Sara & Matt's Summer Camp Wedding

June 25 |

The Offbeat Bride: Sara, Educational Consultant and Obsessive Blogger

Her Offbeat Partner: Matt, Director of Sharing for a network of charter schools

Location & date of wedding: Sunshine Mountain Lodge in the mountains of Colorado — July 19, 2008

What made our wedding offbeat:We started the wedding planning process by declaring a strict and modest budget: $2,000 to be exact. We wanted our wedding to be about sincerity, authenticity, connection, and a celebration and proclamation of love and commitment. We didn't want it to be about monogrammed napkins and excessive amounts of fondant. In all honesty, we didn't want to let our wedding overshadow our relationship (and we needed to save money for the house we planned to buy four days after our wedding).

We purchased my wedding dress from the clearance rack at Target for a whopping $15 and set out to personalize it by embroidering the story of our life together along the bottom. Since our first date involved a frolic in the sprinklers, for example, we depicted two birds splashing around in a bird bath.

Further, I took some old fabric of mine and—with the help of internet tutorials—fashioned a matching sash for the wedding dress, a tie for my fiancé, and a bandanna for our dog.

We asked our friends and family to donate their old gold to the environmentally-friendly jeweler, greenKarat, so we could incorporate a piece of their history into ours. The company melted the donated gold, credited our account, and created new rings. Our invoice came to $157.

We gave up visions of a stacked cake with ultra-smooth icing and instead ordered seven small cakes from Whole Foods, we elected to use an iPod instead of a DJ, and we sent hand-painted postcards with personalized messages to each guest as an invitation.

We tried to be as environmentally conscious as possible by using biodegradable tableware, setting up several different composting bins during the reception, serving only hormone-free and free-range meat, making cloth napkins, relying on electronic Save the Dates, asking people to RSVP online, and sending postcards for our invitations.

We wrote our ceremony from scratch, which included a tree-planting ceremony and a quilt wrapping. We had asked friends and family to send us scraps of fabric before the wedding, and (again with the help of internet tutorials) crafted them into a quasi-log-cabin quilt. A friend of mine spent an hour before the ceremony collecting wildflowers for my bouquet, my best friend officiated the ceremony, and our dog was part of the wedding party.

The Knot advised: "The more guests feel involved with your wedding, the more likely they will have a great time." Their advice for helping guests feel more involved — "Create a detailed ceremony program." Well, we took the advice more literally. We asked our friends and family to serve as the photographers, caterers, hair stylists, DJs, bartenders, officiant, traffic directors, and videographers.

Our budget wedding planning culminated in a three-day extravaganza that felt a lot like summer camp. People arrived on Friday and enjoyed a Welcome Picnic, which featured a make-your-own-sandwich bar, lemonade, volleyball, board games, a hot-tub, and horseshoes. The fun continued with the ceremony on Saturday afternoon and a reception into the evening. Some guests amused themselves with ghost stories and s'mores around the campfire, while others got wild with the kegs on the dance floor.

Late in the evening, I traded my wedding dress for a bathing suit and soaked in the hot-tub with several of my closest friends.

The next day, as we all hung out around the breakfast table and people started leaving, I actually cried as I hugged my good friends and family goodbye. It was more than a wedding. It was a reunion. It was summer camp.

 

Ceremony 

Our biggest challenge: The obvious answer would be that our biggest challenge was planning a three-day event for 80 people within a $2,000 budget.

The bigger challenge, honestly, was simply believing in ourselves. A self-catered reception and Welcome Picnic? A $15 dress? A ceremony written completely from scratch? During the planning process, certain friends and family scoffed at different elements ("What do you mean you're not going to do a traditional cake-cutting?" and "You seriously want me to help make salsa for 80 people?"). At times, it sounded crazy even to us.

However, we stuck to the path we had carved for ourselves and are definitely glad we took the road less traveled. It has made all the difference.

