The weekend is over, and I started the new week with a new daughter-in-law and lots of fond memories I'll look back on for a long time.
What's below isn't intended to be a full account, but it fills in some back-story, journals the run up to the wedding, and covers some of what we did before and during the wedding. If you can get through all of that, my thoughts on the wedding and the newlyweds are at the end.
The road to the wedding
I know the exact moment when Kellen first laid eyes on Noël. We were on the way to dinner with Tynor, his friend Tristan, and our cousin Lindsay. She asked if it was OK if she invited her housemate along, and of course we encouraged her to do so. Lindsay said that Noël was going to bus from Ballard, and both Kellen and I, being the bussing nerds we are, tried to figure out which bus it would be, where she would get off, and even on what side of the street we would see her. Lindsay spotted Noël (on the other side of the street, alas) and after quick introductions, we proceeded to eat ramen. We chatted for quite a while (that was also the day Tynor first met Lindsay), but needing to head out, I encouraged them to stay. Ends up they all migrated to a frozen yogurt place, and didn't disperse until much later in the evening.
After that night, Kellen, Noël, Tynor, and Lindsay were all but inseparable for the rest of the summer. At the reception, I overheard someone explaining that at one point during the summer, Kellen said he really liked Noël and wanted to ask her out. He obviously got up the nerve, and they went on that date. Not long after that, Melody was walking along the Ave and said she saw Kellen eating at Morsel (a biscuit house) with a woman; the three exchanged tentative waves. I explained that would be Noël, and that I had been having a hunch for a while that Kellen was interested in her. Ask my sons about those hunches.
Noël went back to Syracuse at the end of the summer to finish her degree, but she and Kellen had already planned when they would see each other; he would go to Syracuse in the fall, she would come to Seattle in the winter, and he to Syracuse in the spring. Between trips, they would connect each day. Whenever everyone was over here for dinner, they would Skype so Lindsay and Tynor could also say hi. Those were long months for Kellen.
Finally, the time came for Noël to pack her things for her move west, but not before she adopted Bella, their cat. While that was going on, Kellen procured an apartment for the three of them, and everything was set for their reunion. The first thing the two of them did after she got into town was go to a Mariners game. The team (her favorite) was playing the Yankees (a tie to New York), Ichiro was playing for them at the time (her favorite player), and it happened to be Macklemore bobblehead night (an artist she really likes, and he also threw out the first pitch). With no apologies for the pun, Kellen hit it out of the park with those tickets.
Fast forward to November, when I got a text from Kellen with the picture of an engagement ring and the words, “She said yes!” We were getting together for a late Thanksgiving dinner the following week, so I got a bottle of Champagne and we all toasted the happy news.
Kellen wanted to take Noël to California for our annual mochitsuki/New Year's trip, both to introduce the family to his fiancée and to share our family traditions with her. The trip was packed (we did one major thing every day, and many days a few other smaller things) so I can imagine it was all a blur to her, but everyone adored her and were happy that she went.
One of the things I was hoping I'd be able to do for the wedding was to fold 1,001 cranes for them, a Japanese tradition for good luck. Noël was happy that I offered, and let me know generally what kind of presentation she would like. I didn't know how long they would take to do, so I began folding in January. As it ends up, it took me a few months to do them, folding anywhere between a half hour and a couple hours several nights a week. Since I knew that stringing them would be quick, and that I didn't want to try to store the strung cranes for a long time, I put that project to rest and started folding more cranes to be used as favors.
There was no question that Lindsay would be one of the bridesmaids. Noël presented her with a necklace while asking, and the request was quickly and happily accepted. Lindsay wore the necklace during the wedding, and it seemed to especially catch the eye of Lindsay's niece Emma.
Another thing I was hoping I could contribute was giving a banzai toast at the reception, which wishes long life for the happy couple. My dad had done it at several weddings, and I did it for my parents' 50th anniversary (so far it's working; they're past 57 years now). I was glad that she liked the idea, and again, we left details for later. At the time, we thought that we could do both parts, with her (and Kellen) doing the second half; that's a deviation from the tradition, but I thought it would work fine.
I hadn't heard about a rehearsal dinner, so I offered to research and host that. There would actually not be a rehearsal until about an hour before the ceremony, but we still went ahead and planned for the night before. I thought that since the wedding was billed as “dressy casual”, a casual picnic would be the way to go. I found a venue overlooking Puget Sound, got a caterer (a BBQ food truck not far from where I work), and started baking cookies to serve for dessert.
