Sam & Brian's Jewish camp wedding by the lake

By on Mar. 7th

Photos by Michael Lee

The offbeat bride: Sam, Jewish educator

Her offbeat partner: Brian, IT Dude

Date and location of wedding: Camp Chi, Lake Delton, Wisconsin — September 10, 2011

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We had our wedding at the summer camp where we met. It was more of a whole weekend wedding, and rented out all of the campsite for it. Brian and I love camping, the outdoors, and Wisconsin, and we were able to incorporate that into our wedding weekend. Our guests were welcome to stay in the camp cabins, and the only beer we served was our favorite Wisconsin micro brewery, New Glarus.

The ceremony overlooked the lake and the reception was in the camp gym. Since it was a Jewish wedding on a Saturday night, we had to wait until 8:00 p.m. for Shabbat to end to start any type of pre-wedding events.

our chuppah

Our ketubah

Our love for nature was included in everything. My aunt quilted a "Tree of Life" for our chuppah, and we also had it as our ketubah design. My cousin designed and printed our invitations, and some bridesmaids helped out with the bottle cap magnets that we used for our escort cards and twig candle holders. Brian's ITness played a role in the DIY too! He created a photo booth with Sparkbooth and a laptop.

Our good friend's funk band played at our reception. It was the funkiest hora I've ever heard! We embraced the Wisconsin Dells and encouraged guest to explore the "Waterpark capital of the world." We even had brunch the next morning at Paul Bunyan's cook shanty.

Tell us about the ceremony: Our ceremony was a traditional egalitarian Jewish wedding. We started the evening with Havdalah, the ending ceremony of Shabbat. We did it the camp way, our song leader friend leading, with everyone gathered in one big circle. Then the pre-ceremony events: ketubah signing, and veiling on one side of camp. Then everyone made their way up to the cove for the actual ceremony. Our rabbi was amazing at guiding us through the processes and making sure we were able to incorporate everything we wanted to do. For instance, at traditional Jewish weddings, the bride will circle the groom seven times, but we made it egalitarian. I circled Brian three times, he circled me three times and then we circled each other.

We used our own new Kiddush Cup (ritual wine glass) and one from my grandfather. We also wrote our own English text on one side of the ketubah, while keeping a more traditional Hebrew text on the other side. Rabbi Altman even broke out into a camp song and had everyone join in. The wedding reception ended at about 2:00 a.m. with the grace after meal. There are seven blessings that are recited during the ceremony (Sheva Brachot) that are again repeated at the end of the meal. My cousins and friends led this prayer, and it was a fantastic way to end the evening.

Our biggest challenge: Our biggest challenge was not only planning a large wedding three hours away, but also halfway across the country. For the most part of the engagement, I was in grad school in New York City while Brian and all of our family were in Chicago. The camp had never had a wedding this large before, but they were very flexible and met all of our needs. We also hired a wedding planner who lived closer to camp and we were able to meet her halfway to do the planning.

l'chaim, to life!

My favorite moment: Having our friends and family come in from all over the country to spend the weekend with us was so meaningful. The closest major airport to camp is two hours away, so no matter where you were coming from it was a big schlep.

We were able to include our closest friends and family in many pre-wedding events. My grad school friends led Friday night Shabbat services and we had four witnesses sign our ketubah. This meant so much to us that even if they were not standing up, they were honored in other ways.

My funniest moment: The funniest moment would have to be the best man, Pete, getting interrupted during his best man rant and then kicked off the mic by our four-year-old nephew who had enough of him. Also, Brian's face as he was lifted in the chair during the hora was classic.

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? We were not really sure how the lighting was going to turn out at the ceremony. The location by the lake can be pitch black at night, so this created a challenge not only for pictures, but for everyone attending being able to witness the ceremony. I saw a beautiful picture of a ceremony lit up by holiday lights, lanterns, and candles and knew that was what I wanted. I showed the picture to our wedding planner and she blew my mind away. The ceremony was lit up exactly how I imagined. It was awesome!

Just the guys

My advice for offbeat brides: Make sure to take some time at the wedding for you and your new spouse. There is a Jewish tradition called Yichud which means "seclusion," where the bride and groom spend some time alone immediately after the ceremony. It was so amazing to take some time to take a breath, reflect, and eat something, just the two of us. If you can sneak away, do it.

If there are crazy/fun/different pictures that you are thinking about, do not just write them down, but print them out AND give them to a bridesmaid (or someone who will be there with you) to remind you. There were a ton of pictures ideas I had that were special because of camp traditions and we did not do them.

first kiss

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!



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