Even though the Bitterroot Valley is home to me, waking up to it on a chilly May morning three days before my wedding felt imaginary. As my mom and I trudged around the grounds of the Slack House and Barn, pulling our hoods over our heads and hoping that the rain would soon let up, I started to notice things I hadn’t before.
Look how graceful the Bitterroot Mountains are as they flow across the sky, all the way north and all the way south. They appear to be waves – ebbing and flowing along an opaque shore.
Look how green everything is. The fields stretch in every direction like a compass and its 360 equidistant points. Trees spilling with new leaves; wildflowers and native grasses emerging from the soft, spring soil in earnest.
Feel how crisp and clean the air is. Smell the new growth. Feel the rays of sunshine peeking through the cloud cover. Listen to the fresh blades of field grass whisper as the simple spring storm passes over.
The barn was our safe haven and our Plan B. Even though I fell asleep for a week straight with tightly crossed fingers, there was still a chance that Saturday afternoon would come bearing rain and the celebration would be forced indoors. But, unlike most brides given the news that the wedding day could be a wet one, I was not dismayed.
With its worn and weathered walls, the barn was comfortable. Strung with fragile white bulbs that draped from the rafters, the barn was comforting. The lights cast an effervescent glow on everything below like I would imagine fireflies illuminating a summer field at dusk.
There was so much space yet it felt intimate. The quirks, such as the narrow staircase and shorter doorways, were endearing. This was a space once used for very serious business, I thought. These floorboards held the bounty of the Slack family’s hard work. This view – the one from the west deck that takes your breath away – has been admired by many. These grounds have been carefully kept for a century. Those two big willow trees to the south, the ones that seem to embrace and sway with the gentlest of breezes despite their size, they have a story. They came from far away, overseas in fact. They were planted by the Slack mother and father along the lines of an old tradition. They have seen a lot of things.
The best part about the Slack Barn is its flexibility. If you want a rustic princess wedding bedecked with crystal chandeliers and pink taffeta, you can do it. If you want a country ho-down with checkered tablecloths and cowboy boots on the dance floor, you can have it. If you want a magical mid-summer’s eve, complete with twinkling outdoor lights and flowers hanging from the rafters, you can go for it. It’s a slight contrast to the typical white walls and square-shaped rooms that traditional venues offer. Your wish is the barn’s command. And another perk? Less is truly more. The barn itself has so many charming characteristics that to smother it with commercial décor is nearly an insult.
Picture this: it’s the afternoon of your wedding and the rain has ceased. The night before, you witnessed the Northern Lights for the first time in your life from the front yard of the Slack House. The grass is dewy, the limbs of the willows are calm, and the sun is melting off the haze of the passed storm. From the upstairs of the house, you peek through the delicate antique curtains at your guests as they arrive. You just spent the last hour in the grandiose upstairs bathroom - with it’s perfect lighting and bridal ambiance – as your mom helped you into your dress and your sister pinned your veil into your hair. The minutes are ticking by so quickly but you’re not really keeping schedule. Right now, your enjoying the simplicity of watching your loved ones arrive with smiling faces, walking down the gravel path toward the two matrimonial trees.
The night blazes onward and now, after exchanging vows before a backdrop of stunning mountains and sprawling fields, you’re being whisked around the dance floor of the barn. The music hangs on to the stillness of the tranquil spring evening, floating down the staircase into the main floor and out to the grounds where the stars are trying their best to hold onto some remnants of day. The barn creaks with joyous effort as it helps celebrate another marriage on yet another perfect Bitterroot evening. You’re smiling because you’re now married, because you’re surrounded by love, and because you’re inside the sturdy walls of an antique memory that you will not soon forget.