The tradition goes back to an ancestor on Russ’ side – one Leo Stoeber, who was marrying his lady love, Eva. At that time, wheeled transportation was scarce, and not everyone was lucky enough to own a horse. Most folks had a wheelbarrow, though. So on his wedding day, Leo wheeled one to Eva’s parents’ home to “sweep her off into wedded bliss,” according to the account Russ’ mother gave at the wedding. This courtly gesture was intended to keep his beloved from getting overtired walking to the church or soiling her dainty wedding slippers. Ever since that day, all the grooms in the family observe this ritual, wheeling their brides merrily off to happily ever after.

Sarah, who teaches fifth- and sixth-graders at Lake Grove Elementary School, says Russ had been dreading re-enacting the quaint custom. However, it turned out to be one of the couple’s favorite parts of the day. Russ wheeled his bride from the Surfsand up the “main drag” to Haystack Gardens where friends and family waited, laughing and cheering them on as they rolled into view. Later in the evening, caramel corn favors made at Bruce’s Candy Kitchen in Cannon Beach were placed in the wheelbarrow for guests to take as they left.

Russ, a systems engineer for Affiliated Computer Services Inc., indicated he came from a long line of practical jokers. He’s played pranks at his brothers’ weddings, so somebody returned the favor, letting the air out of the wheelbarrow’s tires. “It didn’t push very well at all,” he laughed.

The couple’s mutual love of the ocean and Oregon Coast was behind their decision to have the ceremony at the beach. What’s more, when Sarah’s dad died, his ashes had been scattered in the area. This way, her dad would be there in a sense … a part of the celebration. She’d tied his wedding ring to her bouquet with ribbon and walked down the aisle on her mother’s arm to the song “The Luckiest,” recorded by the Ben Folds Five. Russ carried her dad’s prized St. Andrews golf flask in his pocket. Sarah’s mom had given him the flask as a gift one Christmas. “It meant a lot to me,” he confided.

The Surfsand Resort’s size made it the perfect wedding venue – large enough to accommodate the couple’s extensive families. “They did a phenomenal job … all the details were covered,” Sarah enthused. The Wayfarer Restaurant and Lounge catered the reception at Haystack Gardens. A huge white tent was set up on the beach, decorated with hydrangeas. A sumptuous buffet of prime rib, seared salmon, fingerling potatoes and salad made with fresh Northwest greens fed the hungry revelers.

Julie Adams Photography worked their usual magic with the wedding photos immediately following the ceremony. Friends had to put the bride back together, though, using blow dryers to get the sand off her gown and repair the effects from the weather’s mist and rain. Cannon Beach’s Michael’s Music rigged up a great sound system with microphones and iPod docking station. “Guests danced and had a great time,” remembered Sarah.

Beaverton Bakery furnished the two-tiered, chocolate- and vanilla-marbled wedding cake. The bride and groom had their own little lemon cake on the top, garnished, again, with hydrangeas. Sarah’s wedding colors were derived from this flower … the blue and green variety. Her ivory, strapless wedding dress with a train and beaded bodice was purchased at Tower Bridal in Portland.

Sarah and Russ had known each other for about seven years. They shared an extended circle of friends and met at a monthly gathering of a dinner club organized by two friends who are chefs. Russ’ subsequent proposal showed real creativity. It seems that Sarah and her mom are both crossword puzzle fans, so Russ came up with clues in a crossword format, which he then hid in a closet. The next day, he sent Sarah a text message on his cell phone saying there was something he needed from the closet … the idea being she’d find and decode the puzzle and go to a nearby park as directed. Everything proceeded as planned. When she got to the park, Russ was waiting with a ring.

Sarah admits to having wondered why Russ was rummaging around in the closet at one point and to being a bit bewildered when he asked what shirt to wear to work the next day. “If I’d known he was going to propose, I’d have had him wear a different shirt,” she giggled. Nevertheless, she was pleased with the romance of it all. “The proposal is a moment that belongs to the groom. Everything after that belongs to the bride. Russ had his moment, and he nailed it.”

Friends came to the Parks’ wedding from as far away as Tokyo, one wearing a traditional kimono to the ceremony. They’d been invited but weren’t expected to come. “It was a wonderful surprise,” recalled Sarah. “We loved every second of the entire wedding weekend! I thought I’d be emotional but I was so happy that day I just couldn’t stop smiling. Maybe because we’re older (they’re both 35), it wasn’t a big stresser. It was simply about us and our decision to share our lives.” When it was over, the couple flew to Maui for a week. Congratulations, Sarah and Russ!

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