Sandy Clark, Betty Ann Curtis, Terry Mastny, and BJ Medler met when they all lived in the same ward in Naperville, IL. As their children grew up and got married, they turned to each other for help in putting together wedding receptions. This helped them develop their talents and gain a reputation as the people to call to organize graduation parties, weddings, funerals, and community events. Through their shared service, they became lifelong friends, developed their talents, and deepened their testimonies of the gospel. Although they now live all over the country, they still get together regularly to work and play together.
How did you get started doing weddings?
Betty Ann: I moved to Naperville, IL in 1994, and was the first one of the four to arrive. I lived there two years before Sandy moved in, and then Terry and BJ moved in around the same time, a couple of years later. I had never done anything weddingish at all when my daughter Rachelle got married. I was just thinking of doing a little open house in my backyard for her, and I knew nothing. I had to throw together an open house, and I had people like Sandy who stepped in and helped me. We were in my garage, and I had all of this stuff going on….
Sandy: We were building an arch.
Betty Ann: People from church would drive past, pull in my driveway, and say, “Put me to work.” I was amazed. I couldn’t believe that people would stop by and say, “Let me help you.” By the end of the night, I was so overcome with such a feeling of gratitude and joy that all of these people would realize how important this night was to me and stop and help me put the whole thing together. I vowed right then and there that anyone who asked for my help, I would be there for them.
I learned a lot. I bought wedding supplies. I felt like I had a network to step out and help other people. A few years later, my son got married during the week of 9/11. We had scheduled the open house for Saturday the 15th and they kept saying they would open the airports the next day and they didn’t. My husband was out of town. The bride and groom couldn’t get there. We couldn’t figure out what to do, and we finally ended up holding the open house without them. Terry and BJ and Sandy were all there. I had my friends all around me, supporting me, and saying, “Everybody is going to come and have a good time anyway.” They did. People wanted to get out of their house—they had been glued to their TVs for a week. People came. People relaxed and enjoyed themselves. We did it with a picture of the bride and groom. And my husband wasn’t even there. Through that experience I realized that friends are everything.
What are some of the individual strengths you bring to your work together?
BJ: I like to put together meals.
Terry: I like the desserts and the baking.
Betty Ann: And Sandy and I love to put together the buffet table. We like to make it look gorgeous. I love to put together the veggies and the fruit—it’s my creative way to put together a vegetable basket.
Our friend Jean Keenan has an eye for decorating, and Cora Jolley worked for a florist, so we could go to Costco and buy flowers, and she could make gorgeous bouquets for all of them. She did so many flowers and things for people, never, ever expecting anything in return. Ever. Jackie Monson was just amazing at everything. She could do it all—the food, the decoration.
Sandy: She did it effortlessly, and she did it in an hour. No matter what you needed to have done, she did it quickly and it looked beautiful. That was one of the things about Cora and Jackie–they could look, could see, could do, instead of thinking about, “What are we going to do?”
Terry: They did it for the ward, they did it for the stake, they did it for weddings and graduations and homecomings.
Betty Ann: We didn’t just do weddings. We did funerals, prayer breakfasts, health fairs, graduation parties, YW events. We always knew we could call these ladies. I loved calling Cora and Jackie because at the drop of the hat they would say yes and they would be there. They both worked and were busy. But they would drop everything and come to my aid and I loved having them.
Sandy: We’ve also learned lots of new skills through our work together. Then we incorporate that in our lives so we can teach someone else how to do it. It’s the greatest thing to help others do things that they don’t think they can do. I never would have thought that I could do some of the things I can do now, but because I’ve seen the example of others I’ve learned that I can.
Betty Ann: I think that because of the callings we have in the gospel and through working together, we are blessed to increase our talents one hundred fold. It’s amazing to me how we can increase our talents because of our callings and because of our willingness to serve.
