Lisa & Rowly's kid-friendly campsite wedding

March 23 |

The Offbeat Bride: Lisa, administrative assistant/writer

My Offbeat Partner: Rowly, History professor

Location & date of wedding: The Woods at Wihakowi a local camp and retreat center, Northfield, Vermont — June 21, 2008.

What made our wedding offbeat: This was a second wedding for us both, so we had family members to think about, our kids and new friends to fit in. We thought about what we wanted and realized that since we'd both done the big traditional wedding before, neither of us want that AGAIN, and it wasn't who we were as a couple. We had a small budget and decided early on to cut our guest list in half. This was painful on one hand, knowing that we couldn't invite every single person we wanted to, but on the other hand it was a relief. We were able to invite those who were truly part of our everyday life.

Bunkhouses on the wedding camp ground.
Bunkhouses on the wedding camp ground.
Since both our families were from out of state, we searched for a place where we could be together for a weekend. We wanted more of an experience than just a few hours of the traditional ceremony, food and dancing. We lucked out finding the Woods at Wihakowi, which is about 5 miles from our own house. It was small enough that we could take it over for the weekend but had enough space (36 acres!) that everyone could spread out.

Our ceremony was in an outdoor amphitheater that was very casual and rustic. We had the ceremony at 1 pm and then gave guests the "run" of the Woods. They could enjoy swimming, hiking, fishing, badminton and all kinds of sports, or just take a nap. We then called everyone back together for a BBQ at 6 pm which transitioned into bonfire at night. We asked a friend of ours to be "bunkhouse dad" and he gladly stayed with all the kids to add to the experience for them.

The hand fasting with their specially made cord.
The hand fasting with their hand-made cord.
The ceremony was a lovely, very important, 45 minutes of a great weekend. We incorporated our two best people who each read a poem and our co-officiants were each of our best friends, who'd never met. They were perfect. We wrote the ceremony ourselves, and all our own vows. We used the hand fasting part, with a cord we've woven ourselves, to make vows to the larger community and our commitment to the world.

We incorporated our daughters after the exchanging our rings. Katherine and Grace were invited up, we all held hands in a circle and Todd talked about how we were now a family and then Rowly and I gave them each a necklace with a ring on it as a symbol of our commitment to them.

Instead of a big bridal party, we each picked a 'best person' and Rowly bucked tradition and had a female friend, Nicole, as his. We then had six flower girls who we knew would be adorable and provide moments of joy and hilarity. And they did throughout the weekend, including making us a lovely banner and booklet.

The "campy" flower girls strike a pose.

We also asked people for song requests and incorporated them into our playlists. It turned out not to be a dancing reception at all, save the kids rocking down to Miley Cirus, but it was nice to hear the music and everyone's requests.

The flags across the amphitheater were words sent to us from family and friends. We sent out an e-mail asking for their favorite word or phrase and then cut up some sheets and wrote them. We got a wonderful variety and I know some of the words caused some discussion during the ceremony!

Our biggest challenge: Money! We had a budget of $3,000 and so we had to prioritize what was important to us. In the end that proved to be a good thing. More than 2/3 of the budget went to weekend accommodations and food. We decided early on to not serve alcohol at the wedding for a several reasons, one of which was cost.

Pretty hand-picked flowers in buckets.
Pretty hand-picked flowers in buckets.
In the end we were able to have a great rehearsal dinner (homemade pizza), a reception BBQ with locally produced and grown food, and a farewell breakfast with yummy homemade muffins and pancakes. We were also able to stay ourselves for the weekend and be with everyone. That was more important than serving everyone beer.

Rowly gave me an iPod as a gift and we used that for the music. For the flowers I decided to just pick whatever flowers were available in my garden or elsewhere. In fact, my best friend and co-officiant, Christina, had a wonderful time driving on dirt roads looking for a patch of daisies that a work colleague had told me about.

My mom made my dress and bought the materials. I splurged on Mary Jane crocs for myself, but have worn them nearly everyday since the wedding! Rowly wore a polo shirt and khaki shorts (dressing up for him!) that cost a total of $20 and I gave him new running sneakers as his wedding gift.

We were able to have a good friend come take pictures for the weekend and be with us. She graciously accepted a fraction of the fee a 'professional' would have.

It was great to be creative and prioritize. It made the wedding truly ours.

A touching Mom & daughter moment.
A touching Mom & daughter moment.
My favorite moment: I have two. One is walking in, holding my daughter, Grace's hand. I had a feeling of "oh wow, this is real" as I glanced at those gathered and walked towards Rowly.

The other was during the ceremony when Rowly was reading his vows to me. He was saying all these wonderful things about why he loved me. He came to a part where he talked about how I reminded me of his mother and how he wished she could be there (she has Alzheimer's). And his voice broke and his eyes filled. I know some women wouldn't want their groom to compare them to his mother, but Rowly is different. He has unbelievable respect for women in general and his mother in particular. It was the highest compliment I felt he could have given me and I felt blown away. Plus, he'd said so many other lovely things, too!

The couple exchanging rings.
The couple exchanging rings.

Also the moments when we took our vows and did our hand fasting, I spoke in a loud clear voice because I really felt the vows inside. It was powerful for me.

Later during the BBQ, we had an 'open mic' for toasts and I was amazed at how many people got up, even normally reserved people (including me!) to share stories, wishes and observations. It was really intimate and showed to me how comfortable everyone was and how casual we made the atmosphere.

My advice for other offbeat brides: I spent lots of time on OffbeatBride.com, read the Offbeat Bride book and on the tribe. I never looked at a bridal magazine. I realized that to make the wedding what we wanted, was to take stock of who we really are. Rowly would have looked handsome in a tux, but that didn't reflect who he is. His polo shirt, khaki shorts and a brand new spanking pair of running shoes were him.

