So here’s what I learned. Tough roller-derby girls cry.
And there is a place called Iceland that is so magical and otherworldly that even while you’re still in it you find yourself asking, “Is this a dream?”
Buffy cried so much during the hours leading up to her wedding – writing her vows, writing her toasts to her guests, thinking about the 13 years with this boy and how they have been filled with so much love, laughter, adventure and personal growth.
Buffy and Ben share a common bond in that both of them lost both parents at a young age. But just like Ben, Buffy has amassed a family of her own choosing over the years. There are the neighbors Coral, Ted, Tess and Carmel, whom she and Mike spend most of their time with – so much so that for the family group photos, they are who Buffy posed with for her family shot. The morning of the wedding, Coral and Tess gathered wildflowers and crafted a hairpiece for Buffy – totally as a surprise. That brought more tears.
There is Buffy’s roller-derby bestie Bobbi and Bobbi’s husband Jay, the one with the long red hair. Bobbi is capable of bench-pressing each of us, yet she is also the one Buffy turns to for tenderness, girl talk, and hugs. They kiss on the lips and say I love you, and tear up when talking about their friendship. It’s moving to witness.
There’s Kate and Cameron, wedding clients turned friends who lasted longer than anyone else during the wedding-night afterparty. There’s Marshall and Jamie, who also gathered wildflowers to make Buffy’s wedding bouquet. There’s Linda Ha, a hair and makeup artist whom everyone insists on calling by her full name, and who has become one of Buffy’s closet friends. There’s Jo, mistress of all things outdoors. And there’s Aaron, who entertained us all at dinner with stories of cats and Star Wars.
In addition to Buffy and Mike’s chosen family, they were also lucky to have Mike’s actual family there – parents, sister Kristine and her boyfriend Kalli, and sister Stephanie and her husband Matthew. Mike’s parents cried alongside everyone else as we all witnessed this moving ceremony by the huge waterfall in this place that has become Buffy and Mike’s favorite-of-all-places.
We all listened intently to the words delivered by the Icelandic priestess, drank from the bull horn, had an adorable quaint dinner inside the Hotel Djupavik, then stayed up till 2 or 3 a.m. dancing outside by the water under the midnight sun (the sun never goes down in Iceland in the summer). And during the days before and after, we adventured. Hikes into the clouds, fishing and puffin-watching, swimming in hot springs (and, for some, swimming in the ice-cold North Atlantic Ocean, only 30 kilometers from the Arctic Circle).
Buffy and Mike chose Iceland for their wedding because they have a long history there. Buffy’s grandparents were from Iceland and owned a farm there; Mike’s sister Kristine lives there; and any time Buffy and Mike have time to vacation, it’s to Iceland. They keep trying to go to other places, but Iceland continues to call them back.
I still look at our photos and wonder “Did all of that really happen?” It’s an experience I wish we could return to again and again. I love all of those people, and I love that place. Fortunately, Buffy and Mike were already our friends for years before they asked us to photograph their wedding. So we will always be able to return to them.
And if the photos aren’t sufficient to let us relive that week, we also have our videographer Vlad Chaloupka’s film. Here is a brief glimpse into why this place is so magnetic, and why this wedding will forever be a favorite: Buffy and Mike’s Iceland Wedding Video