Terry: I think it’s important not to hide your talent. When you’re blessed with a talent, whether you have two talents, or five talents, or ten talents, if you hide it, and don’t share it, it disappears and is of no benefit to anyone. But if you share it, it continues to increase and multiplies. For instance, if I learn something from BJ and I share it with someone here in Minnesota and they share it with two people, it really grows. There are people who don’t want to work as much, but there are always people in your area who really want to serve.
I know that Sandy and BJ especially have been reaching out in their community. Sandy has been in Naperville for a long time, and BJ is always actively looking for ways to serve in the community. I’m sort of struggling more with that, and Betty Ann hasn’t been home as much, but she’s been trying to help her daughter raise quintuplets for the last four years, but that doesn’t mean we don’t keep trying.
What are some of the divisions of labor when you work together?
BJ: Actually, I think we’re all very well organized, but the interesting thing is that whoever is the person that’s doing the event is actually the leader, and we don’t have a problem following whoever that person is. We’ve all had the opportunity of being worker bees in given situations. For me, I think a memorable experience we had working together was when we did [Terry’s daughter] Jillian’s wedding reception. I asked Terry a question and she said, “Do whatever you want to do because I trust what you.”
Sandy: That is huge for Terry to say. You know she wants to be in charge of everything [laughs].
BJ: So that trust was really important. It was a lot of work, but it was something I really wanted to do.
Sandy: The most recent wedding was my daughter Mikale’s wedding in August 2011. The whole way this came about was a tender mercy. My daughter had definite ideas about what she wanted, and I didn’t know how it was going to work. She wanted fruit pizza and she wanted different little things, and I knew I wanted Terry and my other dream team members there. At the time, Terry’s daughter Jillian was pregnant and she didn’t think she would be able to come. Then Jillian had her baby a little early and said, “Mom, go ahead, you can help.”
Terry: One thing we really try to do is to make each reception very personal to that particular bride and we really, really want each wedding to be that bride’s fairy tale or dream wedding or whatever you want to call it. Mikale had a challenge for her mom because she wanted fruit pizza and snickerdoodles and it sounded more like a singles activity than a wedding to Sandy, but it was so important to Mikale that we were determined to make that work. So the challenge of it is sometimes the most rewarding part of doing a wedding together; it’s not only trying to get through the work, but also trying to figure out how to make it as close as we can to what this bride wants.
Sandy: Sometimes it feels like an impossible task, but the doors are opened a little at a time that make that happen.
Terry: When we did Jilly’s wedding—was it you, BJ, who arranged for freezer space all over Naperville?
BJ: Yeah. We had a list.
Terry: We had freezer space in a dozen different homes because we started making food six weeks before the wedding. I was using freezers in homes of people I didn’t even know. Everything was labeled and we just collected it all for the various events. We tap into one another’s different organizational skills and talents in order to make things work.
BJ: Sandy wasn’t able to go Nauvoo when we did Jillian’s luncheon and I had to think “Who can I get to go with me?” Two days before the luncheon I called our friend Jackie Monson and she said she had to work that day, but she called me back and said, “Now I can go.” I knew it was a hardship for her, but she took the opportunity to serve, and she didn’t even hesitate.
Terry: It was beautiful.
Sandy: It was never just us. We could always call on others.
Terry: One friend always had decorations to use, another helped with flowers. Betty Ann flew her son in from North Carolina to be a DJ for the reception. I think about that now, and it melts my heart to remember what so many individuals did to make it that perfect day for her, and how sweet the memories are. It was exactly what Jillian wanted.
Talk about some memorable experiences you’ve had as you’ve worked together.
