Cate & Phil's homegrown art barn-dance wedding

May 10 |
in front of our garden
Photos by Bruce Silcox

The offbeat bride: Cate, teacher

Her offbeat partner: Phil, youth urban agriculture program director

Date and location of wedding: Elm Creek Farm, aka The Art Farm, Plymouth, MN — September 26, 2009

What made our wedding offbeat: We held the wedding at my in-laws' farm and did almost everything ourselves. When I say "did," I mean prepped the grounds, cleaned out the barn, grew most of the produce, cooked most of the food, baked the cakes, performed the ceremony, crafted decorations and favors, made the iPod playlist, printed invites and programs, hung the lights and lanterns, and on and on. But when I say "we," I mean our whole community of family and friends!

flower crewWe asked people to pitch-in all throughout our preparations, and we loved how sweeping the barn clean or chopping veggies for freezing brought together our friends and families.

Artwork by my in-laws, Russ Vogt and Suzanne Rooney, adorns their property year-round, but they also hung paintings in the barn and made vases for us.

My side contributed their talents too, from my dad's painting on the program, my mom and grandma sewing all the napkins and tableclothes, and my sister leading the knitting team making my gorgeous shawl, the bridesmaids' shrugs, and Phil's socks.

Many of our friends stayed the night in tents, so we had a crowd for breakfast and cleaning up, too.

sisters

music by the squashTell us about the ceremony: We aren't religious, and didn't have any officiant-figures that seemed right among our friends and family.

Keeping with the community-minded spirit, we divided up the different sections of the ceremony among the members of the wedding party. They each took turns giving speeches, doing readings, and playing music. This was a bit complicated to organize, but we loved how the "wedding by committee" allowed different voices and perspectives to contribute to the overall feeling of the ceremony.

community support time

dinner timeOur biggest challenge: A lot of people were skeptical about us making most of the food ourselves. It did add an immense amount of work to the total wedding effort, and I did have moments — like coming home after my first few days back at work to a kitchen overflowing with produce, and knowing we needed to spend hours stewing tomatoes and bagging frozen kale — when I thought these skeptics were right.

Overall, I am SO grateful that we stuck to our plan. Phil and I and many of our friends and family love growing and cooking food so this helped the wedding feel like us. If I hadn't been busy baking cornbread muffins and whisking salad dressings a few hours before the wedding, I just would have had more time to worry about how I looked or other details way more likely to make me freak out ;)

bride side

shout outs by the tentsMy favorite moment: I had been living in fear of the forecasted rain on our wedding weekend, and it poured the day before. We slept out at the farm, and I awoke to beautiful early morning sunshine coming in the window. It felt like a blessing, and that warmth and magic continued for the rest of the day. It sounds cheesy, but it really felt like even though we put so much time and energy and anticipation into planning the day, it just unfolded like a wonderful surprise.

so say we all!My funniest moment: We had people recite a poem instead of clinking glasses during the reception. One limerick cycle was devilishly funny, if a little dirty. Our photographer captured a great series of our faces going from amused to a little embarrassed to hilariously scandalized.

watering the tree
Watering the tree during their ceremony

seed packet favorsWas there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? We had a lot of anxiety about using the barn for our reception (and back-up ceremony location). It is very old, not entirely weather-proof, and hadn't been used as a gathering place in a very long time, if ever.

There was a trying day during the planning phase in which one of our moms was concerned the floor would cave in and the other mom had visions of candles tipping and the whole thing burning down.

I was sometimes worried that it wouldn't spruce up nice and seem wedding-worthy. Of course, it ended up looking fabulous, and had enough space for our eighty-some guests.

Dancing on the old wooden floors for hours was one of the most fun nights I have ever had. Even my in-laws' shy and quirky dog got in on the dance party at one point.

It turned out so well, I can't believe we considered having the reception anywhere else.

first dance

My advice for offbeat brides: Wedding planning can be hard. It manages to pull together any challenging feelings you may have about many complex areas — your relationship, appearance, finances, friendships, family dynamics, etc. — AND you have to make so many decisions.

With so much emotional weight, it can be hard to detach and realize that most of the decisions (kidney beans or lentils weighing down the mason jar candle holders, omg how will I deciiiiiiiiide?!?!) have no bearing on anything that truly matters in your life.

I wasn't always successful at this, but it's still worth saying — when you are stressed, take a breath, try to unpack if it's coming from a real stressful issue at the root, and let go of unnecessary tension.

vows

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? The whole process of planning and pulling off the wedding reminded us over and over to be thankful for all the amazing and generous and caring people in our lives.

cakes by cynthiaCare to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. Everything about your wedding blows my mind. I love love love your dress and have been looking for a cute one just like it (I will find it in time!) the barn, the beautiful cake, your passion for food and sticking with a traditional country barn wedding, I love it all. I just can't gush enough. Congrats on a beautiful day and union!

