Hi everyone! I hope you don’t mind that I’m veering off the charted home DIY course to share my wedding with you today. I want to share in part because I made my first venture into the world of blogs (reading them, not writing them) while planning it, which definitely helped lead me to this happy place of writing Red House West. I also want to share my wedding because four years ago, when I was floundering around the vast, often commercialized online world of wedding planning, I was grateful to find the experiences of real, sane people who managed to have a meaningful wedding that didn’t require mortgaging their home or their souls.
Cameron and I were married in September 2010. We were engaged for two years, and it took much of that time for us to figure out what marriage meant to us, and how our wedding might reflect that. I quailed at the idea of being a ‘princess for a day,’ as if somehow a wedding is a vehicle for the bride’s vanity, and the groom is a necessary, but secondary participant.
We considered eloping, but ultimately we decided to take advantage of the opportunity to gather as many of our loved ones as we could into a single place.
I’ve broken this (*fair warning* very long and picture-laden) post into categories to give it a bit of structure. First up? The venue.
*All photos in this post taken by the Weaver House*
Cameron and I decided to thwart the oft-heard complaint of newlyweds that their wedding was a whirlwind they barely remember by having a camp wedding – so the revelry could last for days instead of hours.
We also didn’t want guests to spend a ton of money coming to our wedding – ideally, we wanted to provide accommodations (rustic ones anyway) for our friends and family.
After much searching we found Camp Lane, a summer camp nestled along the Siuslaw River about half an hour from our hometown of Eugene. It had everything we could want: a commercial kitchen, an historic log lodge, a copse of trees perfect for the ceremony AND a swimming hole, myriad games, cabins and large open fields for camping.
We – and that term encompasses not just Cameron and me, but friends and family as well – took a hands-on approach and made most of the elements of our wedding. We fully planned to make our own invitations, but I got absurdly lucky and won a contest hosted by the wedding blog Style Me Pretty. The prize was a full, custom-designed letter-pressed invitation suite by Paisley Quill and oh man, do I love them!
Molly at Paisley Quill had such creative ideas and her design completely captured the feeling of our wedding. The invitations were such a hit that Cameron’s Aunt Lory made us this incredible quilt:
Cameron and I went back and forth a lot on whether it was worth it to hire professional photographers. In hindsight, it’s one of the best decisions we made – the images are touchstones for memories that might otherwise blend into a hazy – albeit happy – remembrance of that day.
Kelty and Hannah of the Weaver House are amazing women and absolute magicians. Neither Cameron nor I are comfortable around cameras – I typically look like I’m trying to eat the camera; all neck tendons and teeth and the whites of my eyes. Somehow they managed to capture photos where we look like us – but the ‘us’ we are when there aren’t any cameras around.
To help us stay within our budget, Kelty and Hannah took photos of the ceremony and dinner, but not the party after. Having both of them there meant that while one took portraits, the other was taking photos of our guests. The result is a beautiful and pretty complete record of the day.
What we wore
Cameron’s mom made his vest, and my mom gave him his shirt. My wedding dress was an early 1970s handmade creation that I found at a thrift store. With its empire waist and softly-draped skirt (and once the mutton sleeves had been trimmed to cap sleeves) it had a very Pride & Prejudice feel.
Because we knew we’d be nervous until it was over, we decided to have our ceremony on Friday evening so we could spend rest of the weekend relaxing with everyone else. The ceremony site was in an amphitheater lined with wooden benches and surrounded by big trees.
Our wedding party was comprised of our eight parents and our niece, Taylor, who carried the rings. Cameron and I walked in together, split ranks to give our parents hugs and kisses, then met again at the front.
When we first started planning, we were really embarrassed by the thought of sharing something as personal as our love and commitment in front of people. Once we realized there was no script we had to follow and took the time to write down things that we actually wanted from marriage and wanted to promise each other, the embarrassment was gone.
Our friend Annalise – who I’ve known since birth – was our officiant. Our vows emphasized giving each other support to grow as individuals while also making time to nurture each other and our relationship. Here are two of our vows that we’ve frequently referred to in the last four years:
I support your interests and the things you do that bring you joy and I vow to carve out space and time for you and us within my own interests.
I acknowledge that you are not a mind reader, and I will do my best to communicate with you.
