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A Big Woods Wedding

Fri, Jul 20th, 2001
Posted in

Monday, July 9, 2001

A medieval scene greets guests as they walk down green paths through open woods and across hilly fields to a small white tent with open walls. The groom could be Robin Hood, complete with his Merry Men, anxiously waiting for his bride to appear, tall, slender and beautiful like Maid Marian.

In this setting, Sandra Albro, daughter of Corina and Greg Albro of Elkton, Oregon will marry Brandon Rutter, son of Mary Lewis, Decorah and Phil Rutter, Canton. The wedding site is on Brandon's boyhood home, the Badgersett Research Farm in our own Big Woods.

The bride and groom met at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, PA, where they both received undergraduate degrees. The Merry Men, including Brandon, make up an eight-member singing group from Swarthmore officially known as the Sixteen Feet. The group has existed for many years, with new members joining as others graduate. They sing in the Do-wop style, using their own voices as accompaniment instead of musical instruments. Their first music today is "Pachobel's Canon."

As part of the ceremony, friends and relatives stand to speak for the couple. Emotions run deep at a wedding. Some of the guests shed a few tears. Sandra touches her eyes now and then with the embroidered handkerchief that is a gift from her dad--an unusual gift she said and the best thing he could have given her for this day.

Mary, Brandon's mom, spent a lot of time rehearsing the poem she wrote for the couple, so as not to cry while delivering it. Even so, her voice breaks at the end when she says,

"Celebrate the look in my son's eyes when he gazes upon his beloved.
See the tenderness of her touch along his arm.
Find in their laughter a song as old as the earth and as new as this day.
Embrace them with your hopes, for they have found each other."

After saying their vows, the newlyweds walk arm in arm through the tent and down the green path, while the Sixteen Feet sing "An die Freude" ("Ode to Joy"), from Beethoven's Ninth symphony.

The reception takes place in a wooded hollow. As guests approach the site, they see two large open-walled tents with long tables stretching from side to side. Torches burn on the periphery of the hollow. Someone breaks out the mead (I mean beer) and sparkling cider. This medieval feast comes complete with a roast pig, dark bread and, as concession to modern times, pasta salad and cut vegetables.

Perry, Brandon's brother and best man, stands to give a toast. This is a moment for recollection. The memory that pops into my mind is of Mary skiing from Badgersett Farm to my house in the Big Woods, with Perry, barely a toddler, on her back and Brandon confidently skiing just behind.

One of the Sixteen Feet now rises to give a toast. He talks about Sandra and Brandon's tender love for each other. He talks about the camaraderie of the singing group and tells us that Brandon has always been the sensible one, the one who keeps them grounded.

Time comes for the bride and groom to cut their wedding cake, which was made by Amish girls who are also present at the reception. While the cake is being served and eaten, the guests engage in lively conversations. Suddenly, all talking stops as the Sixteen Feet, including Brandon, gear up to sing. They are amazingly coordinated. Everyone seems instinctively to know what to do and when to do it; at the same time, they give one the feeling that it is all ad lib. One can tell that the friendships among these young men will endure.

Throughout the reception, another sort of music plays itself out in the gentle evening songs of yellow warblers, common yellowthroats, chipping sparrows, song sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, bobolinks, toads and frogs.

The celebration continues late into the night. When Mary says goodbye at 11:30 p.m., only the Feet remain. One of the young men thanks her for having Brandon.

The newlyweds plan to begin their honeymoon at the Anderson House in Wabasha. From there, they will travel to Cleveland to look for an apartment near Case Western Reserve where they will both attend graduate school. They will then travel around the country camping as they go, and return to Cleveland in time for fall semester.

By Nancy Overcott

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