There are some episodes of SSW, that I simply have no comments for. Words fail me.
Between yoni steaming and getting text messages from dead people (you can’t make this stuff up – fact is stranger than fiction!), I am forced to bow in humility before TLC and confess that I am not worthy to be reality TV material.
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:
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.
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:
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.
I was told that Mitch’s mom (shown in the photo above) made all the beautiful hats for the wedding.
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.
“No! Stop. No! No! I can’t believe it!” Joshua put both hands to his face, not believing what he was seeing.
Colton Winder, standing between his wives, was approaching the local farmers market. Joshua, sitting between his wives, was watching it on TV. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seem him laugh so much and for so long.
“Must be touching at all times!” he roared with laughter, slapping his leg at the hilarity of Colton, Tami, and Sophie awkwardly clasping each other’s hands, white-knucklingly squeezing out the blood, and slowly making their way down the sidewalk. The Winders were about to come out of hiding, but for real this time. I didn’t see a single duck, but I did see lots of intimidating humans.
“I just can’t believe this!” Joshua laughed again, shaking his head.
But what started with Joshua’s hysterical laughter ended with both of his wives in tears. Did that just happen? Did the Winders, in the most awkward way imaginable, just tell the cheese vendor they are a plural family?
Part of this scene was shown again and again in the episode previews. We keep seeing Sophie confess to a perfect stranger, “I’m actually my husband’s second wife,” while Colton and Tami stand there nodding like bobble head dolls, and the vendor stares at them, looking quite surprised at what was just revealed to him.
But then… There’s a plot twist that makes this my favorite SSW scene thus far, when the cheese vendor confesses that he, too, is a polygamist with two wives!!!
The shock of that moment dropped my jaw. I did not see that one coming. That was unexpected. That was… Wait. Did that just happen? All I can say is, that was a wonderful tender mercy.
The episode shows all-too-brief excerpts from the conversation, which I would pay money to see in entirety, between the polygamous Winders and the polygamist cheese vendor. I was so touched by it that I starting tearing up. I looked over at my sisterwife Melissa and her face was red with emotion as well. God is so good!
After the episode finished, my sisterwife, our husband, and I discussed it until midnight. Joshua used the word “charming” to describe the Winders and what happened at the farmers market. Melissa called it “endearing.” Words failed me.
The Winders imagined a market full of enemies throwing tomatoes at them, then handcuffing them and putting them in jail. Instead, they ended up making a new friend. It was truly amazing. I loved it.
What did you think? Did you laugh at the awkwardness of going into public and telling perfect strangers they’re polygamists? Were you disappointed there weren’t any ducks at the farmers market? Were you touched by their luck at meeting another polygamist? What’s been your favorite SSW moment so far? Leave your comments below.
I’m excited that the next season of Seeking Sister Wife has premiered! I was pretty surprised to learn that the Brineys weren’t going to be on this season. I knew April was living in Utah again but I assumed that her leaving Oregon would end up being nice juicy gossip for the TV show to capitalize on. Well, despite the Brineys not being on it looks like the show will have no shortage of interesting material.
I don’t have cable TV so on Sunday night I was trying to figure out how to watch. Luckily Amazon video has it, altho Season 2 costs a lot more than Season 1 did. I guess that’s how it goes when a show is more established. Either that or it’s the 13 episodes we’re expecting versus the 7 episodes we got in Season 1.
This season has our familiar Snowdens and Alldredges and we also get to meet the McGees and the Winders. I don’t personally know the Snowdens or the McGees at all. I know the Winders from Facebook but we’ve never met in person. I personally know the Alldredges as well as the Brineys. Last season I thought knowing both those families would be an advantage when it came to writing my blog, but as it turned out, I always felt the need to censor myself for the sake of our friendships. In fact, one time when Joshua wrote his opinion about a Briney situation, he ended up writing a follow-up apology post for the sake of his friendship with Drew.
This episode had plenty of interesting things to talk about. I made 4 pages of notes while watching, and I only had time to turn a fraction of them into a blog post before the next episode aired. Here are some of the thoughts I had about it while watching.
The McGees call themselves “Hebrew” or “Messianic.”
I find this interesting because we are somewhat in that category as well. We are a unique blend of Messianic and Mormonism so I’ve taken to calling us “Messianic Mormons.” We believe the Bible cover to cover, as Bernie McGee says they do, but we also believe the Mormon scriptures cover to cover.