Cameron also vowed to bring a little order to my disorder while I vowed to bring some disorder to his order. We’ve both done a bang-up job at that :)
Then we hugged, kissed and led a parade over to the trebuchet. Because, why not?
Our Nod to Tradition
It is here, dear readers, that we veer into a world of nerd-dom unpalatable to most blogs.
There are lot of wedding traditions out there, and we tried to pick out only those that meant something to us personally. Neither of us was interested in Cameron trying to wrest a garter from my thigh with his teeth while his Grandma Jackie looked on. We didn’t plan on doing a bouquet toss either, but when practicality made us abandon the plan to fling a flaming orb from the trebuchet, we decided that was a tradition we could make our own.
A sign let people know that this was a bouquet toss for both men and women (and boys and girls) and that the object was to place a flag with their name on it in the spot they thought the bouquet would land once hurled from the trebuchet.
Cameron built this sweet little siege weapon in our driveway – the neighbors eyed it warily – and there wasn’t much opportunity to test it before the wedding. So with guests cordoned off for safety and some trepidation in our guts, we let fly the bouquet (weighted with a bag of sand).
It worked! And much of the rest of the weekend was spent using the trebuchet to fling just about anything we could find – watermelons made the best explosion.
We opted to have a buffet-style dinner catered on Friday night. The food was lovely and it felt wonderful to sit down to a meal with our nearest and dearest.
We did ask for family and friends to make pies, and did they ever come through! Most people chose to make them when Oregon’s berry season was at its zenith, freeze them, then bake the pies the day before or day of the wedding. The rest of our meals were simple: Our moms and stepdads provided breakfast: bagels, cream cheese, fruit and sliced meats with plenty of coffee were laid out for guests on Saturday morning as they came in from cabins and tents to have breakfast by a roaring fire in the lodge. Late that afternoon, our dads and stepmoms joined forces for a barbecue of epic proportions. Everyone pitched in to help with dishes and clean up.
Favors, Flowers and Decorations
All of the wedding decor was DIY. I’m thankful for the afternoons spent getting to know my mother-in-law (and learning to use a serger) as we sewed napkins and table runners from vintage fabric I’d been collecting (hoarding?) for ages. The flowers were grown, picked and arranged by family members and the bright pinks and oranges of late summer dahlias were so pretty in the blue glassware that my mom and I combed the local thrift stores for.
For favors, we made magnets with pictures of things we liked (i.e. chickens, roller skates, bats, etc. – you know, the usual) and grew little rosemary starts to give away. People also took home some of the napkins we made, though we still have thousands (rough estimate, possible over-exaggeration) that we use daily in our home.
With the Advantage of Hindsight
There aren’t many things I’d change about our wedding, even from this vantage four years later. I guess if I were to do it again, perhaps I’d check to see if my dress was see through before our actual wedding day so I didn’t spend ten very anxious minutes stressing about it (it was fine). I suppose I’d figure out what I was going to do with my hair ahead of time, so Mera didn’t get saddled with a vague, pleading request and a handful of bobby pins while everyone else was already at the ceremony site. I would probably try to eat some actual food during the day so I wasn’t a zombie by dinner, and I’d manage to get a picture with my baby sister in which we don’t look like close relations of ol’ bug eyed Don Knotts. And I would definitely, definitely have gotten a picture of Mera giving her tender, sweet speech in which her mouth wasn’t agape, so she would let me put that photo on the blog today.
A Final Word
I loved our wedding and I wish we could do it every year! It was a great excuse to take on creative projects, but I did find myself battling against the Demons of Avarice and Expectation that would arise from the glossy, perfect wedding images I saw in magazines and on blogs.
So I want to finish up by saying that I don’t think there’s any right way to have a wedding – there are a zillion permutations, all unique to the couple, and in the end what’s important is that you and your partner are doing what matters to you, and not feeling bullied by expectations – both societal and familial – and traditions that have no meaning for you personally.
Thanks so much for reading along! We’ll be back to more house-based content next week (and we have a terrific set of Good Scores to share this Friday). Have a great day!
Photography by the inimitable women of The Weaver House; Invitations by Paisley Quill; Venue – Camp Lane; Friday Dinner Catering by Cornucopia; the blog I found most sane and helpful while planning was A Practical Wedding