Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Snapshots of a small-town wedding day May 10, 2011

TWENTY-NINE YEARS ago this coming Sunday, my husband and I were married in my hometown of Vesta, a place marked, like so many other prairie towns, by grain elevators and the water tower and a one-block-long main street.

Our wedding reception was held at the community hall, an unassuming, nothing-fancy brick building with a stage, wood floors and military uniforms encased in glass. HyVee in Marshall, 20 miles away, catered a chicken dinner as wedding guests pulled up metal folding chairs to rectangular tables angled under crepe paper streamers and white tissue paper wedding bells.

Thoughts of our small-town wedding lingered this past weekend as our nephew Matt married Amber at Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church in Foley. The reception was held in Duelm, a cluster of homes, a church and a restaurant attached to a new event center, smack dab in the middle of the country about 10 miles to the south and west.

There were no crepe paper streamers here or folding chairs or military uniforms. We dined at round tables draped in white cloths and decorated with centerpieces of swimming goldfish and floating candles. (One fish, I should mention here, wiggled between the candle and the vase rim and leaped onto a table.)

While weddings and receptions have gotten much fancier than the simple rural weddings of decades past, some traditions remain unchanged.

Members of the wedding party and guests still decorate the bridal vehicle. That is where I focused my attention Saturday after the wedding service and before the bridal couple emerged from the church.

First I watched the attendants and others decorate the vehicle with words and balloons and beer cans.

Then I watched the kids check out the Durango from afar…

move in close for a peek inside…

eye the Michelob Golden Draft Light beer cans tied to the vehicle rear…

and, finally, enthusiastically, engage in a pick-up game of Kick the (beer) Can.

They had no idea I was photographing them in a perfect moment of childhood play and wedding tradition in a small, central Minnesota town.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling