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The offbeat bride: Sarah, drafter and seasonal park ranger

Her offbeat partner: Aaron, construction manager and student

Date and location of wedding: Camp Wilkerson, Rainier, Oregon — September 11, 2011

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Aaron and I had a three-day campout with lots of family and friends in a forested county park about an hour from Portland. We were thinking something more primitive, like 12 miles into Eagle Cap Wilderness, but we also wanted our families of all ages to be able to attend. So we picked a place accessible by paved roads. And Camp Wilkerson was a great mixture of isolation with amenities!

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We spent 20 dollars on our invitations by picking through old post cards at a second hand store and typing out the invite. Then we had an invitation making party!

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Family and friends emerged with major support and generosity. Our best man was the DJ (note: a dance party in the middle of the forest kicks ass!). Our photographer, ceremony musician, and hair stylist were all friends too. My aunts made the bouquets and altered my dress to fit me and my personality just perfectly. Our friend Mark even became ordained just to marry us! Our photographer, Jessica Watson, was amazing as well! Despite her knee surgery four days beforehand, she worked really hard for 10 hours and we were so happy with the pictures.

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My maid of honor and I found almost all of the china, glasses, salt and pepper shakers, and linens at thrift stores. It was a ton of work, but so worth it to help save the planet, one disposable plate at a time. And they are already getting more use! It made all the difference in the world to have someone with the same values as myself planning the wedding. She made signs out of scrap wood to let people know where to put their recycling and compost. Aaron's grandma loaned us antique silverware. The flowers came from our friend Jennifer and the Milwaukie Farmer's Market. The bridesmaid dresses were made by hand from Elyse Originals and the maid of honor's mom.

My parents made up a game called “Monster” when I was a kid. You turn off all the lights in the house and your monster parents hide while you tip-toe scared out of your mind to find them in the dark. This game has made its way to many other families and new generations. So when people actually wanted to play Monster in the woods at midnight, it was the perfect ending to a perfect weekend.

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Tell us about the ceremony: Our ceremony took place on a huge fire pit. Thank goodness Aaron made a platform for us to stand on. Our friend Mark was the perfect person to marry us. We had gone over the ceremony with him a couple of times, but he was saving the final draft for a surprise. We had a moment of silence for the 9/11 tragedy. And as I expected, he threw in something that was hilarious and fit us perfectly. Something about the one ring to bind them. 😉

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Beka, my maid of honor, read this quote from John Muir at the reception:

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

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My favorite moment: I witnessed the generosity and selflessness that people can have that weekend. Just the thought of all the people who not only helped get everything ready and set up for the wedding, but stayed the day after to clean, brings a tear to my eye. So many people helped in so many ways. My maid of honor worked endlessly for those three months. We are forever grateful.

Watching the tears slide down Aaron's face while we were getting married melts my heart. I felt like the luckiest person on earth. The world was the wonderful place we all imagine it could be, for that one weekend.

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Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? The reception dinner was a potluck. I was a bit nervous because not everyone had signed up to bring something, and we were supposed to feed 165 people. And the closest major store was almost an hour away. But it turned out really well!

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I was also very afraid of all the work to be done to set food out and wash the dishes. Luckily, my mom hooked me up with a caterer just a few days before the wedding. They did all the labor and worked their butts off for eight hours straight. Money well spent.

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My advice for offbeat brides: Don't buy all the beer in kegs unless you have a plan for them afterwards. We had almost two full kegs of good beer go to waste. And that was a lot of money. It would have been better to buy two kegs instead of four and then buy a bunch of cases or half racks that will last a long time after the wedding. Drink the kegs first, then bust out the bottles.

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? If you're doing an out-of-town wedding and doing all the setup yourselves, arrive at your location more than one day before the wedding. Our wedding was on a Sunday and we should have arrived on Friday because Saturday was almost a nightmare.

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!


jewelry: Brilliant Earth

Offbeat Bride Vendor

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Comments on Sarah & Aaron’s rustic forest camp-out wedding

  1. I really love the postcard invitation idea, that is really ingenious and cute! I also love the idea of a camp-out for the wedding. Congratulations!

  2. This is kind of creepy… this wedding is almost exactly what we’ve been planning for this coming June! Talk about some serious inspo. It looks like it was fabulous, which gives me great hope for what we have planned!

    • It turned out better than I ever dreamed, thanks to my maid of honor Beka. I probably would not have attempted that much work in three months on my own, but she came up with most of the ideas and I loved them! Then she proceeded to do all of the work too! I hope your wedding turns out better than you imagine too!

  3. Jessica did an excellent job on the photos! Her website is Jessicawatsonphotography.com.

    • Yes she did! I truly can’t thank her enough! She has such a uniqueness to her photos, she captures moments unbelievably, and is great to work with! I highly recommend her!

  4. We are looking to use vintage postcards as invitations. Did you repurpose used post card? If so, how did you go about doing it? By the way, I really love your wedding! Rustic, but with nice, simple yet elegant touches to make it special and personal.

    • Thank you! We bought about half of them pre-owned but unused at Scrap, this great second hand store in North Portland. http://scrappdx.org/
      The other half are postcards I bought on trips to National Parks and other places in the last 15 years. And for the thank you cards, we purchased postcards from our honeymoon in Yosemite National Park.

  5. Thank you everyone for the sweet comments and compliments! Let me know if you have any other questions and I’d be happy to answer them!

  6. Sarah, if you could give a bit of a “how-to” on the vintage postcard invites, I would be so grateful. It makes me laugh that those of us with limited craft skills often are the ones with the lowest wedding budget! LOL! But if I can get some pointers, I believe I can make this work. I can craft with good instructions!

    • Sorry Tamara, I thought I had replied to your question, but I see that i did not. So sorry, I’m sure it is probably too late now, so I hope you figured it out ok. I just used Word to type out our invite and printed them out and cut and paste them onto the back of the post cards. The post cards had no writing on them yet. And then we put them in envelopes with a map and some wedding info. Best of wishes for your marriage!!!!

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