As we got closer to the wedding, Kellen, Noël, Tynor, Melody, and I started stringing the cranes. Noël took on the task of decoding the directions on how they should be strung while Tynor and I finished making sure all the cranes had heads and tails which matched (I had mostly finished the night before). Once everything was set, we all joined in, chatting away; it was almost like a quilting bee. We took a break for dinner then continued on, listening to podcasts. We got most of them done, and there were few enough left so I could finish them off over the next couple days and then assemble them together.
Most of my family was arriving the day before the wedding, but my parents and Aunt Frances came a couple days before that so they could spend time with us. We picked them up on Thursday afternoon and brought them back to the house. Wanting to have the day be pretty low-key, we ate at home.
We didn't do much on Friday morning, having breakfast and lunch at the house. That afternoon, however, we went down to University Village so we could do some shopping before dinner. My dad enjoyed wandering around Fran's Chocolates, selecting some gifts. Having plenty of time to kill, we then went to Molly Moon's for some ice cream, then browsed through Mrs. Cooks since my dad likes cooking stores. There was still time to kill; Tynor had joined us, and we found a table by the cow statue to sit at.
After a good amount of catching up, we thought it was time to go to Din Tai Fung for dim sum. Not long after we got there, our cousin Leah arrived with her daughter Emma, while her husband Josh was en route. Leah hadn't met my parents and aunt, so while we did introductions, Tynor went to check on a table. It was a stroke of luck that a table was immediately available, so we just had to wait for them to clean and set it. After settling in, we got down to ordering, with the rest of the table trusting Melody and me to pick dishes. Josh had great timing; he walked in, Emma's eyes lit up seeing her dad, then the food arrived. It's always surprising how few dishes it takes to fill one up, which is why it's nice to to have a large enough group to order a variety. The restaurant was a bit loud, so it wasn't particularly easy to hear, but we did manage.
Having cleared all the plates, we strolled out of the restaurant and said goodbye, at least until Sunday.
We didn't do much on Saturday until it was time to go to the rehearsal dinner. I tried to allow enough time to account for traffic, but one thing I didn't take into account was that there was a UW football game which got out about an hour before we left the house. Since traffic gets directed to the freeway over many different roads, including to the north, by the time we were in the car the going was very slow. We stopped by the store to get ice for drinks, then re-joined the stream of cars. By that time, it looked as if we would arrive at the entrance of Point Defiance Park about 15 or 20 minutes before we told people the dinner would start, and indeed, that's when we got there.
Next, we needed to get to the actual venue, the Gig Harbor Viewpoint shelter at the park. I was relying on the signs to be pretty clear, but instead they were quite vague. We first ended up in a parking lot, and it wasn't clear to me which direction we should try; we ended up going toward the boat launch, but found the right way to go after circling around. We followed the sign for the 5 Mile Loop, but then accidentally went down towards Owens Beach. After circling back up, we re-joined the loop, then started seeing signs for shelters which were before ours. All of them were on the water side of the road, but ours wasn't; we almost missed it, but did manage to pull into a parking spot.
Fortunately, we got there before guests started to arrive, so had time to quickly check things out. The caterer was there, so we chatted about where the food would be set up, and she got started. In the meantime, I did get a couple texts from people saying they were caught in traffic and would be late, so I let them know some tips to finding the shelter. I think it's safe to say everyone unfortunately had a hard time locating it, but I'm glad they all figured it out. Once we had enough people, it was easy for others to see where they should be.
There were lots of introductions made, and eventually people started eating. As advertised, the view was great, and we were able to see the sunset. The park closes at dusk, so it wasn't long before we started gathering everything and people headed out. My parents and aunt were going to stay in Olympia, and they were able to get rides with other people who were going the same way.
We woke on Sunday to rain. Checking the weather, it was supposed to be a nice day in Olympia, so we figured things would be OK. The maps showed no traffic; we loaded up the car and headed out. The rain stayed pretty constant until after we passed downtown, then it was gone.
The venue, Albee's Garden Parties, had large grassy areas and a big house with many rooms which can be used for different purposes. There were also chickens, dogs, cats, and I even saw a peacock. Everything was green and lush, and the temperature was just right. It was an idyllic place for a celebration.