Betty Ann: Several years ago, Sandy and I lived across the street from each other and we decided that we wanted to be able to get to know our neighbors together. The two of us decided that if we put our heads together we could come up with a way to invite them into our home. So at Christmas time we did a Christmas goodie exchange. The first year we were really nervous about it. We invited everyone on the street and a large number of them did not come, but a large number of them did, and the ones who did come said, “We can’t wait for you to do this again next year.” We weren’t expecting that at all—this was a one-time shot, and we realized then that we had started something that could bring our neighborhood together and help us to get to know the ladies in our neighborhood. Amazingly, because we have the gospel in our lives and Relief Society, we went to a Relief Society meeting where Terry and BJ put together this beautiful presentation on how to do different meals for Christmas and the holidays, so we decided to add a little mini-class each time we had our goodie swap and we invited Terry to do our Martha Stewart moment. Each year that you did it, it was amazing to me that you would step in and do that for us. She didn’t live on our street or anything, but every year Terry would drop everything at a busy time of year, and she was more than happy, and I know it was a lot of work for her, and she would come over and help us with that. To me that was absolutely amazing. I had been invited to these kinds of events in my neighborhood before, but basically those revolved around drinking and eating and standing around talking with a glass in your hand…
Sandy: And giving an ornament that you’d purchased—
Betty Ann: And what we did was a totally different thing. We had everybody bring their goodies in. We socialized. We had a little luncheon.
Terry: Everybody had to share a story. I loved that about it.
Betty Ann: We had them tell what they brought and what the story was behind the item that they brought. Then we’d have Terry give her moment which she did very lovingly every single year. Like I said, she wasn’t in our neighborhood, and I thought it was so amazing that she’d do that for us, but I think she did it because that’s just the kind of person she is. People were so impressed that she would come and do this major demonstration.
Sandy: People could tell that it had taken her hours and hours to prepare and make all the goodies and they couldn’t believe that somebody would do that just for a presentation they were going to watch. So it shows that we don’t care how much time it takes, we want to do our best.
Terry: I think that’s what you learn as members of the Church, that you want to give your best. When I think about the cookie exchange, I don’t think so much about the demonstration, I think about all the little glass stars-shaped dishes filled with fudge that were take-home things. The little details that make the difference bring our hearts into what we do. Then we give our hearts to the people that are in our community,
Sandy: And they really feel it. They feel something different.
Terry: That’s what we try to do. We try to take that spirit that the Lord has blessed us with and share it, whether they’re members of the Church or not.
Why do you feel that the work you’ve done together is important?
Terry: I think our friendship is probably the biggest gain as far as I’m concerned.
Sandy: When you came through for me with Mikale’s wedding, it meant so much. I could have hired a caterer, but it never would have looked as beautiful or tasted or felt as beautiful. Mikale was talking to her dad and said, “Dad, I don’t know why Terry would come and do all that because she hardly even knows me.” Of course my husband said, “Mikale, she didn’t do it for you. She did it for your mom.” And that’s what this is all about: friendship.
Also, getting together like this from the very beginning taught us all how to work hard together. In Illinois, it was hard to find a reception center that would let us have a traditional Mormon reception, so you really had to put them all on yourself. There are people who don’t have means or who see hard times whose kids get married, so we’re able to step in, do what we do, and even pay for a lot of the things, in order to provide receptions.
Betty Ann: And know fair well, we will never get anything monetary in return for that. But we receive blessings. We benefitted so much. We grew closer together as friends and at the end of the night we could step back and feel so good, and proud to know we were part of something that turned out beautiful.
Terry: One of the big lessons I learned, and I learned it especially from BJ, was that you learn to pay it forward when you do service like this. It’s not about “She did this for me, so I do that for her.” It’s about “She did this for me so I can reach out and do it for somebody else.”
It just gives me chills to remember Jillian’s wedding. I could never pay back what each individual did for us. Rick had lost his job just before her wedding and he had just gotten a new job and we were going to be moving within weeks. It was just a mess. So many people, my friends, reached out and made that wedding happen and without expecting to get an equal amount back.
