Lane & Jeff's eco-conscious upcycled wedding

June 15 |
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Photos by Elisa Lazo de Valdez and Tim Ward Photography

The offbeat bride: Lane, Project Administrator

Her offbeat partner: Jeff, Senior Drafter

Date and location of wedding: Hoyt Arboretum, Portland, Oregon — August 13, 2011

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Our wedding was done on a budget of $3000 and was pretty much 100% DIY. It was a green event following these simple rules: everything had to be borrowed, used, or homemade/DIY, and everything had to be easily recycled or upcycled to a new home to create as little waste as possible.

As a Master Recycler, it is very important that we had a low-impact wedding. At the end, we only had one very small garbage bag of trash (grocery store size)!

My wedding dress was made from a vintage slip I had in my closet as well as other fabric remnants (including curtains!) from a resale/handmade boutique called Salty Teacup. Karen, the owner, also made my vintage brooch bouquet, necklace, boutonniere, flower hairpiece, matching clutch, and terrarium centerpieces! Jeff's suit was also purchased from a secondhand store.

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I hand-colored over 600 coffee filters and turned them into garland flowers. Our kitchen looked like a coffee filter sweat shop over the holidays. I also handmade all the pinwheels, which were inspired by my grandmother who used to have pinwheels in her garden. The burlap table runners were repurposed from discarded coffee sacks and all the dinner/dessert plates were found via local thrift stores.

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The majority of the candle holders were eight months worth of glass I had collected. I'd become known as a glass hoarder as I can't bear to recycle it when I can reuse it. Sheets found at the thrift store were cut and turned into napkins and old picture frames were turned into chalkboard frames for signage throughout the wedding.

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Since Jeff and I are anti-cake, I made nine pies the day before the wedding. Other friends pitched in the day before to help to bake as well. And, to make our wedding fit our "oddball" theme, we had Pez dispensers in our favorite characters as our pie toppers: Elvis and Cinderella! I also made organic raspberry jam from local Oregon berries.

Aside from the decor and details, we opted for no bridal party and not to have anyone (such as my dad) walk me down the aisle. It was the start of our life together and we wanted to enter and leave the ceremony as a couple.

Lastly, all dishes and remaining decorations were kept and are available for other brides in the Portland area as part of a wedding goods library (free of charge!). I started the cause to help encourage repurposing, recycling, and reuse of bridal goods.

After everything was over, we honeymooned at Burning Man!

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Tell us about the ceremony: I knew early on that I didn't want to have the traditional "to have and to hold" ceremony. With the help of our officiant, a personal friend, we were able to have something personalized. We incorporated four readings and then both my husband and I wrote our own vows. Readings by friends included: "On Marriage" by Kahlil Gibran and "To Love is Not to Possess" by James Kavanaugh.

L&JWedding116Our officiant read the following blessings:

Apache Marriage Blessing

Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be the shelter for each other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be the warmth for the other. Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before. Go now to your dwelling place to enter into the days of your life together. And may your days be good and long upon the earth.

Treat yourselves and each other with respect, and remind yourselves often of what brought you together. Give the highest priority to the tenderness, gentleness and kindness that your connection deserves. When frustration, difficulty and fear assail your relationship – as they threaten all relationships at one time or another – remember to focus on what is right between you, not only the part which seems wrong. In this way, you can ride out the storms when clouds hide the face of the sun in your lives – remembering that even if you lose sight of it for a moment, the sun is still there. And if each of you takes responsibility for the quality of your life together, it will be marked by abundance and delight.

Cherokee Prayer

God in heaven above
please protect the ones we love.
We honor all you created as we pledge
our hearts and lives together.

We honor mother-earth
– and ask for our marriage to be abundant
and grow stronger through the seasons;

L&JWedding090We honor fire
– and ask that our union be warm
and glowing with love in our hearts;

We honor wind
– and ask we sail though life
safe and calm as in our father's arms;

We honor water
– to clean and soothe our relationship
– that it may never thirsts for love;

With all the forces of the universe you created,
we pray for harmony and true happiness as we forever grow young together.

Since we're spiritual but don't necessarily believe in any one "God" our officiant did a wonderful ceremony bringing in all the elements with various props – a candle, feather, water, etc. so the ceremony didn't feel too religious.

Instead of piped music via a sound system, we had a friend play classical guitar both during and after the ceremony.

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Our biggest challenge: Deciding on whether to cater or not. I had to sleep on it for several nights. In the end, it came down to us ditching the catering, which would have put us over our $3000 dollar budget, and instead going with an amazing three-piece stand-up Depression-era band. We figured the potluck would be so much more meaningful, and both our families are used to potlucks anyway.

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L&JWedding078My favorite moment: My grandfather had a heart attack just a week or so prior to our wedding and passed away just four days before, so it was a very emotional time for me. In my grandparents' honor (they both helped raise me), I made a locket with their photo so they could still be there with me and walk me down the aisle.

We also chose Pearl Jam's "Just Breathe" as our first song, to which I made an announcement before our first dance letting our guests know our first dance and song is dedicated to them. We were in tears after that.