How sad that the McGees’ house burned!
We once had a house fire, altho not nearly as devastating. Ours was 100% my fault. I left a batch of beef bones boiling on the stove while we went camping for several days! Obviously the water boiled away long before our return, and the bones smoldered, causing what’s called a “protein fire.” The professional from the disaster clean up company had been doing his job for decades and told me it was the worst protein fire he’d ever cleaned up after.
We came back from our camping trip and walked in the house and it smelled like a thousand burnt dinners. I realized immediately what had happened and I ran over to the stove, carried the pot outside, and set it down on the cement pad in the backyard. I removed the lid and what was left of the bones burst into flames! The lid had fit so tightly on the pot that no oxygen was able to access the bones. If we had been less fortunate, very likely our house could have burned to the ground while we were out of phone service. I have always said my guardian angel was sitting on the lid, keeping it tight-fitting enough to keep any air from accessing the smoldering bones.
Some of the cleanup included cleaning everything (and I mean every single book and toy and other items), replacing the countertops, repainting the entire house, “ozoning” all of our clothes and every room, and replacing items that were too close to the stove or stubbornly refused to give up their stench.
I can scarcely begin to describe the smell that permeated our home and everything in it. I used to hate the smell of smoke. I would avoid campfire smoke, and the minute we arrived home from a camping trip, I kept everyone from relaxing on couches or beds (because they would contaminate them) and instead they had to strip down in the laundry room (without their clothes even being dropped on the carpet) and get right in the bath or shower. But the smell of our protein fire was so much worse (not just stronger but much more terrible) that, I kid you not, campfire smoke now smells pleasant to me.
Not only did the protein fire smell awful, but it permeated everything like you wouldn’t believe. When we got home, we were in the house for half an hour with the doors and windows open and fans turned on, imagining that the house would air out and the smell would eventually dissipate, but instead the smell only grew stronger in our nostrils. We realized we couldn’t sleep there that night and we arranged to go to my parents’ house for the night.
When we arrived at my parents’ house, we learned that simply from being in the smelly house for a short while, we had picked up the offensive smell. I had brought some unworn clothes from our closets, planning to launder them in my parents’ washing machine before wearing them, but the smell traveled from the laundry room up to the kitchen and I was asked to move the clothes outside until washing.
The smell that got transferred from our contaminated bodies to our car during the hour-long drive took weeks to disappear. A rubber ball that had marinated in the fumes ended up getting taken to my parents’ house by one of our children. It was kicked around my parents’ backyard for a year, never losing its disgusting odor, before someone gave up on it and finally threw it away.
The experience was educational and in many ways it could have been worse. When we first bought the house, we had opted for a $10,000 deductible on our homeowners’ insurance, mostly out of habit, since we had liability-only car insurance and high-deductible health insurance. Some time later, my parents’ bedroom ceiling caved in due to unseen water damage, and I realized that even tho we might use doctors and car insurance less than the average person, our chance of needing to make a homeowner’s insurance claim was not lower than average, and when the time came that we needed to use it, we would be sorry about having such a high deductible. So, we called the insurance company and lowered our deductible to $1,000. Not long afterwards, the protein fire happened, and the cleanup required 2 weeks’ professional help, hotel stays, and replacing personal items. I don’t remember what the total bill was, but it was probably close to $10,000. Luckily we were only responsible for the first $1000.
However, I am quite impressed that she is willing to live in a camper while looking for a sisterwife, for the benefit of being flexible enough to move if that’s what the potential wife wants. In the cases of polygamy I have seen, the new wife joins the family and in doing so chooses to join the family culture and whatever setup the family has. When Enoch Foster married Lydia (a little of their courtship was shown on Three Wives, One Husband), she got to become a part of an amazing family with organization and resources that had been in the process of being set up for 2 decades. In her case I could see the real benefits of being the 3rd wife! I’ve never heard of an established family being willing to join the new wife, rather than the other way around. That part of this episode was pretty interesting to me.
I loved hearing the story of Paige’s conversion to polygamy. I want conversions to come from something inside or from God, not from another person using logic or scriptures to convince us.
The McGee boys are extremely charming. I love the conversation they have where younger brother Kyle says he’s looking forward to having another mom, and older brother John tries to figure out what that role is called.
