Ottauquechee Farm Ho! Sarah's mom's work friend John generously let us use this ridiculous, 500-acre property for the whole weekend. We'd had some doubts about using it for the wedding, since we'd been thinking we might do something a little closer to Potsdam. When we arrived on Thursday, we knew we'd definitely made the right call.

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"What a great place to bring our dogs," we thought upon seeing the Ottauquechee Farm for the first time, "plenty of huge, fenced-in fields!" Our plan for after the wedding, however, was to rent a lake house for a week and hang out with friends. We stressed ourselves out, for a while, trying to find a place that allowed pets but didn't have any luck.

In the end, it was moot. No matter how hard we could have pushed, there was no way we were going to squeeze two large dogs in the car on top of all this other stuff.

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The hounds really would have liked it though...

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We'd seen this slide when we came by the farm last year. It looked kind of rickety (not to mention splintery), so we put it out of mind.

As it turns out, though, it's amazing.

Travis and I did a test run (scaring the hell out of a couple dozen salamanders that happened to be swimming nearby). You fill up a bucket with water, haul it up to the top of the steps, dump it down the smooth metal slide, and take off. The water's only about a foot deep at the bottom, which would be bad news were it not for the fact that the ride down is fast enough to shoot you out into the middle of the pond.

Once people started showing up, things got creative. It was discovered, through rigorous scientific experimentation, that the most X-treme way to ride the slide was to go down in a plastic sled and land on an inflatable surf mat in the pond. Doing so resulted in a trip to within ten feet of the opposite shore.

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Here's Lynne sliding to certain doom.

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Just after we arrived on the farm (and just as we were trying to unload the car), it began to pour. Caretaker Rick assured us that the rain was supposed to pass, and that they were forecasting a clear, sunny weekend. The forecast was right! It wouldn't have mattered, thought, since the farm was gorgeous in any weather.

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This deer is not a real deer. (But it was a real dear!)

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We headed down early to start scoping out and setting up. The Potsdam, Manchester, and Bend crews all arrived Thursday afternoon. As the Friday morning mist (pictured above) burned off, a spell of perfect weather set in that would last the entire weekend.

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The main attraction and one of his primary handlers. (The other one's behind the camera.)

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Otis, who is on the verge of being ticklish, is on the verge of being tickled by his grandmother.

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Are dead birds in plastic bags appropriate for wedding photo albums?

(No. No they are not.)

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Plans to set up the tent on this hill were complicated by a power line running underground between the retreat center above and the Sugar Shack down below. Rick and the tent crew were on it, though! After some careful measuring and exploratory jabbing, they found the line and were able to safely anchor the tent. Very professional work all around.

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Sarah's mom was in charge of ordering the tent. We were expecting the usual vinyl tarp affair, but the tent that arrived was nothing short of spectacular.

Sailcloth! Rounded ends! Lanterns! Wooden poles!

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... And even a couple little flags up on top!

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It was pretty darn scenic, even without any decorations.

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We almost passed on the dance floor... But once they put it in, it really tied the room together! (Not to mention how it made the retreat center a much more inviting space for the band.)

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Most of the guests started trickling in on Friday afternoon. By sundown, the crowd that had gathered was sizable enough to justify the enormous fire ring in which we'd planned to cook up a pile of s'mores.

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After a later-than-planned evening, Andre awoke at, as is his tendency under such circumstances, the crack of dawn. It was a dewy morning and, having espied some plastic craft in a nearby storage shed, he decided to sled down the slippery slope.

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Friend Anicia was on hand to join in the fun!

Later, Sarah's mom organized a contingent to decorate the picnic tables with festive red-and-white checked tablecloths, flowers, and salt and pepper shakers that we'd obtained from the thrift stores of St. Lawrence county.

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In all the hubbub of getting things ready, we completely forgot to go down to the barn and visit the new calf! Everyone else did, fortunately, and took pictures.

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Friends and fam mingle at the wall. SB friends can be identified here by their too-cool-for-school shades.

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Otis, having not yet had an opportunity to wear his tux in public, ended up being the best dressed person at the wedding! Note Mr. Wessel's t-shirt-based ensemble and Mr. Mount's rumpled guayabera and wrinkly pants.

Uncle Bill, taking in some rays before the ceremony got started.

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Anicia and Andre, who had gone down to the ceremony site to make some last-minute adjustments before everyone sat down, were surprised when they turned around to see a mob of happy wedding-goers advancing down the hill toward them. The plan had been for Mike Magilligan to establish a ceremonial mood with his magical tabla at which point the crowd would be collected. "Hold on!" they yelled, "Give us ten more minutes!"

"That's alright, we just want to sit down!" came the reply as the mob moved past a bewildered Mike.

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MC Anicia gave the signal...

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...and the ceremony was underway.

