fireflies and cottonwood

our wedding blog

This Magic Moment: Recap 1 February 23, 2010

We need to begin some sort of recap. We have so much to say!  We also want to post our wedding play list, our budget, and other behinds the scenes details– the sorts of helpful details I scoured wedding blogs for, in ideas for ours.  But first, we have to recap it!


Where to begin?  When I think back, I remember being in St. Louis the week before, with friends and family.  Some snapshots:


1. Staying the night with Amy, while Mike went to the bachelor party.  We had Mexican food, went to Target, and watched girly movies while finishing up bridespeople gifts.  Too fun.


I was too excited to sleep, even though we went to bed late. I got up and kept writing notes to the bridespeople, and was awake when Mike stumbled in at around two o’clock in the morning.  He had some funny stories, or the beginnings of stories, to share, and then he went to bed.  Then, I went for a walk.  And got lost!  In Affton!  But the roads are so curvy!  While I walked, I prayed a little, especially praying that I would be able to stay present for all of the beautiful parts, and that the wedding day wouldn’t go by too quickly.


When I got back to the house, darling Buttons the dog pictured me as an intruder–everyone else was asleep!–and growled at me, and wouldn’t let me past the dining room. So I lay on the couch until he went away. And then fell asleep, finally, at 6AM, in Maeve’s sweet pink butterflied bedroom.


I woke up a little before 10AM. Nick was supposed to come grab me for brunch, but he–shall we say– had had a long night at the bachelor party.  So I hung out until Matt could come get me–we had a noon meeting with the photographers. Who we hadn’t even met yet, incredibly!


2. The photographers. Amazing, and so meant to be.  Our previous photographers had fallen through, and I had been a fan of Jodie and Kim for as long as I’d known about their photographs online.  The week before we left for St. Louis, I e-mailed Jodie– hoping that they might do weddings. I was beginning to think I’d have to fly someone down from NYC!


The initial meeting with them was beyond, beyond. Our energies met and took off immediately, and they were really excited by my “vision.” I told them about the Green World, and all of my beloved friends, and how I love old photographs, and the Edwardians, and the Victorians… I said, “I want it to be like we’re in the middle of a grand dinner party. It’s the middle of a great war, in England perhaps, and everything is rationed. No butter, no sugar, no candles. But we’re pulling everything together, for one brave and merry night. We’ve gone up to the attic, and dragged down everything fine: candlesticks, mirrors, furniture. We’re dressed, and candle-lit, and having a time.”


Their creative minds were amazing to see in process, thinking out loud, and throwing back and forth ideas, and immediately making calls to see how we could get props and make this happen.  You’ve seen the result.  Breath-taking.  Kim said, of those sneak peeks, “Those pictures came right out of your brilliant head.”  Not my head– the hearts of me, our loved ones, and Kim and Jodie.  But yes: they seem unreal.


Then!  After our lunch meeting, we ran across the street to my beloved Pearson House, to take some “engagement” shots. We had been disappointed by the ones we had taken here, and Jodie and Kim wanted to make that up to us. We had thirty minutes.  Thirty minutes, and it was very cold!  We waltzed, and laughed, and shouted across the lawn at one another. And, another testament to their genius, those results are also incredible.


Then, Matt headed to the hotel, to meet up with the Varnons (at large), and check-in.  I met four of the bridespeople for nails– and saw Jodut for the first time in a while, as well as Jennifer and Erin.  That’s when I started to get the sensation of, “Oh my goodness– my friends, my best friends, the women I love… they’re here in this salon, with _me_.”  It was strange, like Christmas or a birthday…but more.  I kept shrieking, “Jodut!” “Erin!” “Jennifer, you’re here!”  Oh, the goodness.


Then, Eric and Tom came to pick me and Jodut up, and take us to the hotel. I walked into the lobby, and started seeing Varnons.  So happy!  We had dinner in the restaurant at the hotel.  While we were eating, I got a text, “Is this Stephanie H.?”  I texted back, “Yes…”  The reply: “Do you recognize the man in a Yankees cap sitting in front of you?” I looked, and saw, John T.!  A boy I went to eleven years of school with, first through twelve grades, and was close friends with–a pack of us–in high school.


Then… up to the hotel suite, the Sky Cove, as we called it.  Posh!  Spacious (bigger than our NYC apartment)! Amazing view!  A platter of treats waiting for us.  I don’t know how I slept at all in that beautiful room, with all of the exciting thing going on around me.


This must have been New Year’s Eve, because there was a big party going on in the hotel that night, and Mike and Amy came downtown to it. So I joined them for a while, and drank wine and danced with Amy. And looked at all of the crazy dresses people had on, and met some DJs.


