Offbeat couple: Emily & Travis
Date and location of wedding: Our Backyard in Derry, NH — 10/30/2021
Our DIY Viking wedding at a glance:
It all happened organically. It was February/March, early 2021 and we were suddenly thinking about a fall wedding. We tossed around the idea of a Halloween wedding and having a costume party. It sounded fun but a but more like a frat party with visions of obliterated guests dressed as pieces of bacon and a blow-up dinosaur – not that that’s not awesome, but we thought refining it made more sense for us. A Viking wedding was just what we needed and the direction we decided to go, and our parents thankfully got on board quickly.
The general goal was to invite everyone. It was an all or nothing type deal: either invite all the cousins and relatives (and there are lots of them) or go to town hall with immediate family only. We decided to go all in. The gist was to have fun – not be too stuffy, still have some elegance and grace, but would require everyone to get involved by dressing the part. We decided our backyard was the best option – though we mulled around the Legion Post, other local NH venues, but they seemed overpriced and mostly, unavailable in our last-minute planning.
Tell us about the Viking wedding ceremony:
Travis had in mind that he wanted to ask his cousin Mike to perform the ceremony. On his own terms, Mike researched both Justice of the Peace and Ordained Minister options and decided Ordained Minister was the option he preferred. We did not have a preference though we knew the ceremony was going to be secular and was likely going to follow our medieval / Viking wedding theme. We met with Mike 3-4 times to review the script and practice the ceremony – wanting everyone to be comfortable with it and adjusting words and finding exactly what we wanted to say. We each found scripts from online, and then merged the content and smoothed it into a final state.
Mike was chosen carefully – as we knew this was also not going to be a standard ceremony. We needed someone who was reliable and could speak in front of this large crowd (we invited 186 guests – and about 130 showed up). Mike played the part perfectly – we had practiced enough and encouraged him to be somewhat theatrical. Not overly dramatic but emphasizing certain words and using language and accent of the Viking, Medieval era. Even better was his voice cracking towards the end of the ceremony with the crowd bursting into laughter or when he proclaimed out loud due to the rain, “my ink doth runneth,” referring to his printed scroll and the ink that was running down the page.
Travis got on board 3-4 months out — he loves to woodwork and it started with a throne. His throne. He made a 6 foot prototype and then I made a throne. His was square and boxy and mine had some curves and roundness. He wood-burned those, and we further embellished them with hand-painted Viking symbols, moss, vines, some flowers, and fur pelts – seats for a king and queen. They looked kickass and it got the ball rolling.
He then got the idea to build an 8×8 foot arbor – cutting oak and birch trees down in his parent’s backyard and assembling it with my father. They spent quality time together working on the wedding décor which made my heart sing. He then made 5 tables (a 16 foot family-style wedding table, two accompanying 8 foot food tables, and two smaller dessert tables – sanding, wood burning, and waxing them all – embellished with a metal strip or bolts – ready for a royal wedding party.
About 3 weeks out, Travis decided to build an entrance way and our ideas married perfectly: he had the idea for the frame, using similar oak and birch logs, and I thought it would be great to add 2 doors, that looked like they were open and welcoming everyone. We happened to have 2 old doors – different colors and sizes but hung them on the frame in an open manner and then decorated this whole get-up with local flora including the ever-invasive bittersweet (my father-in-law running around the yard ranting about the plant that is taking down forests across the region) was placed and wound around both the arbor and entranceway- the red and orange berries popping out.
We used antlers and skulls (borrowed several hundred from my uncle, a more avid hunter than I knew), pampas grass plumes that I cut down off the side of the highway, and a combination of short and tall plants and flowers native to the area. We used fall and winter foliage applicable to the New England area including nicely preserved and dried flowers, greenery in various sizes from a local nursery, and silk florals from craft stores.
We were going for fires, skulls, candelabras – black, dark green, and beige as our choice colors and mood.
We were not originally planning tents – of course – and literally one week out, the forecast began showing rain until it was finally 100% chance, calling for up to 2 inches of rain locally.
The purchasing of decorations was the most enjoyable but also stressful. I learned about and embraced Facebook Marketplace and the flea market, which is Brimfield – one of the largest in the US. It only happens 3 times a year – and we got the luck to go twice: both times hauling around a red-flyer wagon and filling it with as many candlesticks, candelabras, medieval Viking wedding decorations, dessert stands, antique furniture, furs and leather, and any odd, applicable embellishments we could find. Vendors thought we were hilarious, and we made some great deals and ended up with stellar décor.
Tell us about the reception:
We borrowed what we could from everyone – 8-foot-long bull horns, skulls, antlers, white Christmas lights, fake Christmas trees – We even contacted my father’s taxidermist friend who let us borrow deer, coyote, ox, bear pelts and furs, turkey feather decorations, turtle shells and even a stuffed black squirrel. Family and friends were getting a complete kick out of these arrangements.
We asked my cousin and former pastry chef to make the cake – he then offered to help with other desserts, in addition to my mother and aunt who offered to make desserts. Everyone had a role. We organized crafting weekends and set teams of family and friends around the yard to decorate and prepare every square inch of our yards. I’ve never seen so many Christmas lights and globe string lights. We had a small army around the clock for at least the 3 weekends prior to the day of. We might have been slightly obsessed – the venue consuming us as we built and created this Viking wedding village.
Guests were entertained by each other, their costumes, and all the decorations to look at. The 16 foot wedding table that Travis built was a sight of its own – full of moss, native florals, animal pets including a fully headed fox with it’s mouth sewed open, teeth glaring at the common onlookers, while bottles of mead and various red or brass goblets were placed at arm’s reach.
What was the most important lesson you learned from your DIY viking wedding?
1. A good general life lesson is always being flexible – rolling with the punches. Seems simple but there were many times I could have gotten extremely upset and harried during the planning – and it’s funny how many people expected – and I think even wanted to see some drama. My mother-in-law commented many times on my “calm” appearance – though often I felt stressed, I apparently played it well – could maybe contribute some of that to the sativa on the shelf. Examples of flexibility: The dress doesn’t fit? Figure it out. I ended up with about 4 dress options and went back to the original. It’s going to rain the day of? Figure it out. The decorations weren’t put out exactly as you wanted? Let it go. Trying to control every single aspect and not being able to be flexible would have killed me. It was still a rocking party even without every single detail working out exactly how we wanted. We will throw another party next year and do it better – fix the things we didn’t get to do this time.
2. Backyard does not mean less expensive. The word “wedding” to any vendor almost automatically means a starting price of at least (and usually more than) $2,000. Two thousand was usually the base price to show up. And of course, being in the backyard we had to piecemeal every single vendor – there was no combo package to be had.
3. Having a CREW to help with ANYTHING, especially day-of details, made all the difference.
Emily & Travis' wedding video trailer looks like it should be an HBO series:
Vendors behind this DIY viking wedding:
• Caterer: Tony & Brenda Furtado of Scola’s Restaurant // @scolasitalian
• Caterer: A La Carte Catering (Tony, Manny, Carlos)
• Day-of Coordinators: Rebecca Rogers & Mylessia Tkacs
• DJ: Walter and Brian McAvoy (friend of a friend)
• Videographer: Neal Young // @NRYPhoto
• Photographer: Molly Desrosiers
• Portables Restrooms: Royal Thrones of New England
• Florals: Restless Breed
• Hair: Joy Bergeron of Joyful Hair Design
• Makeup: Tamra Moldonado, Yuko Luvssalsa of Omaggio Salon and Spa, and Krystle Barnaby // @krystle_clear_mua