Tag Archives: Utah

Keith and Taylor’s Wedding

In the days following the wedding, my family had some conversations and disagreements about what exactly Tifie Ranch was. I thought it was just a regular campground and event center, until I remembered the “No Trespassing, Enter by Invitation Only” sign at the entrance. My Uncle Chad thought that some rich man had created it as a playground for himself and his friends, and Keith and Taylor had only managed to snag it as a wedding venue because they knew somebody.

There were no disagreements around the fact that it was beautiful.

We drove down the lane and into the ranch that Saturday afternoon, past the “Keith and Taylor –>” sign, and up to the young men who were pointing us toward the parking lot. Dad rolled down his window. “I have my father-in-law with me,” said Dad. “I was told I’m supposed to take him straight up to the amphitheater so that he doesn’t have to walk so far.”

After a conversation with a bearded guy in a red shirt, Dad drove off in the opposite direction of the parking lot. The road we were on seemed to peter out, so we turned right and drove up the hill on a road that ended…in a garage.

“This can’t be right,” we said to each other, as a garage generally indicates “this is a private residence” and “you shouldn’t be here.”

The bearded guy in the red shirt came walking up the hill. “I think this is right,” he said. “I think this is what they told me.”

Mom got out of the car, and she and the bearded guy walked up a set of stone steps to the left of the garage, and disappeared into the woods. We waited a few minutes, and then they came back.

“Was that it?”


Back to square one. We turned around, which was a bit difficult in the small space we were afforded, and drove back down the hill. There, a pickup met us. Mom and Grandpa climbed in, and the pickup shuttled them up another road, a steep gravel number that disappeared up into the woods. I was a bit confused about what was going on, because I was in the back of the van and couldn’t hear people’s conversations very well. But my siblings and I got out and followed some wedding guests up a footpath, and there was a pretty little amphitheater, and there were Mom and Grandpa, safe and sound.

Now, let me pause at this junction to tell you a little bit about my cousin Keith.

Keith’s two primary characteristics are first, that’s he’s always doing something, and second, that he makes his life as uncomplicated as possible. When I lived with him and his family in 2010 he was doing wrestling, and then he went to college and poured his energy into Ultimate Frisbee, and then after college he moved to Utah and took up rock climbing. He even went rock climbing the morning of his wedding, hurting his knee a bit.

Our mothers are sisters and best friends. When their mother, our grandmother, died a few years ago, all the Yoders gathered at my grandparents’ house that summer to go through their things, because Grandpa was moving in with my Uncle Marcus.

Yoders are notorious for rescuing things. My grandparents’ house had banana boxes of rescued peanut butter jars in the basement, and Velveeta cheese boxes of rescued ballpoint pens under Grandpa’s bed. Those of us who’s Yoder genes were diluted a bit made plenty of jokes about this, and Keith, who has barely any Yoder genes to speak of, mocked the most.

Faced with a houseful of stuff I could just take if I wished to, I ended up salvaging two skirts, a pretty tin, two purses, some decorative buttons, and a navy blue faux fur coat. “Did you get anything?” I asked Keith.

“Yes! I got a pizza cutter, because I lost mine. And I got a rolling pin. I’ve been using a wine bottle for two years.”

The story goes that in January, Keith met a girl named Taylor who, like him, was always doing something, and made her life as uncomplicated as possible. Nine months later they got married.

Their wedding, then, was like nothing I’d ever experienced.

First, it was small. There were maybe 75 people in that little amphitheater in the woods.

That arch was designed and built by a couple of Taylor’s friends, and decorated with wildflowers they’d picked from the woods that morning. All the flowers were picked from the woods, including Taylor’s bouquet.

Keith’s mom, my lovely Aunt Rebecca.

My Dad showed off his handsome new beard.

There were no bridesmaids. No groomsmen. Just Keith and Taylor and the preacher.

Keith’s friend Abe sat in a corner and strummed his guitar as people assembled, and then when the ceremony started, Keith’s brother Derek attached a cell phone to some portable speakers, and voilà! Music!

Taylor appeared on her Father’s arm, looking like a woodland fairy.


She and Keith stood on the platform and gazed at each other, while the preacher performed the ceremony.