And then, I finally went to sleep, in the Sky Cove bed– so big that Matt and I could barely find each other in it. When we would awake, it’d be the day of the rehearsal.


25 days December 8, 2009

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1.  We are very thankfully, and happily, under budget.  This is important because being thrifty and responsible with money is important to us.  It’s also important because neither of us has a credit card— and if something happens like the cake catches on fire, or 50 extra people show up, we’ll have to pay for it with money we already have.

2. I’m not stressed out, and neither is Matt.  We’re excited. I feel like it’s my birthday coming up, plus Christmas, plus the best family dinner ever.  Our vendors are amazing, and have worked in our spaces before, and so I don’t feel like I need to tell them anything, or fuss at them about anything. I trust them and can’t wait to see how it turns out.

3. I wish I could slow down this time, to relish it.  I actually don’t think about the wedding that often; mostly I’m thinking about school, my kids, the Journal, and the Christmas pageant. And whether the recycling is out, and if we need milk.  I wish I could just take a few days and look carefully at my dress, and write love notes to all of our guests, and daydream about the food and music.  Alas: life is swirling all around me.

4. We went through the hymnal last night. It was fun choosing our hymns; I enjoyed singing out my favorites to Matt, and hearing him point out ones that he liked.

5. Last on the to-do list: Gift for the ring bearer, finish crafting a few gifts for the bridespeople, make table cards and place cards (and mail with books for the tablescapes to the florist) and make paper flowers.  Students may be helping me with the last one.

6. Our wedding bands arrived yesterday. It was exciting trying them on, and seeing a ring on Matt’s finger.  We ordered them from an amazing jeweler on Etsy. We were noting last night that except for using the Hyatt, and my dress, every piece of our wedding supports a small and local business.  Our cake, our photographers, the brewery, the rings, my bolero, Matt’s jacket and accessories.

7. The bridespeople continue to be amazing, and I know we both feel tingly and excited by how our friends and family are supporting us, and excited for us, in countless ways.  25 days until I can tell everyone how happy I am in person.


Stephanie’s Bridal Shower October 31, 2009

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Where to begin?!  I was overwhelmed with joy, happiness, surprise, and gratitude the entire day.  My girlfriends (with some behind the scenes management from Nick, I suspect) are amazing.  It is an incredible, light-filled experience to walk into a room surrounded by beautiful women of all ages, and to feel their love directed at you.


The beautiful dining room, decorated and laid out with delicacies. And Jennifer, not sure if she wants to be in the photo or not.


I obviously hadn’t expected a cake. And look a bit crazed with enthusiasm for it.

shower 4

shower 3


shower 2


Wish this wasn’t fuzzy– this is an old friend and teaching mentor, Jan.  We have in common Oxford, women of faith, hagiography, teaching…


Okay, I kind of forgot that I had registered for things, and so many times I was completely delighted and surprised. I’d say, “We WANTED this coffee pot!”  And everyone would laugh, as in: “Um we know.”


shower 1

From Matt’s family in Price’s Branch, Great Aunt Dorothy and Great Aunt Imogene (Matt’s Grandfather’s sisters.)


Janet and Nedra–Nedra is Amy’s mom, and a great woman I’ve been blessed to know for years.


My Mom, Vickie, with Matt’s paternal Grandma.


Forgive the fuzziness!  This is Mya, Matt’s cousin-in-law and the most glamourous pregnant lady I know, and her daughter Gaby, and her mother-in-law (Matt’s father’s sister) Aunt Diana.


Another photo of me shocked and delighted by something I apparently registered for and then received.



Mmm, plush new towels.


My Mom, Vickie.



Erin, in front of the cutest pumpkin welcome sign possible.


Erin graced me with a vintage parasol.  LOVE.




Me with Amy, cutting the cake.


Janet, Erin, Amy, and me.


Gaby, me, and my Mom.


Jennifer, Janet, me, Erin, and Amy.



A splash of color from St. Charles– it was a perfect, perfect day.

Later that evening, I went to another party at Amy’s home– it was for couples, and we were joined by her husband, Janet and her husband, Erin and her husband, and my cousin and groomfolk Larry and his wife.  We had wine and delicious food, and told stories that made my sides hurt from laughing.

wine party 1

wine party 2

wine party 3

The day was so much more than I could have imagined, and I will never forget how happy and blessed I felt all day.


Bachelorette photos! October 20, 2009

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I’m not going to recap the entire night, because that would be quite the long, sprawling post, and the photos speak pretty well for themselves.  I’ll give a few notes:  Nick, my “maid” of honor planned the night, with input from Jodut and Macy, and help from his girlfriend and another of my Green World classmates, Jamie.  There were also p3nis cookies. But as Eric pointed out, they were multicultural p3nis cookies.

