarcerated inmates from a nearby town. I was surprised when we reached the hall to see how large it was and how many people were already milling around. There had been less than 100 guests at the wedding (I was handing out programs) but already it looked like 200 people were in the reception hall. I learned that the common practice at UP weddings is to invite only a few guests with an actual invitation to the ceremony but to open up the reception for friends and coworkers via word of mouth or email invitations.

Receptions follow the typical pattern in the UP but dinner is almost always a buffet and there are no table settings or placement cards to worry about. I had been to Italian buffet weddings and those with carving stations but I wasn’t sure what to expect at this one. Staples of UP buffets including pasta salads, roasted turkey swimming in broth and Swedish meatballs (which are meatballs in a cream sauce in case you’re confused like I was). I did discover that carving stations are mandatory in buffets in Wisconsin, near the border between Wisconsin and the UP though. I think each small town around the US must have these little traditions but having only lived in the city or a nearby suburb, I am unaware of these.

A dance followed the reception and it was very much in typical wedding fashion. There was a dollar dance and the couple’s first dance, etc. I did find it strange that the ‘grand march’ or entrance of the wedding party actually happened after dinner was finished. There were drinks, dancing, and music all night. Thankfully there was no chicken dance or hokey pokey or anything of that nature. I think those dances may finally have gone out of style for weddings.

At midnight the evening was over. Senor and I had been very busy all day. We finished helping to clean up and carry gifts to the car and headed back to our hotel room. Even though it was after midnight and we were tired, we were really, really hungry! We ordered a pizza from the only place open, Domino’s. Senor and I rarely eat Domino’s and never chose to order it for ourselves but that night it was the most delicious thing I’d ever had. Okay, maybe it wasn’t that good. But it was hot and gooey and after our day of running around, we inhaled it. Late-night, post-wedding snacks seem to be a pretty common theme with us.

The next day we drove back home to Minnesota where we had six days to get ready for wedding number 2.


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