My funniest moment: My husband is a vocalist and part of his vows included him "reciting poetry from the great poet James Hetfield." He continued to sing the chorus from "Nothing Else Matters." Half our audience got it and the other half had a glazed over look in their eyes. I couldn't decide if I wanted to laugh or cry. It was hilarious nonetheless.

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Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? After reading all the Tribe posts I learned that everything happens for a reason. If something didn't turn out the way I wanted, I needed to just go with the flow. My husband threw out his back just prior to our wedding and wasn't able to help much with setup, but we managed with help from friends and family.

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My advice for Offbeat Brides: If you're asking for help from family or friends, be specific in what you want them to do. I took photos of what I wanted the tables to look like so they had examples. I also created a very detailed task list in Excel, sorted by name, in order of when that task needed to be complete. If one person was putting the tablecloths on, another person was immediately following with the vases. Once people understood their list, no one had to come to me asking questions and they got the entire venue setup in two hours. It took some time to create the list, but it helped to do a complete mock-up ahead of time and mentally go through everything prior to the big day.

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That's some intense dancing.

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? It's okay to get "lost in the moment." When Jeff and I danced our first dance, we both started singing the lyrics to the song. Within seconds we both started to cry because the lyrics are just so touching. It was great to just let go and be with each other, even for just three minutes in front of the crowd. We were social butterflies the rest of the time, but we at least had that very intimate connection.

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. I just got teary eyed reading this… I love that song, and everything else was so sweet, too. And btw, that potluck looks delish!

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  2. I love that you started a wedding goods library for your area! What a great idea – both eco-friendly and wallet friendly.

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    • I wish wedding stuff coops would take off more … it's something I talked about in my book that I'm DYING to see happen more commonly!

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      • There's been a LOT of interest for what we do, but it takes time and I know most people can't quit a day job to do something like this. I still work (now part-time), but am always open to offering feedback for others wanting to start something similar.

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        • Guest post on wedding library please :) Seriously, that is so amazing!

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        • I'm in Portland, I'd love to have any of your table runners or jars if you still have them. I'm getting married in August, and would be so happy to contribute to the library afterward! I should have some lanterns, string lights, and maybe glassware.

          What a killer idea; I've been trying to find someone to share wedding stuff with!

  3. I'm super intrigued by the corks with rings on them in the photo with the jam. What were they used for?

    • Allison – those were key chains that I made from old corks. They were great and I use them all the time (they also float!).

  4. Sweet! Jeff made sure we got this at work, and, sure enough, you guys' did a terrific job; what a great wedding! You make NoPo proud.

  5. Wow! You are very resourceful…you didn't spend much but you had a beautiful wedding. I like your gown.

  6. Gorgeous wedding, gorgeous dress, high fives on the green/recycled/up-cycled nature of the whole event! Inspiring :)

  7. What a Yummy and delicious wedding! The Bride the Groom, the upcycling, all the D.I.Ying!! Everything :D

  8. Congrats Lane! I just happened to check the site today and up popped your wedding profile! So happy we had a chance to meet in person before our August weddings last year.

  9. This has inspired me to go ahead and find plates for my wedding at thrift stores. It was my original idea to use my grandma's china until I learned it had all been sold at the estate sale. So I'm glad to know it can be done!

  10. What an amazing wedding! I am just in awe, what an impressive labor of love!

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  11. Hi Lane and Jeff – I just wanted to let you know that your story has been extremely helpful for me. I am also an artist/DIY type person and it's been difficult for me to express my thoughts about the decorations and party favors with my partner, family and friends. Your advice about the excel doc, how to delegate tasks and do a "dry run" will help me with detailing the details. Also, on a more heartfelt note, my partner and I decided to have our commitment ceremony with just a few months of planning time and minimal budget because, unfortunately, right now my father is very sick with cancer. Your story about your grandfather passing helped me to face a lot of the emotions that I've been dealing with internally. I truly thank you for sharing that as you have helped someone miles away (I live in Chicago) cope with a similar situation. Finally, from the looks of your photos, it seems that you and your partner had a magically start to your life together. Congratulations and many blessed wishes for you both!

  12. I love the combination of organization and whimsical personal touches that went into your wedding, Lane! My fiance and I were totally inspired by your no-waste affair and would like to do something along the same lines. If you don't mind me asking: is the wishing tree made from a manzanita branch or was it designed some other way? And finally, how did you handle the particulars of the potluck food (heating, clearing empty dishes, keeping table neat, etc?) Thanks for sharing your story and inspiring us and best to you and your husband!

  13. What a lovely wedding, I'm fighting back the tears! We are doing alot of the same stuff: trying to upcycle, use stuff we already have, and we will be trying to get people to take stuff home with them or we'll use it at our home after.
    I've been so worried about how it would turn out but your wedding is truly an inspiration and has shown me that it will work out!
    Thank you for sharing your special day.

    PS I can totally relate to the coffee filter sweatshop. I've made about 2342347 coffee filter flowers!

  14. I'm planning a Portland wedding for next summer (either July or September – we haven't chosen the location yet, so that is soon to follow). We are on a major budget and would love to use any of the plates and glassware you might have. Your wedding gave me so many great ideas!

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