Minnesota State Convention, September 28, 2002: “To the Puzzlement and Delight of All,” a “Surprise Wedding”

I was bound and determined after my split-up with a non-singer that my next partner was going to be a singer, so there were a lot of third dates at Sacred Harp singings. Lara liked the first one she went to, and her second singing was the 2001 Minnesota Cooper Book singing, held conveniently four blocks from her apartment.

The happy couple, September 28, 2002. Photograph by Chris Magnuson.

One thing led to another, and pretty soon it was time to discuss a permanent commitment. I had been married before in a full meal-deal church ceremony; Lara had married before in an elopement. We agreed that something completely different and relatively low-key would be in order, not least because we wanted to remodel the kitchen instead of spending money on an expensive wedding. We thought of who we would want as guests, and more than half were singers, so we hatched the idea of getting married at the Minnesota State Convention.

We started by asking fellow singer Doug Donley (a fellow Cleveland Heights native) to do the ceremony. We broached the topic while the three of us were sitting in the outfield bleachers at a Twins game. He thought it was a great idea. We then asked the chairs if it was okay with them to end a little early on Saturday to do a quick ceremony. They approved. We invited our non-singing friends and Lara’s family to show up around 2:30 (my parents are singers so they were going to be there anyway) and planned a party for Saturday night at our house. We didn’t bother to mention it to any other singers—they were going to be there anyway! We figured word would get out. But it didn’t.

The minutes reflect what happened next:

The Co-Chairs, Cathy Lutz and Steven Schmidgall, announced the regular singings in the area and then turned the class over to Rev. Doug Donley of University Baptist Church in Minneapolis.

To the puzzlement and delight of all, Rev. Doug Donley re-arranged the front benches to seat the party for the surprise wedding of Matt Wells and Lara Andersen. After the applause and the laughter subsided, he conducted a brief and beautiful ceremony, exchanging vows and rings. The class celebrated the couple’s union by singing with them “Present Joys,” 318, led by Jeff Sheppard. Rev. Donley led a closing prayer, and the chairs dismissed the class for the day.

Lara and Matt lead during their surprise wedding at the 2002 Minnesota State Sacred Harp Convention.
Photograph by Chris Magnuson.

As we scrambled everyone into position, I think Tim Eriksen figured out what was happening first (I stripped off a sweatshirt and put on a suitcoat while standing next to him). Jeanette Nelson asked Lara “do you know what’s going on?” and Lara answered “yes.” We left the party at our house that night for half an hour and went over to the party that the singers had at the Willards’, where we accepted a lot of congratulations.

It’s all a blur now, almost a dozen years later. We have two boys, Charlie and Andy, who sing in the church choir, with the Minnesota Boychoir, and whenever someone breaks into “Natick” (p. 497). And we want to remodel the kitchen again.

About Matt Wells

Matt Wells (tenor) lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with his spouse Lara Andersen (alto) and their sons Charlie and Andy. Matt is a statistician for Thomson Reuters, and Lara is a toxicologist for 3M. B. F. White was Matt’s father’s mother’s father’s mother’s father.
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3 Responses to Minnesota State Convention, September 28, 2002: “To the Puzzlement and Delight of All,” a “Surprise Wedding”

  1. Tarik says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I don’t know you and haven’t yet sung with you, but that conferred no immunity to tears at the surprising happy moment that began your lovely wedding.

  2. Chloe Webb says:

    I can’t imagine a more appropriate time and place for your wedding. Your singing friends will be present each year to celebrate your anniversaries!

  3. Johanna Fabke says:

    A delightfully told story. Happy Anniversary in advance, and many happy returns.

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