Normal Guy Meets Celebrity Wedding
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First dog watch, 1 bell (4:44 pm)

As an essentially normal, anonymous guy I go day-to-day doing my thing: I go to work, do family stuff, I have hobbies, etc. Last weekend I had the unusual honor to attend the celebrity wedding of Julianne Hough (she is my wife's cousin) and Brooks Laich. So I thought I'd write down my experience with the whole process.

Some Background:
I first met Julianne several years back at a family event in Coeur d'Alene. She and Derek were both there. They were both already famous. In fact when I married my wife in 2005 Julianne wasn't the big star she became in later years. So I'd hear things from time to time. I heard she was a dancer on some show William Shatner did, which I thought was cool. I mean come on, he's Captain Kirk!

Fast forward a few years and she's quite popular. People know my wife is her cousin, and would ask me about her but I couldn't say anything but "I don't know, I've never met her!" Bruce (my wife's uncle and Julianne's father) would fly into town now and then but we'd always hear about it the next day (or later) or it'd be a drop-of-the-hat thing like "hey we're all going out to dinner right now, want to come?" And I'm sure there were several times that the "famous cousins" came that I'm just not aware of. But the first time I remember meeting them was at their grandparents' anniversary party (I think it was their 60th). They have a place on Lake Coeur d'Alene that all the family gatherings tend to center around. Julianne came in on a speedboat and gave me a hug. Incidentally, that was the day I tore my achilles tendon, walking up the hill back to my car.

When Grandpa Bob passed away a few years later, I met Julianne and her fiancé Brooks Laich and I talked with Brooks for a while. He was a cool guy, and I told him some of the nightmare stories from my wedding (not that I was trying to scare him or anything, mostly just laughing at the sheer enormity of things that went wrong).

So, on to the experience:
We received a "Save the Date" card in the mail a couple of months before the wedding, announcing that the date would be July 8th 2017, but that there would be a fun day at the lake on the 7th. No other information. Except they misspelled "Coeur d'Alene", and also my wife's name on the invitation (they transposed the "ie" in "Lorien", in fact it was that was on the formal invitation and the dinner seating as well).

Since it was a somewhat embarrassing spelling error, about a week or two later we received another card with the same everything except the spelling was corrected.

The Invitation:
On about May 23, 2017 we received her official invitation in the mail, and it was…wow. The postage alone was almost $5. It was a big thick envelope, and contained a frosted acrylic invitation printed in gold letters, a leather-type (still not sure of the material) printed with the "Beach and Sun" day info, a wooden laser-cut image of Lake Coeur d'Alene, and a RSVP card. Here are some pictures of the invitation:

So, not much information. One of our first questions was "what is 'summer black tie'?" Our best guess was like regular black tie, but with lighter colors and materials. Even Google had no good answer for this. I rented a gray tuxedo mainly because I didn't want to be the "country cousin" showing up in a Sunday jacket and tie and feel underdressed (and I'm still glad I did this, though there were people much less put-together than I would have been had I not).

One of our biggest complaints was that we just didn't know how long things would go? So the Beach day had a start time to get on the boat and lunch would be provided so we had some assumptions but just didn't really know what to expect. I think the dearth of information was to keep things under wraps and away from the press and paparazzi (they still showed up anyway).

Beach Day:
We put on our swimming clothes and walked down to the Cd'A Resort boardwalk and boarded one of the cruise boats (the Osprey if I recall correctly) and still had no more information about when we were coming back. On the way there they mentioned we would be returning around 5pm. They also told us there were gift bags for all guests and we could pick them up later if we hadn't gotten them yet. It was the opposite of every wedding I've been to in that the bride and groom gave gifts to the attendees, and we were told we should donate to their favorite charity (Water Wells for Africa) in lieu of bringing wedding gifts. We were also informed of the strict No-Social-Media policy, and to leave our phones behind and enjoy the time together. (If their website is still online, you can see the details they later posted like the media policy and summer black tie guide).

