TWIST ON TRADITION
Each wedding is unique. Every wedding has meaning. But some couples draw from shared or individual histories and culture to give their special day a deeper meaning.
Some decide to integrate their talents, as one Hancock groom who called upon an old talent to serenade his fiance did. Others look to their heritage for a bit of traditional flavor, like a Harrisville couple who bought Filipino wedding outfits in honor of the bride’s native country.
When weddings incorporate the personalities and pasts of the bride and groom, the ceremony can come to hold a deeper meaning for both the couple and their guests.
Raisa and John
When Raisa Lawrence began her walk to become Mrs. John West, she didn’t start at the foot of the church aisle. She started from the Hancock home she shared with her soon-to-be husband. Dressed in muck boots, wedding gown and a shawl she had designed and made herself, she and John walked down the street to the Hancock Meetinghouse, waving and smiling to the drivers who honked “good luck.” The two were married in March.
Raisa, who owns RaisaAntonia, a fine art textiles company, knew right away when her fiance proposed while on a trip to Paris that she wanted to design an element of her wedding outfit. Her mother warned her against trying to make the entire dress, since she and John were planning a short engagement, so Raisa settled on designing the shawl.
“I wanted to have something unique and personal incorporated into the dress, without it taking it over or becoming distracting,” Raisa said.
Then it was time to make the walk down the aisle. It was a small gathering, with only close family in attendance. At the alter stood John, playing an instrument he hadn’t had much interaction with since he was 18 years old: his violin.
“I hadn’t played the violin in 30 years. It was important to Raisa and it was important to me, because it was a representation of another part of me,” said John. “Something about me having grown up and having spent so much time around music and playing the violin. It was almost a part of me from the past, something she hadn’t been able to experience because she didn’t know me when we were younger. It was a feeling of ‘I want to see all of you at the wedding, not just who you are now.’”
The marriage was small and intimate. A second marriage for the both of them, Raisa and John wanted something that really focused on the relationship they had with each other, and not any of the frills that often come with more elaborate weddings.
As John said, “It was about being very specific on the small details. Like the shawl, like the violin. Even just quality time, families getting to know each other have time to sit and find out about each other.”
Tim and Allie
When Allie Houlihan Conway and Tim Conway of Lyndeborough first met five years ago, they somehow knew it was something special. Tim even kept some of the Chiclets chewing gum Allie had given him that night as a memento. The two were introduced by Allie’s mother, who knew Tim from the time they both worked at Francestown Elementary School. Allie and Tim connected for the first time during a educator’s outing, and when some members of the group decided to take the party on to Harlow’s Pub in Peterborough, Allie and Tim transitioned seamlessly from their first meeting to their first date. The date was Oct. 19, 2007.
That’s a day that holds a lot of meaning for the couple, because four years later, to the day, Tim took Allie back to Harlow’s, armed with one of his memento Chiclets and an antique ring. Things didn’t quite go as planned — the romantic setup with twinkling lights in the trees didn’t quite come off as planned because of the downpour. But the wet weather didn’t stop Tim from getting down on one knee or Allie from accepting.
“It was very dramatic, but it all worked out,” said Tim. “I think it makes it better when stuff like that happens.”
Then, when it came time to pick the wedding venue, they settled on Stonewall Farm in Keene. As an educator, Tim liked that a portion of the proceeds would go towards education, and it seemed fitting that the only fall date left available was Oct. 19.
“It was kind of fate,” said Allie. It was a story that their justice of the peace told during their wedding ceremony, said Tim, since the two wanted to let their friends and family know their journey up to the altar.
Both being of Irish heritage, Allie and Tim decided to work some Celtic elements into their ceremony. Before their vows, Allie and Tim participated in a handfasting ceremony, part of a Celtic wedding ritual. The couple tied their hands together with ribbons in their wedding colors, to represent their families, and a hanky that had once belonged to Allie’s great-grandmother. Together, the elements tying their hands symbolized the entwining of their individual lives. Their parents each read a Celtic blessing at the wedding, too.
Allie and Tim wanted to honor their heritage, but also their home they had made together. While the wedding ceremony had touches of their Irish heritage, their reception had a lot of hints of home. Their guest book was a slice of tree ring, from a tree cut down in their backyard, which now hangs in their home as a decoration. Instead of rice, guests threw leaves Allie had gathered from the yard.
“We really wanted to incorporate both,” said Allie. “Where we’re from and where we are.”
David and Lina
When David Blair and Lina Hervas had their first wedding, it was a small affair in May 2008 at the home of a friend who is a pastor, with just a few witnesses. It was mostly a ceremony to jumpstart Lina’s naturalization process. She is from the Philippines. The second and third times, however, were a bit more of a party.
In December 2008, while the Monadnock region was caught in the throws of clean up from a devastating ice storm, David and Lina were in the Philippines having their second wedding — this one was really a reflection of Lina’s heritage and Filipino wedding traditions. Although Lina had never been interested in marrying when she was younger, her mother had saved for years and given Lina the money when she died, so Lina could buy a wedding dress. When the couple went to purchase their wedding clothes, traditional Filipino fabric made from fine pineapple fiber, Lina’s mother’s savings was precisely enough to purchase not only Lina’s dress, but David’s wedding clothes and those of their wedding party as well.
During their ceremony, Lina was carried in on a “duyan,” a bamboo hammock. As she came in, David sang her a love song in Tagalog, a national language of the Philippines. Their reception was almost like a street festival, recalled Blair, with common street food like bibingka, a type of rice cake, sorbetes, a kind of desert, and lechon, a suckling pig on a spit.
“We were serving real fiesta food, so it really felt like a festive tradition and fun,” said David.
The couple wasn’t done yet. Having had a wedding that included Lina’s friends and family, they then wanted to include their New Hampshire family as well. So in October 2009, they had a third wedding at the Harris Center in Hancock. Some elements they kept the same — they wore their Filipino outfits. David sang his song in Tagalog. But they incorporated many of the cultures of their friends when it came to the food. The late Hiroshi Hayashi, former owner of Latacarta Restaurant in Peterborough, brought in Japanese food, while Juliet Ermintano of the Maplehurst Inn in Antrim provided Filipino food, another friend brought Cambodian food, and they even had a fresh cider press as a nod to the New England region.
David explained their eclectic choices, saying, “We really wanted to honor the different traditions of the people that we are close to.”