Toward the end of our visit home, Neil and I attended a friend’s wedding in Rhode Island. While we’d already stated that our cousin Dale had one of the most romantic countryside weddings, our friends Marissa and Phil had one of the most relaxed and athletic weddings ever.
Choosing a Wedding Venue
Our friend Marissa said she wanted something small and super fun. So when we arrived at Camp Jori in Rhode Island, we weren’t too surprised to see the white chairs and simple altar under the summer sun. But we were surprised to see how personally detailed the wedding was. She wanted fire-pit smores and homemade cupcakes. She wanted arts and crafts and karaoke. She wanted her friends close-by and she wanted the great outdoors. Marissa had all this and more.
The reception began indoors with wide windows looking over a blue lake. There was no assigned seating, and decorative napkins doubled as wedding favors. One of the napkin styles was dark blue with Chicago Bears emblazoned on it to honor the bride’s father and his favorite football team. A bar welcomed guests as caterers began spinning fresh brick-over pizzas from outside. Fresh fruit and sandwiches followed and so did a terrifying hora that seemed to scare the groom straight. Bride and groom danced with their parents, twirling each other around the perimeter of a wide dance floor, celebrating until half the guests went home and the others began roasting marshmallows.
Mingling Traditions at the Camp Jori Wedding
One of the highlights of the wedding was the mingling of traditions. Adhering to Jewish faith, the wedding featured the cutting of the challah bread as well as the groom smashing a glass. During the hora, a herd of buff men paraded bride and groom high above the crowd on chairs as they clutched their seats and hoped it would end quickly. I’ve seen this dance performed many times but I can’t remember a couple staying up for so long.
From the groom’s side, the wedding had Bulgarian accents. I loved two great traditions that they observed. At the ceremony, a white and a red rose were placed in a bucket. Both bride and groom then pushed the bucket over. If the red rose fell first, the couple would have a boy. If it was white, they’d have a girl. To the crowds delight, both flowers fell at the same time as everyone cheered: Twins! Next the mother of the groom brought out a loaf of round bread cut on a plate. Bride and groom stood back to back and reached above their heads for a piece of bread, held out of eyesight. Pulling, they each claimed a piece. Whoever grabbed the largest portion would rule the home. Different guests declared different winners but it seemed to me that the groom came away with the bigger slice.
The wedding reception continued past nightfall when bingo, crafts, and karaoke began. Neil joined an impressive group of performers belting out “Rocket Man” by Elton John, a duet with the groom, and assisted a stranded solo singer with “Whip It” by Devo. I loved how many guests and their children stayed on the campsite. I was able to meet some amazing people who seemed to just strike up a conversation with ease. I think it was because the wedding itself just emanated inclusivity. At midnight, the remaining guests even gathered together for some late night Macarena dancing. It was hilarious.
Sunday Fun after the Wedding
Even after 10 hours of celebration, the schedule had not ended yet. Bride and groom were up early, setting out bagels and cakes and special black Bulgarian sausages. Guests who’d bunked at Camp Jori rolled out of bed and wandered in for a strong cup of coffee. Hotel guests rejoined the festivities from the nearby Holiday Inn.
By 10am, I’d snuck in a morning nap and woken to the Philrissa Olympics, a series of games hosted by the newlyweds and culminating in a poolside BBQ. Lunch was a good enough reason for my attendance. Thirty guests with children in tow played steal the bacon, kickball, and soccer. Competition was high as father’s dragged toddlers around the bases and pop-flies made for stealthy tag-ups runs. I really liked how Marissa chose teammates two at a time, so then no one was left standing along as the dreaded “last pick”. By lunch, the honeymooners’ friends had mobilized the BBQ and began flipping burgers. Sacks of peaches and nectarines trimmed the buffet table along side salads and soda-free drinks. Extra homemade cupcakes offered a sweet reward to those who stayed the extra day.
At 3pm, it was time to go. It’s funny but we hadn’t seen Marissa and Phil since our own wedding in New Jersey six years prior. We couldn’t believe it had been that long but were psyched that we had a chance to get to know the groom and invite him into our framily (friends and family). I guess with good friends, distance and time doesn’t really matter.