Several people were already there getting things ready, so we tried to see how we could help. We had brought the leftovers from the night before to be used as lunch for the people setting up; they got stashed into the kitchen area. I then started doing the finishing touches for the table cranes while Melody helped set up the reception area. The breeze was pretty constant, so things were being put onto the tablecloths to help keep them from flying around. Noël directed me towards a building with bowls and vases, and I settled on a tall vase for each table to hold the cranes.
We then started heating the food and tried to encourage people to eat. We know the groomsmen had food; we also tried to pass word to the bridesmaids, but it wouldn't surprise me if they got really wrapped up in getting ready.
Before long, guests started to arrive, and it was time to be seated.
Officiating the ceremony was Judy Blair, who was involved with PSCS, Kellen's high school. Her insight, candor, and humor were a perfect fit for the bride and groom, and everyone else in attendance could tell that was the case.
Both Kellen and Noël understandably had a bit of nervousness, but unless you knew them well, it didn't show. Judy's humor came through when Kellen prematurely blurted out, “I will”; after the chuckling died down, she explained that there was a semicolon on the page. Later, Noël brought her personality into the ceremony with an enthusiastic fist pump during the kiss.
I was flattered to see that the 1,001 cranes were hung right at the altar. Since there was a light breeze, they were twirling around; I liked the effect of the motion. The cranes were later moved behind the head table at the reception.
The first order of business after the ceremony was to plant a flowering cherry tree, which Kellen and Noël wanted to do for the Albees (owners of the venue). It was then time for pictures in all permutations. After we were done with that, we joined others who were munching on appetizers and chatting.
There was an empty picture frame hanging near the reception area, and our family started taking pictures with it, again in various permutations. Some serious, some silly, but all fun. Other people who were using the frame (including Noël's parents) decided to try to recreate “American Gothic” with a wooden pitchfork.
Melody's nephew and niece were interested in the lawn games, so she went with her brother and family to go do those. After a while, my cousins Irland and Paul joined them, giving everything a try.
Dinner, toasts, cupcakes
When it was time for dinner, people lined up to go through the taco bar, after which everyone enjoyed eating and chatting. As dinner wound down, it was time to start toasts.
Noël and I had conferred during dinner and decided it would be easiest if we just stuck to the first half of the banzai toast, so I went with that. I did take a few minutes beforehand to say a few words about how I got to know Noël over the past couple years. I also explained that when I saw them after most of the significant touchstones of her relationship with Kellen, Japanese traditions and food were involved; appropriate since she has a keen interest in Japanese culture, having spent a year there as an exchange student. Other toasts were also made, and Noël's dad Blair read the wedding-themed Mad Libs that his table worked on.
Time for cake! To be exact, cupcakes which were made by Noël's grad school friends. There were four flavors: Red Velvet, Margarita, Lemon Elderberry, and Honey Lavender. Melody and I split the last two, and needless to say they were great. Everyone was looking around and asking what flavors others had, comparing notes.
All that was left were the bouquet toss, garter toss (Kellen and Tynor's brothers both dove for it, while the other bachelors were left in the dust behind them), and first dance. And more dancing.
The party was winding down, and it was time to get us, my parents, and my aunt home.
For all that happened during the weekend, it was a whirlwind, and perfect. While I've technically gained a daughter-in-law, Noël has felt like part of the family even before Kellen proposed. She's a strong, self-assured woman who knows what she wants in life and has been successfully checking things off the list, including what I would consider a fairy tale wedding. Needless to say, she's charming and adored by all. In other words, a perfect match for Kellen.
In his toast, Eric (the best man) noted that Kellen has been happier after he started dating Noël; I've noticed that too. He's not only eager to share his life and meaningful places/events with her, he revels at building new interests and traditions with her.
I really enjoyed meeting Noël's family, and was happy that I got at least a little time to chat with them. I was also able to chat with Noël's Japanese host family who flew in from Japan to be with her at the wedding. Other people came from not only all around the country, but from the U.K., too. It's a testament to how much Kellen and Noël mean to these people.
Just before the ceremony, I stashed my camera away, telling myself that I didn't want even small things taking me away from the moment. But the unacknowledged reason was I suspected I would cry while the two transformed into Kellen and Noël Frodelius-Fujimoto. I was right.