Lauren and Django’s wedding in Saxapaphaw, North Carolina

A few weeks ago I was a bridesmaid in the wedding of one of my closest high school friends.

Lauren came on my radar in 8th grade, but she hung with a way cooler crowd than I did. That was the year we had speech together, and this one guy and I were always debating her and her partner — this kind of goth, bone-crusher grrl that I’m pretty sure had a crush Lauren. We were on opposite ends of every social and political spectrum, but even though Lauren made me angry, I was intimidated by how cool she was. (Ok, so maybe I had a crush, too. The whole school did. That same year, she was voted Miss Rosa Scott.)

Lauren was also this big classic-lit nerd, which was perplexing, because this was pre-internet-subculture-glorification, and nerd was not at all synonymous with cool in mid-90’s Madison, MS. A few years later, we ended up sitting next to each other in Civics, and I’d already realized that back in those 8th grade debates, she’d been on the right side of things way more than I had, even though I had ended up winning the award for highest grade out of all the speech classes (now who’s a nerd?), and so of course, we became inseparable. And I’ll second what another bridesmaid said during a toast — Lauren is the easiest friend I’ve ever had. She’s smart, analytical, quirky, self-composed and gracious.

Lauren and Django got married in front of a rusty wall on packed dirt, yet it was intimate, beautiful and ridiculously fun – 100% their vision. Lauren planned the whole shindig with only last minute help (I think they got a wedding coordinator a few days before the event — maybe she came with the venue?). They had the ceremony and reception at this reclaimed mill turned art space near Durham, NC, where they live. Lauren teaches at UNC Chapel Hill, where she’s finishing up her PhD in Renaissance Lit, and Django’s a local rock star, and not just because he speaks fluent Mandarin and makes Lauren happy.

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The rehearsal dinner was a big Mediterranean spread at the event room of a Chapel Hill bar, and there were loads of people there, way beyond the wedding party. This is always appreciated if you can pull it off, since attending weddings often require plane tickets or long drives and hotel rooms.

The bride and groom only had three attendants each, which was a lovely change of pace. I’m used to gigantic Southern weddings with a such a line-up of attendants that the altar looks more like a pageant stage. But being one out of three, you do tend to feel pretty special, and you even get to feel helpful (reminding Lauren to eat throughout the day, pulling off an emergency dress-steaming, and after a full 15-minutes of combining the brainpower of two PhD’s, a Master’s and a very precocious teenager, conquering the bustle).

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Lauren and Django were married by a female UU priest, both of Lauren’s brothers walked her down the aisle, they wrote their own vows, Lauren’s friends read from Sappho and Margaret Atwood, and Django’s friends played live arrangements of Nick Drake and Neutral Milk Hotel. The amphitheater faced a leftover wall from a cotton mill, in front of a sunset-streaked river. It felt a lot like a Southern version of the Globe Theater — and once, in high school, Lauren told me she wanted to get married at the Globe Theater.

The reception was a BBQ buffet, with cupcakes rather than a wedding cake, inside the mill’s “ballroom,” strung with thousands of twinkly lights. After a few formal toasts, Lauren and Django thanked everyone for coming, and then — the best part — the Dex Romweber Duo played, because you know, rock stars have rock star friends, and apparently sometimes Django writes songs that Dex records. (For those of you not in the know, Dex is legendary, and his old band, the Flat Duo Jets, was the oft-acknowledged inspiration behind the White Stripes, and plenty of others…)

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So suddenly it became this major surfy-garage private concert party, and after Jayson-the-fanboy flipped out and videoed the first few songs on his little point and shoot, we danced super-hard until, maybe 45 minutes later, Dex left the stage and a DJ rotation began, heavy on the 90’s hip-hop, disco and new wave. So of course, we never quit dancing. The festivities lasted longer than I’m sure they should have, and then Jayson and I and the out-of-town attendants and Lauren and Django retired to this (very) rustic Bed and Breakfast — the only lodgings in the town of Saxaphahaw — and then my 5 a.m. trip to the airport came much too soon.

And even so, it was refreshing.

**Here are a handful of dressing room shots I snagged. Go here to check out the official wedding pics.

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