This Hallowedding in Mendocino had potentially the spookiest theme ever: campground! At least it wasn’t Camp Crystal Lake. Beth and Dan’s florist, Toni Sicola, wrote about all the awesomeness that went down at this camping wedding. Here are the amazing details…
For newly engaged, outdoorsy-type couples, combining getting married and going camping with friends seems like the perfect way create a truly personal wedding experience. But in many cases, not every guest will be so excited about camping. While an outdoor wedding is common enough, surely the idea of a camping wedding will strike fear into the hearts of a lot of older extended family.
Luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way, as more campgrounds and places off the beaten path begin doubling as rustic wedding venues, they’re stepping up their game and offering ‘glamping’ style accommodations for the guests who prefer a less rugged experience.
Rather than opting for the more obvious summer camp wedding, Beth and Dan celebrated their love on Halloween weekend at Camp Navarro in Mendocino County, California. This was a solidly fall-themed occasion — a gorgeous weekend wedding that ran the gamut from a costume party rehearsal dinner to a wedding reception covered in pumpkins, gourds, and gorgeous fall leaves.
Nestled beneath a canopy of tall redwoods and broad oak trees in the hills of Mendocino County, Camp Navarro was the perfect spot for this outdoor-loving, eco-conscious couple. Their goal was to provide the whole package for their friends and family on their wedding weekend, incorporating a fall-themed party with their nuptials and creating the perfect Hallowedding.
Beth and Dan welcomed their guests with maps of the whole camp (200+ acres of property), along with sleeping assignments (chosen in advance), which ranged in ruggedness from tent sites to glamping-style lodging units scattered across the property.
The campground at night was dark and filled with a symphony of nature noises, and those who chose the more secluded options woke up with the sun peeking through a thick canopy of ancient redwoods. Guests could set up camp on just about any open campsite they chose, as the whole place belonged to Beth and Dan for the weekend.
The Rehearsal Dinner: Costumes and Pumpkins
The weekend kicked off just as a summer camp party might: with a pizza party and a costume-required rehearsal dinner. They followed up the dinner with some serious pumpkin carving, adults and kids alike posting up at picnic tables with their pumpkin carving tools in hand. Camp Navarro staff cooked and served brick oven pizza, made to order for guests, even offering gluten-free and vegan options for those with special diets.
All of the nearly 70 guests jumped right into the Halloween vibe, donning costumes that ranged from Top Gun’s Maverick to someone posing as Steve Martin’s The Jerk character, carrying around a lamp with his pants at his knees.
On the morning of the wedding, the ceremony site doubled as an outdoor yoga studio where guests could gather before preparing for the day’s events. Set in an outdoor amphitheater shaded by a grove of ancient redwoods, every element of the wedding ceremony was deeply personal, but light and funny, just like Beth and Dan.
The gigantic redwoods served as hiding places for the wedding party and the bride as they waited to walk down the aisle. Each emerged from the trees and descended into the crowd toward the center “altar” area where the couple would exchange their own written vows.
Beth’s vows to her tech-professional husband included a promise to ‘try turning it off and on again’ before asking for tech support. And Dan promised to continue making his notorious chicken stock for life.
Beth’s dog Sydney played a special role at the ceremony, donning a succulent-studded leash and walking down the aisle with Dan’s twelve-year-old niece, the flower girl. Sydney was dubbed the ‘Ring Bear,’ so named because she looks just like a little black bear.
Adding a heartfelt touch, Beth’s brother played guitar and sang harmony with Dan’s mother and aunt (75-year-old identical twin sisters) to Elvis’s “Love Me Tender” as Beth, accompanied by both of her parents, walked down the aisle.
The Decor: Succulents and Pumpkins
When Beth decided that she wanted to minimize waste and unnecessary clutter at her wedding, she meant it. Her desires on this front go far beyond her wedding decor and into her professional life as well. The non-profit she started in San Francisco has a mission all about reducing waste and turning one person’s garbage into another person’s art supplies.
Her nature-loving, eco-conscious ethic threaded beautifully throughout the entire wedding weekend, from the venue to the floral decor, from the wedding invitations to the food sourcing. Every detail involved local vendors, sustainable materials, and food from local farms.
Beth wanted to avoid using cut flowers, as it felt wasteful to her, so succulents were the obvious solution. They also happen to be among the most popular wedding trends right now. Their draught-tolerant nature and the fact that they don’t die the way cut flowers do once they’re cut, make using succulents extra appealing to eco-conscious couples. It also feels good to know that your wedding floral investment can get planted into the ground instead of going into the compost bin after the big day.
Alameda-based Succulents for Hire stepped up to the plate with a solid set of ideas. The result was living, fully reusable and compostable fall-themed centerpieces in the form of succulent-topped pumpkins. Large fairytale pumpkins ran down a center tablescape, flanked by gourds, berries, pine cones, and fallen yellow maple leaves. Every guest received a miniature succulent-topped pumpkin as their wedding favor, which sat at each of the place settings spanning a nearly 70-person T-shaped table.
Beth’s bouquet included whimsical fall elements like pine cones and berries, along with a fall palette of succulents, greenery, and wildflowers. Succulents for Hire collected the bouquet after the party and transformed it into a custom potted arrangement for Beth and Dan to keep. All of the gorgeous elements from the day were captured to remember forever by Bay Area alternative wedding photographer Ella Sophie.
Before the seated dinner, during which members of Beth and Dan’s wedding party stood up to say a few words about the two of them, guests enjoyed a raw oyster bar and tons of delicious buffet-style hors d’oeuvres. Beer from nearby Anderson Valley Brewing company (Boonville) and wine from Navarro Winery and Roederer Estate, (both Camp Navarro neighbors) were poured at stations that dotted the open meadow outside the camp’s main building.
While waiting for the seated dinner to get started, guests had open use of fun outdoor games like cornhole, horse shoes, and ladder golf. Dinner was served family style, with guests passing plates and bottles across the table to share, all in keeping with the generous, family spirit of the day.
Once the meal was complete, the guests either jumped up and headed to the dance floor or cozied up to the fire pit for some outdoor relaxation. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day, a camp wedding that guests of all ages could enjoy.
The Final Touches
The month-of and day-of wedding planning, led by the talented Sonya Houston of Mendocino Weddings went off without a hitch. All the details were in place and on time, the table set, the food and drinks on point for all three days of this wedding weekend extravaganza.
As guests rolled out of bed for Sunday brunch, they could take their time packing up and checking out of their campsites. On their way out, many were invited to take home one of the larger succulent-topped pumpkin centerpieces as an additional gift. As it was the end of October, those pumpkins could serve as the perfect fall decor for the coming month. After that, the succulents could be replanted and the pumpkin composted. Beth loved the idea of her wedding favors having a life long after the wedding weekend was over — the gift that kept on giving.
After a whirlwind of a wedding weekend it can feel like everything went by so fast. This is where having a professional photographer around really comes into play. Beth and Dan get to look back at their awesome camping wedding anytime they want. As an alternative wedding photographer with a background in fine art Ella Sophie created a set of beautiful heirloom framed prints.