A Beautiful Summer in Washington: Memories of a Farm, Field, and Forest Wedding
When the owners of Jenne Farm invited my fiance and I to stroll around their property to preview it as a possible wedding venue, I said a little prayer of thanks. The couple, Fran and Joyce, had been Peace Corps volunteers, they wore cozy sweaters, and they seemed to be older versions of ourselves. After spending a whole weekend touring around faux English gardens with garish flairs and corporate versions of the worst wedding cliches, we both breathed a giant sigh of relief.
Jenne Farm is a working farmstead on Ebey’s Landing– a long prairie of historic farmland looking out to the sea in the middle of Whidbey Island, Washington (about an hour and a half drive from Seattle). Fran and Joyce had no intentions of owning a farm until they learned that the farm on their island home was threatened with development. They bought it with help from friends and family and were renting it out on the weekends to help pay for their unexpected mortgage. By supporting the farm, we were supporting their good deed of conserving an important site on the island.
The 108-year-old Jenne House oozed warmth and authenticity, with its wrap-around porch, old wooden cupboards, patchwork quilts, and eclectic furniture. A big oak tree shaded the house, providing a quiet, reverential place for our vows. With four bedrooms, we would be able to house our immediate family members and wake up to farm fresh eggs from the chickens in the barn. We had been hoping for this: to be far enough away from home so that people would spend the whole weekend with us, but close enough to not break the bank with airfare and rental cars.
The farm was just that—a farm, complete with a tractor, an enormous pig, geese, goats, chickens, as well as mud, flies, and other endearing imperfections. A towering red barn sat behind the white house on the bright-green lawn, which was surrounded by fields and forests. I couldn’t really think of any ways to improve on the landscape’s bright color palette, classic simplicity, and natural beauty. Jenne Farm was a yes.
No wedding planning process is free from stress and frustration, but the beautiful ease of the setting set the pace for our next decisions, helping to remind us what was important in the process. The color of the barn—classic red—nearly chose itself as the accent color for floral arrangements and bridesmaid dresses. And, that’s about where my decisions for those elements ended. I asked my bridesmaids to wear bright red dresses for the wedding, trusting that they knew best what kind of dress worked well for them. Thinking back on all the weddings where I’ve had to stuff myself into unflattering frocks, I vowed not to do the same for my own closest friends. The plan worked beautifully—all my ladies looked stunning, and perfectly noticeable, in bright red.
Next was my dress. Having been a tomboy most of my life, I found bridal shops suffocating, so when my mother’s wedding dress fit me (she is a full 2 sizes smaller than me), I felt like I had won the lottery. In terms of style, my mother and I are like the Arctic and the jungle, so the fact that I loved the dress in its classic, pretty, understated and very not-my-mother’s style, was close to a miracle. I was in serious debt to the wedding-planning gods at this point, and I foresaw our next decision—flowers—to be a difficult, expensive, and trying experience.
I was starting to dream about just picking flowers at one of the U-pick dahlia stands on the island when I remembered the stunning floral arrangements of the Hmong farmers at Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Based on their work, which I saw when I walked by every week, I asked that they create bouquets of their liking, with red dahlias—a Pacific Northwest summer favorite. My simple request was that they be beautiful. And, they delivered on that request (at a crazy-low price of $10 a bouquet, and $3 for the tabletops.)
The atmosphere of the farm had set up an intimate informality, and it seemed right to follow its lead. I did my best to let go of expectations and just enjoy the day. We had some bumps here and there (my husband was stuck for an hour helping to de-clog an old toilet and our original photographer cancelled at the last minute), and some sad moments (I never got to eat my slice of the cake), as well as some surprises (an impromptu fire-twirling show by a younger cousin out of his pimped-out mini van), and other unplanned fun (a matrimonial hayride). The sun was out, the colors were bright, and love was in full force. And, it all happened under a bright red barn on a beautiful, old-fashioned farm.