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We hardly needed any extra decoration with that backdrop, but an end table snagged from the main house and a pitcher of flowers made for a nice ceremonial centerpiece.

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The dads started things off with a song, John Dowland's "Come Again":

Come again
Sweet love doth now invite.
Thy graces that refrain,
To do me due delight.
To see, to hear, to touch, to kiss, to die,
With thee again in sweetest sympathy.

Gentle love
Draw forth thy wounding dart,
Thou canst not pierce her heart,
For I that to approve,
By sighs and tears more hot than are thy shafts,
Did tempt while she for triumph laughs.

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Transposed by the singer's request. (Up a minor third, it would seem.)

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Otis, still in a cooperative mood, exchanges an enthusiastic smile with mom.

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Anicia, gesturing most ceremoniously, addresses the bride and groom. Their young child takes advantage of the distraction to close in on a delicious bouquet...

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...and is subsequently banished from the ceremony.

Many thanks to Lynne, the official baby/ring-wrangler!

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Andre's mom shared a passage from a letter by Rainer Maria Rilke. It was the most articulate and moving wedding reading we've ever heard:

"The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky."

(Despite a common misconception, the passage is not from Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, it's from a 1901 letter to Emanuel von Bodman.)

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Sarah's mom recited several verses from Joseph Brackett's "Simple Gifts," accompanied by Sarah's dad on guitar:

Refrain:

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
'Till by turning, turning we come 'round right '

'Tis the gift to be loved and that love to return,
'Tis the gift to be taught and a richer gift to learn,
And when we expect of others what we try to live each day,
Then we'll all live together and we'll all learn to say,

(refrain)

'Tis the gift to be loving, tis the best gift of all
Like a quiet rain it blesses where it falls
And with it we will truly believe
Tis better to give than it is to receive

(refrain)

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A heartfelt congratulations from Sarah's mom.

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Cheesy speech time! Sarah thought it would be nice for us to do something as a couple during the ceremony in addition to our vows... After much agonizing, we decided on a somewhat goofy rundown of our family history. Note Andre's classic public speaking neck-touching/grimace combo pose.

Here the speech, cheese intact:

Sarah: We're both so glad all of you were able to come to our little party this weekend--we don't get to see you a lot of you as often as we should.

Andre: Most of you are well acquainted with various chapters of the Andre and Sarah story, but we thought we'd fill in the blanks a bit by telling you how our little family came to be. (Not the whole story… Nine years of story wouldn't fit into a tastefully short wedding ceremony…)

Sarah: We met like responsible nerds at a music department grad student mixer in Santa Barbara. Not long after, we sat next to each other at a conference paper discussing the music in some depressing Icelandic art film. Later, after driving around to five different Blockbusters, Andre found the DVD and asked me if I wanted to watch the rest of the movie.

Andre: (Smooth, right?) Well, it was a terrible date movie but a wonderful first date. And there were many more. But then, after just a few months, disaster… Sarah got a job playing with an orchestra in Brazil and off she went, maybe for a whole year. It didn't take, though. My dad told me that if I wanted Sarah to come back I should just tell her. In the end, she came back after just two months, and we immediately moved in together. At this point, I was already making noises about having kids, but Sarah talked some sense into me--we had no real jobs, no real money, and no idea where we would be in 5 years. And so we waited… From Santa Barbara, we moved to Berkeley so Sarah could go to grad school. I worked on my dissertation, taught sailing, and mooched off of her stipend.

Sarah: Not the best way to experience the notoriously pricey Bay Area, but we had plenty of good times nonetheless exploring the coast to the north and south, the mountains to the east, and the tasty dining and drinking establishments in between. As years went by, though, I became increasingly disenchanted with school, and by the time Andre became Dr. Mount I was happy to use his finding a job as an excuse to pack up and head somewhere new. Of course, finding a job wasn't easy--Andre applied for over 90 openings before finally landing a couple of offers--one in Potsdam, NY and one in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Andre: We'll always wonder if we made the right decision… But today the tiny village of Potsdam and the delightfully empty forests and rivers of upstate NY are the place we call home. There have been a lot of adventures and close calls in between, of course... We were almost washed away by surf on the Lost Coast...

Sarah: We were almost washed down a mountain hiking up a New Zealand river in a thunderstorm...

Andre: We got hopelessly lost on a hot spring hunt in the Los Padres National Forest…

Sarah: We nearly slid off a giant Guadalupe sand dune to certain doom on the rocky ocean cliffs below…

Andre: And we've nursed more mosquito and blackfly bites than could ever be counted.

Sarah: But now, with everything we need--at least one secure job, some ridiculously reasonable rural real estate, and a plan to stay put for at least 5 years--we're starting out on our biggest trip yet. Otis Lloyd Mount, named for a mountain and a great-grandfather, was born on January 11 of this year.

