Over the weekend, I reunited with some old friends, met some awesome people, and witnessed love in its purist form. I knew the trip to Virginia was going to be a long one…10 hours to be exact… But I could have never imagined the amount of laughter, great fellowship, and life long memories I would make on this trip. And though this trip was filled with unexpected events, I was so blessed to be part of Aaron and Lauren’s big day.
DAY 1…”ARE YOU MARY?” – Peter and Paul
From the moment Rosalyn and I landed and reunited with Mike and Whitney, it was obvious that this trip was going to be special. Mike and Whitney were one of the first couples that I met that would later become a part of our life group and I had forgotten just how much I miss the comedic sarcasm of Whitey and the intelligence and leadership of Mike.
The first day was almost like the first day of school after summer break. Mike, Whitney, Aaron, Rosalyn, Peter and I were all excited to be reunited with each other and spent hours catching up on what had happened since we last saw each other. We also met the rest of the wedding crew, which included Aarons family and friends from Seattle. That evening, the girls and Lauren ventured to have some fun while Aaron’s 14 boys started the night at Murphy’s pub in downtown Richmond.
Within minutes of our cab ride from the hotel, I knew that these were a unique group of guys! From Paul`s (AKA Allen from the Hang Over) and his disclosure of a rare sleeping disorder to Nate`s brilliant one-liners, I could easily see why Aaron loved hanging around these group of guys back home. But as the night progressed, not only were these guys sarcastic, funny, and great all around guys, but also proved to be very informed and intelligent. The discussion during the bachelor dinner included the normal guy talk, but also opinions on the recent Obamacare legislation that passed earlier in the day and predictions for the 2012 elections. It was an awesome start to a weekend filled with fun, laughter, and even politics.
The rest of the night just kept on getting better. From stops at a karaoke bar to a trip to the FAN district and restaurants with names like 3 Monkeys and Sticky Rice… the 14 guys in the newly introduced group quickly turned into a fraternity of brothers. By the end of the night, Peter and Paul finally found Mary, Mike got his hat back, and most of the crew got a late night bite at 7-11.
DAY 2: “HANGING WITH THE HILLBILLIES WHEN WE COULD HAVE HUNG OUT WITH THE HILTONS” – Ryan Kalei Tsuji
While most of the bridal party was recovering from the night before, the `Hawaii` crew decided to head down to the James River. A unique spot off the tourist maps near some of the historic landmarks in Virginia. The area was filled with locals whose thick southern drawl and accent made it difficult to understand but who’s hospitality did not get lost in translation. A rope swing hung from the bridge above as locals took turns swinging into thestill river below.
After some careful observation and guidance from a local who had been doing the rope jump for over 20 years, Mike, Peter, and I tried our hand at the airborne acrobatics. While Peter and Mike were successful in their jumps, I on the other hand had some issues. My right hand slipped off the rope and quickly my attempt to get airborne over the water turned into a quick jump into the water. It may not have been my best moment, but it certainly became a memorable moment from the trip.
Later that night we gathered with the family and bridal party for the rehearsal dinner. It was amazing to see the interaction between the Wilkins and Sawyer ohana as well as the friends of the bride and groom and made the dinner resemble a longtime family reunion. There were many great speeches and moments where we learned more about just how special Aaron and Lauren really are. I shared how I got to know the couple and later won a game of who knew the bride and groom best (despite what some may say… I won that fair and square!)
We ended the night back at a restaurant downtown listening to some great music and unaware of just how bad weather conditions were outside. The storm rolled in quickly and the 105 degree heat that we were battling all day long quickly cooled down as the winds howled through the city. By morning, it would become clear just how bad things really were.
DAY 3… “Motha Natcha” – Debbie from the River
We woke up to a blinking alarm and updates on our phones informing us of the disaster the rolled through most of the East coast overnight. Some of the guys and I decided to head over to the other side of the James river for a swim down the rapids before getting ready for the wedding. It was 110 degrees, sun blazing, and most of the state was without power.