I picked up my tuxedo at 10am, and with the final fitting my time crunch was on to get into town and on the boat by 11:30. So I force-marched my wife the six blocks or so in the 95 degree heat and we made it just in time. Or so we thought. There were so many others not there yet we didn't leave for another half hour.

There were several people at the dock, and we had to tell them who we were and they checked us against a list before they would let us on the boat. My company has done boat cruises down there before, and it was always good enough to tell them the name of the company we were with to get on, but not for this occasion. Knowledge of the party/what was going on was definitely not enough to get you on the boat.

Ten minutes or so after we boarded, I saw Aaron Paul board with his wife. More people kept showing up, and we eventually had everyone and left.

The boat ride was about an hour down the lake, to Julianne's neighbor's beach property. As we disembarked the boat, Julianne and Brooks greeted each of us personally with hugs. She also told us how she and Brooks were boating around the lake looking at houses, pulled up to one, got out and asked the owners if they could buy it from them (which they obviously did).

One of the event coordinators was at the end of the walkway to the lawn and beach, misting us with water from some spray bottles (did I mention it was hot out?). He was really enthusiastic. Guests flocked to the games, drinks, and beach areas pretty quickly. There were about 100 or more people there. They had a giant Jenga tower (with personally monogrammed blocks, no less), cornhole (a bag-toss game), croquet, and other games. There was a pickleball/tennis court as well. Once they announced lunch was ready, we lined up. Aaron Paul got in line right behind me, and I talked to him and shook his hand. He was a really chill guy, and talked to almost everyone. He was never stand-offish or unapproachable, and I really admire him for that. He was the opposite of Nina Dobrev, who, despite being there the whole time both days, was never approachable or reaching out to say hi to people she didn't know. Aaron Paul loved on all the babies there, too. Anybody that had an infant got his attention bigtime. It was really cool.

I only ate a light lunch (salad) since we were getting in the water. There was lots of food, and they had these fresh fruit cups that were full of perfectly ripe, sweet fruit. They were delicious. And fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies too. I mostly ended up swimming around, while many people played on the grass, on the beach, and in the water. There were paddleboards, paddleboats, kayaks, and this cool Aqua lily pad thing that people were wrestling and jumping all over. Aaron Paul took a fishing pole out to the end of the dock at one point to try his luck, but I didn't see him catch anything.

There were photographers there taking pictures and videos of everyone. They even had two quadcopters with cameras taking aerial photos and videos. At one point just before we left (and after some of us were all dried off from being in the water) they asked us to get in the water and take a group picture. My wife wasn't thrilled with doing that.

The trip back was uneventful. As we were leaving I tracked down the coordinator guy to get our gift bags and after looking us up on his clipboard, he said they were "out of Mormon bags" but would get us one tomorrow. Since many LDS family members were in attendance, gift bags without alcohol were also provided.

We were told to be at the Coeur d'Alene Resort lobby at 4:45pm the next day to take the bus to the wedding site, and afterward we would be bussed to the reception location.

The Wedding:
We took the bus onto the I-90 freeway, and then got off at Wolf Lodge. At this point we still had no idea where we were even going. The bus drove us around Mineral Ridge (a great hike with views of Beauty Bay by the way), and to this dirt road which was barely big enough for the bus to fit down. The bus stopped right at the end of the first building and parking area there and let us off. The house just ahead had some nice big shade trees, and the lawn was filling up with people. There was cold bottled water (thank goodness!), lemonade, and paper umbrellas (one of which my wife grabbed before they ran out). Once things were ready we walked down a path along a fence, past the pond, and down a brand new wooden walkway into the field where there were chairs set up for the ceremony. We sat in the second-to-last row on the right side if you're facing the front. The umbrella came in real handy here, as the sun was unmercifully hot. There were enough of them that I could barely see the stage area though. Their two dogs were ring-bearers. The ceremony was sweet, and two paper cannon fired bits of rectangular paper that spun as it fell through the air when they kissed.

