Emily & Mark's homemade Goat Farm, Native American, Albanian Orthodox, Love Fest

Updated Jul 5 2021

love!The Offbeat Bride: Emily, bodyworker

Her Offbeat Partner: Mark, Case Manager

Location & date of wedding: Yerba Santa Goat Dairy, Lakeport, CA — 5/16/09

What made our wedding offbeat: We wanted everything to be as 'green' as possible. We bought and then donated all our plates, silverware and glasses. We sat on hay-bales which were later fed to the goats. We made as much by ourselves and with friends as possible and kept the food and drinks very local — we served veggies all grown within 100 miles of our home, buffalo raised 20 miles from the farm, a goat and goat cheese raised on the farm. We served Sonoma and Napa County wines, home-brewed beer by a dear friend of ours, and olives picked from Mark's mom's front yard and brined by us.


Marks family drumming the entrance song.
Mark's family drumming the entrance song.

Our cake was a beehive, in homage to the those sweet creatures who marry heaven and earth with their flight and their nectar, which many cultures incorporate into wedding ceremonies. I brewed blackberry damiana honey-wine, which was a magical love potion. My ring is an antique, my dress is made out of 'sustainable' hemp-silk fabric and is in two parts that could be worn again together or separately (it wasn't white). Mark built composting toilets which we donated to the farm.

my uncle gave an Orthodox blessing
Emily's uncle giving an Orthodox blessing.

The ceremony was a fusion of Mark's Native American heritage and my Albanian Orthodox background. It was a format that was pretty non-traditional for either lineage, but gave due props to both. It was on our friend's pretty rugged goat farm, so we were glad that all our relatives got into the spirit of things and had an awesome time.

Our biggest challenge: Our biggest challenge was probably managing the guest list. Some friends felt strongly about inviting other people we weren't as close with. We kind of picked and chose, trying to be open to people wanting to 'share the love.' I still think we could have drawn some better boundaries, but after the fact, I have no regrets about any of that. Other than that, the fact that we created so much of this event from the ground up, we had our hands really full. DIY = a lot of WORK! but the result was such a personal celebration, it was worth every ounce of stress and sweat.

goats eating the seating the day before
The goats eating the seats.
Herbal Waters for each table.

My favorite moment: The whole day was one big never-ending favorite moment that i keep re-living, but one that sticks out is just as the sun set, my brother-in-law's guitar playing echoed through the valley as Mark and I finally walked to the creek where all our guests had been cooling off all day, slipped out of my corset and dipped in the cool waters. It was so sweet to finally have a private moment with Mark, in the elements, which rejuvenated us for night-time dancing and evening fun…

My advice to other offbeat brides: Take care of yourself during the process. In a way, you are setting the tone for your marriage as you plan for this ceremony and celebration, so say YES to family and friends who want to help. It's easy to get stressed out by all the decisions and unwanted input from others, so take care of yourself and your partner… eat well, get a massage, exercise, etc. And just know that no matter how it turns out, no matter what brilliant ideas you have to let go of, or what things go 'wrong,' it will be perfect.

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?:

If i had to give only one link, it'd be for Dark Garden. They rock. They understood my wedding frock vision and took it to new levels.

Our cake from Oakland's Sweet Adeline Bakeshop surpassed any expectations of both taste and cuteness.

Our Twisted Limb invitations drew so many compliments. We loved how 100% recycled and handmade they were (with pressed flowers) and our guests loved how beautiful and plant-able they were.

We ordered the most gorgeous beeswax pressed-flower candles from Laughing Candles. They were so beautiful that whoever was lucky enough to grab one is likely still enjoying the beeswax fragrance and feel. Also, just lovely people to work with.

  1. Everything looks simultaneously beautiful and delicious. Just like that honeybee cake.

    Even the seats look delicious. ESPECIALLY the seats.

  2. oh boy! we're planning a bay area goat farm wedding too — i'm thrilled to see that you made it work. you two look radiant.

  3. This is so beautiful, each careful thought behind this wedding made me tear up… so much meaning, beauty, love and tradition wrapped up here. I wish I had been there – what an amazing day it must have been. Beautiful!

  4. Gorgeous! Your whole wedding was just beautiful. You lucky Californians can have all sorts of lovely outdoor celebrations and hardly ever have to worry about the weather! Lucky ducks.

    I especially love the wedding dress, particularly the color. I am falling in love with deep and buttery yellows, despite hating the "smiley face" hue since childhood. I also love that you chose to do a blended ceremony, instead of trying to leave out either culture in an effort to be inoffensive, as some couples often do.

    Beautiful, lovely, sunshine-y, fun-looking wedding/party. Also, how jealous am I that you got to have fry bread at your wedding?

  5. Great wedding!, kinda reminds me of pow-wows that I go to every year here in ohio!! The wedding dress is such a pretty color looks almost old gold color, which is very unique. I also loved the fact she wore boots with her dress, I was so thinking of doing that but at the last minute I didnt wear it, now I wished I did, it looks so good on her! Congrats to the couple!!

  6. Emily, I just came upon this website while searching for various other things to plan our own lovefest. Photographing your wedding was so awesome, I wish you & Mark would get married again every year! You really are the most stunning bride I've ever seen. And thanks for the great ideas as we plan our own lovefest 🙂

  7. I just happened to google "Native American" (my partial heritage) and "Albanian" (my wife is a native of Albania) and your wedding was the result. Amazing! I love how you incorporated elements of both cultures into your ceremony. Best wishes and congratulations on a beautiful ceremony.

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