Watermelon Wedding


Jesse and Rylee got engaged back in March. I saw it posted on Rylee’s Instagram. So when I saw them at Wendy’s, I offered my congratulations. And my standard “Watermelon Wedding” proposal, which is partly social commentary and partly Dad Joke. I’ve been floating the idea for more than a decade, without finding any takers. But that didn’t stop me from sharing the standard offer:

“I know that there are a lot of moving pieces, when it comes to planning and preparing for a wedding. But I just want to encourage you that it only has to be as complicated as you want it to be. You’ve got more power than you think you have. So you don’t have to cave in to all of the pressures of the Wedding Industrial Complex. The law requires you to submit some paperwork at the county courthouse, but if you get that taken care of I would be glad to serve as the officiant for your wedding in the park of your choosing on the date of your choosing. And I’ll even bring along a watermelon to serve as refreshment for whatever guests you choose to invite — so I can be both your officiant and your caterer!”

Sometimes I add that I’d be willing to pick a bouquet of whatever wild vegetation happens to be in season at the time, so I can add “florist” to the portfolio. Or offer to take pictures with the camera on my phone, to be “photographer” as well. But generally, it’s all just offered and received with smiles and nods. Valuable reminders left in the realm of the rhetorical…

Until Jesse and Rylee took me up on my offer.

Wedding for Jesse Setliff and Rylee Crowley

Maybe a week after our Wendy’s conversation, Jesse and Rylee said they wanted to talk. So we talked. And they said they didn’t want to wait until they could save up tens of thousands of dollars to throw the Big White Wedding. They just wanted to start their lives together. And even after considerable poking and prodding, their rationale checked out with my understanding of a wedding: that it’s much more about the start of a marriage relationship than the conclusion of a wedding event. And since Jesse and Rylee were ready to make sincere-and-serious promises to each other and to God, why wait?!?

We started with premarital counseling right away: four weekly sessions, in quick succession. They got their marriage license from the county courthouse. And then they decided to book a local church sanctuary, instead of a park. They also decided that they would rather get lunch at Laziza in downtown Kent, instead of watermelon. Still, they kept their guest list minimal (I was one of seventeen people, including the bride and groom!). A couple of the other guests doubled as photographer and videographer. The family graciously invited me to join them for lunch, but I said I’d prefer to be excused. So it only took about an hour and a half from the time that I started putting on my suit to the time that I put it back in my closet and went back to my Saturday.

It was amazing.

It wasn’t technically a “Watermelon Wedding,” since they went for a restaurant instead of my catering services. But it definitely had a “Watermelon Wedding” spirit. And I wonder if their wedding could be a hopeful model that other couples might follow. Jesse and Rylee say they might still choose to have a big party with friends and extended family to celebrate their first anniversary, or their third anniversary, or whatever. Much like what we typically think of as a “wedding,” which they can scale as big or as small as they want. And if they choose to invite me to such an anniversary celebration, I already know what I’m going to bring for either the dinner table or the gift table: a watermelon.

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