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Montana Wedding Reception

We drove 2,500 miles for this.

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FISH GUTS, Montana- That guy once kicked Meral Streep out of his restaurant. She was in the area for some movie shoot and felt as if she should be served before the other customers and given the Hollywood treatment she was more than likely used to. When informed that she would need to wait in line like everybody else she started pouting obnoxiously. So he threw her out.

Once, while coaching his son’s Babe Ruth team he beat up another team’s coach on the field in the middle of a game.

He was a logger for a good chunk of his life. When that industry dried up he went to work in the mines.

We decided to have a real wedding reception. My sister didn’t have much planned so Hannah and I lobbied for the full show.

His town is best known for asbestos mining. Even though the pernicious health impact of inhaling asbestos has been known since the time of the ancient Greeks, with the first documented modern deaths from it being recorded in the early 1900s, the message apparently didn’t make its way out to Montana. His entire town was covered in the dust — they even spread it on the baseball fields as some kind of preservative or something. He’s now messed up and in a wheelchair and is due to receive a payout from the US government as compensation. His kids are probably messed up too but they don’t know it yet.

One of his kids is my new brother in law.

His name is Lewis … and he is calm. That’s the way my sister described him to her family.

“What’s he like?”

“He’s calm.”

What? He’s … calm?

We never really understood why she would chose this adjective to describe the man that she would marry or what the attraction of someone exhibiting such an adjective was, so she felt the need to explain in front of everyone at her wedding reception.

We decided to have a real wedding reception. My sister didn’t have much planned so Hannah and I lobbied for the full show. We didn’t drive all this way to watch you sit around drinking box wine in your backyard. So we bought a tent, we rented chairs, we decorated the inside and out, ordered catering, put on table cloths and put flowers in vases. I put together a photo slide show and projected it on a big screen and cracked open my filming kit and cobbled together an impromptu PA system.

I met with Nicky and Lewis at 6 am at a cafe on the morning of the reception to nail down the final plans. I would be officiating, running the show as they renewed their vows. Nicky reviewed her final list of to-dos. Lewis sat there calmly.

My cousin gave a toast and in the middle of it suddenly yanked up her dress …

It was to be an event. My family arrived from Prague. My cousin flew out from Rochester. An aunt drove across the country. A friend flew in from the other coast. The other family was due to come in.

The boys were all wearing brightly colored t-shirts that had faux tuxedos emblazoned on them. The girls wore matching flower dresses. The chairs were arranged in the traditional two side formation. Petra and Rivka were the flower girls. They walked down the aisle first. Then went Lewis. Then Nicky. Here comes the bride emitted from a cellphone somewhere.

It went well. Lewis said some sweet stuff that nobody but Nicky could hear. Nicky explained how she does not regret marrying yet and what she likes about his “calm.”

People have casually asked me throughout our relationship about why I love you and I always respond without hesitation, “He’s calm.” After some confused looks and long pauses others may not see this as a big deal but to me it’s a big deal. It’s everything. You’re calm enough to hear me. You’re calm enough to have patience for me …

Personally, I still don’t get it.

But I gave a toast anyway.

Lewis’s dad gave a toast.

My cousin gave a toast and in the middle of it suddenly yanked up her dress to reveal an apron that said, “Grill Master” on it before yanking up that apron to reveal a second apron that said, “Mrs. Always Right.”

I didn’t see that coming. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anything like that before.

My mother called in a toast from Rochester.

It was a legit reception.

I felt needed.

I’m not getting emotionally woozy here but I’m hitting at the fundamental core of the perpetual travel experience. You can take a trip abroad for a few months, return, and slot yourself right back into your previous social role — you can leave your responsibilities and the degree to which people depend on you in tact. But when you stay on the road for years on end your role — your place in your tribe — disintegrates. People get used to you being away and they get used to you not being a part of their day to day existence. They stop depending on you because they know they can’t — you’re gone, estranged from responsibility by sheer distance — and you eventually find yourself on the outside of the social inner circle. They still like you, they still talk to you, but when it comes down to it they really don’t need you.

At one point in Montana my wife and I looked at each other and said, “Wow, we’re really needed here.”

It was a novel experience for both of us.


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Filed under: Celebrations, Family, Montana

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3719 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

2 comments… add one

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  • Rob August 11, 2018, 2:33 am

    “Really needed”… looks like it was a good time!

    Link Reply
    • Wade Shepard August 11, 2018, 2:51 pm

      Haha, yes, it definitely was. Hope to go back next year.

      Link Reply