This past weekend, Jean-Marc and I, along with our dear friend, Christine MacIsaac (note the two “a”s), attended the wedding of Stephanie Ernwein and Paul Aikten in Bergen, Alberta. Stephanie is another one of our dear friends from Acadia. She came to Acadia as a frosh student in my second year and Jean-Marc’s fifth year. She quickly became involved in Acadia Christian Fellowship, and she and I served together on the student leadership team for two years. We became great friends, and she was one of the MCs for our wedding. She met Paul when she went out to work for the Pioneer Ranch Camps out in Alberta. Unfortunately, Jean-Marc and I did not get the opportunity to meet Paul until the big day, but from what we heard and saw (on Facebook, of course), it seemed like they were made for each other.
We really wanted to make the effort to be at her wedding, since we knew that probably not many of our friends from Acadia would be able to make it. So, we rented a car and drove to Alberta (with stops in Camrose and Edmonton for a couple of days to visit family), picked up Christine in Edmonton, and headed down to cowboy country.
Well, for any of you who know Stephanie, she is a true Albertan girl at heart. She loved Acadia, Wolfville and Nova Scotia, but her heart truly lies out West. Christine, Jean-Marc and I were very curious to see the Alberta side of her. Despite Christine and I both being from Alberta, we really only knew of her Acadia life. We kept trying to imagine what her Albertan wedding would be like. Well, we can tell you, we weren’t disappointed! It was as Albertan as Albertan can be– in fact, it was the most Albertan Christine and I’ve ever felt!
The wedding took place in the heart of the Albertan foothills, in a small town (I’m apt to think that the town only consists of the church, dance hall, and store) called Bergen, close to Sundre. Steph and Paul had their ceremony at the Bergen Missionary Church; if I recall correctly, this is where Steph attended church during her summers out a Pioneer. I do remember her telling some of the church members would ride their horses to service on Sunday mornings, and tie them up on the hitching post outside the church!
Thunderstorms were forecasted for the afternoon, but we were pleased to see the sun breaking up the clouds when we drove to the church. Surprisingly, Christine, Jean-Marc and I were the first ones to arrive. This usually never happens. We took our seats, and sat, excitedly awaiting the arrival of the wedding party and the bride.
The groomsmen, of course, lined up at the front, and we broke into smiles when we saw them. They were dressed in black collared shirts and black jeans, with cowboy boots and cowboy hats, and bright yellow silk scarves tied around their necks.
First came the bridesmaids, dressed in white collared shirts, black pencil skirts, with a forest green silk sash tied around their waists, carrying bouquets of green prairie grass, daffodils and baby’s breath. While the yellow and green were quite fitting colours for the Albertan wedding, Steph later pointed out (which I had not caught on to) are the John Deere colours.
Next came Sierra, Steph’s five-year-old niece, who was the flower girl. She was very sweet, but wasn’t quite sure to make of the crowd. She held her basket of petals resolutely, and walked down the aisle purposefully, with her lips tightly shut, and her eyes darting from one side to the other.
Then, came Stephanie. Paul’s reaction was priceless. His eyes popped open wide and his lips rounded into an big “OH!”, clutched his cowboy hat tightly, and then he fell mesmerized, unable to take his eyes off of her. Stephanie did indeed look stunning. She was wearing a mermaid-styled dress, with the bodice wrapped around her pretty figure. The dress had a strapless sweetheart neckline, and a brocade of beadwork wrapped around her chest. Her hair was done up, intricately weaved in the back, with white flowers nestled in her locks. She and her father walked down the aisle to “Be Thou My Vision” being played on the violin and the piano.
It was a beautiful ceremony, with Paul’s father officiating. His theme of the message was “walking in love”, and how important it is in marriage to walk daily with the Lord, and with your spouse– not to run and rush up ahead, not to sit idly by, and not to go off onto your own path. And, at the end of the day, marriage is about washing each other’s dirty feet; serving each other.
This tied into one of the passages that Stephanie and Paul picked out: the passage in which Jesus washes his disciples’ feet. The message and their exchange of vows/signing the registry was then followed by Stephanie and Paul washing each other’s feet, as “Brother, Sister, Let Me Serve You” was played on the violin and piano. It was the first time that we had seen a foot-washing done in a wedding, and we thought it was beautiful.
The service finished with a congregational singing of “How Great Thou Art”, and then Stephanie and Paul danced down the isle to a little fiddle hoe-down!
