I went to Mitch and Aspyn’s wedding reception.

I watch every episode of Seeking Sister Wife, but I still haven’t gotten around to watching Sister Wives.  My friend texted me this evening and told me she saw us on the Sister Wives episode that showed Mitch and Aspyn’s wedding, so I figured I should write about it.  One of these days I’ll probably sit down and watch the episode.

The invitation had a cool wax seal with the letter “T” on it (for Thompson).  I was interested to see that the bride’s name was “Aspyn Kristine Brown.”  I wonder what the story is behind the middle name.  I suppose her mom, Christine, wanted to name her daughter after herself, but without spelling it the same?

I was surprised to realize the reception was on Father’s Day; that seems like such a strange day for a wedding.  But later I was told that the venue they wanted to rent for the reception was booked solid except for Father’s Day, so they went with it.

My sister got married on her birthday.  That seems even stranger than getting married on Father’s Day.   But it’s a bummer for my sister now that she’s divorced.  C’est la vie.

Interestingly enough, a polygamous husband in one of the reality TV shows was married to one of his wives on her birthday, and they are also now divorced.  You’re not going to believe this, but not only were both my sister and my friend married on their birthday, but they also have their birthdays on the same day!  Weird!  Don’t get married on your birthday, especially if your birthday is June 19th!

We know the Browns as well as Mitch.  We also know all of Mitch’s siblings, including Vanessa Alldredge from Seeking Sister Wife (she actually stayed at our house when they were in town for the wedding).  Half of Mitch’s siblings are polygamists and half are not.  He’s the tie-breaker to tip the scale towards monogamy.

We have attended other events that were being filmed for reality TV.  One of them was an event for the Briney family from the first season of Seeking Sister Wife.  The event was a Meet ‘n’ Greet for Lenny, the newborn baby of Drew Briney’s third wife Angela.  We were required to meet TLC employees in a parking lot a mile away from the Brineys’ house, sign a contract, and get our photos taken, before being allowed in the car that would shuttle us to the actual site.  I don’t remember what the paperwork said, altho I did take a picture of it so I could go back and reread it if I ever wanted to.  I remember it was several pages and after I signed it I had to hold it in front of my body while the network took a photo of me, mug shot style.  (The Meet ‘n’ Greet never aired, presumably because the Briney family provided enough other drama that the footage wasn’t needed.  Angela told me she was disappointed that TLC focused so much on the bad stuff instead of showing one of the beautiful themes available to them: the miracle of Lenny’s conception; the footage of his birth; the visit of his namesake, Angela’s father; and his Meet ‘n’ Greet.)

One of the things I remember from Lenny’s Meet ‘n’ Greet was that we arrived, put our gifts in the designated spot, talked to people, went inside the house, used the bathroom, chatted with Drew’s mom, asked if any help was needed with the food, etc., all before any filming took place.  Then, when the film crew was finally ready, and more than an hour after the event was scheduled to begin, all the guests had to “leave” the party and then enter again, on camera this time, as if we had just arrived.  That part felt fake, for sure.  But most of the event felt normal, besides being surrounded by cameras, microphones, and film crew.  Joshua was asked to give the opening prayer.  We sat at the table with Jeff Alldredge’s daughter.  If I remember right, at that point TLC wasn’t open about the Alldredges knowing the Brineys, it was hush-hush, and Jeff’s daughter wasn’t allowed to show her face in the Alldredge scenes because she had been filmed in the Briney parts of the show.  In fact, the Alldredges weren’t even allowed to attend the Meet ‘n’ Greet, despite their being very close to Angela Briney.  (As an example of how good of friends they are, I’ll tell you, I went to visit Angela when Lenny was less than a week old.  As I pulled up to the house Angela shared with April Briney, the Alldredges came out and walked to their truck.  I asked them, “Oh, did you come to meet the new baby?” and they answered that this wasn’t their first visit, that they’d already been to visit Angela several times since Lenny was born.)  After Seeking Sister Wife aired for the first time, of course it came out that the Brineys and Alldredges know each other, and the control TLC tried to have over the families seemed extra ridiculous.

Anyway, back to the wedding reception.  I was expecting the same level of red tape at Mitch and Aspyn’s wedding reception that we had to go thru at the Lenny Briney’s Meet ‘n’ Greet, but I was disappointed.  I actually had intended to take pictures of the contract and compare it to the earlier one.  The invitation to the Briney event warned us that it was going to be filmed for reality TV; the invitation to the Brown event did the same.  But when we showed up to the wedding reception, we weren’t asked to sign any contracts, and I don’t remember seeing any signs posted, except for this small sign I noticed by the entrance as we were leaving:

sign posted
The only notice that the wedding reception was being filmed for TV.  (We didn’t have to sign a contract this time.)

When we arrived at the wedding reception, we paid $6 for the required valet parking and walked around the outside of the building.  There’s a vineyard, so since we’re interested in wine (we make our own sacramental wine, and we even teach wine-making classes) we took our time looking at the grape vines.