“For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife,” said the preacher, and Keith turned and winked at his parents.

Everybody laughed.

That’s what I remember most about the wedding: the laughter. Unlike the last time one of my cousins got married, the guests at this wedding laughed. A lot. Taylor laughed. Keith laughed. It wasn’t a stiff formal affair, it was a fun happy time in the woods with relatives and friends and love.

Then the ceremony was over, and we wandered down the paths and across the little bridges to the reception venue.

Instead of a cake, or fancy catered desert, there was a large stack of delicious little pies from Walmart, in their tiny square boxes. There was tea, and beverage-unsuitable-for-Mennonites, and some ginger ale that quickly ran out because there were so many Mennonites.

We took family photos, which of course were missing the bride and groom, as they were off getting their own pictures taken.

big family

The Yoder Relatives

little family

My Family

And then the taco truck arrived, and that was our dinner. Tacos from a taco truck. Which was delicious and all, but it did make me wonder about how tacos because such a trendy thing to eat. Is there a trick to eating them without bending your head at an odd angle, taking too large of bites, salsa juice running down your chin, and taco filling splooshing out the other end onto your hand? Can one eat a taco elegantly?

In any case, it was yummy, and I suppose we all looked inelegant together.

Here’s a secret: When I got to wedding receptions, I usually feel like I should be having more fun than I am. I sit at a table with people I’ve known all my life, and gaze across the crowded noisy reception venue at people who are cooler than me and having much more interesting conversations than I’m having, wishing there was a way to join in.

This wedding receptions was different. I made more of an effort to move around and talk to different people, and I had a lot of relatives I hadn’t seen in a long time that I wanted to catch up with. Somehow this was made much easier by the fact that the crowd was so much smaller than I’m used to. I suppose there’s no real real way to achieve smallness at a Mennonite wedding unless you only invite your immediate family or have a destination wedding in a cold remote location, but it was nice all the same.

The sun set. Six of Keith and Taylor’s relatives and best friends gave toasts, and I raised my glass of sparkling cider.

Then Derek announced that the father daughter dance was happening soon, and I went outside to watch Taylor and her father dance in a little pavilion decorated with strings of lights. When I went back inside, the crowd was thinning, and most of my family had left.

“We should really go,” said Matt. “I need to go. My flight leaves early tomorrow morning.”

So we said goodbye and took our leave.

Drove back to our rental house, almost hitting a porcupine on the way.

And went to bed.

And that is the story of the lovely wedding in the Utah woods. Tomorrow I will write the last branch of the story, about the journey home.

Utah in the fall. Who knew?

As I mentioned in my last post, my cousin Keith’s wedding wasn’t until 4 pm Saturday afternoon. The nature around us was so magnificent that we couldn’t bear to stay indoors, so on Saturday morning my siblings, some of my cousins, and two of my uncles went on a hike that Ben had found using his magical Ben powers. It was just…beyond breathtaking. Utah in the fall. Who knew?










“Which would you rather do, skydive or scuba dive?” Uncle Fred asked us as we gazed out over the lovely little lake at the end of the hike.

“Here’s what you do,” Matt said. “You put on full scuba gear, and then a parachute, and you skydive out of a plane and into water and then you scuba dive.”

“I’ve always wanted to scuba dive,” I said, “but I have absolutely zero desire to sky dive.”

“I’d rather skydive,” said my cousin Austin. “When you scuba dive there are a lot of different things that could kill you, but when you skydive there’s only one thing that could kill you.”

“I don’t know about that. You could die by crashing into a large bird,” one of my relatives chimed in.

But wait! Couldn’t crashing into a bird help break your fall, if your parachute didn’t open? What if you grabbed onto it? Matt and Uncle Fred began to discuss this in earnest. I don’t know what conclusion they reached. I stopped listening when they began to calculate landing angles.

By the time we got home we were late for lunch, which was unfortunate because we were also celebrating my Grandpa’s 101st birthday. He won’t turn 101 until November 26, but as the family was already gathered, we decided to celebrate early.

Those of us who were late ate our lunch, and then we brought out the cake and sang “Happy Birthday.” Grandpa stood up to make a speech.

