Offbeat partner: Jessica, Student Affairs
Offbeat partner: Jacqara, Full time Student
Date and location of wedding: Camp Wathana, Holly, MI — September 16, 2017
Our offbeat wedding at a glance:
From our initial planning, we had two big goals: a FUN wedding that demonstrated that LOVE is Love. We're from the Midwest and queer weddings are not the norm for our families, but we knew we wanted to plan an experience that was memorable and also helped normalize the beauty of all love. These two goals guided every detail of our autumnal wedding adventure planning.
Firstly, we rented a summer camp so that we could offer free lodging to our guests. This process was quite the adventure as we wanted to ensure the camp was inclusive to queer folks. We found Camp Wathana to be the perfect and affordable fit. From there we planned the details.
Our wedding started on Friday with a check-in station that provided guests with a camp knapsack filled with snacks and a water bottle to be filled at the hydration station. Then we hosted a Fajita dinner, margarita bar, and bonfire. On Saturday we offered guests a continental breakfast and our wedding ceremony took place around a bonfire. After the ceremony, guests rocked out to live music performed by Abigail Stauffer and enjoyed cocktails and a trail mix bar. There were also a plethora of yard games for folks to play.
Dinner started after the cocktail hour and we walked in to our reception to "Wannabe" by the Spice Girls. After dinner, guests we're invited to change and adventure with us. We had a photo booth, a dance, beer pong, Flip Cup, and life-size games like Jenga, Connect 4, and Chess. We also had karaoke! We ended the night with a bonfire, s'mores and hot dogs.
Tell us about the ceremony:
Our ceremony was very non-traditional, but spiritual. We wanted to be surrounded by the love of our family and friends, and we wanted to share our warmth with them, so it was held in a circle around a bonfire. Cara and I walked together to our ceremony — we decided that we wanted to start our marriage together, not escorted by another.
Our musician sang “She Keeps Me Warm” by Mary Lambert. During the ceremony, we invited guest to "bring love to light" by lighting candles, while we lit the bonfire in unity and love.
Additionally, we wanted our community to have a role in our wedding. We used a handfasting ceremony and ring warming ceremony to invite our guests to participate in blessing our love. We each wrote our own vows and they reflected our own commitments to one another. Jessica promised to bring adventure to Cara's life for all eternity and beyond, and Cara promised steadfast love to Jessica with no doubt or question. The ceremony ended with a receiving line that allowed guests to greet and hug the brides — there were many tears!
Some fun features of our ceremony were the programs which invited guests to participate in a scavenger hunt and surprised guests with the fact that we had actually been legally married for three years! This fact allowed our friends to officiate the wedding without ordainment and our ceremony was a beautiful gift written by our friends.
Tell us about your reception:
Before our reception we had a cocktail hour and yard games. It was great to see our guests having a genuinely good time. From connecting with others to listening to our musician, everywhere we went was filled with warmth, fun, and love. When we entered our reception it was incredible. The crowd was so excited and every detail — which were all hand-crafted — came together beautifully. Our centerpieces were cans of flowers, wood slices, and fun "quick friends" questions that allowed folks to get to know one another.
Our favors were ceramic "camp mugs" that looked really cool with our pie tin salad plates. We used old wine bottles with candles to add depth to our tables and our table finders were destinations of our adventures. Our caterer stylized a camp-themed salad bar, pasta bar with skewers, and for dessert we had a dessert bar with baked goods made by family. We also had a fruit buffet and a carved watermelon with our logo.
Our reception was filled with many thoughtful details from copper kissing bells, our double proposal-themed specialty drinks, homemade moonshine, and a homemade pallet bar that only elevated the warm ambiance. During the reception, the speeches acknowledged our journey as a couple and shared the hopes for our future which made us cry. During the dance, Jessica and Jacqara had a parental dance. We selected a unique song for each parent and had a blast dancing with them. The evening ended with booze, games, karaoke, and a bonfire with s'mores.
What was your most important lesson learned?
We have an interesting love story. We were married before we got engaged, we both proposed to one another, and we were engaged for over two years before our wedding. This time allowed us to plan and coordinate every detail, fairly stress free. However, it also made it difficult to book vendors, especially camps. Once we had our vendors solidified — about a year prior — we were able to bring our plan to life. We wanted a very detailed wedding that took place over the course of a weekend, to accommodate a guest list of over 200 folks, within a certain (small budget) — it seemed impossible.
We learned to ask for help and to be flexible. We relied heavily on family and friends to make our wedding come to life and their additional details made it even more special. We also had to think outside of the box. Jessica ordered her skirt and lace bolero from Etsy because plus size wedding clothing was outside of our budget. And her rose gold tube top? A skirt from Forever 21. Cara ordered her caped romper from Eloquii on clearance!
No matter how much planning we put into our actual wedding, we could not have prepared for the little quirks that happened on our day. During the ceremony, Cara dropped our unity candle and broke glass all over our bonfire. This setback just added to the authenticity of our day and we laughed it off.
Venue: Camp Fire Southeast Michigan • Wedding Coordinator: Cooper Designs • Wedding Florist: Sarah Campbell Needham at Leafhopper Designs • DJ/photobooth/lighting: Miguel with APS Entertainment • Photographer: Alycia M. Choroszucha • Videographer: Special Events Videography • Caterer: Jerome Greene • Vocalist/Musician: Abigail Stauffer • Graphic Artist: Amie Lynn Hunt at Rising Stars Monogram Boutique • Hairdresser: Madison Ave • MUA: Derrick Reyes • Game Rental: Ann Arbor District Library • Cara's romper: Eloquii • Jessica's top: a skirt from Forever 21