Actually, while I’m on the subject of wine-making, I will take another detour to the Brineys and Alldredges.  We like to take credit for Angela marrying Drew Briney because of the events surrounding how they met.  We were teaching a wine class at the Alldredges’ house and the Brineys and Angela were also in attendance, and that was how they met.  They were married soon afterwards.  I didn’t know they had gotten married because it happened so quickly.  (A few months later they had a wedding reception we attended.)  My close friend April Briney kept texting me, asking if she could come visit me.  I repeatedly turned her down because I was so morning sick that I couldn’t take any visitors.  At some point I ran into the Alldredges and asked about Angela.  They told me she had news and I should ask her myself, so I texted Angela, and that’s how I found out she had married Drew.  I feel terrible because April had wanted to tell me herself but I never gave her the opportunity.  I think in Angela’s Year of Polygamy podcast interview, she said she met Drew “at a fireside.”  Well, that “fireside” was our wine-making class.  😊

And while I’m on the subject of husbands meeting future wives, I will mention that Jeff Alldredge met Vanessa at an event at Kody Brown’s house in Utah, which is now my house.  Oh, those polygamists all seem to be connected somehow, don’t they?

Okay.  Back to Mitch and Aspyn’s party.  It’s always fun to go to a party where the polygamists outnumber the monogamists.  I don’t know if the wedding reception fit that description, but there were a lot of polygamists at Aspyn and Mitch’s wedding reception.  We visited with friends and had refreshments.

Once it was time to sit down for the program (dancing, cake-cutting, etc.), we sat pretty close to the front.  I suppose that’s why my friend was able to see us on the screen.  It’s probably the kind of thing where you don’t really notice anyone in the background unless you’re specifically looking for them.

I gotta say, the most disappointing thing of the night was that there wasn’t an open bar.  I figured since TLC was filming it, they were also paying for the wedding, and since it was at an expensive venue, the budget was generous.  Therefore, I optimistically hoped for an open bar.  Alas, there was a bar, but it was not open.  The three of us each had a single glass of wine (a wedding is a sacrament, after all) and the bill was $26.

credit card bill
Sadly, we had to pay for our own drinks.

However, what was lacking in the drinks category was made up for in the dessert category.  My sisterwife Melissa is known for her baking, and she said the cake served at Mitch and Aspyn’s wedding reception was the best cake she’s ever eaten.  Was there an earlier Sister Wives episode that showed a cake-tasting?  Whoever picked this one is the winner.  They had other refreshments besides the cake.  I’m not really into desserts so I couldn’t tell you, but both my baker-in-the-making daughter and my sisterwife Melissa could probably tell you lots of details if you cared to ask them.  They at least had s’mores, as shown in the photo below.

If you watch the episode closely I’m sure you’ll be able to see lots of familiar faces from Seeking Sister Wife.  Among the photos I took are some blurry photos of Jeff and Vanessa Alldredge, and here’s a not-quite-as-blurry photo I took of their son making s’mores over a candle:

Dane makes s'mores
Sister Wives meets Seeking Sister Wife: Dane Alldredge from SSW makes s’mores at his Uncle Mitch’s wedding.

Here are some of the photos I took from my front-row seat.  I suppose these are nothing new to those of you who have actually seen the episode.

waiting for the go-ahead from the film crew
Aspyn and Mitch wait for the film crew to give them the green light to walk on to the dance floor.
first dance
Mitch and Aspyn’s first dance
dancing with parents
Mitch dances with his mother and Aspyn dances with her father.

I was told that Mitch’s mom (shown in the photo above) made all the beautiful hats for the wedding.

cutting the cake

getting ready to throw the bouquet
Aspyn getting ready to throw the bouquet.

The morning after the wedding reception we left to go on our annual weeklong backpacking trip.  Good times.

Mitch is a great guy and Aspyn is a fantastic match for him.  I’m so glad they found each other and I think they make a beautiful couple.

Help the Briney Family

Want to help the Briney Family?  Being cut from the show was an unexpected financial hit for them all.

Buy a book from Drew.  He is a prolific author and has several titles including both fiction and non-fiction.  You can see his selection here.  You’re almost sure to find something there that interests you; if not, then his books would make great gifts for friends, family, and neighbors.  Someone you know is bound to be interested in either dragons or Mormon fundamentalism (or both), right?  He’s coming out with more books all the time.

Or, if you or someone you know has a new child, or is expecting one, then consider Angela’s new store, Lenny & Me.  They have some very high quality items.  My personal favorites are the books.  They are amazing!  They are indestructible! Ok, scissors or matches could probably do the trick, but they are impervious to chewing or tearing pages (something my current toddler is extremely proficient at).  They put old fashioned board books to shame!

And, if you are in Utah, you should consider coming to April’s “Paint Night”.  You can read about it on Facebook or Instagram.  She only has a few slots, but who knows, if there is enough interest, she might schedule another one of these soon.  She is an amazing artist (we have one of her pieces) and teacher as well.  The opportunity is yours to have a personal lesson from April.  And if you can’t make it to the paint night for whatever reason, but are interested in April’s artwork, then check out her Instagram page.  She sells her art, and if she doesn’t have what you are looking for you can commission her to create the art you want (new baby portrait, wedding day, Grandparents 60th wedding anniversary, whatever).

