You may recognize this bride from her eco-chic and uber bad-ass wedding outfit. Well, that wasn't the only earthy element at their wedding. Laura and Chris designed their entire wedding around their wilderness ways! -Coco

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The offbeat bride: Laura, Ecologist (and OBT Member)

Her offbeat partner: Chris, Wilderness Skills Instructor and Guide

Location & date of wedding: Wolf Den Nature Retreat, Algonquin Park, Ontario, Canada — September 25, 2010

What made our wedding offbeat: We wanted an earthy outdoor ceremony, some chill time with family, and then a killer all-night dance party with our friends — without spending alot of money. We had the ceremony and lunch with only thirty-five of our closest peeps. Then we opened it up at night for all our pals and extended family for an appetizers potluck, concert, and dance party. Chris-Laura_Wedding_Muskoka_khiPhotography_2010-160

My wedding outfit was totally offbeat; I had a Wai Ching skirt made and had her send me a matching piece of fabric. My partner and I traditionally tanned a deerskin which I used with the fabric to make a custom corset. I made accessories from birch bark and porquipine quills and wore hemp shoes. The groom; who is so is so super casual about everything in life, wore hemp drawstring pants, a loose hemp shirt, his “scout knife,” and bare feet. We both wore what made us feel comfortable and special, and what suited us personally. Chris-Laura_Wedding_Muskoka_khiPhotography_2010-280

Our food theme was local and in-season and included venison, rainbow trout, maple syrup, fall root veggies, and sherbert made from a local wild shrub Staghorn Sumac. Our cupcakes were made from organic cocoa that was ground by a bicycle and ethically sourced. They were super yummy too!

The reception included several of our close friends playing live music and more food than we could eat. We DJed our own wedding, playing our favorite tunes with a seamless transition from Michael Bublé early in the night, to Dupstep in the wee hours of the morning.
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Tell us about the ceremony: We do a lot of work based on the medicine wheel, so we wanted our wedding to reflect our connection to the elements and nature. My partner and I started by doing a native blessing together. Both of our sisters read poems talking about the elements, love and marriage. I wrote my vows based on the directions. Chris and Laura - September 25th, 2010

We included a ring warming with our wooden rings on a friend-made felted pillow. Our rings were made of wood from tree species native to our area. In order to include my “many dads,” I had my step-dad walk me to the edge of the tent, then both my parents walked me down the rest of aisle.

An elder in our community who we deeply respect officiated the ceremony for us. We had no wedding party, except for a flower girl who insisted we couldn't get married without one.

Chris-Laura_Wedding_Muskoka_khiPhotography_2010-111This was the blessing we did: Ojibwa Wedding Prayer.

Today we give thanks for our many blessings
We give thanks for the sky above and the earth below
We give thanks for the rising of the sun and the moon
We give thanks for the beauty of our surroundings
We give thanks for our parents who brought us into this world and taught us about life
We give thanks for our brothers and sisters who shared our childhood with us
We give thanks for our friends who have journeyed along life's path with us
We give thanks for the laughter of the children
And we give thanks for the love in our hearts

Our biggest challenge: The fact that we were also buying and renovating our first home while planning the wedding. I showed up to the rehearsal dinner with paint still in my hair. Chris-Laura_Wedding_Muskoka_khiPhotography_2010-58

Another challenge was the rain. We had planned to do the whole wedding outside and had no back-up rain plan. Of course, it was pouring the morning of the wedding. So, we had to rearrange everything last minute to ensure the grandmas were not cold and wet. Our families came together to move chairs, set up decorations and organize a plan. It turned out great. Although, we would have probably gotten married in the rain if it was just us!
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My favorite moment:

  • The heartfelt vows we wrote for each other that made everyone cry. I couldn’t look at the crowd if I wanted to keep my composure.
  • Seeing all the care and hard work our family put into preparing for the wedding. For example, my Stepdad worked on a menu for months and searched out only the best local fare.
  • Three of our friends provided the entertainment by preforming the music. One song turned into a sing-a-long with a whole crew of girls up front singing Florence + The Machine together.

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My funniest moment: Our MC takes the cake for being the most entertaining person of the day. Every funny moment of the day relates to him. He had the whole crowd roaring at the reception as he told funny and embarrassing stories about myself and the groom.

My favorite moment, though, was when we were taking the “formal shots” in the pouring rain. He was holding the umbrella over the photographer while he got dumped on, all with a huge goofy grin on his face because he was trying to make us laugh.

My advice for offbeat brides: If you want to strike fear into the hearts of your suburban parents, tell them you want to have a potluck wedding. I thought they were going to have a heart attack! Chris-Laura_Wedding_Muskoka_khiPhotography_2010-67

No, but seriously. When we made the decision to have a wedding that we wanted our family to be a part of, we accepted the fact that although it was “our day,” it was also their day, too. So, we compromised on small things, but did not budge on things that were very important to us. We wanted everyone to have a good time, so it meant trying to find a balance that met everyone’s different tastes and comfort levels. Chris-Laura_Wedding_Muskoka_khiPhotography_2010-453

My biggest suggestion is to sit down with your partner early on and decide what are the most important elements of the wedding to you both, so you know where to stay firm, and where you can bend without hurting the people you love, or having a wedding day that does not feel like your own.

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? I woke up at 5:15 on the morning of my outdoor wedding to an unseasonably cold temperature and heavy rainfall. For two hours, I laid in bed crying about how my wedding was going to be ruined.
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Then, I had a realization: as the sun rose, I went outside into the rain, sang my heart out, and remembered all the reasons I was blessed. I realized that the day was not about being perfect — perfect weather, perfect hair, perfect ceremony location, perfect food, perfect anything! It was about how much my partner and I loved each other and that our family was with us to show support for our love. So, I didn't let all the things that did not turn out as planned ruin my day. I loved my wedding for how real and special all those imperfections made it.

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Comments on Laura & Chris’ nature-loving fall wedding in the rain

  1. I love Algonquin park- when I was little (and living close by) I always dreamed I would get married there in early fall… sigh… I can live vicariously through your wedding now! So beautiful!

  2. Beautiful!
    Her “lesson learned” actually brought tears to my eyes. (sniff) so beautiful – and I love love LOVE that dress!

  3. Dude. Sorry about the rain, but it made for some AMAZING pictures. Seriously, amazing. The contrast of green/orange foliage, gray stone, lighter gray skies, and both of you in white is to die for. And yes, the “lesson learned” was awesome. 🙂

  4. It was a wedding that they made perfect …for once they saw each other and their Love filled that tent…a tornado could have came by and no one would have noticed!!!!!I am so proud of both of them…they made it all work and they stayed true to themselves!!!!!! The Bride’s Mom ox

  5. I want your wedding food. D: I love the local theme to bits! I would follow with it 100%. I have admit, fall is the best time for what’s in season.

  6. Wow. This is why I come to Offbeat Bride. This is crazy-beautiful… I am so taken with the colors, the landscape, the clothes, and gosh the joy oozing from your pictures! Thank you for sharing.

  7. We used to go on tons of canoe-camping trips in Algonquin when I was a wee little tiny. And my parents’ names are Chris and Laura 🙂 And your moment in the rain made me teary, too, but I was already teary from the parents + Algonquin nostalgia.

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