Elizabeth & Mike’s wedding summer camp love-fest

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American GothicThe offbeat bride: Elizabeth, Law student (and Tribe member)

Her offbeat partner: Mike, high school band & choir director

Location & date of wedding: 8/1/2009, in our backyard, Portland OR

What made our wedding offbeat: Our wedding was 100% about our friends and family — those who have made us who we are. We got married in the backyard of our house we bought just a year before the wedding, and had over 15 people staying with us in the few days before the ceremony, helping to get everything ready.

Our friends cooked all the food, picked & arranged the flowers from a local farm, cleaned our house and set up the backyard, officiated the ceremony (at nine months pregnant, no less!), served the beer, arranged the buffet, took the pictures, played music for dinner, deejayed the reception, and even came back the next morning to clean up. One friend dubbed our wedding Wedding Summer Camp!

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My mom made my dress (from 3000 miles away!) — in fact, the first words out of her mouth after we told her we were engaged were, “Can I make your dress?!” We made up the pattern and I ordered a crinoline, bought a flower from Michael's, and made the veil on a whim the night before.


Tell us about the ceremony: Our ceremony consisted of our friends and families standing to share words of wisdom, embarrassing stories, self-written mad-libs, and sentimental songs before we said our vows. We had no idea what anyone was going to say, and we couldn't have planned a better expression of our love for each other and our friends. (Although I would have preferred if my mom hadn't offered “queefing” as a word for mad-libs!)

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My favorite moment: My favorite moment was the hour-long ceremony. I sat with my soon-to-be-husband under our gorgeous willow tree, and got to look into the faces of our 40 closest friends and family members, and listen to their kind (& often silly!) words on love, on growing up, on commitment, and how Mike & I were meant for each other.

Perhaps the three greatest moments of the ceremony were:

  1. When my mother-in-law handed us a box full of butterflies to symbolize our “wings”20090801 LizoWedding_1007.
  2. When four of our dearest friends (“The Quarterho”) sang It's A Shpadoinkle Day from Cannibal the Musical20090801 LizoWedding_1058.
  3. When my dearest best friend sang a song she had written, making up the story of how Mike and I fell in love (involving high speed knitting, space travel, and a ukelele). 20090801 LizoWedding_1161

As each person stood, my heart swelled with love for my friends, and I knew that their heartfelt words meant more than any carefully scripted ceremony we could have written.

tableOur biggest challenge: My biggest challenge was having a vague vision of the aesthetic we wanted, and not adequately conveying it to Mike's step-mother, who generously drove up from California with a van full of decorations (including hand sewn banners and buckets full of plants she had been growing all summer!). It took a lot of help from friends for us to bring our vision into fruition without insulting her choices in decor. We ended up using elements from her stash, and staying true to the aesthetic we wanted. Moral of the story: share your inspiration photos with your helpers, and really, really don't be afraid to say “That isn't what I want. Let's try something more like this.”

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The second biggest challenge was that our wedding happened in the middle of a heat wave in the Northwest. It was 105 degrees while we were trying to cook 18 pounds of pulled pork and ten pounds of potatoes in our non-air conditioned house! Luckily, with a kiddie pool and a sprinkler, we survived, and the heat broke the day of the wedding so no one melted in the afternoon sun!

Families as piratesMy advice for offbeat brides: Involve your friends and family! Our wedding was made so special and unique by placing details and responsibility in our community. We were much less stressed out because we trusted our friends to put the flowers out in ways that looked good, and to build a playlist that would get people dancing.

Also, let people help out in ways that are important to them! My mother-in-law kept asking about favors — I really didn't want favors, but she kept asking. So I gave her the suggestion of wildflower seeds in little packets, and she went to town! She felt so involved and needed, and I didn't have to worry.

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

  • Dress: made by my mom (she's thinking about doing it for others, but isn't there yet)
  • Petticoat: Porshes Place
  • Shoes: Clarks
  • Food: our friend Anne
  • Cupcakes: our friend Liz
  • Rentals: A Party Place PDX

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Comments on Elizabeth & Mike’s wedding summer camp love-fest

  1. I love how you guys included friends and family into your ceremony instead of doing something scripted. Even though my wedding will be different from yours (we are having a rock n roll theme wedding), it’s clear in your post how much love was involved in creating your special day, and it totally made my heart smile.

  2. You husband looks so adorably smug in that top photo. Like, ‘Yea, that’s right, I just married this clearly awesome and amazingly gorgeous woman AND I’m holding an f’ing chicken. How ya like me now?’

    • This comment made me choke on my coffee, that pretty much explained the picture. He looks so happy to have his arm around the bride, and the only thing that makes it better is that he’s holding the chicken. LOL

  3. OMG that dress is so beautiful!

    It’s seeing pictures of weddings like yours that’s really starting to make me feel like “Jeez… Did we really need to invite over 100 people just to be polite?”.

    It looks gorgeous and relaxed and joyful.

  4. My future husband just commented, “They totally stole our wedding!” What a gorgeous and personal ceremony/reception. I can relate so much to all the ups/downs/advice/wisdom in this post and many many elements relate directly to my wedding. Thanks so much for sharing your story!

  5. Whoo-hoo! Portland represent! I love that your picture is used on the etsy listing. 🙂

    Gorgeous wedding. And tell your mama that she did a fantastic job on the dress! I am in awe!

    • Thanks! It was a big job, but I loved the making of the dress. And you can see that in the picture of me just after she dressed that day.

  6. Thank you everyone! We had such an amazing time, and couldn’t have done it without our amazing friends and family. I can’t believe it was almost two years ago!

  7. I LOVE your dress with the pink underneath the white and the big flower! Amazing. I’m from Portland also and I really enjoyed reading your story. Thanks for sharing!

  8. OH! I love this dress so much! Tell yer ma, if she’s feeling like maybe getting in the bizz, I’d really REALLY like to talk with her about making a dress….

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