Tag Archives: wedding

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.

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.


Weddings and Families

The point of our road trip was to go to my cousin Janet’s wedding. To understand what made this wedding so special, you will have to understand some things about my family.

First, when I post about family gatherings and hanging out with cousins and stopping in to see an aunt or a grandmother, I am almost always speaking of my Dad’s side of the family, the Smuckers. The Yoders, on my Mom’s side, are quite different. Managing to gather a group of Yoders in one place is rare, but oh so special.

Second of all, six years ago the Yoder family was rocked to the core when my cousin Leonard committed suicide. Leonard has two sisters: Annette, who was married at the time of his death but was unable to have children, and Janet, his little sister who looked up to him more than anything.

This summer, God has been redeeming and blessing the Yoder family in a way that is amazing to behold. First of all, after seven years of frustration and tears, Annette and her husband Jay were able to adopt a breathtaking baby boy named Justice Creed. Secondly, Janet is getting married. The family that lost a son is gaining a son-in-law. The girl who lost the man who she looked up to now has a man to look after her and care for her the rest of her life.

There is our cast of characters: Janet the bride. Marcus and Anna, the parents of the bride. Annette and Jay, the sister and brother-in-law of the bride. And Justice, the adorable loveable nephew of the bride.

My Aunt Anna with her grandson, Justice Creed.

Rounding out the cast list are me, my parents, and my siblings Matt, Amy, and Jenny. Also, my uncle Fred and my Aunt Rebecca. Fred, Rebecca, Mom, and Marcus are all siblings.

And now, for pictures.

Amy, Jenny and I dressed in wedding finery. I had to stand just so on that dock so my stupid spindly heels didn’t go down the cracks. I just knew that if there were any handsome single men at that wedding they were going to think, “oooh, she’s the kind of girl who buys shoes she can’t walk in. So not interested.”

My real excuse is that I’m too cheap to buy myself nice white sandals, and instead borrow my sister’s and wobble.

Apparently I tried to delicately punch uncle Fred while we walked into the church. This picture just cracks me up.

The only camera I have access to right now is my Mom’s, which doesn’t have good pictures of the ceremony. However, I decided to post one blurry one, with notes telling you who is who.

Finally, a good picture of the cute-handsome-nice-funny-amazing-affable-benevolent couple.

Uncle Fred takes a picture of bridesmaid Annette in her beautiful wedding finery.

The bridal table. Janet the bride looks intently at her chair. Annette and Jay look intently at baby Justice. The two random members of the bridal party also look at their chairs, which leads me to believe that the whole lot of them wanted to sit down.

After the wedding was over, and Janet and Mark were safely off on their honeymoon, mom and aunt Rebecca went over to the place where Annette was staying so they could hold beautiful baby Justice for the first time.

Aunt Rebecca holding/loving Justice.

If only I had brought my own camera, or charged my droid and dragged it around with me, I could have brought you pictures of the summits I climbed, the lakes I canoed across, and the sunsets I observed during my short two days in beautiful Canada. But I didn’t. So I can’t.

I can, however, post a few more pictures of the good family times we had this afternoon.

Dad holds Justice.

Marcus, me, Jay, and Annette sit around a table, intending to talk to each other. However, we just cannot keep ourselves from staring at Justice instead.

Now, here is a twist in the good old plot. Jay, Annette, and Justice were planning to fly back to Pennsylvania tomorrow, while the rest of the Yoders (minus Janet, obviously) went back to Minnesota for a bit of family time with Grandpa and Grandma.

However, this morning, the day after Janet’s wedding, Janet’s Grandma on her Mom’s side died. Which means that Annette and Justice are coming to Minnesota as well, and Janet is cutting her honeymoon short and coming down for the funeral.

Although they’ve been expecting her death for a while now, it strikes  me as such a bizarre turn of events. A wedding, and then a funeral, all in one trip. Granted, I didn’t know the woman who died, and therefore probably won’t go to the funeral. But for Marcus, Anna, Annette, and Janet it will be. A birth, a marriage, and a death, all in one summer.

I must get to bed, as I am road-tripping to Minnesota tomorrow. Prepare for more styles and miles coming your way.