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  2. This is the best wedding porn ever. It's like, hardcore wedding porn. I feel like I should put my computer in a brown paper bag now.

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  3. Such a cute wedding you guys! Such an undertaking and yet you pulled it off magnificently. I hope my wedding will be just as offbeat and amazing! :)

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  4. How did you set up wedding-by-committee? Did you explain it to your guests ahead of time? Did you have one person on the committee be kind of a shepherd leading the group?

    We're planning something similar and are just starting to think it through, so I'd love to hear more about that part of it!

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    • We didn't explain it to guests ahead of time, but each part (Welcome, Remembrance, Readings, Music etc.) was listed in the program with the person's name. We didn't have a committee head…. Phil and I planned the structure, and wrote some of what people said. We left it open to them to adapt it as they wanted and that turned out great.

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  5. THIS.

    We're planning the same sort of wedding by committee! I've never read about others doing it, so this is *SO* exciting to read. We've got our best man & maid of honor doing the "do you, do you – married" bit and the rest will be shared among the rest of the party. I was also hoping for us to do the food ourselves, but we ended up conceding most of that (everything not at room temperature) to professionals, but since they're a kick-ass local organic slow food caterer, I'm pretty happy to have them aboard.

    I'd love to hear more about this wedding! Everything about it makes me grin real big. What did you sew the tablecloths & napkins from?

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    • Thanks! The tablecloths were used bedsheets from thrift stores. I bought most of the napkin fabric at a neighbors' garage sale- she worked at an upholstery place and sold fabric for a dollar a pound!

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  6. Man, why doesn't anyone I know live on an awesome farm with art all over? I guess I'll just have to go live in one myself some day :)

    Beautiful and amazing everything!

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  7. I love LOTS of weddings we feature, but this one reminds me so much of my own wedding … I can't help but love it a little extra. :) :)

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  8. I LOVE IT! Beautiful. Love the decorations, the lighting, love all the little details (great choice on the kidney beans), and the cakes look delicious. What a great job in transforming the barn. I also liked the advice from the bride. Cheers and congrats!

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  9. Hey this is such a fun wedding and its very special since you guys took a lot of time to prepare it yourselves. The barn looks great! I love the paper ball lanterns look fabulous! Congratulations on a such a wonderful wedding!

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  10. WOW, amazing. im getting married soon in a very very similar way (but in Switzerland ;o) ) Cate, would u mind share some more with me? would be cool if u d contact me via email! ***

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    • Hello! I'm from switzerland (not jet accepted by the tribesmaids..) and wantet to ask you if you have any advice on weddingstuff in switzerland? :)

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      • Hi Shelly! I approved your application today. Please check your spam folder if you don't see the verification email. :)

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  11. I had the honor of being one of Cate's bridesmaids at this wedding, and yes, it was as epic as it looks!

    Cate and Phil did an amazing job of matching our friends/families natural talents to contribute to the day (e.g. the "bridesman" Pip is a premier bar manager/mixologist so naturally he created a signature cocktail, "groomslady" Cynthia is a pastry chef, so she made amazing cakes).

    Also I was, shamefully, one of the folks who was initially concerned about loose mental screws when Cate told me she was preparing all the food herself but it was downright incredible and seemed to go smoothly with all the helping hands. It fit perfectly with the day.

    Sigh. What a great day.

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  12. Gorgeous!! Do your in-laws rent the farm out? My fiancée and I are still looking for a venue!

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  13. When I was googling around for custom wedding shoes I found this photo of these amazing teal and orange shoes and found the Etsy vendor and asked if I could get those exact shoes…turns out THOSE shoes are YOURS!!! :) HydraHeart is making shoes for me right now with fabric that I picked out but I spent about a month looking endlessly for fabric that was as awesome as yours. Outdoor wedding perfection! Congrats.

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    • Crazy shoe coincidence! Good luck with everything wedding!

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  14. Your wedding was beautiful! And I am absolutely in love with your shawl. Did you knit that yourself?

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  15. Cate: Can we start an email conversation? I'm having a barn/farm wedding in August and have many questions for you! We're growing our own food, trying not to throw anything away, offsetting our carbon footprint, etc. etc. Would you mind emailing me your email so I can ask you a million questions about how you pulled off such a lovely, DIY wedding? laurenmwhaley at yahoo dot com. Thank you! And congratulations!

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  16. Hi there-

    I am looking for a barn to rent in MN for my wedding in 2012…. I can't seem to find any information on this location. Do you have any contact info?

    Thank you!!

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  17. Congrats on such a lovely wedding! I am trying to plan an outside reception and am wondering if you had a back up plan for rain. My mother is terrified that if we plan to have the reception outside then it will either be too hot or too rainy. It's frustrating!

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  18. I'd love to get some contact info for this location if anyone has it!! :)

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