Over the River….

I am sure that we will cross at least one river, and we’ll definitely be driving through some woods on our way to Lutsen this morning.  My nieces are scattered around the country (Edinburg, TX; Hollywood, CA; Juneau, AK), so neither my mom, sister, nor I had much interest in putting on a big Thanksgiving Dinner.

So we’re going to Lutsen Resort, on the north shore of Lake Superior.  We’ve rented a condo and made reservations for the Thanksgiving Buffet at the lodge so we’re good to go. If  you were hanging around this blog 4 years ago, you may remember that Lutsen is the sight of the infamous blizzard wedding of Pierre and Kari. (my niece).

In case you missed it, and in honor of the happy couple who now live in Juneau, Alaska, here is a reprise of the blog:


I could be wrong, but unless you were one of a small group of people who attended my niece’s wedding  last weekend, you have probably never heard a bride utter those words into a microphone just before reciting her vows. Don’t worry.  It wasn’t a reference to those upcoming vows, but most likely was a reference to the fact that we were all standing outside along the shores of Lake Superior in a blinding snowstorm.

We Minnesotans spend most of our winter existence walking a fine line between being hardy and insane.  I guess at that moment my niece surmised that we had all crossed the line into insanity, never mind the fact that she and the groom were leading the way. Her statement notwithstanding, however, the consensus among the guests was that it was the most fun wedding.  Ever.  It wouldn’t surprise me if the headlines in the local newspaper read “Beach Wedding in a Blizzard.”  When it was all over, there was a foot of new snow on the ground and a happily married couple.  And, as far as I know, no one caught pneumonia, which is a good thing as well.

To say that the wedding of Kari and Pierre was unconventional would be an understatement.  But then again Kari has never done anything conventional in her life, so there was no reason to expect that her wedding would suddenly be conventional.  To start with, neither of them like to be the center of attention, so the thought of the typical American “princess for a day” wedding was out of the question.  They wanted something that would be fun — for their friends, not just them, and something that would allow all of us to get in touch with our inner Minnesotans.  The logical place then was outside, and in Minnesota, “outside” doesn’t get any better than the north shore of Lake Superior, that greatest of Great Lakes.  And along The North Shore there is no finer establishment than Lutsen Lodge, a historic resort nestled in a cove where the Poplar River runs into the Lake.  Never mind that the date was December 1.

The weekend wedding festivities began on Thursday night, with Pierre’s father preparing a home-cooked Lebanese meal for the families and the other early birds who had arrived.  Stuffed zuchini, pita, bakhlava—all in the heart of lutefisk country!  Friday was a day for “playing” (as the Chinese would say).  Some folks went  to Sven and Olie’s Pizza in Grand Marais, some played hockey, and others just enjoyed the beauty of the shore.  Friday evening, the guests convened again for  dinner at a restaurant at Lutsen Mountain.  Another unconventional aspect to this wedding was that there were no groomsmen or bridesmaids (they didn’t want friends to have to spend money buying outfits they would never wear again).  And since it was to be a short ceremony outside, there really wasn’t anything to rehearse, so instead of this being a rehearsal dinner for members of the wedding party, it was a groom’s dinner for everyone.  Pizza, buffalo wings, and dart-games were the order of the evening.

The wedding announcements had stated that the ceremony would be held outside “weather permitting.” If weather didn’t permit, then it would be held in a conference room in the lodge.  Saturday morning we awoke to news of a major snowstorm headed our way.  A big one.  A “ten-incher.”  Would this be the impermissible weather that forced us indoors? Not likely….that would be far too conventional for this couple. By noon the snow was flying.  By 3pm, it was flying horizontally….off the lake!  Never mind.  At 3:30 all the guests gathered down on the shoreline, sipping coffee and hot chocolate. Then Kari and her dad walked down from the lodge.  I probably don’t need to add here that the ceremony was short, and as soon as it was over we all fled back to the lodge for a wonderful sit-down dinner. I think one thing is clear—this wedding has forever raised the bar on what is meant by “weather permitting.”

After dinner, the plan was to gather around a bonfire on the beach.  But there was this little problem of a raging blizzard.  Could one actually start a bonfire in a blizzard, and if so, would anyone in their right mind actually go out and enjoy it.  Well, we learned that the answers to both questions for this group were a resounding YES.  It wasn’t easy, but eventually Ken became the hero of the weekend and got the fire going.  The bride and groom changed back into their ice-fishing clothes and joined the party by the fire, singing and dancing to Johnny Cash tunes (Pierre had driven his truck down to the beach) late into the night.

The next morning we bad the bride and groom farewell as they headed off on their honeymoon….to Ely, Minnesota!  The rest of the family loaded up the vans and cars and headed back to the Cities, still chuckling about the beach wedding in a blizzard!

Congratulations, Pierre and Kari.  We love you!

Click here to see more photos of the wedding.

Not surprising for a couple who were married in a blizzard on the beach, Kari and Pierre spent last winter homesteading in Alaska, on the edge of the Aluetian Islands. You can read about their adventures ontheir blog North to Alaska. Now they are living in Juneau, and they blog at Whaleburps. Click on over and check it out.


Get Me to the Church On Time…Or Not

Forgetting that the Beijing Marathon was skirting my neighborhood this morning, I set out at 9:45 on my way to a 10:30 church service downtown.  Big mistake. By the time I exited my housing estate and hit Bei Wa Road, it had become a parking lot, thanks to so many area roads being closed down.  My plan had been to take a taxi to the new subway station at the zoo, but every taxi had someone inside and was not moving. I looked south to see if there was a bus coming.  I spotted one up by Ling Long Road, but it was in the middle of the melee and clearly not going anywhere.

By 10:15 a neighbor and colleague showed up on the street, also with plans to get to an 11:30 service at another church.  We were both torn between frustration at not being able to get to where we were going and bemusement at the unfolding chaos.  How Chinese drivers jam and unjam themselves is really an art form, and the whole community was spilling into the streets to watch.

About the time we decided to walk out to the the 3rd Ring Road, we heard the sound of music and fireworks coming from the hotel on the corner.  A wedding procession.  But not just an ordinary wedding procession, this one was complete with revelers in Qing Dynasty costumes, an old-fashioned sedan chair, and a horse.  It looked like a 19th century village wedding, and here it was playing itself out on Bei Wa Road.  The bride emerged from the hotel and got into the sedan chair, the groom (decked out in his Qing Dynasty finest) mounted the horse, and off they went into the middle of the traffic jam, musicians and other courtesans in tow. Somehow, they made it through, and headed off down the empty part of the street, leaving the chaos behind.

My friend and I roared.  Even after 25 years in China, I can still stumble into a “just when I think I’ve seen it all” event.

We finally made it out of the area on a very crowded bus by 11, and I got to the church at 11:30, just as the service was ending.  At least I made it in time to eat noodles with friends.

The wedding procession heading into the traffic jam

Oops.  The groom’s gotta make a call. Wei! Wei! Wei!

Having gotten through the melee, the go merrily on their way!

(thanks to KG for the photos)

A Few Wedding Photos

Two of my dear friends got married today.  I met her when she was a university freshman back in 2001.  After she graduated, she started working in a travel agency about the same time as he did.  Now they own their own travel business.  They were married at the Beijing Gangwashi Christian Church, where they both attend. Despite the near 90% humidity and an afternoon deluge, it was a wonderful day!

Before the ceremony

Listening to the choir

The pastor pronouncing the blessing

After the ceremony

The banner that greeted us at the entrance to the banquet hall.

You may be wondering about the kiss.  It didn’t happen.  The pastor didn’t even give them the option.  As we say in China, ‘what a pity!’