Last April, Kristen Fries began planning to propose to her girlfriend of nearly six years. But before Kristen – the middle child in a family of three girls – had a chance to do so, both of her sisters got engaged.
Kristen was waiting to hear from her girlfriend’s mother whether she could use her grandmother’s engagement ring. By the time she had the ring, her younger sister, Laura, and older sister, Hannah, were already planning their weddings.
“And I was sort of like, ‘Okay, now should I wait? Because this is crazy,’ ” Kristen said.
Kristen’s Oct. 27 marriage to Sarah Wilson will be the conclusion of a busy wedding season for the Fries family. It begins Saturday, when Laura Fries will marry her high school sweetheart, Bob Lauwers, at South Congregational Church in Concord. Hannah Fries will marry Adam Brown, her boyfriend of four years, on Aug. 25.
“It’s not like we were all planning to get engaged at the same time,” Hannah said. “We were just all planning to get engaged, and it happened at the same time.”
Their parents, David and Ellen Fries of Bow, said they couldn’t have imagined that all three of their children would get married within five months of each other. Laura is 24. Kristen will be 27 on her wedding day, and Hannah will be 30 on hers.
“They sort of fell like dominoes,” David said. “They were all truly attached to their various partners and we kept asking ourselves, ‘When is one of these girls going to announce that they’re getting married?’ “
David jokes that one of his friends told him he’ll have “three weddings and a home equity loan.”
Ellen and David, who will celebrate their 34th wedding anniversary in August, are paying for Hannah and Laura’s weddings but sharing the cost of Kristen’s wedding with her fiancee’s parents.
“I get a little bit of relief because there’s two brides in that wedding,” David said.
Each of the weddings will have between 100 and 150 guests, he said. It was hard to keep the guest lists small because the Frieses have a large extended family.
“Financial considerations have been important, a little bit tricky, but the girls are very good at understanding that these are going to be pretty laid-back weddings,” he said. “They’ve been given budgets, and they’re pretty good about that.”
Early on, David suggested a combined wedding, but “that idea didn’t gain a lot of traction,” he said.
“Laura and I kind of half-jokingly talked about it,” Hannah said. “And I said, ‘Well, that would be fine as long as you wanted to do everything the way I want to do everything.’ . . . We kind of put that aside pretty quickly.”
After choosing three separate wedding dates, the Frieses submitted three engagement announcements to the Monitor, which ran side-by-side in December. After that, Ellen and David said friends called, sent copies of the announcement and stopped them on the street to talk about the weddings. They even received an anonymous letter from a woman who didn’t know the family but wanted to congratulate them.
“If we happen to be someplace and talking to someone about it, if someone who we don’t know overhears it, they’ll say something like, ‘Oh, you’re the people who have the three weddings!’ ” David said. “And almost everybody has an interesting reaction. Usually it’s a lot of laughter, followed by concern for our welfare – financial and emotional – and then just celebration.”
Keeping things straight
Ellen Fries said she has three folders at home in Bow – one for each daughter’s wedding. She can rattle off certain facts about each wedding – the venue, the colors, the caterer. Other details blend together, but Ellen doesn’t seem too worried because “we don’t have any ‘bridezillas,’ ” and she describes her family as a calm group.
“It’s just there’s these three piles that get confused,” she said. “So I just kind of hope to take it as it comes.”
Laura, although the youngest, was the first of her sisters to get engaged and will be the first to get married. She and her fiance, Bob Lauwers, started dating during their junior year at Bow High School.
They’ve been close friends since they both played the baritone horn in middle school band. They both went to college in Ohio, but at different schools. After graduating college in 2010, they spent a year in Spain together, and “we figured we’d get married,” Laura said.
Laura and Bob, who live in Lowell, Mass., and work as Americorps volunteers, will have their wedding reception Saturday at Camp Spaulding in Concord. Both of Laura’s older sisters will be her bridesmaids.
While planning three weddings can be hectic, some details have simply fallen into place. Laura named a few different colors and told her sisters to buy any dress they wanted to wear at her wedding. When Kristen and Hannah brought their dresses home to Bow last month, they discovered they had chosen the same one.
“It’s kind of funny how we, in planning to be sort of loose and easygoing about it, we actually ended up having matching dresses after all,” Hannah said.
Hannah, the oldest, said she was happy when Laura got engaged before her and not at all surprised because Laura and Bob had been dating since high school. But she was “a little bit jealous” because she wondered if her own boyfriend would propose soon.
Meanwhile, Laura had told her mother, “All I want is to be a bridesmaid and an aunt.”
“I still get to be a bridesmaid now,” Laura said. “I just get to be a bride first.”
Striving for unique
Adam Brown proposed to Hannah in August, after having a ring designed out of wood from a cherry tree and asking her father’s permission. Hannah, who lives in Egremont, Mass., and works at Orion magazine, will get married Aug. 25 at South Congregational Church in Concord, followed by a reception at Dimond Hill Farm. It will have some similarities to Laura’s wedding; they’ll be held in the same church and will both be catered by Washington Street Cafe.
“I keep asking, ‘What are Laura and Bob doing for this or that? ‘ ” Hannah said. “But I think at the same time we also have a little bit individual ideas . . . of what we’re imagining it will be like.”
The sisters have tried to avoid other similarities among their weddings. Kristen, who’s getting married in October in Massachusetts, said she and Sarah had always talked about having an ice cream sundae bar at their wedding. But when Laura decided to serve ice cream sundaes for dessert at her wedding, Kristen changed her mind.
Laura said she told Kristen she could still serve ice cream, even though it might seem to guests that it had been Laura’s idea. Plus, “ice cream’s better than cake,” she said, jokingly.
But Kristen decided against it. A friend is making cake for her wedding, instead.
Kristen will be the last sister to get married; her October wedding is at Quonquont Orchard in Whatley, Mass. The reception will include food from the farm in Fitzwilliam where she and her fiancee work.
By the time Kristen’s wedding is over, “both of my families will be complete,” she said. In addition to her sisters’ weddings, her fiancee’s brother is getting married this summer.
“We’ll definitely remember this year as a family,” said Hannah, whose fiance also has a sister getting married this year.
“At some point, you have to stop thinking of your kid sister as a kid, and that certainly happens when they get married at the same time as you do,” Hannah said.
But Ellen said her three daughters will always be “kids” in her eyes.
“We’re a close family, we always have been,” David said. “I’ve always sort of wondered how well I’ll hold up in a wedding with giving my daughters away. I’ll probably be a mess.”
(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)