Once we really looked at who we were and what we were comfortable with, it seemed a bit easy from there. We did have some things, like a hand fasting, where we'd wonder what family would think, but we didn't think about scaring everyone.

Know who you are and find ways to show that!

Care to share a few vendors:
Photographer: Amy J. Putnam, www.ajputnam.com

Enough talk, show me the wedding porn!

Flower girl poster

  1. Your wedding is just beautiful! I LOVE the flags, the flower girl posse, and how you involved your children… CONGRATULATIONS!

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  2. Oh my gosh!! I know the groom! Well, he probably doesn't know me, but he is a professor at Norwich University (my alma mater!). That is crazy. Your wedding looked beautiful and the campground looks awesome. congratulations!

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  3. I totally know the best woman, Nicole, also! We were really close when I was a student there…wow, small world. now i have to e-mail her..

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  4. This is such a relief! My budget is $3000 as well, and the more and more I think about it (well, the less I think about it actually) I realize that the only things that matter to me is the dress that my mom is making me, the pies that I want for the pie buffet, the music played at the ceremony by my childhood friends who are a pianist and violinist and the pictures. Seeing your wedding and how simple and fun and tasty it was reassures me that I can do it all with my budget. =] Congrats!

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  5. I love the campsite wedding! We're getting married at Camp Westwind on the Oregon coast in september! :)

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  6. That is beautiful – so personal and touching. Congratulations – I am thrilled that you were able to have it reflect the two of you so perfectly :)

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  7. Yay for liberated brides. I too read OBB religiously (am getting hitched in Dec) and have shunned bride magazines!

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  8. What a beautiful, touching wedding. Congratulations!

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  9. How beautiful! I love the camp idea so, so much.

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  10. I had tears in my eyes when I read this and was (and still am) truly honored to have been invited to your perfect day. I wish I could have stayed longer or had my kiddos with me to enjoy Wihakowi more but being part of ceremony was not only lovely, unique but inspiring.
    You and Rowly are a true match and I am blessed to know you both.
    XoX

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  11. I have to say the wedding of Lisa and Rowly was fantastic. I got to tell stories to the kids in the bunkhouse in the evening. It was a bit of glory days for me because some of the stories were about a hike on the Appalacian Trail but it was the only way to keep 10 kids attention. Tom Sawyer couldn't even do it. I was honored to have been invited and "The Woods" is a great rustic venue for a family get together. Lisa and Rowly are a very special couple and their wedding was unique and awesome. I really enjoyed my time talking with Lisa's Mother who is wonderful.

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  12. How beautiful and genuine! I liked the comment about Rowly comparing Lisa to his mother – I know it's terribly cliche to say that to find out how a man will respect a woman look at his relationship with his mother, but sometimes it's perfectly appropriate, and the mark of a good man (there are other marks of good men and all, this isn't one of those "either-or" things). It just seemed so very honest and touching.

    Congratulations!

    I wonder if we'll get more OBBs budgeting with the economic recession, since I have a suspicion most of these OBBs are American and that's where it's hitting hardest. Necessity is the mother of invention!

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  13. That is seriously heartwarming how you were able to include your girls. The flowers look beautiful and I love the flag idea. What a sincere wedding!

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  14. I LOVE this wedding! it is just beautiful and simple and all about families and friends coming together to celebrate. The camp idea is just amazing!
    You guys look like an amazing couple, my hats off to you both and a big "congrats!" as well!

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  15. Thanks everyone for your wonderful comments. Now, about 9 months after the wedding with snow still on the ground here in Vermont, it's lovely to see it all again in pictures online. (Because of course I look at pictures at home alot!) It was a wonderful weekend in a wonderful place. I'd like to have a weekend party there every year, wedding or not. But we were just so grateful for all of it. And I so much appreciate everything you are all saying!

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  16. P.S.

    I forgot to mention how incredibly cool the "Bunkhouse Dad" is! How his wife would have loved to see him in action. Tom Sawyer has nothing on him!!

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  17. YAY vermont camping wedding! We are planning ours, though in southern vt, for september. It is so wonderful to read/ see such a gorgeous gathering – and so encouraging (i'm in the "traumatized" stage of planning). Thank you, and great job!

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  18. What an absolutely unique, beautiful wedding. Thank you for sharing. (And YOU, OBB, for helping me find this!)

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  19. We are planning to have our Oregon coast wedding at a scenic waterfront location at the Loon Lake Lodge near Reedsport on the Oregon Coast. The centerpiece of our Oregon wedding is a beautiful Lakeside House, a warm, friendly gathering place that overlooks the lake from the hillside. The house has a massive stone fireplace in the front room with floor to ceiling windows, plus a fully furnished kitchen. We had a family reunion in Oregon there several years ago and fell in love with the lake and scenery.

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  20. What an inspiration!!!

    I too have a very limited budget, and my hubby and I are getting married at a beachside campsite in South BC, Canada.
    Surrounded by nature, the closest friends and family, you've shown me prime example of what matters. Thanks for giving me the extra boost of confidence to use my imagination, go with the flow and prioritize what really matters!
    CONGRATS!!

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  21. Your story and pictures got me choked up. My Fiance and I are thinking about having a camping wedding at our favorite place to camp. It has a lot of meaning to his family, it is somewhere they have camped for years and it meant a lot to his grandparents, who are no longer alive. We have camped there as a family (with my two girls) a few times and with our small budget, who we are as a couple and the feel we want for our wedding I think a camping wedding would be perfect. I am going to bookmark this page, thank you so much for sharing and maybe someday in the near future I will be able to share my wedding day on here! This is by far my favorite site and I love seeing all the beautful and unique wedding ideas! <3

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