Traci & Tony's mismatched picnic forest wedding

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Photos by Meg Wilson

The offbeat bride: Traci, Student

Her offbeat partner: Tony, Barista

Date and location of wedding: Friend's farm in Berea, KY — May 19, 2012

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Tony and I wanted an outdoor wedding that was simple and full of joy, and that did not cost a lot. We had the ceremony and reception at our friend and Tony's boss' farm (who also catered the reception) for FREE! The farm really added to the atmosphere.

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When guests arrived, they were treated to what we called "Smooch Hooch," a pre-ceremony cocktail. Once it was time to begin, the guests were led down a path through the farm to the ceremony site with chalkboard arrow signs guiding the way. The ceremony was held between two rows of pine trees that leaned in toward each other.

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Guests were informed on the invitation that the ceremony was B.Y.O.B.: Bring Your Own Blanket. Most of the guests sat on their favorite picnic blanket in between the trees. We had set up a few wooden railroad ties for guests who had forgotten to bring a blanket. Once the ceremony was over, guests were led down another path to the reception site, which was held in a grove of pine trees in a different area of the property. Everything fit our quirky, classic, thrifty style, while only costing us about $3,650.

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Tell us about the ceremony: Our officiant was an ordained minister, but he is incredibly open-minded and thoughtful. We chose him because we knew his philosophy about weddings. He feels that it is his job to set the stage for two people to say their vows, and in order to do that, he is willing to design the ceremony around the couple. Neither of us is religious, so we had a secular ceremony.

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A special moment during the ceremony was when our officiant asked our families to stand and give Tony and me their support and blessings. Once they had, he asked all of the guests to stand and do the same. That was really important to us because we wanted the day to be shared with everyone. An excerpt from Wendell Berry's The Country of Marriage was read. Berry is a local Kentucky poet. Having a little flavor of Appalachian literature was both fitting and meaningful.

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We wrote our own vows and when we shared them with each other, we did not say them loud enough for everyone to hear. We wanted them to be special and just for us in that moment. Later, we posted them so everyone could see them, but we just wanted to keep them to ourselves for awhile. Another detail was that we each had something engraved on the inside of each other's rings. We didn't know what our own ring said until we exchanged them. While we were showing the engraving to each other, our officiant explained what we were doing.

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My favorite moment: There were two pretty incredible moments for us. One was planned and the other was unexpected. We had planned with the photographer to take pictures with our families right after the ceremony, as everyone else was going to the reception. Once the ceremony was over and Tony and I walked away for a minute to let people leave, we came back and took a few shots together with my family and then with his. I recommend everyone doing this. It is a great way to let guests get settled at the reception, but it is really special because you just got married and get to spend those few moments capturing the excitement with your family. It was really special.

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The unexpected moment happened a few minutes after our family pictures. Our families went to the reception site and we hung back for a few minutes to spend time together and breathe before the next part. When we got to the reception, our wedding party had gotten everyone to line up on either side to greet us as we walked in. Everyone was cheering and applauding, and it was wonderful. It was a great start to the celebration, and Tony and I did not expect it. We thought we were just going to arrive and everyone would have already made themselves comfortable. But, no, they waited for us, and it was really meaningful.

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Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? We did not know exactly how many people were coming. We invited 75 and received about 35 RSVPs. We called everyone else to get a yes or no, but only got in touch with about 15 more. We knew we would have enough room and food, but it was nerve-wracking not knowing if we were going to have 40, 50, or 75. It turned out great, though. We had about 55 people, which was the perfect size, and we even had food left over that we all got to take home.

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sissonwedding-211My advice for Offbeat Brides: To the brides on a budget: figure out what you want the most/what is most important to you, and spend money on it. It was really important to us to have a great photographer, and it was the biggest cost. But we budgeted for it knowing that it was going to be worth it. Once you get the important stuff taken care of, then you can just adapt everything else to your budget.

Save money on the stuff that is just as good discounted as at full price. For example, there is a candle factory in our town that sells candles that aren't considered store quality for about one dollar a piece. There wasn't anything wrong with the candles except a slightly uncentered wick or a bubble in the wax. Once they were burning, they looked beautiful.

Ask people if they will let you borrow stuff. I told one of my bridesmaids that we wanted to use mason jars for the centerpieces, and the next time she came back from visiting her family, she brought me about 40 of them that her grandmother doesn't use anymore. That took care of a big cost, and it helped.

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  1. So lovely, simple and full of love! Looks like it was an amazing time. I'm sorta horrified by your difficulties with RSVPs, but the deeper I get into planning, the more I hear that that is a regular thing. Bleh to that!

  2. Love seeing other Kentucky weddings on here! And on our exact date for next year as well! So beautiful – congrats to the couple!

  3. I've been thinking about having the same kind of byob (blanket) for out outdoor wedding since we won't have chairs for everyone. I'm worried that it's not fair to the guests, though, since almost all of them are from out of town. Also, there will be about 250 people there. So nice to see it can work out!

  4. Such a sweet wedding – love it all! Everybody looks happy, relaxed, and having a good time. And SMOOTCH HOOCH! That's awesome!

    1 agrees
  5. I live about 45 minutes from Berea, and it was great to see a place that I travel through so often featured. Your wedding is beautiful, and sweet. I hope to see more Kentucky Brides (including myself) in the future!

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