Dance Partner for Life

An idyllic wedding, a bride and groom in their 60s, and adventure in the offing.

Photos by Elenora Luberto, JEMMAN Photography | March/April 2019

It’s hard to imagine a more joyful and love-filled celebration than Norm and Donna’s 2017 marriage. In a summer full of rainy weekends, July 22 dawned sunny and bright, promising an ideal wedding day at their farm in Cardinal, Ontario.

It was long before donning his tails to say,“I do,” Norm built an arbor for the ceremony in the same spot where he proposed. He also laid a laminate floor over the cement in his on-site shop, so that he and his new bride, both avid square dancers, could kick up their heels with guests. The prime rib that was served was from their own cattle farm and along with other family members, Donna had a hand in whipping-up a feast that included salads and buns.“Neither of us wanted a wedding cake, so I made an apple pie and we had a ceremonial pie-cutting rather than the traditional cake-cutting.”

Donna was the apple of Norm’s eye, though. When he saw her in all her wedding finery, he cried.“It was such a touching, vulnerable moment for both of us,” she recalls. What’s also captivating about that moment is it can be traced back to an Internet dating site.

Norm’s daughter, Noranda, had set up his online profile,“telling him it was time for him to get out and meet someone.” It caught Donna’s eye. “I saw his picture with one of his prize cattle and thought that anyone who looked so happy with his animal must have some other positive qualities.”

He liked what he saw, too, so when she sent him a message he responded. Briefly glancing at where she was from, he read Nepean. That’s why he was a little perplexed when they finally met face-to-face in Kingston just after Valentines Day in 2016. As Donna tells it, about four hours into their first date, he asked where exactly she lived. When she replied,“Napanee,” he didn’t miss a beat. “Well, that’s not so far from Cardinal,” he said. “I like driving.”

The guy was smitten. After their second date, Norm suggested they get married. Donna was firm about taking things more slowly, telling him she wouldn’t make any promises for at least six months. “Almost six months to the day of our first meeting, in late August 2016 at nine in the morning, he proposed to me.” On the side lawn at the farm, where they liked to sit and chat about their day, he got down and asked for her hand in marriage, presenting her with a beautiful Vera Wang ring.

When they told their families the good news, Noranda reprised her cupid role, offering to plan the nuptials. Lists, timelines — based on hay-cutting season, invitations — music, refreshments, a farm spruce-up, parking and more, came together without a fuss because everybody pitched in to make this love connection permanent.

From the beginning, Norm and Donna knew what they wanted for their day: “Our hope was that it would feel like a big family barbecue and dance that just happened to have a wedding at the front of it.”

Since festivities were to be casual and relaxed, there was no designated seating or dress code. There was, however, a live band — Hillbilly Highway — and a square dance caller. “At [ages] 64 and 66, we really didn’t feel the need to get all stressed out and worry about all the things that might go wrong,” Donna says. “We just focused on all the wonderful things that went right, which was almost everything.”

For instance, Norm’s sister Grace, a talented seamstress, transformed the floor-length gown Donna bought in Napanee into her dream dress, complete with a gorgeous blue petticoat that would peek out from under and twirl as she danced.

Then unexpectedly, the day before the wedding, friends arrived with containers full of flowers, cut from their flower gardens, to put around the property.

Not only did Norm’s lead hand, Dustin, build the bar for the dance hall, on the day of the wedding Dustin’s wife, Hayley, drove the tractor — in her heels and dress — that pulled the trolley transporting guests from their cars to the ceremony. Both Donna and Norm were delighted that their pastor, Bernie Bakker from Community Christian Reformed Church, agreed to conduct their outdoor service, and when the bride, her three sisters and her niece arrived, it was by a horse-drawn carriage driven by another good friend and his son.

One of the most special aspects of the event, Donna says, “was the way so many family and friends wanted to help and invested their time and love into making the day, for us, quite extraordinary.” Siblings, children, grandchildren, extended family and many friends were cheering them on. “From the moment our day started, we were surrounded by love and help.”

Since then, Donna has embraced the ways of a farmer, driving a tractor, raking hay, and helping birth calves; Norm is glad she is by his side. “For us,every day feels like a gift.” Having met each other later in life, they are not wasting time or slowing down. Instead, they are excited about the future. “We recently bought a 183- acre farm. It is a two-year project to build a barn and renovate the existing stone house. We are calling it an adventure.”