Ellen & Paul's summer camp peacock handfasting

December 20 |
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Photos by Ann & Kam Photography and Cinema

The Offbeat Bride: Ellen, Zookeeper (and Tribesmaid)

Her offbeat partner: Paul, Merchandise Processor

Date and location of wedding: Pilgrim Center Church Camp, Green Lake, WI — September 15, 2012

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We had a church ceremony followed by a dinner reception with dancing, but we had a blast with the details! Our cake-toppers were little crocheted Cthulhus, and our card box and "guest book" were inspired by the movie "Up." The ceremony music was from "How to Train Your Dragon." The groom, bridal party, and both of the dads all wore kilts, which was very offbeat for central Wisconsin! We didn't start the DJ until after dinner, so there was no grand entrance, and we made most of the announcements ourselves. Dinner was a build-your-own-pasta bar, with a decorate-your-own-sugar-cookie table instead of cake. We wanted our guests to be happy and comfortable, so everything was designed to customize!

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Tell us about the ceremony: Neither one of us are very outwardly "romantic" and our first impulse was to have a funny, lighthearted ceremony. The more we thought about it, however, the more we wanted something deeper. We decided on a handfasting instead of traditional vows, and found a script online. We both loved the practicality of the promises being made:

The Fifth Cord
Paul, might you ever cause her pain?
I might…
Is that your intent?
No.
Ellen, might you ever cause him pain?
I might…
Is that your intent?
No.
[To Both] Will you share each other's pain and seek to ease it?
Yes.
And so the binding is made. (Drape fifth cord across the couple's hands.)

Handfasting Chords

Our hand fasting had six parts, so we had six cords. A very good friend of ours from college is an ordained Lutheran minister, and she was fantastic at mixing a traditional Lutheran ceremony (to make our families happy) and the more secular stuff we wanted (taking out the gender language).

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I walked down the aisle to Paul singing "First Day of My Life" by Bright Eyes. Whenever we talked about music, he just told me "I've got it covered" for the bridal march. So I suspected he would be singing, but didn't know for sure until his brother handed him the guitar! I totally lost it!

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Our biggest challenge: We live in Salt Lake City, UT, but the wedding took place in Wisconsin. We were planning a long-distance wedding, with only one trip home to finalize details. Thankfully, the camp staff were fantastic about communicating through email, and took care of ceremony and reception venue, food, and lodging all in one swoop. The rest was done with A TON of help from our families, both financially and on the ground… my dad and step-mom came up with some gorgeous center pieces, and my mother handled all of the linen and dish rentals. Paul's sister became the official Wedding Stylist, making my dress, my jewelry, Paul's vest, and cuff links for all the guys. There was no way we would have been able to pull this off without all the support!

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My favorite moment:

  • Ellen: I absolutely loved being serenaded down the aisle! No song we could have played would have been as romantic!
  • Paul: Seeing Ellen in her dress! She was so gorgeous, and it was all for me!

Peacock Bouquets

Bridal Jewelry

My funniest moment:Paul's brother was the best man, and when it was time to do his speech, he was so overcome with emotion that he literally could not speak. He turned around to try and compose himself. However, the photographer was right outside on the deck taking pictures through the window, and snapped a picture of him! His face was priceless and set the whole room laughing.

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Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I'm fantastic at grand ideas, and not so good at details. Once we decided on a menu and wrote the ceremony, I kind of checked out. We had to wing the reception announcements ourselves. Nobody noticed the last-minute-ness of it though, and my mom even said she liked the casual vibe of the whole thing. Paul was not looking forward to hours of photos. We got done taking the family shots and he was all "wait… there's more?" But after we did the bridal party shots, we did couples' shots with just the two of us. The photographers had us walk through the woods, and it was a lot of "Stop. OK, kiss. Oooh… that's adorable, I love this light!" Literally we were photographed making out for a good 45 minutes. Not a bad way to spend the time!

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My advice for Offbeat Brides: Actions (and pretties!) speak louder than words. Sometimes the best thing to do is just… do it. The nay-sayers will see how gorgeous/awesome/meaningful that thing they hate really is, and will understand why you wanted to do it. This may mean that you go into your wedding day with someone who STILL doesn't understand the centerpieces, but once they see it in action they might just "get it."

