On Life

My Obsession with Barn Weddings Continues

I designed our wedding invitations and had them printed to open like barn doors. This is a rendering of the barn where we held our wedding reception.

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DISCLAIMER: Please forgive the quality of the photos today. I took pictures through the plastic of our wedding albums. I love you all, but not enough to take them out of their sleeves and destroy my albums. The quality of the actual photographs is gorgeous. 🙂

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On November 1, 1997, my husband and I tied the knot in a small, quaint Methodist church in Arnold, Maryland (outside of Annapolis), and then held our reception in the Ulmstead Barn–a barn in my parents’ neighborhood. I’d always imagined having the reception there; there was something romantic and nostalgic about hosting our family and friends in a unique place that not everyone has access to (you can only rent the barn if you live in the neighborhood).

Asbury United Methodist Church…before the reception.

However, there was one problem: it was a functioning barn with horses on the ground floor, and on the top level, there were two rooms that could function as space for a reception. But that was it. We had to bring everything in to make it work. But I was up for the challenge, was an avid reader of Martha Stewart Weddings, and had an idea of how I could make it feel like the final scene in “White Christmas” (which my dad later told me the reception reminded him of that movie).

The barn had no air conditioning, and so we felt safe picking November 1. It rained and it was warm that day–not at all what we had expected. But nevertheless, it came together, albeit that we were all little toastier than we thought we would be.

I had visited a farm outside of York, PA, and picked all of my plants, pumpkins, gourdes, etc. which would be used as decorations for the event. My bridesmaids and I lined the stairs in bacopa plants and white lights. We strung white lights throughout the room, decorated the fireplace with fall colors, and put white linens on every table. People’s placecards were mini-pumpkins with their names on them as they entered the barn on the main level. It definitely had the feel of a rustic, fall, quaint barn wedding, and many of my huband’s relatives who were used to big, extravagant weddings in hotels in New Jersey said it was the most intimate and sweet wedding reception they had attended.

I took it as a great compliment.

The ground level of the barn where you entered through the double doors. You had to go up to the second floor to the reception rooms. We decorated the stairs and entryway with all of the fresh plants from the farm and gave them all away at the end of the night.
The cake cutting in the cocktail/dancing side of the barn.
This was the dinner side of the barn. Tables were set up with white twinkle lights and Italian food was served.
This was where we held the cocktail hour and dancing; the two rooms were connected by double doors that we left open for flow.

Today, with Pinterest and Instagram, two social media platforms that didn’t exist back then (I was tearing things out of magazines and Googling, but there wasn’t anything like those!), people can get all kinds of amazing ideas for weddings. And barn weddings seem to be quite popular. My cousin Lizzy also was married and had her reception in a barn. It was stunning.

As I have begun to draft a sequel to Inn Significant and am playing around with the idea of a barn on the site of the Inn which will hold weddings and parties, I have done a lot of research on barns and barn weddings via Pinterest and the Internet. Also having written a textbook on Event Planning (Event Planning: Communicating Theory & Practice published by Kendall-Hunt) with my colleagues and friends Chip and Leeanne, I have a lot of experience in event planning from my days working at the Baltimore Orioles doing large-scale event planning, along with masterminding my own wedding from start to finish, I think I may be able to bring realistic touches to my novel.

And so, I continue to be obsessed with barn weddings. You see, it doesn’t go away just because my own wedding happened almost 20 years ago. And now I can take that love and roll it into fictional storytelling and make it exactly how I want it.

It’s good to be a writer. 🙂

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Decorated the outside for the wedding.

Some of my current favorite barn venues for weddings include these three…

The White Sparrow Barn, Texas
Long Ridge Farm, Kentucky
The Rustic Barn at Prairie Gardens, WI

Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

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On Life

Fiction Friday | A Not-So-Happy Story of Love

For this week’s Fiction Friday, I used a prompt that asked us to write something we don’t normally write. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I’m a self-proclaimed hopeless romantic. I usually write stuff that ends happily. However, today I didn’t. Today’s prompt asked me to write something about two people that doesn’t end well–that they do not end up together.

I have to admit, I just wrote this, and I’m depressed now. It’s like I want to go back and and change the ending, but I’m not allowing myself to. This time I’m allowing the characters who have been married for a while to not have a happy ending.

I don’t like it, but I hope you do.

The Wedding | 722 words

churchMegan could only see part of the back of Cecilia’s head. Therefore, she could only catch glimpses of half of the veil she helped construct. She was seated in the seventh pew of the church—an expansive, old-fashioned Catholic church with wooden pews, dim lighting, and shiny tiled floors that sparkled. Every noise, whether it was a cough, someone clearing his throat, or a child’s laughter, bounced off the massiveness of the cathedral ceiling. Unfortunately, the large man in front of her blocked her view of the altar. She gave up trying, and glanced at the Stations of the Cross, surveying them one by one, as they were positioned at each stained-glass window around the perimeter of the structure. The priest’s voice fluttered upward, enveloped by the beams, the archways, and the light. She felt the guilt churning, lurking deep within her. She sat five inches from Paul.

