After a toast at Sean Dwyer and Maureen Kane’s wedding reception Aug. 23, Sean stood up and announced that he had something to say.
But rather than rattle something off, he broke into song.
His son handed him a guitar. Then a couple of women joined in singing, and suddenly violinists stood up and started to play. The wedding pianist started in, and three people brought in a drum set as an electric guitar added to the chorus of the meticulously planned “flash mob” of music.
Sean had spent the previous year secretly planning the musical number, which he composed, unbeknownst to everyone not directly involved in the song, not even his brother, the best man.
“I wanted as many people to be surprised as possible. They never got to practice all together because I couldn’t risk practicing with all of them,” Sean says. “I created a video tutorial they had to use and rehearse at home.”
Sean met Maureen about two years ago while searching for service-learning projects to assign for a class he was teaching at Western Washington University. Maureen works at the nonprofit Whatcom Alliance for Health Advancement, where they first connected while discussing potential projects.
After meeting for coffee, Maureen mentioned she had heard of Jansen Art Center in Lynden and asked if Sean would want to see it. As it turned out, one of his friends had an installation there that he had been planning to see, so they set a date and found they really hit it off.
When it came time to find a wedding venue, they decided to marry at the arts center. Theirs was the first wedding ever held there.
Wildflowers grown in a friend’s garden added to the decor of the room that housed both the wedding ceremony and their reception.
“We were in the chamber hall and (Bellingham artist) Ben Mann’s art was all around,” Sean says. “It was a riot of color and it matched up with the wildflowers.”
While the space was changed around from seating to tables, the roughly 70 family members and friends who had come from all over the country were able to tour the center and see the different exhibits.
“Sean surprised me and bought one of the pieces that was there as a reminder of the wedding,” says Maureen.
To honor their heritage — “Sean is Irish, my family is Jewish,” explains Maureen. “We wanted to make a nod to those traditions.” — their wedding included a Celtic “handfasting,” or literally “tying the knot,” as well as the Jewish tradition of breaking a glass at the end of the ceremony.
If they were to pass advice along to other couples who plan to marry, Sean says to not go out of your way to impress the crowd, but show the sincerity of your love.
“We got positive feedback that the wedding had just enough ceremony to make it a wedding, but it wasn’t so over-the-top with ceremony that the relationship got lost in that,” he says.