Participants: Nick and Jamie, Sex Ho former roommates Tom, Eric, and Jodut, wife of a former Union classmate Julie, and my Journal co-founding colleague, Josh.

Locations: the Frying Pan, a restaurant/bar on a really old boat near Chelsea Piers, a Harbor Lights Boat cruise up and around Manhattan, a limo, and the Slipper Room, the home of burlesque in NYC.

Surprise guests included another bachelorette party, where the bride gave me an origami crane like the ones that will be decorating her wedding, and a nun, who spent more than half an hour with our party, gave us encouragement and blessings, and gave me  a present.

sh tp jg ng boat

3 sex ho

jg basement boat

cover photo

sh crowned

jh sh boat

crowd on boat

sh nun laughing

the other bridesmaids

origami limo

group limo

gyro turkish coffee

es jh listening

eric hand job

ng sh

tp with cookie

es jj sh ng

slipper room stage

sh owns


the Bridespeople, and the Green World July 15, 2009

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In literature, the Green World is a place/space outside of the everyday world.  In the Green World, anything can happen, especially transformations and metamorphoses.  A classic example is the forest in _A Midsummer Night’s Dream_– it is far removed from the dusty, rule-burdened streets of Athens.  Love is found, shuffled, lost, and re-discovered.  Identities are shifted and created; all is possible.

For me, being in my classes at Webster, in my beloved English department: it was my Green World.  And not only did I find myself, and become more of myself than I had ever been, I was blessed to find some of the best friends of my life.  And because I met my girlfriends from church at around the same time, and my roommates soon after– these relationship feel to me like they’re all of the same energy, giving me the same kinds of strength.

Obviously, the best part of the wedding, of getting married, is considering and planning a ceremony that will join my life and future to Matt’s.  But I think the very next best thing, before flowers and beauty and inspiration, would be the blessing of being able to surround myself with my beloved friends, from all the different parts of my life.

It’s time to introduce my side of the bridal party: the bridespeople.  I love these friends dearly.  I’ll begin with those I’ve known the longest.


jay, dad, steph xmas

Jamie Leigh is my baby sister, the apple of my eye.  I was six when she was born, and wanted to name her “Rainbow.”  (I’m actually surprised my parents didn’t go along with that idea…)  I’ve spent hours of my life braiding her hair, teaching her to read, worrying about her and spoiling her as best I could.  And she is a brilliant, strong, and successful young woman.  You might remember the photos of her own wedding last year, at Burning Man.


janet jay bday

For Jamie’s fifth birthday, my best friend Janet and I dressed up as a clown team– oh, the hours we spent practicing our act, and planning what we would wear.  Here is is a photo of Janet, behind a beaming Jamie.  I first met Janet in fourth grade; she lived up the street from me, and we spent days and months riding our bikes all over town, including down Beer Can Alley.  We swam all summer long, and enjoyed the incredible swing she had in her yard.  She’s my oldest childhood friend, and is lending me her gorgeous cathedral-length wedding veil as my “something borrowed.”


janet steph

In this photograph, we are at her engagement party.


mike amy

I wish I could remember when, the year— maybe 1999 or 2000, but at some point, I was very lucky to meet two wonderful women.  We formed fast friendships, and over the years, I have lost count of the times I have been thankful for their presence in my life.  This is Amy, and her husband Mike.  Amy is the kind of friend everyone should have, and the kind of woman, mother, sister, and friend I aspire to be.  She is funny, brilliant, and caring, and has been with me through some really tough periods in my life.

steph amy

Here we are at a New Year’s Eve party.


Around the same time I met and befriended Amy, we also met and befriended Jennifer.  We were inseparable at church events, and I have so many good memories related to making sandwiches and driving them in my breaking-down car to a shelter in the city.  We’d laugh until we were sick, and gossip, and catch up on our weeks.

jen steph close


jen steph


jen cooking

Clearly, we also went to lots of parties together.  Jennifer also grew up in Southern Illinois, so we understand a common history in each other.  For years, we sang in the church choir together, whispering between songs, sharing our lives, and getting scolded for talking by the choirmaster.  Have you begun to notice that my friends are also all gorgeous?  Wait until you see how lovely they look in their dresses!


In 1998, my little cousin Catherine Jean (Caty) was born, the youngest cousin by far, into a family full of girl cousins.  Our Grammy always remarks how much Caty reminds her of me as a child, and of Jamie as a child.  She is an excellent reader, plays tennis and golf (!), is very smart and good, and has already been a flower girl twice–it’s time to be a junior bridesmaid!

caty 12th night

Here is Caty at one of my parties, with a special festive head-dressing for the occasion.


school pic caty

A recent school picture of Caty.


kim nick steph chi

When I began at college, I was an education major– I didn’t even know, at that time, that one could major in English.  Once I made this discovery, so many things fell into place.  Nick was also a double major, and we had a few semesters with nearly identical schedules– walking from mindless, insensible “teaching of reading” classes into the heady Green World of contemporary short fiction.  In this photo, he and Kim and I are at the Contemporary Art Museum in Chicago; at the time, we three were planning to go to Haiti as part of a group, and were sort of testing out whether we could travel together.  It was an early stage in our friendship– to convince them of my friendliness, I have made each of us individualized pies, and monograms in pastry.  These are wrapped and ribboned, in front of us for this photo.  They became friends with me despite this, I think.


kim steph

Kim and I were also part of a large group in this amazingly difficult historical linguistics class.  Before each class, many of us would meet in the basement to go over our crazy homework assignments, and talk about our instructor, the other classmates, and everything else.  Kim and Nick and I survived Haiti, by the way.  And as I grew stronger and more Stephanie by the semester, they were there.  


tom kim steph

Pictured here with me and Kim is Tom, another who has experienced the Green World, and another member of that historical linguistics class. 


with erin and girls

Erin is also part of the Green World, and was also in that historical linguistics class.  Clearly, deciphering Old English does fast friendships make.  In this photo, Matt and I are with Erin and her two gorgeous girls, Celia and Adele.


whole group before haiti

This photo was taken the night before Kim, Nick, and I went to Haiti.  Along with us and Erin and Tom are Angelo (who once came in disguise to visit Kim and me in Prague) and yet another classmate from that linguistics class.


After Prague, I did a term at Oxford, where I met Macy.  She and I (and French Caroline) were floormates, and we would leave our doors open at all hours, for revelry, gossiping, work, nail-painting, and so forth.  We had a powerful, unstoppable energy between us.  I was strong and brilliant and brave; the days were gilded, lengthy, and monumental.  There’s a river there, hanging with yellow, and we were so beautiful and creative.  

caro mace steph

Macy is in the middle– here we are, with Caroline.  I think we’re in Stratford-upon-Avon here.


steph mace high table


Here we are at a High Table (where the faculty sit in robes on a dais at the top of the room, and the butlers come around and serve us very rich food.)  Macy writes amazing fiction, and gives off radiance where-ever she goes.
I’m realizing–as I look at these photos and describe all my dear friends–how they and their energies have helped make me who I am.


steph jodut

And, in my first year teaching, I moved in with Jodut.  Luckily for me, her Teach for America roommate had freaked out over locker assignments in the first week of school– so she needed a roommate, and it was me.  Cue my introduction to _Sex & the City_, and her introduction to fancy stationery and lots of ribbons and feathers.  We’d shop together, cook together, and survived two burglaries together.  In our second year as roommates, we moved in with another pair of teacher roommates, into a giant sprawling apartment, Essex House (the Sex Ho for short.)


all sex ho

Here is the entire Sex Ho crew; Tom and Eric are groomsmen, on Matt’s side.  This picture was actually taken by Nick– we are sitting in a place where he was bartender.


And there you have them: the bridespeople.  Dear, dear friends who have changed my life, informed who I am, made me braver and stronger, supported me, challenged me, and inspired me.  They are steadfast, they are brilliant, they are amazing.  I couldn’t be luckier to be surrounded by them on my wedding day.


What the ladies will be wearing July 5, 2009

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Empress Carlota and ladies in waiting


As I wrote earlier, we have decided upon Wine and Lapis.  (A rumor from Chicago tells me that Wine is soon to be discontinued for Sangria, but because David’s is a national chain, I’m not worried– if anything, the ladies can get their dresses in Wine on sale.)


Amy made a delightfully useful spreadsheet with each possible dress in item number, along with the colors it comes in (Wine and Lapis, Wine only, or Lapis only), and details, bodice style, and description of the skirt.  She assures me that as people report in on the dresses they’ve purchased, I can fill in their names and have all information in one place.  For shoes, I just told them to choose black ones they liked.

Here are photos of some of their options, in either Wine or Lapis:


Picture 1


Picture 3


Picture 5


Ladies, if you’re reading– remember that you need to order by September, and to remind the consultants that you receive twenty dollars off of your dresses.  And let me know when you’ve chosen!

(photo of Empress Carlota and her ladies in waiting, from here)