What if your friends invited you to join them to celebrate their special anniversary in the mountains with a guest list spanning their life? You wouldn't know everyone, you would have to drive about four hours, you would have to clear the weekend and you'd need to book your hotel room. The invite promises hikes, bike rides, campfires, cocktails and dancing. Absolutely! COUNT US IN!
Marking three decades of marriage deserves celebrating and it is clearly a rite-of-passage as important as any of our life cycle events and should be added to our mid-life goodie bags. That's exactly what our friends decided when they chose to throw their own Destination Anniversary Party.
The tone of this party was set from the invite -- this couple named their event: "The We Can't Believe It's Been 30 Years Anniversary Party." We get it! We can laugh with them, knowing that honest humor is the best tool we have to embrace what is otherwise incomprehensible: our aging bodies, rapid time flow, life with a single partner in wedlock for 30 years -- and more realities than can be publicly shared. My husband and I cheerfully checked the "we wouldn't miss this" box. Their playful tone continued leading up to the event. Logistics were emailed to the invitees chock full of humor as we were given choices of activities that would require a range of mobility from "athletically advanced" to "drive-around foliage touring." (All our names were in the cc column -- no hiding the guest list -- transparent, open and inclusive from the get-go). There was no mention of vow renewals -- just an agenda dedicated to hard-core celebrating with enough time for cocktails both Friday and Saturday to tee-up each evening.
Since this couple is outdoorsy, healthy and loves to party, we all knew this was going to be by and large, an athletic adventure. They are big hikers and bikers and it turns out most of their friends are too. The destination for the anniversary party was the very same hotel they were married in 30 years before -- in the mountains, in New Hampshire, in September. (Thank goodness the hotel has been through a few renovations since then as bathrooms have been added to almost all the rooms.)
Upon arrival we all came together for a cocktail party on the deck of the hotel under a magnificent harvest moon. Each of us filled out a name tag including our name and the origin of friendship with our hosts. It was the perfect icebreaker and connector; a great start as many of us had never met.
After dinner we gathered around a campfire -- guitars, songbooks -- roasts, toasts and s'mores. It felt young, fun and easy. As we headed to our rooms around midnight we were excited for our next day's activity.
The hotel provided a great breakfast buffet and several guests organized a biking group. Others signed on for either a short hike or an all-day climb or a shopping outing.
I joined a group of seasoned hikers who had luckily brought their own daypacks and hiking boots, gorp and cameras for the outing. We carpooled to the trailhead to begin our ascent. What could be better than a day on the trails -- climbing to a summit and eating lunch with new friends? What a moment of captured youth! The day was a "10" -- clear views from the summit, new friendships forged, no injuries and no one lost.
Back in our rooms we rested before the evening's cocktail and dinner/dance.
Our friends had no relatives except their kids at this gathering -- just their friends who were happy to go with the program. No push back from guests, no nay-sayers -- all committed to a common cause: to celebrate this wonderful couple and to have fun. Our job was to set aside our aches, pains -- leave our troubles behind -- and celebrate.
This pretty rugged crowd of one hundred 50 to 60 somethings cleaned up really well for the big evening party. Gathering in the century-old barn, a short walk from the hotel, we shared our day's adventures.
Work friends, childhood friends, book club friends, friends with new spouses, biking and hiking friends, their 20-something kids; these are the faces that filled the tables and the dance floor. Friends who love them and have lived with them through their ups and downs -- in one room -- ready to celebrate a life.
Of course we know why many of us don't throw big anniversary parties -- we are busy celebrating our 50ths, 60ths -- and kids' weddings. All of these events put a strain on our pocketbooks -- but alas -- the ANNIVERSARY PARTY has its own unique flavor and deserves to be put on the "must-do" list at mid-life. The anniversary party presents an opportunity to bring together one's very own personal history -- without the strain of new in-laws -- extended relatives and other obligatory baggage. This guest list is to be filled with only those who we "want to" not who we "should" invite. Only friends and family you actually enjoy.
Beyond the mid-life mark we can only hope our own guest list has been pruned and distilled and what remains is a group that feels easy and right -- those people we love to be with -- those people we want to grab on the dance floor and laugh so easily with.So what's on the to-do list when planning our own Destination Anniversary Party? Here are a few ideas to get your party started:
- A hotel that can accommodate 100 people (at least 50 rooms) and is affordable.
- A location that isn't too far to travel to.
- An environment/playground for activities that work for an array of guests with different athletic capacities (golf, hiking, biking and shopping etc.).
- Pet friendly (I brought my dog.)
- Fun hosts.
- Friends with like-minded interests always helps.
- Enthusiastic guests who know how to go with the flow (no whining allowed).
- Plenty of time for cocktails.
- A great band.
- A campfire, guitars and s'mores
- Guests who step up to volunteer to "lead" activities: lead a hike, a bike ride, etc.
