Laura & Dave's Fire-Dancing Mountain Love Affair

October 14 |

The offbeat bride: Laura, Policy Wonk

Her offbeat partner: Dave, Computer Geek

Location & date of wedding: Pinegri-La Retreat Center in the Trinity National Forest - Castella, CA – September 27th, 2008

What made our wedding offbeat: Last December, while in Vietnam, we posted a blog mentioning a possible future destination wedding in Long Hai. We'd never before mentioned marriage, so it was a surprise to friends and family that not only were we thinking about a wedding, we also expected them to fly to southeast Asia.

Over this past Memorial Day we visited Pinegri-La, a private cabin/camping retreat in the middle of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, and decided to book the weekend of September 26-28. When we got home we put together a wedding website and then sent an email to our friends that read "What are you doing September 26-28? You should do this" with a link to the website.

I think everyone was so relieved that they didn't have to fly to Vietnam that a 3-day, camping, costumed, fire dancing affair in the mountains sounded just fine by them.

We had a beautiful venue that was supportive of our style and flexible enough to allow our creativity. In other words, we wanted fire dancers! We wanted costumes! We wanted to stay up until dawn listening to music! The owners of Pinegri-La, outside of the rules necessary to make the land and guests safe, were very open to our ideas and plans. The venue was a little non-traditional, but we both love Northern California, and we love to camp. Our guests stayed in rustic dorm-style cabins or in tents, and no one seemed to mind. Beth and John, the owners, and their small staff provided all the food throughout the weekend, and our party had exclusive use of the entire property.

I can't stress enough how wonderful it was to have an entire weekend to spend with our close friends and family.

And we didn't have the money or the desire to hire strangers to work at our event. Our photographer, musician, centerpiece artist, "reverend", fire dancers, and the DJ were all friends who helped us out.

We wrote our own ceremony, lifting most of it from various sources and we had a friend marry us. It was so very personal, sweet, and damn funny. Our friends who are in a local fire troupe performed during the wedding reception, after their performance some of us played with the glow poi and the hula hoops. It was a huge hit!

One of the most offbeat elements of our wedding was the costume photo booth guest book. About two weeks before our ceremony I asked Dave to make a photo booth. He did it! A bunch of us brought our Burning Man costumes and we had a mirror so that people could dress up, then we had a tented area with a camera on a tripod, a laptop, and a projector.

The laptop prompted how to start the photo series, the photos were projected to the outside of the tent so folks hanging around the reception area could see the pictures, then the photo strip printed out two sets of photos so guests could keep a copy and then use the other copy to sign the guest book. The costumes were a huge hit, even with our parents!

Our biggest challenge: We had very few challenges throughout the process. I suppose the biggest challenge was the cost. We were determined to throw the party of our lives without going into debt. I was also very concerned about asking our friends to do too much. I wanted them to have fun.

Oh, also, it turns out we wrote the wrong county on our marriage license and now we have to go through a process of amending the document before our marriage is legal. Our friends offered to help us put together a do-over wedding if we wanted. If it weren't for the cost, we'd be seriously considering it.

My favorite moment: The ceremony! We both loved our ceremony. After organizing an entire weekend, I think I underestimated how much I would be affected by the ceremony. One of the unscripted moments that makes me smile now is the fact that I was determined not to get "ugly cry face" so as I was walking down the aisle. I made eye contact with my friend. who had been at the bachelorette party. and mouthed the words "penis straw" to her. While I don't have "ugly cry face" in my pictures, I do have an open mouth, laughing hysterically in most of them…

My offbeat advice: Have the wedding that you and your partner want because I promise, unless they are crazy mean people, your family will be happy when they see how happy you are at your wedding. Our family was a little shocked when we said we were going to have costumes and fire dancers, yet at some point over the weekend they were all in costume, and loved the fire performance.

Have fun with the planning process because, contrary to popular belief, wedding planning does not have to be stressful nor does it require hiring a professional. I stressed for about two weeks before the ceremony and picked fights over various things. I wondered if I'd made a mistake about not hiring a planner/coordinator, but when we were in that moment right before the ceremony none of that mattered, everything just fell into place, and the mistakes or missteps that we made are turning out to be the touching moments that I am cherishing the most right now.

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn: Click the photo below to see hundreds of great shots from Laura and Dave's mountain camping retreat wedding !

  1. Fantastic! Please please PLEASE tell us more about this homemade photo booth – how did you manage to transfer the photos to the laptop so quickly? How did you set this up to print? This is such an incredible idea – details, please!

    Best wishes to you both!

  2. Leah, that's a great idea for a guestblog "how to" post! ICKSILLINT…

  3. Thanks Ariel and everyone! BTW, Dave turns 40 tomorrow and says the eye candy comment was a great birthday present ;-) I'm still working on getting him to do a "how to" on the photo booth.

  4. I found Pinegri-la and then discovered Yelp, under Beth's direction, where you mentioned you might be available for discussion of the details of your event. (Already an obsessive reader of Offbeat Bride since getting engaged about a month ago, it seemed all too encouraging that your wedding was featured here!). PLUS, I had already envisioned a wedding where my friends could showcase their firedancing, and was thinking this was the perfect place… then I saw your pics!!

    So we are getting ready to visit the place next weekend and really aren't sure if it's in our budget. I would love to pick your brain on how you made it work for you! Any advice you have to offer would be GREATLY appreciated!

    Let me know if you have a moment to spare or if you are simply too busy these days! Regardless, THANK YOU so much for all of your posts… They have been truly inspirational and give us hope that our vision is possible!!

  5. hi laura
    I really enjoeyed looking at the pictures and think this is a very beautiful way to celebrate a wedding! I like the natural and relaxed atmosphere and the smiling! a frined of mine is getting married soon and plans a marriage outside too. since we are both big fans of outdoor parties and such stuff as pyro shows I know she would love your way to get married too! She asked me to do the ceremony for them together with another friend. I started collecting ideas for myself but somehow I'm still a bit lost :-) can you maybe give me some hints ( I don't mean exact words , rather small ceremonial things that make it festive). I then maybe can personalize some of it or use it as an inspiration. That would be great! I wish the both of you only the best and keep smiling your amazing smile!
    *** monika****

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