My favorite moment: Since we rented out the entire B&B and filled it with our closest friends and family, we were entitled to a homemade breakfast every morning from 8-10. We would stumble out of our cabin (I stayed in my pajamas) and make our way down to the main lodge. With a plate full of fresh fruit, warm scones, and frittata, we would settle into chairs on the patio and bask in the good food, good friends, and good conversation. It was such a relaxing start to every day and it ensured that we got to spend significant quality time with our friends and family.

Oh, there was also our surprise first dance. We assumed the traditional first-dance pose, but as soon as the music started ("Kiss" by Prince) the entire wedding party joined us on the dance floor and performed a choreographed dance. My brother-in-law even did a striptease during the free-style section and revealed hot-pink spandex under his suit.

My advice for other offbeat brides: If you can swing it, pay for it yourself. Because we took on the financial burden of paying for our whole wedding, we also reaped the benefits of making all the decisions ourselves. We could make sure that every detail represented who we are as a couple.

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!:

  1. I seriously checked back to see your names about three times, because this sounded so much like my brother's wedding last July. Even the quilt looks similar to the one my sister-in-law's friends made her! It looks and sounds like this wedding was as incredibly, amazingly fun, too!

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  2. I love this wedding, and Sara's blog! It's such an inspiration to stay grounded!

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  3. Wow you're wedding looks so cool, honestly. You're giving me some good ideas, although the dance routine would probably ruin my back. The pics rock! :D

    – Shannon

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  4. this is an amazing wedding! And I really love the ring idea.

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  5. This makes me feel more relaxed about our own camp wedding – it's awesome ot think that, wow, there are people with the same crazy ideas!

    What you said about quality time with friends and family really hit home for us, most of my partner's friends and family are from interstate.

    You seem to have created a really beautiful, warm relaxed atmosphere. Awesome.

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  6. hey this is great!! I just got engaged and starting to explore how to make this whole process my own. Yours is great inspiration. Congratulations on making your wedding real!

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  7. That looks so relaxed and fun! Congratulations! I'm totally impressed with the budget, too!

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  8. I'm sort of tearing up at my desk! I LOVE THIS. My partner and I are planning our wedding – we are thinking of a country fair that's a few days long – and this is so incredibly inspiring at ths just the right time. I was getting a little overwhelemed with "can we really do this all ourselves" and the answer is YES. Off to check the pictures… CONGRATULATIONS!

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  9. this is very similar to what my guy and i are doing. a three-day event at a lodge. i admit i've had many misgivings and doubts about whether this will all work out. your wedding is proof that it can and will! congratulations! thank you for the inspiration!! :)

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  10. Thanks for your kind words, everyone! I wish you the best both with your weddings and your marriages! Be well and be in touch…

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  11. You guys are genius! The dress is awesome! I thought I did good spending $199 on my dress. LOL! I LOVE the make your own sandwich bar thing!

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  12. I love it! I wish I had the fortitude to tell my parents & inlaws to stuff it and do something truly authentic like this! you guys rock!

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  13. BEAUTIFUL–BEAUTIFUL–BEAUTIFUL!!! I love it all–the dress, the ceremony, your dog, everything!

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  14. Wow!
    We are doing the same thing at the beach in 4 weeks! … A camping by the beach party!
    Trying to be eco-friendly on a budget is stressfull! We have the exact same budget and it prooves to be hard, but like you said, you make it your own! Thanks for the inspiration, I was only going to do prepared sandwiches but make your own seems so much more personal! I love love love your wedding porn by the way, best I've seen yet!, wish I knew what the dog was trying to get off the tree?.. lol.. Amazing job!
    Well done guys! Congrats!

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  15. Anyone who hasn't checked it out already, should really read Sara's blog : http://2000dollarwedding.com/. I found it a couple months after getting engaged and I read it a couple of times a week to help me stay sane. This wedding sounds phenomenal and her ideas and focus made it work.

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  16. OMG! I want to see the video of the "first dance"… the whole thing sounds sooo awesome!

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