Get back to nature with Tatjana & Ken's dog-friendly and rainy forest wedding

Updated Oct 12 2015
 
Photos by: Patrice Gilbert Photography
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Photos by Patrice Gilbert Photography

The Offbeat Bride: Tatjana, Graduate Student in Neural Computation (and Offbeat Bride member)

Her offbeat partner: Ken, Bike Mechanic and Nursing Student

Date and location of wedding: ThorpeWood, Thurmont, MD — October 3, 2014

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Our wedding was deep in the woods at a beautiful mountain retreat center in the Catoctin mountains. Ken and I are both outdoorsy, and wanted our venue to reflect that. While looking for outdoor venues, our biggest snag was having a backup plan in case of rain. We contemplated taking a chance and hoping for good weather. Thankfully we didn't follow through with that plan, and our final venue choice included a gorgeous cozy lodge with a fireplace and huge windows. We were especially lucky because the rain did not start in earnest until the reception, so we were able to have the ceremony outdoors, in a "pine cathedral," which was a clearing in a pine grove with benches made of tree trunks cut in half.

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We worked out our ceremony with our officiant, who was very open to having it reflect us as a couple. This meant emphasizing our love of nature, choosing our own readings (one of them was the poem "Love" by Roy Croft, and the other was an excerpt from Corelli's Mandolin), having a salt unity ceremony, and writing our own vows. To top it off, at the end of the ceremony, we rode our mountain bikes out of the aisle to one of the happiest songs I know, "Bright Whites" by Kishi Bashi. This was possible because long before we had the idea to incorporate our love of mountain biking, I insisted on wearing a knee-length dress, because I simply felt most comfortable that way.

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Other decisions we made to reflect us as a couple included my sparkly green Legend of Zelda shoes, doing away with the first dance and parent dances and so on, and creating our own playlist for the reception.

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Finally, our beloved dog Gus was escorted down the aisle by our best man, carrying the rings attached to his collar!

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Tell us about the ceremony:
Our unity ceremony was a salt ceremony, which involved us each holding a jar of salt, and each of our sets of parents also holding a jar of salt. The parents poured some of their salt into our jars, representing their support and upbringing which made us into the people we are today. Ken and I then poured some of our salt into a big jar, which represented joining our lives, and that which gives our life flavor, together. We now have the jar in our kitchen and use it to cook. When it gets close to running out, we refill it, just like in life we have to put energy into the relationship once in a while. The symbolism really worked for us, and we especially liked that the end result was something practical we could use in day-to-day life.

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Our biggest challenge:
Our biggest challenge was figuring out what kind of wedding would actually suit us. We debated for a long time whether to have a big wedding with most of our relatives and friends (at about 125 people this was what it ended up being) or a small one with just our immediate families and closest friends. In retrospect it was nice to have so many loved ones around us. People came from several different countries (part of my family is German, and he is Bolivian and Japanese) and it became in part a celebration of two families and many cultures coming together. So our decision to have a larger wedding worked out.

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My favorite moment:
After walking down the aisle with my dad, before I joined Ken at the front, my mom got up and joined us for the last few steps. It felt good to take the final steps with the two people who have supported me most in my life.

After I finished saying my vows, Ken and I spontaneously kissed. We just couldn't wait until "you may now kiss the bride!"

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Before dinner, one of my bridesmaids sang my favorite love song, "Eric's Song" by Vienna Teng, accompanied by my brother on the piano. It was so beautiful it gave me chills.

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My funniest moment:
It was really important to my dad to walk me down the aisle himself (as opposed to both him and my mom walking me down the aisle). My cousin's five-year-old daughter was the flower girl, and she was supposed to walk in front of us and scatter some flower petals. But she was too shy and wouldn't let go of my dad's hand. So he ended up walking both me and the flower girl down the aisle!

Part of the way through the ceremony, our dog Gus (who was standing at the front with the best man) got bored and rolled onto his back for a belly rub while our officiant was talking. That got a laugh and an "aww!"

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During dinner, the maid of honor (my sister) started giving a speech about how wonderful I am and how lucky Ken is to have me. Partway through, she was interrupted by the best man, who started arguing, in verse, why I was actually the lucky one to have Ken. They switched off saying rhyming lines of what ended up being a hilarious and kick-ass poem!

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
I learned that meaning comes from context. Honestly, the day went by in an instant. If all the meaning of the wedding was confined to my experience on that one day, it wouldn't be nearly as huge. I was worried that all the time and money we spent on it would be gone after that day. I had no time or energy to reflect much on what was going on at the time, I met so many new people as my family had doubled in size, and before I knew it, the day was over. But as I think back on it, I feel a warm glow and happiness. I think about how much love people gave in helping to make it happen, and helping to craft it into a day that reflected us. So the effects of the day extend far into the rest of our lives, which made it absolutely worth it.

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

  1. Maryland representing! I love the 2nd photo down where the groom his admiring his bride's veil. Also love the photo were the bride sticks her tongue out. Basically a fun wedding, evening is sooooo cute! The doggie looks really happy and the grooms parents are mega cute.

  2. I want to be in that pine cathedral! The whole thing looks so beautiful and filled with love. What you said about the effects of the day extending to the rest of your lives really resonated with me. I've been thinking for awhile that this isn't all just for one silly party, that our connections to our family and friends will be strengthened and the people we love will remember this day forever. But you put it into words much better. Thanks!

  3. Yay Thorpewood! We got married in the lodge in January 2010(and were actually featured on ObB too!) I LOVE the pine cathedral. So peaceful and gorgeous!

  4. I think I looked at Thorpewood when I had an itch to find cool outdoorsy places to get married near VA (even though I'm not even engaged yet…..). Absolutely amazing location!
    The fogginess in the ceremony pictures is just lovely! Rainy days in the forest are actually my favorite…..makes me want to go hiking!!

  5. I love everything about this wedding but my very favorite thing is Vienna Teng's Eric's Song, which is a spectacular and perfect choice!!!!

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