Check it out and spread the word.

The Briney Family and Season 2 of Seeking Sister Wife

I suppose all the viewers have realized by now that the Briney family is not returning for the second season of Seeking Sister Wife, and I just wanted to say a few words about that.  Of course, as a polygamist myself, I will have a somewhat different view on things than most others.

Different people will want different things from a show about polygamy.  Some will want simple entertainment; the novelty of seeing a glimpse into the lives of real-life polygamous families is in itself a compelling reason to watch.  Others might find it educational.  They might be interested in how a polygamous family works, how do they manage their time, raise their children, what are their living arrangements like, sleeping schedules, etc.  Others will look forward to seeing drama and bickering.  The misery of others can be cruel sport.  There will even be some who watch with hopes of seeing plural families fail in a public way.  This will add further justification to their negative views and stereotypes relating to polygamy, and fuel their support of (and efforts to reinforce) political, social, and legal barriers to those families.  As for myself and the rest of the polygamy community, I think we all hope that shows like this will be good publicity, good PR, and will generally show the positive, functional, and healthy side of this kind of family.  We hope that they will help to change the largely negative public perception of plural families.  Yes, every family, indeed every individual, has problems and struggles, but last season of Seeking Sister Wife was, frankly speaking, a disappointing train wreck.

This is not all the fault of the Brineys, of course, but I know they have a similar feeling about their own showing last season.  Here are some quotes about it from their family blog, The Briney Family.

I see bitter bickering and failure to abide by basic Christian principles that leaves me feeling inexpressibly sad and extremely regretful that we, as a family, set such a bad example of our lifestyle on national tv. Worst. Disappointment. Of. My. Life.  – Drew (We See What We Want to See)

I’m truly heartbroken we’ve set such a bad example of our lifestyle that we fed that culture to whatever degree we did. – Drew (We See What We Want to See)

As a family (including April), we were all devastated at how poorly our family represented our Mormon fundamentalist friends and peers. We’d hoped to show how most polygamist families were normal, good people.  – Drew (April’s Apology regarding Season 1)

April herself has told my wives and me in person that she has regret about the way things turned out on the show.  Before anyone thinks I am picking on the Briney family, I want to say also that the family represented on TV was not a representation of their usual family life!  The Brineys are also in agreement with this point.

We know that the mentally stable April would not have done the things that she’s done. – Angela (Why the Brineys are Not Returning for Season 2 of TLCs Seeking Sister Wife)

These types of viewers notice that we’re “real” because we allowed ourselves to show our bad side on camera so people can see what the lifestyle is “really like.” I swallow hard when I hear that one. Our first season doesn’t show what our lifestyle is “really like.” It shows us experiencing our worst train wreck as a family! – Drew (We See What We Want to See)

We’d hoped to show how most polygamist families were normal, good people. Instead, unforeseen challenges led us to be a poor example of our lifestyle, our culture, and our peers. – Drew (April’s Apology Regarding Season 1)

I personally believe that their sudden television exposure, with its accompanying change of living arrangements (all moving in together in the same house), was a HUGE stressor to their family that they would not have been exposed to otherwise.  It is not uncommon for families to end up broken after large, traumatic life changes (one spouse gets a serious disease – even if they are later cured, a child dies, a child is born, career changes, becoming empty nesters, etc).  It happens, and it is tragic.

What happened with the Briney family was a tragedy as well.  I love them all and still and count them as friends.  April has been to my house several times since then and Drew and the rest of his family are welcome to visit as well.

Having said all that, I want to thank TLC!  I know that many people have expressed dismay that the Brineys did not come back, but not me.  Personally, I am glad of it, and I think TLC made the right decision.  I know that even the Brineys (Drew, Auralee, and Angela) wanted the story of their family breaking up to air, but things are probably better this way.  I think it would have been bad for everyone (all the members of the Briney family and the larger plural community as well), to have to live their personal family drama thrice. Once as it happened; once again when it was edited, distilled to its most potent form, and aired on national TV; and again when dissected and criticized ad nauseam by all the insensitive onlookers on social media. How can that be good for anyone?  What person or relationship could thrive under those circumstances? It would wither anyone.

I hope, now that the pressure and stress of being in the public eye is largely gone, that the Briney family can rest, recuperate, reflect, and put all the pain and drama behind them.  Who knows, maybe they’ll even be back for a future season after taking a break for a while.

Forgetting is actually an important part of our mental function and mental health.  Forgetting helps us to live our lives in relative peace and be able to focus on the present.  Having old offenses repeatedly dug up and examined (which is what would have happened had the juicy story aired) will not help us to live abundantly in the now.  Forgetting offenses is an important part of forgiveness.  The scriptures testify repeatedly that God will not only forgive our sins, but also forget them.  They will be blotted out.  He will mention them to us no more!

God bless the Briney family.

See here for some ideas if you are interested in helping the Briney Family.