After swimming through the currents, bruising our tailbones along the rocks, and Nate and I witnessing one of the most bizarre animal and human fights ever, we got official word that there was not going to be any power at the wedding.
Imagine this…planning for your wedding months in advance only to find out on your wedding day that a major storm knocked out power and essentially ruins most of your planning efforts. Factor in 105 degrees of heat in an outdoor wedding, no air or breeze, and generators strong enough to keep the food warm and audio board up for the DJ. After sweating through 3 layers of clothes, I realized that I was not alone as the guests sweated their butts off as the wedding began.
All that discomfort went out the window when we saw Aaron’s eyes begin to tear up as he saw his bride walk down the aisle. In that moment, it didn’t matter what the weather conditions were like, nor did anyone care what their sweat stained clothes looked like, all eyes were on these two who were making the biggest commitment of their lives before God and their friends and family. The ceremony was perfect and it became clear that the night was going to be a special night, regardless of what other circumstances were occurring around us.
The reception got underway with dinner by candlelight and program albeit modified, still containing heart filled speeches and lifelong memories. As night wore on, things just got hotter as lightening began to light up the sky outside with rain pouring down on those who moved the dance party to the deck of the pool area.
And then it happened… Nate took a leap of faith…”literally”… and jumped into the pool fully clothed hoping to not only cool off, but start a new party in the pool.Within minutes, guys and girls began jumping in fueled by the music and chants of others in the area. Over time the bride, groom, wedding party, parents, and almost everyone in attendance migrated into the pool for a college like pool party. And with that, the wedding turned from great to EPIC.
But what was the most unique part of this sudden disregard for structure or normalcy of a wedding ceremony was the fact that this sort of thing that happened could not have been scripted. Instead it was a clear illustration and manifestation of the personality of both Aaron and Lauren. Throughout the weekend we heard stories of their carefree personalities and how both never really let things bother them. Friends shared their gratitude of Aaron and Lauren’s commitment to relationships and their friendship with those around them and in some strange way, all of that came together on their wedding night in a swimming pool with no power, horrendous heat, and a lightening show just for the bride and groom.
DAY 4… This Weather is making me Emotionally Unstable” – Rosalyn Dang
The last full day was filled with memories and stories from the night before as the Hawaii crew and our newly founded brothers from Seattle made our way to the nation’s capitol. The down power poles and tree limbs were signs of just how bad the weather conditions had gotten the night before. It also made me realize that we had been sheltered in this cocoon of pure joy in the middle of a forest in Virginia at the wedding that protected and blinded us from really experiencing what weather experts are calling one of the worst storms to hit the coast in years.
We hit up some of DCs monuments in the heat and spent the remaining hours of the day to catch up with our new friends from Seattle. As we sat together reminiscing in DC about the weekend, I realized that this weekend was more than just a way for us to be a part of Aaron and Lauren’s big day. It was the perfect illustration of just how important relationships are in our lives.
We each come from different backgrounds, different locations, and different life experiences, but for one weekend in June, we were all brought together to celebrate with two people who have now connected us to one another. It was a time to reunite with old friends and a time to make new life long connections. Forming new relationships and maintaining old ones is the key to living a joyful life. God did not create us to experience things of this world alone, and it is through these moments that we clearly see how He orchestrates these events in our lives to bring people together and make each moment we share with others so much more meaningful.
Many are saying that this weekend will be hard to top and that there will be no other wedding that can live up to what we experienced in Virginia these past few days. And while this may be true, I don’t think we can ever compare moments like these with others in our lives. We have to appreciate each and every experience for what it is worth because each is unique and different in its own way. And while I can’t help but get excited to think about sharing moments like these again with those that I met this weekend, I know that nothing will come close to the lifelong relationships Aaron and Lauren gifted to us with on their big day.