The big bus somehow backed into the dirt parking area, so it could take the first group of people to the reception. Julianne and Brooks left in a car. Most of the main wedding party and anyone that pushed their way through the crowd got on the first bus, much to their future dismay. As the bus pulled out of the dirt road onto highway 97, the rear right tires went into the ditch and the bus high-centered itself across both lanes of the road. The rear right tires were now hanging in the air and the chassis was lying on the asphalt road. This blocked both north- and south-bound traffic for a couple of hours. Fortunately a couple of years ago the city finished building Burma Road, which crossed over a portion of the hill and traffic could detour around via that road. Some people in pickups and jeeps drove through the ditch and past the bus. One girl in a jeep did so, then stopped after she passed the wedding party and saw Derek and probably squeed. Most women squee at him, I'm sure he gets that a lot. Anyway, he was out on the east side of the bus with all the bridesmaids, taking pictures of them pretending to hitchhike. I don't know if he published that picture, but it may be floating out there.

So they had a few smaller buses come and pick people up (by this time we walked to the end of the road to see what was going on). One of the first buses to leave backed right into someone, we heard the plastic crunchy sound while we were walking out, and I cringed but was glad this was "not my circus, not my monkeys" to deal with. Eventually the bus came back and took more of us until we were all at the reception.

The Reception:

The location was in the grassy area near here, off Highway 97 South of Coeur d'Alene. It was really pretty close to the wedding location, and given all the trouble we could have walked there quicker than the bus got us there. The sun was just starting to set, it was probably around 8:30pm when we got to the reception, which was in full swing well before we arrived. The hors d'oeuvres were amazing, and I will never forget the crispy pork belly strawberry things (I know, it sounds weird but man they were delicious!). There was a photo station where a gentleman with an epic moustache manned a camera and the pictures went into the guest album, where we could write a little note to the happy couple. It was a great idea. There was a giant steel plasma-cutout of Lake Coeur d'Alene with keys hanging all over it. Guests each had a key with their name on them, and a "name" of a table at which they were to sit. Ours was "courage," which was exactly opposite where the wedding party sat. We were pretty much as far away as you could be, and couldn't even see the bride or groom during the dinner 🙂

There were at least 200 people at the reception, which was more than were at the wedding even. I'm not even sure where they all came from because I really didn't think that many people were there.

The area had lights strung on poles and was very beautiful. Until the sun went down and the gnats came out in force. They flocked to the lights and just about everything else. They flew into your drink and food if you weren't careful. There were piles of dead ones by each of the poles, where they died from the heat of the lights and fell to the ground. Literally piles of them. When my wife's uncle Scott's wife unplugged some from their sockets which were directly behind her (so there would be fewer gnats crawling all over her) a guy actually came by to replace the lights because they were off. He said it was his job to keep them all lit until Stacy (Scott's wife) explained why they were off. He couldn't argue with that reason.

The food was delicious, and the staff were amazing. I truly can't say enough about them. They were awesome. I had beef short ribs in a soy sauce reduction that was to die for. There was also a salad course, some green beans and wild mushrooms, potatoes, etc. All the food was good, really. Once the main meal was over, the first dance got going. And believe me, going to a reception for someone that is famous for dancing is intimidating. It was quite a while before Lorien and I got on the dance floor. As their first dance was ending, a barge shot off a fireworks display that would do a small town justice. It was great. Plus, it was a great excuse for the cops to run off the paparazzi that were sitting in a boat just off the shore taking pictures of everything. They had to clear out because it would be dangerous to stay. The dance floor was gorgeous, like an antique mirror-looking finish. I didn't care for the DJ, he did these really weird, long transitions between songs that didn't work well. And he played some straight-up gangster rap dropping "motherf???er" bombs allllll over the place. Not very classy if you ask me, especially where younger children were present. That was a memorable cringe-moment for me, I would never have let that happen were I in charge of something like that.