They by-passed the receiving line that gathered after the ceremony, and got in Paul’s new BMW. They were only there together because Cecelia and Evan asked them to be there. Evan was Paul’s best friend; Cecelia was hers, and had been for years. Since they’d left the house, not a word had passed between them. She’d gotten used to the silence, to only hearing her own thoughts as she rattled around in the quiet house. It’s amazing how much anger you can store up inside of you—and keep inside of you, she thought. Sometimes she wanted to scream; at other times she wanted to cry. She ran out of words. There were none left to say.

At the reception, they were seated at the same table, as few others knew the status of their crumbling—or rather exhausted—relationship. Nevertheless, today wasn’t about them, and they both did their best to smile and nod when talking to Cecelia and Evan’s guests. At no point in the evening did they look each other in the eyes. Why would they? Their eyes were nothing but empty, cold, and pathetic; they dripped with disgust. The rumble of conversation in the reception hall became dwarfed by the music as the band began to play.

Megan watched Cecelia move around the room with grace and fluidity. Was it only eight years ago that she had beamed the way Cecelia beamed now? Had she once been that happy? It was hard to fathom. Had he once looked at her with love and affection, with respect and admiration? Had they not promised…

He touched her hand, and she jumped.

“Dance?” Paul asked.

“You’re joking,” she said. He was looking at her in the eyes. She looked back.

“No,” he said, taking off his jacket and placing it on the back of the chair.

The expression that he’d worn on his face for the past few months, one mostly of frustration, gave way to a foreign expression she hadn’t quite seen before. She realized he had placed his hand back on hers, and they both got up from the table, his hand holding hers tightly now. They walked to the dance floor and crept toward the middle where many other happier couples were enjoying the music.

She couldn’t remember the last time she’d touched him, and yet they’d lived under the same roof for years, and even during these last months when she slept in the guest room, she hadn’t come closer than two feet from him.

Megan felt his hand lightly touch her back, and then he pressed her closer. She could smell his cologne, something she hadn’t smelled on his body in…months?

Their bodies moved together in sync, the band’s music forcing them both to remember to step, sway, and turn. At one point, he took her hand and twirled her. They both laughed. She hated him. Detested him.

Cecelia caught a glimpse of Megan and Paul dancing and smiled. It was her wedding day, after all, and this pleased her.

When the song was over, people clapped for the band. Not Paul. Paul grabbed Megan’s hand, brought it to his lips, and kissed it. She saw tears in his eyes. She felt a lump build in her throat.

“I did what Cecelia and Paul asked,” he said. “But saying goodbye here and this way might be easiest,” he said.

She did not reply. She stared at him, and he back at her.

He went to the table and grabbed his jacket off of the chair. She watched him walk toward the double doors. He stopped just as he reached them and paused. She caught herself holding her breath.

Then his hand touched the handle, and he was gone.

On Life

Random (And I Do Mean Random) Thoughts

I haven’t blogged in over a week, and I was thinking about all the different things on which I could write a blog post. Instead of one focused topic, I decided to go the route of all the random thoughts that have come in and out of my head over the last week. They are as follows:

Random Thought #1 : James Corden is Hilarious

James CordonI first got to know James Corden when he played Keira Knightley’s best friend in “Begin Again.” I think he’s hilarious and charming. Then, this week, I saw the clip of Corden and Stevie Wonder singing in the car together, and that sent me over the edge. I love British humor, and he’s just about the most adorable British guy out there right now.

Random Thought #2 : If I Were A Political Candidate

If I were a political candidate right now, I would find a platform that many people could associate with and back and build my campaign on that. Shouting campaign slogans such as, “You’ll never have to hear about the Kardashians again,” or “I’m lowering taxes because everyone has a right to afford SJP’s new line of shoes at Bergdorf,” or “There will be no more backups ever on the Interstate, especially on the Baltimore and D.C. betlways,” might be things people could get behind. Finding some new and exciting promises might put a candidate over the top.

Random Thought #3: Weddings Bring Out the Best In People

I just got back from my cousin’s wedding in beautiful Charleston, SC. Not only was the bride stunning, the groom handsome, and the setting picture perfect, but the whole of the event brings out the best in people. Namely, it can bring out the best in long-time marriages, for it reminds you of why you married your spouse in the first place. It’s a great time to reconnect and remember.

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The beautiful bride and groom.

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My husband and me at the wedding.

