Cate & Phil's homegrown art barn-dance wedding

By on May. 10th
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.


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.


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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