My husband wanted to marry me at the Mount Desert Transfer Station where we went on our first date. During the week before my wedding, I wish that I had fulfilled his request simply because it would have been effortless. I had chosen and planned a very DIY affair at the community center in town, a hall whose dark wood reminded me of a Swiss Chalet. Friends and family had come forward to offer to cater, bake the cake, provide music, and officiate, among other things. I had been shopping all the 75% off sales after Christmas, and I fully intend on using any leftover heart doilies for Valentine’s Day.
I had the ingredients for a memorable event, but alternating between holding back and letting loose the tears, I could not hide my doubts about it coming together. I kept asking the people around me, “Is a week before too late to decide to have one of those $20000 weddings?” Sadly, yes, yes, it is.
My only consolation were my three chickens, recent gifts from a friend who could no longer keep them. Two of the chickens were Buff Orphingtons, big burly ladies who wanted nothing to do with me. The other was a Bard Rock whom I called Naughty Girl in part because she tried to escape on our second day together. I had to chase her around my unfenced yard until I slid and caught her from behind like I stole second base. She would be the first to come to the coop door, the most interested in trying new food.
The chickens were the only living creatures in my life immune to the wedding frenzy. I had always identified with chickens and thought of them as my spirit animals because they were such a balance of nervous “the-sky-is-falling” concern and “i-found-a-worm” joy. It struck me every time I checked on them that afterwards, I felt calmer, in a better mindset to tackle the day. Unquestionably, they function as therapy birds in my life; why not carry Naughty Girl down the aisle to keep me calm on my big day?
I started to seriously consider this on the Wednesday before we wed, and I floated the idea to see what everyone else says. The general reaction was “you can’t be serious?!”, and I took that as a personal challenge, like hiking Katahdin in a dress. My then-fiancé, a poultry lover like me, said, “Whatever makes you happy”. The majority of people kept telling me the same: “This is your day….” I decided I would try bringing Naughty Girl to the dress rehearsal on Saturday before I committed to having her part of the show on Sunday.
I frequently load her and her roommates into a dog carrier to visit my then-fiancé, so she was not fazed by the trip to town or being carried down the aisle. I decided my lovie would pet her before I placed her in the dog carrier positioned on the stage, a prominent place to watch the proceedings. One of my friends would be the chicken handler to pick her up at my house before the ceremony and sit in the front row in case she pulled her escapee act.
All of that being resolved, I needed to decide what to do with my amaryllises that I had expected to carry on my bouquet. My friend in Russia sent me even more white lilies and red roses. I decided to bring all the flowers I had leftover to my hairdresser on Sunday.
I explained to her about Naughty Girl. The idea that we had concocted two months prior would no longer work. “Just throw my bouquet in my hair.” She braided my hair in a couple places and then swept it all back into a lopsided bun that served as a nest for amaryllis and lilies. I sat in the chair already wearing my nana’s thirty-five year old red-white-and-blue sweater. “You look like a Norwegian bride!”
I loved the way that I looked with the sweater over my aunt’s wedding dress. Most definitely a country bride, nothing extravagant yet head-turning nonetheless.
Naughty Girl, even with a necklace of roses, did not upstage the bride. She did start to squirm as “Til There Was You” started to play, but she, and I, made it down the aisle without me crying or her flying to the rafters. In fact, she proved to be a well-behaved guest. I only wish she could have signed the marriage license papers as a witness.