Bridal Hairpiece with my sweet owl tatoo

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? Let people help you! There were several elements that never would have come together if I had insisted on handling everything myself. It made the wedding better, helped me keep my sanity, and let people use their talents.

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. Way to represent WI!! And, I love the beer holster! What a beautiful day!

  2. GUH PEACOCK EVERYTHING.
    That is gorgeous! Congrats!

    2 agree
  3. Beautiful!! thanks so much for sharing. esp. love the trees just outside…

  4. Oh WOW! Congratulations! It looks like you guys had a fantastic wedding!Your Up-inspired guestbook literally made me squee..it's an awesome idea! (too late for me to steal it, our wedding was 2 weeks ago) Your handfasting cords are so pretty too!

  5. I love the idea of getting married at camp! hahah whenever i day dreamed about marrying my teenage sweet heart thats where it was going to happen…hes out of my life now but camp wedding is still such a cute idea!!

  6. It was one of the most fun, offbeat weddings I've experienced. Happy to be related to you both! Love…Love

  7. Hahaha. I'm glad Paul enjoyed the photo/makeout session. I should tell that to all our grooms…. <3 you both!

    1 agrees
  8. Yay for the music from How to train your Dragon! We had it before the processional and during dinner :)

  9. Okay, so I LOVE these handfasty vows. They're beautiful. Do you have a link to the rest of the ceremony?

    1 agrees
    • What Rachael said! I absolutely love the honesty and realism of the vows. Any chance the couple would be willing to share the rest of the handfasting ceremony for inspiration?

      1 agrees
      • Vows
        The Hand fasting is a Celtic ceremony. The couples' hands are tied together to symbolize the binding of two lives. It was traditionally used in the British Isles as a "common-law marriage" until a clergyman could make it official. This is where the phrase "tie the knot" comes from. Paul and Ellen will be bound by six separate cords, each symbolizing a promise to each other.

        The First Cord
        Ellen, will you honor him?
        I will.
        Paul, will you honor her?
        I will.
        [To Both] Will you seek never to give cause to break that honor?
        Yes.
        And so the binding is made. Join your hands. (First chord is draped across the bride and groom's hands.)

        The Second Cord
        Paul, might you ever cause her anger?
        I might…
        Is that your intent?
        No.
        Ellen, might you ever cause him anger?
        I might…
        Is that your intent?
        No.
        [To Both] Will you together take the heat of anger and use it to temper the strength of this union?
        Yes.
        And so the binding is made. (Drape second chord across the couple's hands.)

        The Third Cord
        Ellen, might you ever burden him?
        I might…
        Is that your intent?
        No.
        Paul, might you ever burden her?
        I might…
        Is that your intent?
        No.
        [To Both] Will you share the burdens of each so that your spirits may grow in this union?
        Yes.
        And so the binding is made. (Third chord is draped across the couple's hands.)

        The Fourth Cord
        Ellen, will you share his dreams?
        I will .
        Paul, will you share her dreams?
        I will .
        [To Both] Will you dream together to create new realities and hopes?
        Yes.
        And so the binding is made. (Drape fourth chord across the couple's hands.)

        The Fifth Cord
        Paul, might you ever cause her pain?
        I might…
        Is that your intent?
        No.
        Ellen, might you ever cause him pain?
        I might…
        Is that your intent?
        No.
        [To Both] Will you share each other's pain and seek to ease it?
        Yes.
        And so the binding is made. (Drape fifth chord across the couple's hands.)

        The Sixth Cord
        Paul, will you share her laughter?
        I will .
        Ellen, will you share his laughter?
        I will .
        [To Both] Will both of you look for the brightness in life and the positive in each other?
        Yes.
        And so the binding is made. (Drape sixth chord across the couple's hands.) 

        (The cords are tied together and the couple's hands are bound.)

        Just as your hands are now bound together, so too, are your lives. May you be forever one, sharing in all things, in love and loyalty for all time to come.

        (The Handfasting Cords are removed, without untying them, and replaced on the altar.)

        Because it is not always possible for two people to be physically together, the couple have opted to represent this bond with tattoo'd rings, which they will receive at a later date.

        3 agree
  10. Where oh where did you get the guest book from?! It's amazing xxx

    • A friend of mine painted it for us. I tried to do it myself, but quickly realized it wasn't going to happen and asked her!

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