Random Thought #4: I’ve Gotten Over My “Fear” of Flying

Recently, I’ve had to take some trips for school and have had to a travel a little bit otherwise. While I used to get very anxious being cooped up on a plane (it wasn’t the flying that bothered me as much as the claustrophobia), I’ve become a much better traveler. Bottom line: If you want to see the world, you must fly. End of story.

Random Thought #5: I’m Not Really Sure What to Say at My Upcoming Book Talk at the Baltimore Book Festival

The kind folks at the Baltimore Book Festival offered me the opportunity to speak for a half an hour on Sunday at Book Fest. I am so honored and flattered to do so. However, I am not sure how to structure my talk, so this week, I’ll be hunkering down and figuring that out. I surely don’t want to bore anyone…

BooksBookFest

Random Thought #6: I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie

My husband bought this pillow for me in Charleston. For obvious reasons, I really love it.

BigBooks

Random Thought #7: Charleston Is A Very Beautiful Place

My husband and I got a little time to stroll Charleston, and it’s as pretty as I remembered it being when I last visited. It boasts Southern charm, lovely scenery, good eats, and friendly people. Not too soon after our plane landed, we headed for Hominy Grill, a restaurant we had dined in when I was pregnant with our first child. I got this mug on that trip, and it was great to go back. The Fried Green Tomatoes were the best I’ve ever eaten and the Shrimp & Grits weren’t too bad, either.

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Random Thought #8: My ‘Book Club Babes’ and Other Friends Rock

Last Friday I hosted book club at my house. I turned 50 back in August, and it was a total surprise when I opened the door and found my friends standing before me with roses, black balloons (yes, ha-ha, very funny), and cards, as they recited a birthday poem to me. I am very lucky to have found so many sweet and considerate new friends over the last couple of years, from my supper club friends who celebrated with me the night before my birthday, neighborhood friends, and my book club friends, not to mention my long-time friends who took me out for a night of fun. Thanks to all of you. You made turning 50 delightful.

Roses

SCFriends

OsFriends

That’s all folks. Hope you have a great week. And if you feel like it, visit me at the Baltimore Book Festival on Sunday, September 27. I’ll be raffling off some books and a pair of tickets to an Orioles game.

On Life

Five Random Thoughts on Weddings, Fastballs, Brownies, Curses and Queen

HermitageMuseumRandom Thought #1–Weddings Bring Out The Best in People
Last Sunday, my husband and I traveled to Norfolk, Virginia, for our friends’ wedding. Despite the pouring rain and flooding in Norfolk, the wedding in a tent at the Hermitage Museum was a lovely end to the weekend. It’s always heartwarming to see two people come together and forge a new life as a couple. There is a renewed sense of hope, love hangs in the air, and guests can’t help but wear smiles on their faces as they wish for nothing but happiness for the bride and groom. Over the course of a few hours, I enjoyed meeting the other people who were at our assigned table—an international one of sorts—a couple from Italy, a woman from the Middle East, others from Virginia, and we, of course, from the Baltimore area. There was lots of laughter and storytelling, and although you sit at a table among those you’ve never met before, you become fast friends because you have a common connection: the bride and groom. Events like this bring out the best in people. I love that about weddings.
OrtizRandom Thought #2—Don’t Throw A Fastball Down the Middle to Big Papi in the Playoffs
I don’t know what Joaquin Benoit of the Detroit Tigers was thinking on Sunday night as he threw a fastball down the middle with the bases loaded to David Ortiz. It was a big mistake and cost Detroit its 5-1 lead. The Tigers ended up losing 6-5 in the ninth inning. Maybe try a breaking ball next time, Joaquin.
GhirardelliRandom Thought #3—Undercooked Ghirardelli Brownies Rule
Once you’ve had Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownies, you will never want another brownie again. The trick, my friends, is to back that bake time down by about 5-7 minutes. They are far better slightly undercooked, and when you bring them to an event, they actually might be gone in 5-7 minutes. Gooey-er is bett-er.
IrishCurse
Random Thought #4—Curses, Foiled Again! (Or Not.)
A friend of mine put this Irish Curse on Facebook the other day, and I laughed and laughed and laughed. Perhaps one of my characters will put a curse on someone…or at least I’ll let you think it was the dastardly act of one of my characters, and not that of the writer.

WeWillRockYou

Random Thought #5—Queen Still Rocks

Sometimes I don’t want to know anything about a Broadway show before I go see it. It often impacts how I perceive it. Therefore, last night, to my delightful surprise, “We Will Rock You,” a musical based on the songs by Freddie Mercury and Queen, rocked all of us at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore. The collection of songs put to a wacky, off-the-wall story (much like “Mamma Mia!”) did not fail to entertain. It made my friend Elizabeth and me laugh, tap our feet, feel like 80s chicks again, and giggle at the woman next to us—a bleached blonde who obviously loved the music of Queen.

The only thing missing was her lighter.