A day in the life of an offbeat wedding (from a photographer's perspective!)

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A day in the life of an offbeat wedding (from a photographer's perspective!)
We're getting the low-down on the behind-the-scenes of this epic Medieval-style wedding!
All photos by Heather Schofner Photography

We wanted to get a behind-the-scenes look at a day in the life of a real offbeat wedding, with a timeline and everything, to see what actually goes down at an offbeat wedding. For most of us without tons of experience planning weddings, seeing the whole thing from this angle is HUGELY useful.

We partnered up with one of our super favorite photographers, the ultra talented Olympia, WA-based Heather Schofner, to highlight one of her many epic offbeat weddings. She's seen SO many types of weddings that she's a veteran at tackling every detail you could encounter (think burlesque, boudoir, and every wedding theme you can imagine!). Who better to share the details of an offbeat wedding than someone who has seen and conquered it all?

Take it away, Heather!

Before the wedding: meet with the couple, get all the details on the wedding, establish an open line of communication regarding location, wedding colors, etc. Talk with the couple about their request for people to dress in Lord of the Rings or Viking attire(!), and I tell them I'll come in attire as well (of course!). They're delighted. When I hire an assistant she's happy to get together a Hobbit-y outfit as well.

8am: pick my assistant Kallia up in Olympia and we head out towards Mt. Rainier. It will be a 1.5 hour drive to the location in Ashford, WA. We're both dressed in adorable Hobbit-like attire.

A day in the life of an offbeat wedding (from a photographer's perspective!)

10am: GPS fails us a few miles out from the site (as people who have been out by Mt. Rainier before, Kallia and I expected this would happen). We follow the directions we had written down and find the forest road that leads to the campsite where the wedding is taking place. The wedding party has been camping there already for a few days.

A day in the life of an offbeat wedding (from a photographer's perspective!)

11:30am: After scouting all the scenic shots, Kallia and I hang out in the sun and apply sunscreen. It's going to be a hot July day and we want to be prepared. Then we follow trails through the woods towards the river and look for more cute spots for photo ops. We note a few places that look cool, and a few spots that display Mt. Rainier. The couple had expressed an interest in having the mountain in the backdrop of a few photos.

A day in the life of an offbeat wedding (from a photographer's perspective!)

Noon: We get back from our walk and the couple's best friend is helping drape railroad ties with the wedding colors. It's hot, sweaty work. The bride Jo is there with a friend, struggling to drape the wedding trellis with sheets to display the wedding colors. I offer to help, tell her I have a step ladder we could use for the job (I keep it around to get cool angles — I'm short!). She gratefully accepts the help. After a few minutes her friend and I can tell she's hot, thirsty, and hungry, and we send her off to get sustenance. We finish the draping ourselves. Jo returns with a sandwich in hand and a smile on her face and says we did well.

A day in the life of an offbeat wedding (from a photographer's perspective!)

A day in the life of an offbeat wedding (from a photographer's perspective!)

12:30pm: I walk around and photograph the shields that the wedding party burned with symbols and runes the night prior and the swords and spears the bridal party will be carrying. They had relayed to me how they were up late working on them the night before. It's getting really hot and I take a respite from the heat in the garage where the girls are getting ready. It's the only place on site where there is a/c. The bride is done snacking and is putting some finishing touches on her outfit, sewing her ceremonial belt that her mom will put on her during the wedding.

1pm: After cooling down for a few minutes I meet with Patrick, the groom, to talk about the ceremony. I wasn't at the rehearsal the night prior so I want to know the best place to stand. He discusses the sword fighting that will be taking place to kick the ceremony off and we talk about the best angle to shoot it from. I will be shooting video and taking photos simultaneously, with two cameras. We talk about what angles people will be approaching from. Patrick leaves, and I set up my tripod and have Kallia walk around in the area where the sword fight will be to test angle and focus. All looks good and I make notes so I can set things up quickly later.

A day in the life of an offbeat wedding (from a photographer's perspective!)

A day in the life of an offbeat wedding (from a photographer's perspective!)

2pm: The girls have gotten started doing their makeup and hair. It's a DIY affair, and they do their own makeup. We talk about the brands of makeup they like. Their hairdos are inspired by the intricate braids worn by women in viking culture. Some of the womens' dresses are too long, and they do quick DIY hem fixes with scissors. Each girl has to figure out what way she wants to tie the top of her dress. All of the dresses are the same style, but they wrap/tie them all different ways and wear different colors.

2pm: I send Kallia down to take detail pictures of the guys as they get ready. They will be wearing armor and carrying swords. I stay up and watch as bridesmaids open handmade gifts from Jo. Things are running a little late.

A day in the life of an offbeat wedding (from a photographer's perspective!)

2:30pm: Guests are arriving, but the bride and bridal party still aren't fully ready yet. No one seems to be worried, so I am not either.

A day in the life of an offbeat wedding (from a photographer's perspective!)