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ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer has kept husband, comedy legend Mike Nichols, informed on international news and in return, her husband obviously knows how to work her funny bone. Nichols told Vanity Fair in a recent interview that he found the love of his life with Diane, his fourth wife. They celebrate 25 years on April 29, and we're sure the next 25 years will just breeze by for these two. May you both laugh your way to that Golden Anniversary!
Michael J. Fox and his future wife, actress Tracy Pollan, first met each other on the set of Family Ties, where she portrayed Ellen Reed. Who will ever forget that romantic dance they shared to the tune of "At This Moment"? Obviously every moment they've shared together for the past 25 years has been precious. The couple, who were married on July 16, 1988, have four children. Now that's some powerful family ties!
These two lovebirds have survived many cold winters way up there in Alaska in addition to the political heat they endured when the first female Governor of Alaska decided to take a Big Gulp and run for Vice President of the United States. Politics aside, we do admire them for taking the high road in their family life, raising the bar when it comes to celebrating their precious special-needs son and keeping their family together given the glass house they've lived in for a few years. Happy 25th Anniversary! May you celebrate many more.
British model Twiggy, who made a fashion statement with her short cropped hairstyle, became a household name in the mid '60s when she landed on high-profile magazine covers including Vogue and Newsweek, breaking out as one of the first teenage supermodels. Her first marriage ended with the sudden death of her husband due to a heart attack. She married second husband Leigh Lawson in 1988; the couple will have been happily married for 25 years this year!
Tony Award winner, Patti LuPone, who played Lady Bird Johnson in the TV movie, LBJ: The Early Years, met cameraman Matthew Johnson on set in 1987. The two were married on December 12, 1988 on the stage of the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center. Best wishes go out to the Evita actress and her husband!
Wayne Rogers, who is best known for playing Trapper John McIntyre on the CBS television series M*A*S*H, was married for 23 years to his first wife. He's on a roll with second wife Amy Hirsh Rogers, married for 25 years and counting. We're more shocked that Rogers turns 80 this year! What? Not possible!
Corbin Bernsen may have played the skillful divorce attorney Arnold Becker on the NBC drama series L.A. Law, but he obviously doesn't need to consult a real divorce expert when it comes to his own marriage. The actor has been happily wed to British actress Amanda Pays since 1988. The delightful couple have four children and 8,000 snow globes. (Would we make that up?)
Paul Reiser delivered one of the funniest ad libs of all time on a sitcom (Mad About You). Walking into his living room, his dog was on the couch licking his private parts, Reiser looked over at him and said, "If I could do that, I wouldn't need a wife." Ta-dum! In his personal life, the actor's wife has been doing something right. He and Paula Ravets celebrate 25 years of marital bliss this year.
Supermodel Kathy Ireland, who Forbes magazine "nicknamed 'Supermogul' for her tremendous success as a designer and entrepreneur," has been married half of her life. At 50, she has logged 25 years of marriage to husband Dr. Greg Olsen, an ER surgeon and commercial fisherman. The couple have three children.
Former professional hockey player Wayne Gretzky, who played for 20 seasons in the National Hockey League, married actress Janet Jones on July 17, 1988 in a ceremony so grand the Canadian press called it "The Royal Wedding."
Ah, Potsie, we couldn't be more thrilled that you and your lovely wife have been creating your own Happy Days for the past 25 years. Williams "lives in Malibu, CA with his wife Jackie Gerken (a television producer and a former vice president of production for Dino De Laurentiis) and his daughter Hannah Lily who was born in 1989. Trivia: He is divorced from first wife Lorrie Mahaffey, who played his girlfriend Jennifer on Happy Days.
Two-time Tony award winning Broadway actress and former SNL alum, Christine Ebersole, has been married twice. After her five-year union with actor Peter Bergman went south (1976 - 1981), she regrouped and married Bill Moloney in 1988. Ebersole, who describes her family as the "new normal," adopted three children with her husband: "Mae-Mae is from China, Aron is Chinese and Filipino and Elijah is African-American," told the Trentonian newspaper.
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We doubt that 30 million people watched General Hospital's Genie Francis marry her real-life husband, actor/director Jonathan Frankes on May 28, 1988. Anthony Geary and Genie Francis -- aka Luke and Laura -- pulled in huge numbers when they wed on the popular soap opera, which is celebrating 50 years on the air this year. Congratulations to the Emmy winner and her husband for making their own fairytale come true.
There may have been a "bridge over troubled water" in singer Art Garfunkel's first marriage (he claimed his first marriage was turbulent and ended bitterly), but he hit pay dirt with second wife Kim Cermak. Garfunkel met former model Kathryn "Kim" Cermak while filming the 1986 film Good to Go. They married on September 18, 1988 and have two children. Here's to you, Mrs. Garfunkel!
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