Before they "cut the cake" it was noticed that the wedding cake on display was covered in gnats. The lights pointing at it, and the white frosting, yeah they were beacons to the gnats. Fortunately they didn't use that cake. The cake we were brought came from the food service tent and was gnat-free (at least until it was delivered). If you see a picture of their cake it was either before the gnats got to it, or they were photoshopped out because man they were everywhere.

There was a candy station, where you could get these little bags filled with chocolates and such. They had these delicious peach gummies that were amazing, and I don't really even care for peach flavor that's how good they were. The dance floor was packed for quite a while (obviously), and we hung out watching and talking with others. We went out and danced on a little corner at one point for a couple of songs. We also danced back in the grass when a David Bowie song came on and my wife really wanted to dance again. Around 11:45pm or so, to our complete surprise, one of the wait staff came up and asked us if we would like some truffle oil garlic french fries. They were in little Chinese take-out boxes, and they were heavenly! Something else I won't ever forget. Ten minutes later, they were going around distributing cheeseburger sliders. A little after midnight and they had mini grilled cheese sandwiches! The food was lit, fam, I tell you what.

At one point, Aaron Paul walked past my wife and I on the way toward the dance floor, he stopped and told he she looked beautiful and gave her a hug. Again, what a cool guy.

The first bus left around 10:30pm taking the early people home. But there were families with babies and really old ladies staying until that party ended. We were on what was supposed to be the last bus that left a little after 1am, but there were still so many people they needed another bus.

Both days, Julianne wore several different outfits. I barely noticed, but my wife told me afterward how many different bathing suits or dresses she was in. I guess she'd duck out, change into something else for a while, then continue to party.

There was a bar of course, and it was certainly busy. Being teetotalers we didn't use it except to get some bottled water and a juice drink one time that was super watered down and wasn't worth a second go.

On the bus to go home, we mentioned to Scott how we never did get gift bags, and he jumped off the bus and grabbed some for us because he knew where they were. We got the non-LDS bags (I think the difference was they had a small bottle of tequila, a margarita mix, and some hangover cure pills. We gave those to some coworkers the next Monday) because that was apparently all that was left. There was also a small box with a candle, matches, and some "champagne bears" (champagne-flavored gummy bears), a light blanket, and a sleep mask with lavender-scented aromatherapy spray.

This whole experience was something else. I try to sum up what a "celebrity wedding" is like now by saying: take a really well put-together wedding, then turn it up to 11. The food was stellar, and must have cost a small fortune. I will seriously never forget it. It was beautiful. Everything happened at a different location. Transportation was arranged. There were four or five people that ran things, busy most of the time just making sure things went smoothly. And not the mother or father of the bride either. These were dedicated people, like employees almost. In fact I wouldn't be surprised to hear that they were hired specifically to run things. They kept it going despite the bus problem, the crash, and the gnats 🙂 They worked hard to make it run smooth and it showed. So besides the food and the team of coordinators, there was an awesome fireworks show and an amazing dance floor. Oh, and the dearth of information. Seriously, we weren't told anything more than the bare necessities. It was like a spy movie where they say it's "need to know, and you don't." So much information was under wraps. Yet the paparazzi still found the beach day, the wedding location, and the reception. I don't know how that happened

I heard from more than one person that the portable restrooms were the nicest they'd ever seen. I never used one. It was so hot out, despite drinking bottles and bottles of water I never felt the need. But they were supposedly extremely fancy for a portapotty.


2 Responses to “Normal Guy Meets Celebrity Wedding”

  1. Melody says:

    Thanks for the tale, Jacob! Next spring I will hunt up mushrooms and let's co-op on the redux! It sounded amazing!

  2. Scurvy Jake says:

    My wife is a member of the North Idaho Mycological Society, she loves hunting for mushrooms!

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