Weddings are inherently bittersweet. They mark progression and passing, ends and beginnings, but when one is planned with the knowledge that where one life begins another is drawing to a close, the emphasis on celebration is likewise inherently magnified. Perhaps nowhere, though, is life and death more preciously understood than in country people. They know how to rally in celebration, respond to the whimsy of life and nature, and possess the skills to nurture just about anything from not much.
So, despite the knowledge that her father might not survive to see her wedding day, the little town of Richfield rallied to make it so Allan Laudert was able to walk his daughter Acee down the aisle into the arms of Mitch Lucero without sacrificing a detail. What the community gave to Acee and Mitch was no grander than her own father had given over the years being reflected on to them.
“My father lived such an honorable life. He was a very humble man who lived within his means and enjoyed the small things in life,” Acee says. “He never needed more than he took and never took more than he needed. We have a lot to learn from his way of life.”
When Mitch Lucero asked Acee Laudert to marry him that Christmas Eve in 2007, they had known each other all their lives, growing up in the little farming town of Richfield. They didn’t start dating until after high school and they endured the twists and turns their lives would take over the next six years while they attended different colleges in Southern California. But by the time winter had set in full bore in 2007, Mitch knew it was time to make their lives parallel forever.
The evening consisted of a gathering of both their immediate families for dinner and then watching as Acee opened a gift from Mitch that sent the crowd on a scavenger hunt throughout Richfield that ended at Mitch’s parents farm. There Acee found four miniature donkeys with big red bows around their necks, donkeys she’d known were for sale and thought would be fun to have, but never dreamed would be hers.
There were times in the planning that Mitch wasn’t sure they would be hers, either.
“Two of my groomsmen helped me plan and coordinate the engagement,” recalls Mitch. “The donkeys were in a town outside of Boise and we had to transport them to Richfield. It was snowing and the wind was blowing as we were caught in a tremendous storm trying to transport the donkeys in a trailer from Boise.”
But he also had to pick up a ring in Twin Falls, the rest of the eve’s surprises.
On bended knee, and with a poem, he proposed.
“The whole day was a chaos of events trying to coordinate and set up the treasure hunt,” he says. “One of the most stressful but rewarding days of my life, but her saying yes was the best Christmas present a man could ask for.” >>>
They knew a lot of things, right off the bat. Given their farming lifestyles, a Western wedding was never a doubt. Acee’s father was a widely-known and loved Dutch-oven chef who had catered many a wedding and provided smoked turkeys for holidays, so the food was in place. She’d helped her father cater a wedding at the Judd family’s Grove Creek Ranch in Picabo and knew that their friend’s home would be the perfect spot.
The couple decided on an August wedding to take advantage of the beautiful Idaho summer evenings. The bride found her dress at Margene’s Bridal in Boise, “the first one, and one I could ride my horse in,” she says.
Tuxes were ordered from Tuxedos Now in Twin Falls, Craig Wolfrom for photos and 120 long-stemmed white roses en route from Ecuador.
Although things were falling into place, there was one variable that no one saw, or wanted to see coming. Everyone knew Acee’s dad was being treated for throat cancer, but the optimism was abundant and the excitement of the pending event was distracting. So when the couple learned in June that his cancer had carried through to his liver and was terminal, the date was moved up to July 12, leaving only four weeks to get ready.
“He wanted to be in the best possible health for the day,” says the newlywed, who has since buried her father.
“The journey was very personal,” Mitch says. “Various friends and family pitched in. The collaboration of our friends made our day so special.”
Dad and friends prepared a feast of local roasted pig and buffalo and local vegetables for dinner. There were hanging flower baskets draped with lights, horses tied to adjacent trees, and homemade book and quilt squares made for the guests to sign, all created by friends and family.
All the table centerpieces were wildflower arrangements done by The Ketchum Flower Company. About 50 large pots of flowers were all planted from seed and small flower starts in April by Mitch and Acee’s moms who “mothered” them into bountiful flower baskets by July 12th.
The roses, which arrived with thorns in the dead heat of summer, were sequestered at a local grocery store’s beer cooler where friends gathered to shape them into boutonnieres and bouquets.
Their three grandmas served as flower girls. “They were so excited and proud that they nearly pranced down the aisle to huge applause,” Acee laughs.
“The event was truly a celebration. It was a celebration of a new life, that which was just beginning for Mitch and I, and at the same time it was a celebration of a life well lived, that of my father. The wedding was so personal, full of emotional happiness and sadness. There were more than 200 guests, all close family friends, and we were so honored to have each and every one there, not only for Mitch and I, but for my dad as well.
“My father, with his warm heart, kindness and talent, left very big shoes for us to fill. We are continuing with the Dutch-oven catering and free-range holiday turkey business and hope to meet along the way all those who knew and loved him.”
Managing Editor Jennifer Liebrum believes love and timing are always a challenge well worth the struggle.