Jean-Marc and I finally got to meet Paul in the receiving line (Christine had met him once before), but it felt like we already knew him! As Christine had said earlier, and as was mentioned later in the speeches, Paul’s personality shines through immediately when you meet him. He was so friendly, and gave us both a big hug! He shares the same kind of goofiness that Steph has.
We also got to see Amy Buckland-Nicks, one of Stephanie’s closest friends from Acadia, who was a fellow biology student with Steph and one of her comrades in outdoor excursions. Amy was one of Steph’s bridesmaids, and had flown all the way from Nova Scotia to attend. Christine, Jean-Marc and I got to know Amy through Stephanie, and so it was great to see her again and catch up with her a bit.
The wedding party departed on a horse-drawn wagon, with ‘Just Hitched’ written on a sign at the back! A clump of very grey clouds hovered right over the church, and just as they left, the rain came pouring down. The wedding attendees followed behind very slowly as we made our way down the road to the Bergen community hall, and as soon as we arrived, the rain let up (of course).
The hall was small, but it made for a very nice and intimate affair. A lovely mural of a foothills country scene, with the mountains in the distance, was painted on one of the walls. There were rows of tables draped in dark green tableclothes, with yellow gerber daisies, pinecones and green apples adorning the tables. A sawhorse was draped with a western saddle by the gift table. The guests were arranged into tables by country song names, though we found ourselves at the “Mull River Shuffle” table, the one East Coast Song exception. As the MC began the evening, he said that in order to make the couple kiss, a table had to get up and sing a rendition of the song of the table they were seated at; a song that was very meaningful to the marrying couple.
We had a delicious meal of Alberta roast beef, Alberta roasted potatoes, Alberta corn, Alberta spinach salad and Alberta greek salad (??), with Alberta carrot cake for desert. Of course, we had to make Paul and Stephanie kiss, and while in line for our food, we realized that we even had a personalized verse of the “Mull River Shuffle” for Steph, from Jean-Marc’s re-writing of the Rankin Song to the “Catherine Court Shuffle”, which was played both at an ACF Maritime Party, and at our wedding reception. We wondered if we could quickly come up with a verse for Paul, too, and so brainstormed ideas as we ate our meal. This is what we sang for them:
Here comes young Miss Stephernie, telling her love of biology;
Stomping her foot and slapping her knee, she’ll tell you the earth’s chronology.
She met a man at Pioneer, maintaining the camp on a John Deere;
You would think that he’s from here, we’ll make them kiss and then we’ll cheer!
Raisin’ the jar and raisin’ hell, there’s plenty of stories that they will tell;
Some are born of true detail, but enough of that, start kissin’!
One of the little themes that came up during the speeches was the fact that Paul was a native-Ontarian-turned-cowboy. He is about as Albertan as they come! But one of the other things that also came clear was how much love there was for Stephanie and Paul, and how thrilled their family and friends were for their union.
After the speeches, the guests cleared away the tables– cake was cut, Paul and Stephanie had their first dance, then the father-daughter/groom-mother dance, then… came the square dance! Our first ever real square dance! There was a live guitar, fiddle and piano, and they told us to dosie-do, and turn your partner round and round. It was such a fun time! We had 3 square dance numbers, then the bouquet and the garter were tossed; one guy caught the guarder belt, and then his girlfriend caught the bouquet! Afterwards, the rest of the dance began. Stephanie’s sister’s partner is a DJ, so he spun the vinyl for us. We had some very Western numbers, including “Cadillac Ranch”, which is the one token line dance I know, and always reminds me of elementary gym and family dances. Jean-Marc didn’t know most of the country music, which made me laugh, because I am no country girl, but there are some songs that everyone out west knows and are wedding dance standards!
Around 10:00, Stephanie and Paul bade farewell; we conjured up a farewell arch and off they went. The Happy Newlyweds, off to discover life’s adventures together!
It was a wonderful celebration. Everything about it was very Stephanie and Paul. It was God-centered. It was full of joy, hope, faith, promise, humility, and of course, fun! For Christine, Jean-Marc and I, it was very interesting to see Stephanie’s Alberta life. It is a whole different world for her, and very much a part of her and her of it, yet we really had no idea of it. We realized we only really knew the Acadia-version of Stephanie. I mean, Stephanie is Stephanie, but there certainly was a part of her we saw fully expressed that we hadn’t before, and that was nice. It was an honour to be invited to share in their celebration, and I am so glad we had the opportunity to do so! And for those who weren’t able to make it, we hope this gives you a glimpse into their special day.
Blessings Stephanie and Paul, as you begin life together!