Andre: And here we are! We live too far north for Otis to expect regular visits from friends and family, so a wedding seemed like a great way to trick all of you into coming up to see him and us. And we're so happy you did.

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Having cried out (most of) our tears in the run-through, we repeated our vows after Anicia read them aloud:

"Andre/Sarah, you are my best friend—my partner in the romantic, the mischievous, and the mundane—and, from this day forward, my husband/wife. We have built our relationship on trusting communication, and I promise to preserve and nurture this foundation. I will approach conflict with honesty and generosity, and change with flexibility and support. As you grow, so too will I, working to build a life for our family filled with happiness, fulfillment, and compassion. Will you take this ring in celebration of our love and as a symbol of commitment to our future?"

(We printed out two copies for Anicia to read: one with Andre/husband and another with Sarah/wife.)

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I will!

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Anicia said, "I think you guys should kiss!" And it was official!

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Our Berkeley friend Jess joined the dads in a ceremony-closing chanson, "Tant que vivray" by Claudin de Sermisy:

As long as I live and flourish
I will serve the powerful god of love
In word and deed, in song and harmony.

For several days he caused me to languish
But after sorrow came rejoicing
Since the fair limbed beauty loves me.

To be joined with her is my pledge
Her heart is mine.
Mine is hers, let sorrow give place to happiness,
For the joys of love are many.

(Note Jess's lovely, period-appropriate bow hold!)

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We initially weren't planning to have a program, but Andre's dad insisted we should provide the texts for the two songs. Andre, in typical Andre fashion, spent hours obsessing over finding the correct dates and attribution for the readings. He still found time to design this tasteful but fittingly casual handout, paired here with (and kept from blowing away by) a fine ale.

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And then it was time to party!

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Earlier in the day, as Andre was setting up chairs, he saw a truck with a large trailer pulling up the driveway. The trailer had a chimney. And there was smoke coming out of the chimney. Andre ran up the hill, as fast as he could: "Sarah! Sarah! The barbeque guy's here! And his trailer is smoking!!"

Sarah found Ward Mann online. He runs a barbeque catering business called Hog Heaven. He smokes the meat on the way to the event (he said he had to pull over in Killington to add more wood!). He made us pulled-pork sandwiches, barbeque chicken, smoked salmon, mac and cheese, portabellos, salad, and baked beans. All of it was amazing.

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Otis (shown here being characteristically hogged by Tim/Pops) was totally mesmerized by the bluegrass band (another fruit of Sarah's Internet research). Unfortunately, they started playing not long before his bedtime, so he missed the bluegrass dance party that ensued later in the retreat center. Someday, Otis!

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The crowd eats!

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Indisputable, photographic evidence that Andre is indeed taller than Jeremy. (No, they're not on a hill! What a preposterous suggestion!)

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Chelsea and Jess, Representatives of the Berkeley contingent (neither of whom still live in Berkeley).

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Pops hogging Otis. (Again!)

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Anicia and Jess enjoy some (presumably) freshly-poured keg beers from Long Trail. Note the matching flip flops.

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Mike and Sue, King and Queen of the dance floor, convinced even the most reticent dancers to join in the fun. (No one can remember the last time Sarah's dad danced in public... )

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Toastmaster Jeremy, looking nearly as magnificent as the buck behind him, delivered a heartfelt speech during the band's set break.

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A&S taking in Jeremy's tasteful combination of kind words and ribbing.

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And then... Larry stole the show! Harkening back to his days as a wedding band singer, Sarah's dad delivered a killer rendition of My Girl, a song he used to sing to Sarah (much to her embarrassment) when she was a little kid. By the end, everyone was dancing and singing along.

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Larry the showman...

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The band were good sports and played along, even though the tune wasn't really in their repertoire...

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... with the help of this chart, courtesy of Sarah's dad.

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Abigail, Sean, Susan, and Mike enjoying the show.

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We told our good friend Wren, who had recently taken a job in Melbourne, that we were prepared to do whatever it might take to get him out from down under and up to our party. (We didn't tell him that we were even prepared to pay for his plane ticket until he got here.) He brought his lovely lady friend Alison, too!

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Andre, having changed out of a recently beer soaked groom costume (courtesy of a dear friend who just wanted to lean in for a picture!), cuts it up with his new bride.

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Needless to say, the party went well into the night, eventually spilling out into neighboring bunkhouses and woods (and pond/waterslide). An auspicious "super moon" kept watch over the whole ordeal and kept the party-goers safe until morning.

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Chris oversaw bacon operations (bacon provided by Sean O'Brien, our go-to guy with high-end meat connections across state lines), Lynne baking her famous egg & bread casseroles, and Andre manning the griddle with a recipe for "Pancakes for a Crowd."

We've been trying to think of how the weekend could have been better. We keep coming up dry.

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