By Tooker Gomberg, Riverdale, Alberta.
The angels smiled on Tooker and Angela’s ceremony.
A couple lurked in the bushes – uninvited guests watching the ceremony…
It happened on Sunday in Riverdale, out of doors and away from human structures in a green field by the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. The celebrants were encircled by birch, elm and poplar trees, with a carpet of living earth below. The robins serenaded, the sparrows chirped, and the incense was the breath of the poplar trees.
It was apt that the wedding took place on a beautiful day in spring, a joyous season marked by growth, strengthening bonds, and mutual interdependence.
A friend sent a card: “May the angels smile on your union.” They seemed to be happy on this day.
Though weddings can be anxious times, full of tradition and a touch of pomposity, this marriage was relaxed. No one seemed to notice the few guests who walked around barefoot, or that worms wiggled in a composting bin awaiting any leftovers from the potluck meal.
It was unhurried. Why rush? The couple had already been together for nine years.
Inspired by other weddings, this ceremony was written by the bride and groom. While acknowledging it as an ancient ritual, the couple made the event their own, with a close friend officiating .
It got underway to a saxophone wailing “As Time Goes By”. “The world will always welcome lovers…”
Several religious traditions were respected – from the sweetgrass that was burned to welcome good spirits, to the Jewish bridal canopy beneath which the vows were recited in unison, to a reading recognizing the blessedness of the peacemakers, as well as a Catholic blessing .
The event was a feast for the senses. Bouquets of brilliant yellow dandelions and fragrant purple lilacs tickled the eyes and nostrils.
The rings exchanged were heard by all: specially engraved and hand-painted bicycle bells will proclaim their union whenever they ring.
There were special roles for most of the sixty attendees. Kids brought forward flowers for the couple, and plates of food were passed out during the ceremony to symbolize both sustenance and various parts of a tree:
Carrots represented rootedness in community and a passion for social and ecological justice.
Celery represented the trunk of a tree, and the desire for a strong commitment to each other, as well as the flexibility to change and grow.
Broccoli symbolized the branches of a tree, reminding all to consider how we influence and affect others around us.
Dandelions represented flowering trees, and the desire for the relationship to blossom and prosper.
Seeds symbolized new life to be spawned by the union, and the devotion to bring forth new discoveries.
After publicly expressing their commitment to love and honour each other, the two were pronounced wife and husband. They were showered with birdseed, leaving behind a feast for wild birds.
Live music, singing and dancing followed, with the bride and groom held aloft in chairs as the celebrants danced and cheered.
A scrumptious vegetarian potluck, served on real dishes (disposables were barred) replenished people’s energy.
Next came the planting of an apple tree between the neighbourhood volleyball court and the valley multi-use trail. The hope was that the tree would provide fruit to quench the thirst of tired cyclists and sweaty volleyball players.
Kids and adults shared some non-competitive volleys, gayly passing the ball between them. No score was kept, and the non-competitive participatory nature of the whole event was maintained.
The evening ended with the couple riding off into the dusk on brightly decorated bicycles replete with streamers and balloons, dragging clanging steel cans. Each bike rack was decorated with a heart: one said “Just” and the other “Married”. People cheered as they passed.
No, it wasn’t perfect. The mosquitos had plenty to feast on. One kid got muddied after falling in a puddle, while another peed her pants. A toddler got a rash. But it was a blast.
The funniest moment came in the midst of the ceremony when two year old Brendan, confused by how much the groom’s brother resembled the groom said “Look Papa, two uncle Tookers!”
Yes, folks, we finally did it. Angela Bischoff and Tooker Gomberg are wed, naturally. But please don’t call us Mr. and Ms. – we’re Tookela Bischberg!