Shana & Leon's bluegrass wedding in the woods

January 7 |
Hula hoop fun
Photos by Jessica Verry

The offbeat bride: Shana, high school English teacher

Her offbeat partner: Leon, business owner

Date and location of wedding: KOA Kampground, Durham, ME — July 30, 2011

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Since we got married at a campground, many of our wedding details focused on trees. For our invitation artwork, we used a tree that one of my students had drawn. A good friend of ours designed the invitation using this image. We extended the theme and tree image for the table tents, too.

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We love hiking and adventure, but couldn't afford most of the outdoor venues in the area, so a campground was a perfect choice for us. Leon built an arbor from fallen tree limbs, and a friend decorated it with purple amaranthus.

In addition to some simple floral arrangements as centerpieces, we had baskets with games in them (cards, Boggle, Bananagrams, and more) to keep everyone entertained.

The band and the newlyweds

Our guests danced to the tunes of a bluegrass band called Tricky Britches, who even learned a song — "Spring Wind" by Greg Brown — for our first dance.

A keg of good beer in a canoe

As for drinks, we took care of that ourselves. We bought several cases of wine; we bought a keg of great local beer, Geary's, and put it in a canoe filled with ice. A friend treated us to a case of fantastic champagne, too.

The food was catered by Chill Catering. We chose an upscale barbecue theme with plenty of options for vegetarians. Some highlights of the barbecue menu: corn bread, citrus cole slaw, black-eyed pea and canellini bean salad with cilantro lime dressing, wild rice and quinoa salad with walnut dressing, corn on the cob, macaroni and cheese, and pulled pork.

Wayne, Shana, and Mom

Tell us about the ceremony: During our ceremony, two good friends (both members of the wedding party) played a guitar and a fiddle for the processional and recessional. Since my father passed away a few years ago, I was presented by my mother and my brother. We emerged from a nature trail into a wooded grove, where the ceremony took place.

Sandy and Matt

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The ceremony itself was secular and officiated by one of our closest friends, Abby. We wrote our own vows, which Abby worked into a ceremony that focused on love for nature, community, and family. We also included a ring warming; this way, all of our guests were able to make a wish for us as a couple. We enjoy the company of animals and kids, so they were welcome.

Eliza with Henri

We included a couple of readings. My uncle Marty, my late father's brother, read a poem by D.H. Lawrence. A good friend of ours read a poem we loved that was written by a blogger named Daniel Robert Maurer.

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Our biggest challenge: The biggest challenge for us was setting up the ceremony area. As of the morning of our wedding, the ceremony area was filled with cars and camping equipment. There was also a gate that blocked the area. I was extra concerned because I knew that I would not be able to help, as I would be away getting ready for the wedding.

Leon solved this issue on the morning of the wedding. He had everyone move their cars and put away their camping equipment, and the camping staff helped by shuttling guests to the ceremony site by golf cart. One of the bridesmaids had left her car there while we were going to get our hair done, so it was a funny sight to see her loud clunker getting driven away by a friend just minutes before the ceremony!

It was all worth it, though. We were so happy to be surrounded by trees during the ceremony, and they provided some shelter from the sun on this very warm day. If we had chosen the field, a lot of people would have been sweating and sunburned.

Uncle Marty and Shana
"I don't know where they found this thing."

My funniest moment: We had a few funny moments: the ring bearer whispered to the flower girl during the processional (overheard by a bridesmaid): "After this, we can change out of these clothes." A very pregnant friend was found standing in the canoe to ice her ankles! My very traditional uncle introduced a poem during the ceremony by saying, "I don't know where they found this thing," with a doubtful look on his face.

The Cake

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? We were worried that the lack of lighting under the tent would be a problem. The band continued playing well after dark, and what came next was frenzied barefoot dancing! It was wild fun that would have felt too tame under traditional lights.

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Find someone to snag you this beer!

My advice for Offbeat Brides: Find one or two people who will be on hand to make sure that you have everything you need. Chances are, you will want a drink and some kind of painkiller (I was desperate for some ibuprofen), but you will be too busy to chase these things down. Leon had a friend who stepped up to the plate to do this for him, and he had a beer in his hand right away. I had to fight to get myself a beer — Leon finally gave me his. As we were arriving at the reception, my mother's boyfriend discreetly asked me if there was anything I needed, and I was so grateful! I had ibuprofen before me within minutes.

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

  • Photography: Jessica Verry Photography
  • Dress: BHLDN. I wanted a dress that had a vintage look and was made of natural fibers. This was not easy to find. I was so happy to discover BHLDN, which featured many unique dresses made of silk and linen.
  • Jewelry: Piper Blue
  • Music: The Tricky Britches. This band might have been the best thing about our wedding. I can't say enough about how fantastic they were.
  • Food: Chill Catering. They were indeed chill: they were flexible and even offered a children's menu.
  • Cake: Cakes by Alyssa. Alyssa Lamontagne designed our cake with a hiking theme. We chose carrot cake with cream cheese frosting because it is our favorite kind. Alyssa made some with and without nuts.
  • Cake topper: Campor. Since we were getting married on a campground and planning a hiking honeymoon in Colorado, we wanted our cake topper to look like a couple of hikers.
  • Flowers: Wildflower
  • Tableware: Susty Party. I ordered our compostable plates, cups, and flatware from Susty Party. We used the 11" and 7" bamboo rounds.
  • Venue: Durham/Freeport KOA Kampground
  • Pet fashions: Silly Buddy
  • Invitations: Graphic Design by Hilary

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. I wish I knew you in real life so I could've taken part in this. Love every detail about your day!

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  2. I'm IN LOVE WITH THIS WEDDING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you so much for sharing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Love love love love!

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  3. The cake is awesome!! I also love the dress! Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Wow your wedding seemed to encompass EVERYTHING I wanted to do with my wedding, incorporating the natural elements etc. Thank you for posting it was very helpful and gave me some wonderful ideas like the canoe bar and the fiddle player & also the home made arbor :) Beautiful wedding!

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  5. OMG! I love this wedding! I have been struggling with the idea of an outdoor wedding and finding a venue. My FH and I love camping, so this may be perfect! Thanks for sharing!!! What a beautiful wedding :)

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  6. "Spring Wind" is so beautiful. I have seriously considered having "love calls like the wild birds" inscribed on the inside of my wedding band.

    Great to read your story! A lot of the elements of your wedding will also be true for ours. Secular ceremony, officiated by a friend, in the woods at a hot time of year (good to know that the trees really do help), veggie-friendly reception with local beer… and maybe at least one song :)

    And the question I've been turning over in my head for the past few days was "will the tent be too dark?" I love that it turned to barefoot dancing for you! Things have a way of working out, especially when you're surrounded by people who love you.

    Lovely wedding, thanks for posting!

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  7. Your wedding resembles your love to nature. Your wedding invitation, wedding ceremony place, cake and even leon's dress everything resembles your love to nature. I loved in reading your wedding story. I am fantasizing about my wedding to happen in the same manner as your's. What a perfect couple… look so cute and adorable too.

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