Very often we hear about wives’ jealousy over their husbands. Much less talked about is the jealousy over their children. Paige McGee says it could possibly be hard for her to see her sons develop that relationship with her sisterwife.
In a country where so many children are raised by only one parent, I think it’s beautiful and extraordinary for a child to actually have more than two parental figures that love them and are invested in them and help raise them. I believe this has the potential to be a powerful advantage in the children’s lives. I would hope any jealousy over that issue wouldn’t keep a wife from pursuing polygamy. Moms ideally do what’s best for their children, consistently, whether they enjoy it or not.
Vanessa’s molar pregnancy is mentioned. I wrote about it in this post, which includes ultrasound images and details about Vanessa’s experience. If you’re interested in what happened, go ahead and read it over there.
The Alldredges discuss their “dream” home and the lodge they’re finishing.
They ideally want each wife to have their own bedroom wing (to “provide for some privacy”) but to share the main living spaces.
This is one example of many possible housing situations. The Winders have another housing situation of living in completely different towns. Our current house has separate living spaces but they’re connected on the inside, so family members can freely move about and be where they want to be, but the wives still get to be queens of their own castles. Personally, I prefer this and so do Melissa and Joshua. (We lived in different counties for 5 years before moving in together last year.) Joshua discusses housing arrangements in this post about the Brineys’ living situation in Season 1.
We don’t entirely fit into that category (for several reasons, but partly because of the whole “Messianic” thing mentioned above), but we have enough in common with Independent Mormon Fundamentalists (IMFs) to have some close friendships with people who consider themselves IMFs. “Mormon Fundamentalists” describes the belief system and “Independent” simply means they’re not a member of any organized group.
I find Colton’s story interesting — I’m paraphrasing but he basically said that since the early LDS Church believed in polygamy, it didn’t make sense to change that belief, so he had to either give up on the Church or really embrace the fundamentals. Colton goes into more detail about the different flavors of Mormonism and his family’s beliefs on the Winder family blog in this post and this post, the second of which includes some nice Winder family photos (including Colton with a beard).
Tami’s story is interesting as well, how she believed in plural marriage but thought it was something she wouldn’t get to practice until heaven. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a story of a couple who found out after marriage that they both believed in polygamy, were pleasantly surprised, and then started living it.
In the episode, as Colton’s second wife Sophie approaches, Colton says to his daughter Sadie, “Is that Aunt Sophie?”
The Snowdens have a conversation about what happened “last time.” Joshua wrote a post about it.
There were many other things I wanted to comment on, such as Vanessa propping her phone up to take a family photo, even tho they were surrounded by professional cameramen. And the charming comment Tami Winder gave about how she was initially attracted to Colton for “his looks, obviously.” And the sad fact that our friends the Alldredges ditched us and moved to South Dakota. :’-( And Bernie’s overly optimistic statement that he doesn’t want to see hurt in his wife’s eyes again. And how I love that Ashley Snowden was nursing uncovered and then was wearing her baby on her back. I was also planning to give some observations about the obvious video editing that ended up making things awkward and unrealistic.
Well, I only had time to write up about a tenth of what I planned to. Such is life, but I want to move on to the next episode, so I’m going to go ahead and publish this post, incomplete as it is. See you in the next one.
Out of interest, here is the total amount of screentime each family had in this first episode (not counting the teasers like “Coming Up”).
When I was a new missionary for the LDS Church, and living at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, UT (this was back in 1998), I had a Branch President that I quite admired. He was a very wise man. Here is one piece of universal wisdom which he gave, and which I have never forgotten (tho perhaps not always lived):
“The scriptures say that Sampson killed a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, and every day at least that number of relationships are damaged with the same weapon… You don’t have to say everything that comes to your mind.”
Plural marriage puts you in impossible situations sometimes; situations where it is impossible to please everyone, or even most of the people. This is most often true for plural husbands. While the difficulties between the Briney women continued to play out in this most recent episode (Seeking Sister Wife, season 1, episode 6), I must say that I was pleased with the involvement that Drew displayed.
Furthermore, I have to offer an apology to Drew. In my last post I did not take into account the very likely truth that TLC is either behind much of the drama portrayed in their family, whipping it up to more than it need be, or else cleverly editing the video clips to show stern looks and eye rolls out of context, as well as leaving out parts of the story that wouldn’t fit the network’s vision for the show. Drew and all good plural husbands are much more involved in settling disputes, and counseling with their wives, than could ever be shown on television.