Katherine & James' barefoot eco-friendly forest wedding

By on Apr. 18th Photos by Lucy Spartalis
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Photos by Lucy Spartalis

The Offbeat Bride: Katherine, Social Worker and School Counselor

Her offbeat partner: James, Primary School Teacher and Outdoor Educator

Date and location of wedding: Woodhouse, Piccadilly, South Australia — April 28, 2012

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We wanted there to be lots of colour, music that we and all of our guests love, dancing, and most of all, we wanted to incorporate nature into every aspect. After looking at many venues and not being satisfied, James sarcastically suggested Woodhouse, where he sometimes works casually as an outdoor education instructor. We both really wanted a forest setting, and something similar to the UK weddings I've seen online, but that's very hard to find here. But this venue though had not only a forest, but a creek running through it, big trees everywhere, lots of colour, the possibility of camping, and a big, old house that we could hire for the whole weekend!

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All of our amazing friends and family got stuck into helping with all of our projects including making bunting and flags, making the seed bombs for the bombonierie, and making cake decorations.

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I come from quite a traditional and religious family, and while James and I are not really either of those, we wanted to respect my family traditions. We also wanted to feature some of the special women in both of our lives. We had aunties, cousins, friends, mums, and grandmothers all performing special roles within our wedding: helping to bless our rings, reading poems and words during the ceremony, and assisting in a candle lighting.

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Instead of having a traditional Kitchen Tea (wedding shower) before the wedding, I had a blessing party in which the significant women in my life got together to help share in blessing the occasion. We lit candles, shared blessings, and made flags with affirmations for a happy marriage, which were featured hanging at the reception. I made sure to wear jewelry all loaned/given or made for me by some of these significant women.

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James and I tried to keep the wedding as eco-friendly as possible with recycled and ethical gold rings, handmade recycled fabric bridesmaid dresses, making seed bombs using native seeds, buying local flowers, and choosing local and sustainable food from our local vendor. My favourite part was my wedding dress, which was made from hemp silk and cotton.

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Tell us about the ceremony: Our ceremony started with our guests being asked to walk through an archway and to bless our rings. I walked down the aisle with both of my parents to "Embryonic Journey" by Jefferson Airplane, one of my favourites.

My aunty and uncle/godparents began the ceremony with a blessing which was a declaration of support and community. Our priest respected our desire to not have the ceremony be too religious, but included one required piece that was mandatory for his ability to register it under the Catholic church. We had a hand blessing, read by my aunty:

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These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of love for you, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow, and forever.
These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future.
These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, and with the slightest touch, will comfort you like no other.
These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief fills your mind.
These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes; tears of sorrow, and tears of joy.
These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children.
These are the hands that will help you to hold your family as one.
These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it.
And lastly, these are the hands that even when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just a touch.
– revised by Rev. Daniel L. Harris

We then did a Unity Candle Blessing where our mothers helped to light our candles and then use that flame to light our wedding candle. Then we walked out to Eddie Vedder's "Hard Sun" and Fiona Apple's version of "Across the Universe" as we walked down the brick stairs to find some shoes awaiting us to brace the muddy venue.

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Our biggest challenge: We are vegetarian, so had originally wanted a totally vegetarian menu. We had many discussions about other options, but in the end we compromised to have some meat options that were grass-fed, local, and organic. There was also a lot of tension around why we weren't marrying in a church. In the end we compromised by having a Catholic priest who was willing to marry us outside. It helped that he identified with our desire for an eco-friendly wedding and is dubbed the "Barefoot Priest."

Invites

The third challenge was probably the invites. James designed them, and then we had to figure out how to cut out over 100 perfect circles. Then we hadn't thought about size and envelopes, so we had to make over 100 envelopes by hand to fit them. It was one of the hardest tasks of the wedding, but we loved them.

We also ran into big challenges sourcing our ethical materials locally and choosing our wedding party out of so many dear friends. I just wish I could have acknowledged them all and their help more.

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My favorite moment: The most meaningful moment that stands out would have to be when I stepped out of the car and first saw James. I had decided that I wasn't going to wear shoes with my dress. James had been toying with the idea as well, but I'd left it to him to decide on the day. When I started walking down the carpet toward the circle of twigs created by one of our amazing groomsmen, I looked down and saw his bare feet to match mine. I both cried and laughed at the same time.

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People bent over backwards for us on so many levels. One of the most memorable things that someone did for us was to organise an extension cord to go from the house to the teepee, where we were sleeping on the wedding night, to put a heater in there. It gets pretty freezing in April, so we were really glad to have it.

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My funniest moment: There was a Kookaburra sitting in the ok tree we were getting married under. James' grandmother passed away a couple of years ago, and Kookaburras have always been her symbol to his family, as if she was there watching over us. However, just before I came down the aisle, the Kookaburra decided to poop right on my grandmother's shoulder. The funny significance of James' symbolic Nanna pooping on my Nonna was not lost on the guests.

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Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great?
We really wanted our VW Kombi, Mabel, to be our wedding car, but it almost didn't make it due to the major engine work it had just had. We had a back-up Kombi, but that one didn't turn up due to a time mix-up! Thankfully, our Mabel came through for us. We squashed my bridesmaids, my parents, and myself in (with my dad sitting on the floor!), and ended up looking like we were coming out of a clown car!

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My advice for Offbeat Brides: It might take a community to raise a child, but it can also take a community to plan a wedding. Appreciate those close to you because they might amaze you in what they are willing to do for you.

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Plan your photo list beforehand so you don't forget anything. Photos were a priority for me since I knew I'd be in such a haze and want to see those memories later.

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? James and I, even though we've been together nine years, learned a lot about our relationship and that we are really good at being a united front, but that we handle stress very differently. We were pushed to the edge on a number of occasions, particularly with regard to the expectations of our families (or at least our perceptions of the expectations). In hindsight, there were some decisions I would have made differently, but I also realise now with a clear mind how hazy and cloudy my brain was with so much going on. So cut yourself some slack on that front.

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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