“Around 30 years ago, the doctor told me that I had a stomach ulcer,” he said. “After that I had to watch what I ate, and make sure I didn’t eat too much, or else my ulcer would act up. I think that’s why I have lived so long.”

He said more than that, but that was the gist of it. It was a bit disheartening to those of us who were preparing to gorge ourselves on birthday cake.

4 pm rolled around eventually. The house was a bevy of activity as we showered, ironed shirts, combed hair, put on pantyhose, and did all the usual pre-wedding prep. Matt drove some of my siblings in his rental car, and the rest of us piled into the minivan with our parents and Grandpa.

As for the wedding itself, well, I suppose I’ll get to that part of the story tomorrow.

The Full Utah Experience

My family’s road trip through the night to Utah for my cousin Keith’s wedding left us rumpled and unwashed, but in generally good spirits. We freshened up as best we could in a gas station restroom, ate a good breakfast of McDonald’s pancakes, and then drove on and on, through Idaho and into Utah.

We couldn’t get into our rental until 3 pm, so we stopped in Ogden to run some errands. First, Walmart. Jenny and Mom went inside to buy some snacks and paper cups.

“Do you want to take a walk around the parking lot with me?” I asked Amy, after a few minutes of boring van waiting.


So we climbed out, just in time to see Mom and Jenny coming back. Mom marched up to the back of the van and flung open the hatch. Crash! A giant banana box, perched precariously on top of garment bags and backpacks and pillows, fell face down on the blacktop. A pair of shoes, a large dishcloth, a box of granola bars, a small metal teapot, and every other random item that we’d thrown into the van at the last minute went skittering across the parking lot.

“I’m so sorry! I’m so so sorry!” said a stranger who was standing in the area. Where had this stranger come from, and why was she apologizing?

“Well, um, here’s some granola bars,” said Mom, picking up a box of them and handing them to the stranger. “And, let’s see.” She peeked into a paper bag. “Bananas! Do you want a banana?”

“Thank you!” said the stranger, taking the food. “I’m so sorry! The shelter doesn’t feed us on weekends.”

“It’s no problem, we had plenty of food.”

“Thank you so much!” she said again.

“What’s going on? We asked mom as we scooped up the remaining fallen items, and placed the banana box carefully back into the van.

“She wanted some food, and I thought, ‘well, we have plenty of food in the back of the van,’ so I came back to get some for her,” said Mom.

When everything was successfully placed back where it belonged, Mom and Jenny went back inside to buy snacks and paper cups, and Amy and I finally took our walk around the parking lot.

After the Walmart excursion we went to Chick-Fil-A for lunch, my first time in that famous establishment. I saw one of the employees through the window and immediately thought, “that guy looks Mormon.” Then, “that’s a little odd.” And then, “oh wait, we’re in Utah. He probably is Mormon.”

Then we went inside and everyone looked Mormon.

We also visited a large thrift store called Savers, another chain which I’d heard a lot about but had never been in. I could have spent a lot of time in there. I’m telling you, Utah thrift stores have modest Mormon girl dresses like nothing I’d ever seen before.

When we finally got back to the van, Dad said, “what took you so long? We’re gonna be a half hour late.”

“Late for what?” I asked.

“Late for…the earliest we could have gotten into our rental.”

So we drove away to our rental, and presently the scenery outside the windows became lovelier and lovelier. And then, we arrived!

The relatives were gathered, all my moms siblings and many of their spouses and children. All my brothers and sisters came. And my Grandpa, who is almost 101.

We unpacked, showered, dressed, chilled with our relatives, and then headed to the rehearsal dinner. The rehearsal dinner was held at the same ranch as the wedding was, a breathtaking location which I’ll discuss in more detail tomorrow.

Our rental was less than ten minutes from the ranch, and was beyond lovely. Deer wandered through our yard multiple times a day. It had beautiful log beams, and large open spaces full of couches. It was slightly lacking in the bedroom department, however. My choices ended up being either to A. sleep in the living room, or B. sleep on a mattress on the floor of my parent’s closet.