BJ: We’ve also learned to be willing to accept help when we’re the ones in need. You know, sometimes it makes me sad when I say to someone, “I’d really like to help you. Is there something I can do for you? I know you have family coming in. I know your daughter is getting married. I’d be happy to help you with something.” And they say, “Nope. I don’t need any help. I have everything under control.” And you think to yourself, “That person is really missing the boat.”
What are some ways that your work has been seen in your community?
BJ: After we’d been working together for several years, we took on the challenge of organizing a citywide Prayer Breakfast together. It was very difficult to put together in a community where there are lots of different churches, but none of them seem to be working together, and the main purpose of having the prayer breakfast was to bring many of the churches together. The first year we did it, we had representation from 34 churches and we were thrilled with that. We made contact with 47 of them, but to have 34 there, and 2 rabbis, we had met our goal.
It’s very difficult to find individuals who are worker bees and who are doing it for the right reason when you’re looking at a community. I found lots of people who were interested in being on the committee, but they weren’t really there for the right reasons. They wanted to be seen but they didn’t really want to put in the time. But because we’d worked together for so long and worked so well together, we were still able to get the activity done successfully. Many of the attendees said, “Oh these Mormons–this couldn’t have been done without these Mormon ladies.”
What are some of the things you’ve gained as individuals from being “The Wedding Ladies”?
Sandy: Friendship is one of those things that is sometimes hard to describe. I recently found a quote by Oliver Cowdery that helped me to realize that sometimes you can’t find words to share the feeling in your heart. He said, “I shall not attempt to paint you the feelings of this heart, nor the majestic beauty and glory which surrounded me on this occasion. But you will believe me when I say that earth nor men, with the eloquence of time can begin to clothe language in an interesting and sublime a manner necessary.” That’s how I feel about the friendship I have with these girls. We are girls, even though we’re old, because we’re girlfriends. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to find girls that you can relate to even though you’re hundreds of miles away, and when you get back together you still have the love and feeling and friendship that we have.
How has your work together strengthened your testimony of the gospel?
Sandy: We derive strength from each other and from the service that we perform. Sometimes I’ve had a hard time accepting service, but certainly through giving service I see how much I’ve gained. It’s also strengthened my testimony to see the situations of various women in the church and to realize that everyone has difficulties and strengths. A lot of times we see people that we don’t think have difficulties, but when we get to know them we see that they do.
Betty Ann: I think it was Elder Holland who gave a talk a year or two ago about the angels among us. I have felt like my friends are my earthly angels and they have stepped in and helped me and blessed my life. They know I’m not perfect and they love me anyway. I’m so glad that we have a bond that did not end when we moved away.
At A Glance
The Wedding Ladies
Name: Betty Ann Curtis
Location: Mesa, AZ
Marital status: Married to Steve Curtis for 37 years
Children: Six children, eleven grandchildren
Occupation: Mother and Volunteer
Schools Attended: BYU
Favorite Hymn: “Where Can I Turn For Peace?”
Name: BJ Medler
Location: Mission Viejo, CA
Marital status: Married to John Medler for 30 years
Children: Jason (40) and Ryan (37), four grandchildren
Occupation: Taught for 30 years, primarily in an adult setting, at-risk programs
Schools Attended: Fullerton College, UCLA
Favorite Hymn: “Come, Come Ye Saints”
Name: Terry Mastny
Location: Apple Valley, MN
Marital status: Married to Rick Mastny for 41 years
Children: Three children ages 36, 33 and 29 and twelve grandchildren
Occupation: Homemaker, mom, wife, grandmother
Schools Attended: Adrian College (Michigan) and American River College (California)
Favorite Hymn: “I Stand All Amazed”
Name: Sandy Clark
Location: Naperville, IL
Marital status: Married for 31 years
Children: Four children, 2 grandchildren, one on the way
Schools Attended: Dixie College, Southern Utah State College
Favorite Hymn: “Each Life that Touches Ours for Good”
Interview by Shelah Miner. Photos used with permission.
At A Glance