the festivities begin...

Already feeling like I needed to freeze time for 48 hours to halve my to-do list, family was now arriving and it was suddenly time for the Thursday night dinner we'd planned so the two sides of the fam could mix and mingle.  Which meant time to pause in preparations and try to just relax and enjoy.  (Now why on earth would I just stick to the traditional rehearsal dinner and wedding like a normal person when I could add EXTRA events??  Sheesh...)

With each arriving family member or friend, I realized we were that much closer to the wedding itself!  (And it was always so surreal whenever anyone wandered into the courtyard of the Hacienda-- I was amazed how easily everyone found their way to this spot in the middle of the desert!)

Thursday's family dinner was followed by a congregation of friends at the nearby Wild Pony...

...where we met the (Internet-verified) arm wrestling world champion (who Tori then challenged to a match)!

a glimpse of just a handful of folks staying in this full house

Carson's mom just recently moved out of a house on the ranch, where she is letting a good chunk of our (very large) wedding party stay.  The house has been gradually filling up and now it is way over capacity!  Let's just say everyone will be getting very cozy this weekend!

bridesmaids at the rehearsal

some of the groomsmen

I was really upset to hear that our wedding party sweat lodge, planned for Friday afternoon, had to be cancelled due to a crack in the fireplace!!  But once Friday night arrived, I found myself in a frenzy, rushing to get ready for the rehearsal dinner!  How on earth would I have made it if a sweat lodge had been part of the mix?  Turns out the cancellation was a strange blessing in disguise.

Lisa and I before the rehearsal dinner

Carson's Aunt Holly prepared a Mexican-themed meal for dinner: 

mandarian-jicama slaw, cheese/red chile pork/vegetarian tamales

bacon-wrapped jalapenos, mango-cream cheese salad

sweet tamale cake

rehearsal dinner in the dance hall

Looking around the dance hall, I was thrilled to see all our friends and family mixed throughout the tables and meeting each other!  And after dinner, our families gave some amazing toasts I will never forget!  (though I really wish we had videotaped these toasts!!) 

After warming around the campfire,  I headed to bed in preparation for the Big Day, still overwhelmed by the number of things I had to do before the ceremony itself began...