Synopsis: On a chilly Thanksgiving weekend, I chatted with my riding teacher and a few other friends on horseback as I sat atop Shadow, one of the two horses I ride.
Getting married was on my mind for some time. My fiancé and I had been engaged for a year and chose January 10th as our wedding date but remained undecided on a venue for the private ceremony.
Neither of us had a current connection with a church. Our Justice of the Peace offered her home, but that didn’t give rise to any feelings. My happy place is here in the saddle, where I wallow in the delight of being at the barn with my horsey friends, surrounded by nature.
“Linda,” I said to my riding teacher. “Could Dennis and I get married here?”
She didn’t even know we were engaged, the ring hidden beneath my riding gloves. Her jaw dropped open as the other riders smiled.
“You know,” I continued as I stared at her shocked face, “with our Justice of the Peace, and Shadow and Nacho as our two witnesses?”
Linda stood by the mounting block and broke into a smile. “Let me check with the powers that be,” she replied.
A few days later, as I posted the prospect of being married at Course Brook on Facebook, a welcome text arrived from Linda: The farm’s owners not only agreed to allow the ceremony on the property but were thrilled at the prospect!
On a subsequent ride with my two friends, Courtney and Candace, we picked out a spot for the wedding. It was on the grass before a sweeping row of ten-foot tall cattails near the outdoor dressage arena. It was perfect.
On our wedding day, nearly six weeks later and fourteen years to the day from when we met in January, Dennis and I stood before Gayle, our J.P., with Linda and Nacho on Dennis’s side, and Shadow by my side. A video camera sat atop a tripod, recording every detail.
The cold air turned Gayle’s breath into puffy bursts as she pronounced the words of the equine-themed ceremony:
“Lisa and Dennis, after many years as a committed and loving couple, we gather at Course Brook Farm, in Sherborn, Massachusetts. It’s a special place where Lisa enjoys riding Shadow and Nacho, guided by her kind, patient and encouraging teacher, Linda Smith. We are grateful to Linda and the Mayo family, owners of Course Brook Farm, for their kindness and generosity.”
“Our purpose for gathering today is to give a new official status to the life that you share. Your lives are already bound together by a deep personal commitment; your marriage is an affirmation and acknowledgement of all that you are to each other. Marriage gives structure and security to a couple’s love. Marriage is a commitment to life—the best that two individuals can bring out in one other.”
At this juncture, bored or just drawn to the sweet frozen grass upon which we stood, our witnesses began ferociously feeding. Shadow, without regard for decorum, turned his hindquarters to Gayle and the camera. Linda held Nacho by the reins and, while he was eagerly munching, remained calm in position.
W.C. Fields once said of filmmaking: never work with animals or children, and he was right.
I tried to turn Shadow back to face the camera, but the maneuver resulted in a full circle. No matter. I turned Shadow one hundred and eighty degrees for the second time and announced, “This is going to be a dynamic ceremony.”
There was laughter and a whinny from one of the horses in the paddocks. Gayle resumed the ceremony and asked for our consent to one another, instructing Dennis and I to recite our vows:
I was wearing jeans and a riding shirt under a black blazer in the name of appearing fit and shivering, but I didn’t care because the love of my life was showering me with his words of adoration and that was all the warmth I needed. “Lisa, before you, life was a chore. With you, life is a joy. I want to share in that joy with you for the rest of my life.”
Dennis was suitably dressed for the elements, donning a turtleneck, wool scarf and coat. Expressing sentiment for a man has never come easy to me, but the words spilled from my mouth, true and effortlessly. “Dennis, me without you is like the sky without blue. As long as there is sky, I shall be with you.”
Lisa loves all creatures great and small. Her essays have appeared in Horse Network, Manifest-Station, Ariana’s HuffPost, Elephant Journal and several literary journals. She lives near Boston, where she writes, bikes, hikes, rides horses and edits technology blogs for the CTO of Hitachi Vantara.You can contact her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.