A day in the life of an offbeat wedding (from a photographer's perspective!)

3pm: It's seeming like things are about ready to go. Kallia and I leave the a/c and head down to where the guests are. People are seated and expectant. Loud Lord of the Rings soundtrack music begins! It's time! I'm so happy I had set my video camera and settings up prior to the ceremony because things seem to happen super fast (as always). Patrick jumps out and, with the dramatic music as a backdrop, battles his groomsmen in a sword fight one by one. His cape flows out in the breeze cinematically and the guests cheer and clap. He walks to his father-in-law who hands him a beautiful sword and says some sweet words. Patrick heads to the altar and waits for Jo.

A day in the life of an offbeat wedding (from a photographer's perspective!)

A day in the life of an offbeat wedding (from a photographer's perspective!)

3:10pm: Jo approaches from the opposite side, music still playing on the PA system. Her father is escorting her. They meet up with her mom who ties a belt around her and they have a sweet moment together, exchange looks and embraces.

A day in the life of an offbeat wedding (from a photographer's perspective!)

A day in the life of an offbeat wedding (from a photographer's perspective!)

3:15pm: The officiant is one of their best friends, and brings mirth and warmth to the ceremony. Jo and Patrick exchange symbolic gifts: a sword for him, and he gives her a gift of keys that she pins to her dress — a symbol that she holds the keys to their hearth/home.

A day in the life of an offbeat wedding (from a photographer's perspective!)

3:30: The ceremony is done and guest head over to the large tent to enjoy refreshments. The bridal party surrounds Jo and Patrick as they sign official wedding papers by a pond. We head to the spots Kallia and I had found earlier to do some portraits.

A day in the life of an offbeat wedding (from a photographer's perspective!)

4:00: After group photos, we send everyone away and Jo, Patrick, and I have some time to just relax together and take photos. I give the couple some time alone to breathe, so they can have a "We did it! I love you!" bit of time together. We take some tender portraits and head back to their guests.

A day in the life of an offbeat wedding (from a photographer's perspective!)

5pm: People are eating and enjoying themselves. It's quite a delicious spread. The tent provides shade and keeps guests happy and cool.

5:30pm: Toast time! Jo and Patrick pour sweet mead into their custom viking drinking horn. Their family and friends pass it around, sharing stories and toasting their friends.

A day in the life of an offbeat wedding (from a photographer's perspective!)

6pm: Strawberry shortcake is the cake at this wedding(!), made by the bride's mother, by special request. Jo and Patrick are served an enormous plate of it. The serving spoon is a pizza spatula from the place that Jo worked when her and Patrick were saving money for their first place when they were first together. This is a surprise to Jo from her mom and they share a smile and laugh.

A day in the life of an offbeat wedding (from a photographer's perspective!)

A day in the life of an offbeat wedding (from a photographer's perspective!)

7pm: Close family members crack into a special bottle of whiskey Patrick has saved for the occasion. They toast the couple and their love.

A day in the life of an offbeat wedding (from a photographer's perspective!)

7:30pm: “Oczepiny,” The unveiling of the bride, happens and I photograph. It's a Polish ceremony where the female elders of Jo's family gathered around her and removed her veil and replaced it with a bonnet, symbolizing she is a wife now. Jo's grandma dances around like a beautiful faerie in her veil and it is adorable.

A day in the life of an offbeat wedding (from a photographer's perspective!)

8:30pm: Kallia and I say our goodbyes and depart, watching the groom and friends play a Swedish game similar to horseshoes called "Kubb" as we drive off.

A day in the life of an offbeat wedding (from a photographer's perspective!)

Within a few days of the wedding I send a pack of 20 photos to the couple so they can have photos to share with their friends before heading off to they honeymoon in New Zealand, and have a full set of hundreds of photos for them shortly after they get home.

A day in the life of an offbeat wedding (from a photographer's perspective!)

Heather Schofner Photography is also featured in our Offbeat Vendors guide!
GAH! This wedding was so gorgeous and fascinating, and getting to see if from the inside is pretty wicked. Thank you for sharing this side of the aisle with us, Heather!

If you want your own experience with a stellar photographer who clearly is prepared for ANY AND ALL situations that could arise at an offbeat wedding (weather, cultural traditions, and emergency decor assembly included!), Heather Schofner Photography is the one you'd want at your side.

Heather was voted "Best Photographer" in the Weekly Volcano's "Best of Olympia" issue twice in the past five years so you know she's pro. She works in digital photography, film, and dabbles in video. With years of experience as a primary photographer at weddings and events, as well as a bachelor's degree in media arts, Heather brings calm professionalism, positivity, and artistry to the table. And you can absolutely tell that she loves her couples and does everything in her power to make sure their day is captured fabulously.

Having a wedding in the Olympia/Seattle area (or want her to travel to you?)? Hit her up to say hello and get your wedding date on her calendar ASAP.

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