I chose the closet, since I knew I would hardly get any sleep in the living room, the way people like to stay up late and get up early nowadays. Unfortunately, the closet opened, not into the bedroom, but into the bathroom, which my whole family was sharing.

So in the morning, I had to knock on the door before I left my little closet bedroom. But it worked out fine.

The wedding wasn’t until 4 pm Saturday afternoon, so on Saturday morning my siblings, some of my cousins, and two of my uncles went on a hike that Ben had found using his magical Ben powers. It was just…beyond breathtaking. Utah in the fall. Who knew?

Unfortunately I’m having picture-uploading issues at the moment, and I need to go to bed. So the photos of the hike will have to wait until tomorrow.


Road Trip Through The Night


My cousin Keith got married on October 7, in one of those small exclusive weddings that makes everyone who is invited feel like they’ll miss out if they don’t show up. The wedding was to be held at a ranch outside of Salt Lake City, which promised beautiful views and abundant wildlife, and good times were anticipated by all.

Matt decided to fly to Salt Lake City from DC. Ben had to attend a conference in Wyoming, so he drove to that, and from there spent a week hiking and camping alone before making his way to the wedding venue. The rest of us thought, “hey, Salt Lake City isn’t very far away! Let’s drive! Together! Through the night! It will be like a giant moving sleepover!

We had a plan.

We’d leave at 10 pm, Pacific Time, in our red minivan. Jenny would drive for the first three hours or so, then Dad would take a shift, and then Amy. By 11 am Mountain Time, we’d be in Salt Lake City, after 12 hours of driving.

I got in the front passenger seat to keep Jenny awake. We started the van, and began backing out of the driveway.

“Wait!” said Amy. “Is one of our tires low? This van is vibrating like one of our tires is low.”

Jenny stopped the van. Dad got out and checked. No, none of the tires were low. We got back in and backed the rest of the way out of the driveway.

Amy, Steven, Mom, and Dad relaxed in their seats and tried to go to sleep. I relaxed in my seat and tried not to go to sleep. It was hard. I was tired, it was near my bedtime, and the van, despite its tendency to vibrate more than usual, was lulling me to sleep. “Are you okay if I sleep a little?” I asked Jenny.

“Please don’t sleep,” said Jenny. “When I asked Dad where to go he said to ‘Get on the 205,’ and then he went to sleep, and I’m not exactly sure what he means.”

And so our trip began, with Jenny driving and me navigating. Just to be clear, my version of “navigating” was to say, “hmm, I think I-205 takes off of I-5 around exit 283…nope, I guess not, there’s no signs for it…oh, there’s a sign, it’s exit 288.” There’s signs for everything these days; who needs a GPS? Who even needs a map?

In Portland we got onto I-84, and began a midnight drive along the Columbia River Gorge. This was the area that got destroyed so terribly in the Eagle Creek Fire, and I strained my eyes through the faint smoky haze that still hung in the air, trying to assess the damage. Against the full moon I saw trees. Trees with leaves. So perhaps they were mostly undamaged after all? The ones along the road at least?

The exits to Multnomah Falls were blocked off. We rounded a corner, and suddenly the trees stood stark and black against the sky, just for a short stretch, and then we saw leaves again.

I was so curious to see how it looked by daylight. But like all wise men, we ended up returning by another way, so I never saw.

Jenny began to grow a little tired. “Hey look, I think that’s a dam!” she said of the white structure to our left that glowed oddly in the moonlight. I squinted at it for a second, puzzled by its oddly train-like appearance, when Jenny corrected herself. “Oh wait, that’s just a train,” she said sheepishly.

Dad woke up around 1 am. “You ready for me to take over?”

I don’t know about Jenny, but I sure was. Jenny and I moved to the middle, Mom and Dad moved up front, and I tried to sleep.

The odd vibrations of the van made sleep difficult at first, but I managed eventually. I slept for hours and hours, waking only when it was Amy’s turn to drive and Jenny and I moved to the back seat.

When I woke up it was Friday morning, and we were a good ways through Idaho. With greasy hair and un-brushed teeth, we had just a few more hours of driving until we’d reach Salt Lake City, and after that, a few more hours to kill before we could get into our rental house.

But I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow.