Are those wedding bells you hear in the distance?
I hear them too — it’s definitely wedding season in Wanderland these days! This summer, I attended four. While that might seem like quite a few, they were all so incredibly unique and different, pretty much the only thing they all had in common was that two people signed a marriage license at some point.
First, there was the ritzy extravaganza in Sarasota. Next, the beautiful barn-yard fete in Maine. And then, there was the flapper wedding in Decatur, Illinois, with my Uncle Dave as the groom.
This wedding could not have been more special. The younger of my mom’s two brothers was getting married in her hometown to — get this — his junior high school sweetheart and first kiss, a few decades and winding roads later. His amazing bride Laura is the director of Decatur’s Staley Museum, which they used as both their ceremony location and a spring-board for the 1920’s wedding theme.
After a super early morning flight from Albany and a long drive from Chicago, we arrived in Decatur just in time to get my mom ready for her role as bridesmaid. So sweet!
At this point, I’m a little sad that I’ve jumped out of chronological order to share this summer’s travels more promptly, since I’ve never really had the chance to properly introduce you all to my mom’s hometown of Decatur — site of so many of my childhood trips. I returned for the first time since launching this blog in the summer of 2016 and I was just about to blog about it when I pressed pause to jump ahead to 2017.
But alas, here we are. I’ll give you the real scoop on this sweet small town in Central Illinois later. For now, this is a wedding story.
After an intimate ceremony in the main parlor of the Staley Mansion, the new family paused to say hello to Laura’s oldest son, who couldn’t make it to the wedding, but woke up in the middle of the night to Skype in from Vietnam, where he’s positioned for work.
This was such an incredibly joyful day, not only because I now have the most incredible new aunt — who has already felt like part of the family for a while now — but also three new cousins in Laura’s three kids! (I mean officially, I guess they would be step cousins? My family tree making skills kind of peaked in elementary school.) I have a pretty small family on both sides — my mom has just two brothers with three kids between them, so I’m always cheering when it expands.
And then, it was off to the reception! I wasn’t surprised in the slightest when I learned that Dave and Laura would be traveling in ultimate style — a 1930 Ford Model A. While Laura is a history buff and a museum curator, my Uncle Dave owns a local Coca-Cola museum and DJ business.
Growing up, we couldn’t have dreamed a more fun uncle — he always had some fancy new gadget or crazy toy to play with. So I knew there was no way we’d make it through the day without the wedding version of one — and I think a novelty getaway car fits the bill just right!
After nabbing a few more family photos (how could we resist, in these getups?!) we followed right behind them.
Next up was the reception at Beach House on Lake Decatur, and on the chance that any of you might someday find yourself in this particular corner of Central Illinois, I can’t recommend a prettier deck on which to have a drink. My childhood is filled with happy memories on Lake Decatur, where my mom’s other, older brother has a beautiful home. Oh, the hours we spent flinging ourselves off his deck into the water, playing in the pool, screaming on the back of the jetski while our older cousins whipped it around the lake!
In the narrow vision of childhood, the entirety of Lake Decatur existed in my Uncle Mark’s backyard. So imagine my surprise, as an adult, to find that there were such things as restaurants with beautiful decks on which to dine that also shared the waterfront.
I smiled all the way through the article the local paper wrote on this special wedding. But my favorite line was this one:
“I’m vintage and history. He’s pop culture, modern and high-tech,” Jahr said. “But when it comes to having fun, we do that really well together.”
You could see so at the reception, where a live band kept us on the dance floor — and my uncles moves kept us in stitches! Table numbers from a photo of the newlyweds when they were in high school had me swooning, as did the heartfelt speeches from Laura’s daughter, my own mom, two employees my uncle has mentored, and to my delight, one of the bride and groom’s high school teachers!
I always look forward to the speeches at any wedding, and these really hit the spot in emphasizing what a positive impact Uncle Dave and Laura both have had on the people around them. Laura herself put together a touching story of she and my uncle’s love story told via three songs — their cute puppy love story when they first met, their friendship over the years that they both married other people, and Laura moved to Spain for three decades, and finally, Laura moving back to Decatur and their reunion and all the fireworks. What a love story!
The weekend flew by! The morning after the wedding, we barged over to my Uncle’s house, where the newlyweds and three of their four kids were packing up for the long drive to their family honeymoon in Orlando, and insisted they get a late start in order to join us for one last meal.
Over a loud and rowdy breakfast at one of Decatur’s hopping breakfast diners, we went around the table and recounted our favorite moments from the day before. And you know what? That might have been my favorite moment.
With my sister on her way back to Philadelphia and everyone else on their way to Orlando, my mom and Miller and I spent a quiet night at my Grandma’s house winding down from one wedding and gearing up for the next — my cousin Kirstin’s, in Chicago the very next weekend!
And the next morning, I woke up before dawn to fly there and help her get ready for it. Having been a passenger for the three hour drive from Decatur to Chicago more times than I can count, I decided to try a new transportation method — the $59 flight on AirOne.
Considering my recent confession, it should come as no surprise that I was a little uneasy when I first spotted this plane on the runway. And yet I was so intrigued by the whole experience and so physically comfortable on the short flight, I never had time to get nervous about any bumps or jostles. I was one of three passengers, and the plane felt like I imagine a private jet would with my seat essentially a massive cushy recliner. It was so unique and affordable — why can’t they have this route between Albany and New York?!
As I watched the world below change from one of cornfields to one of skyscrapers, I knew we’d hit The Windy City. And my summer of family time continued…
look how tiny navy pier looks!
Next stop: Chicago!