Libbie & Paul's Emerald City to Red Rocks road trip wedding

Updated Oct 12 2015
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Photos by James Ulness, a friend of the couple

The Offbeat Bride: Libbie, writer

Her offbeat partner: Paul, property caretaker

Date and location of wedding: Arches National Park, Moab, UT — 09/13/2013

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Several years ago I visited Sand Dune Arch in Arches National Park. I was all alone there, and the beauty of the place really made an impression on me. Being there was as close to a spiritual experience as I've ever had. I knew it was a very special place. Later, when I was dating Paul, we went on a road trip through nine states, visiting as many parks as we could in two weeks. Arches was by far our favorite, and he, too, felt moved by the special atmosphere of Sand Dune Arch. When we decided to get married, we knew it had to be at Sand Dune.

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Having a simple wedding in a National Park saved us a lot of money, as the focus of the event was the park itself, and our guests' experience of traveling there and enjoying the park. Our wedding was just the icing on the cake. And we did get plenty of adventure and spontaneity! 2013 was a big monsoon year, and we dodged torrential rain and severe thunderstorms several times through the week… including wrapping up the ceremony and making it back to our cars moments before a thunderstorm rolled directly overhead!

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We held a reception back home in Seattle in October, for friends and family who couldn't make it to Arches. The Georgetown Stables was the perfect venue: it's full of eclectic, rustic-looking knick-knacks, which was fitting for our style and saved us the added expense of decorating. Our AMAZING friend Marianna, an incredible cook and a killer foodie, volunteered to cook all the food (cocktail snacks) as her gift to us.

The reception also featured several cakes from Columbia City Bakery. It was more important to us to have delicious desserts than to do a big wedding cake. Columbia City Bakery is a spot where Paul and I often went for pastries and coffee during the earliest days of our relationship.

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Tell us about the ceremony:
My friend since childhood, Dan, got ordained with the Universal Life Church and officiated. I asked him to open the ceremony with Pablo Neruda's Love Sonnet No. 69." It's a piece which says exactly what I feel about Paul and the relationship we share. Unsurprisingly, I was a blubbering wreck before Dan had even finished reading the poem.

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Dan also wrote a beautiful ceremony that captured both our nonreligious beliefs and the sense of profound awe we have for life and nature. We didn't read the ceremony before the wedding. We wanted to be surprised with whatever he wrote. I will always treasure the words Dan wrote to bind us together.

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To bring in the participation of the rest of our loved ones, I tore up strips of fabric and gave a piece to each guest when we arrived at the arch. Dan asked our guests to tie the ends of their fabric together into a long rope while Paul and I exchanged our home-written vows. Then we had a handfasting, with each guest offering his or her advice or special wishes for us as they tied their length of the rope around our hands. It was an especially fun part of the ceremony. I am going to use the fabric from our handfasting rope to make a quilt for our bed.

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Our biggest challenge:
We made sure all our loved ones knew that they weren't required to be at the wedding — it was just an adventure they could choose to take with us if they felt they could manage it. Destination weddings can be hard on everybody, and we didn't want anyone to feel as if they had to make the trip. We planned a reception for back home in Seattle a month later so that everybody could celebrate with us. Still, we were surprised at how many people did come to Arches with us!

However, the weather was really challenging. We weren't aware that the monsoon would be quite so crazy that year. It created many different travel challenges for everybody, but the Biggest Challenge Award goes to our best man Simon, who planned to fly from Seattle to Denver, and then to Moab. Unfortunately the weather kept him stranded in Denver until several hours after the wedding! Oops. When he finally did arrive in Moab, we all had a good laugh and went on with enjoying the vacation.

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It was also a challenge to do flowers. I love flowers and definitely wanted to have something to carry to our ceremony, but my flowers had to survive a road trip from Seattle to Moab, the desert environment, a trip back, and still had to look good a month later at our reception! That's a tall order for a bouquet.

I ended up inventing my own method for making paper flowers that mostly involved soaking and hand-wrinkling paper, drying it, and forming it into petals and leaves. I added some bleached peacock feathers for a bit of texture, but otherwise my bouquet was 100% paper and cloth ribbon.

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My funniest moment:
Immediately after our ceremony, we drove a short way up the road to a different arch to grab some quick photos with our photographer (another good friend) before the thunderstorm caught up to us. When we came running back to our car to hide from the rain again, we'd found that my mom and her boyfriend had written "Just Married" all over my car with the red Colorado Plateau mud! What a perfect car decoration for Moab.

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

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    • Thanks! The bouquet was time-consuming to make (though not technically difficult), but I really loved how it turned out. I looked at a lot of options before deciding to make it this way. I knew I had to do either silk or paper, but I just don't like the look of silk flowers and all the tutorials for paper bouquets I could find looked too whimsical/fantasy/unnatural for what I wanted. So I started experimenting until I got a look I liked! If not for the experimental phase, it probably would have been a lot quicker!

    • Aww, thanks! We did have a really great time. I think there's a lot to be said for a super low-key, "Everybody just have fun!" style of wedding. It was a blast, and I liked having the focus less on us as the center of attention and more on all of us coming together to have an adventure. 🙂

  1. That dress is stunning. I love the flowers too, I've never seen a bouquet quite like it. What a special thing to be able to keep.

    • Thanks! The dress was fun. Probably not the most flattering cut on me, but who cares? The color was perfect for the setting! Getting a dress from BHLDN was probably my biggest splurge, and it was NOT one of their more expensive models…ha ha.

  2. oh my gosh! I love your wedding, it all looks so awesome! and I also love moab, I used to play in the same spot you guys got married as a kid to.

  3. So much love on your faces! And so much beauty all around you to match! Arches is indeed a spiritually charged place, and it sounds like your wedding fit in there perfectly. Thank you for sharing!

  4. This wedding is so beautiful. Your dress and flowers are gorgeous, so it your husband's dress shirt and tie. Everyone looks so relaxed and happy, really wonderful.

  5. Libbie! Could you please please please give me a brief step by step of making your bouquet? I feel the same way about mine and would LOvE to have one like yours!! Thank you so much!

    • Sure! This is how I did it…

      Materials: Paper, paper-wrapped wire (floral wire covered with stuff that kind of looks like paper bag material), cloth ribbon and feathers for texture, hot glue.

      For the poppy petals, I cut out a bunch of petal shapes (just free-hand drew them in the shape of triangles with very rounded corners, made the edges of the "base" of the triangle kind of wavy and uneven). I used a fairly thick scrapbooking paper for this…not quite as heavy and stiff as tag board, but definitely heavier than typical office paper. I soaked the petals in a dish of water for about 20 minutes.

      Then I took each petal and pinched it all together vertically (the narrow end of the triangle is the bottom of the petal, which will attach to the stem, so you want your folds and wrinkles to go up-and-down, not side-to-side.) Make the pinches all wrinkly and uneven…don't try to make them perfectly even or anything like that.

      Lay the petals out on a towel on a cookie sheet and let them dry overnight. If they come unpinched a little bit, don't worry about it. When they're totally dry, gently open each one up a little bit, so you can see the petal shape again, but allow it to still be wrinkly.

      To make the poppies, cut a circle out of dark paper. Grab a petal and shape it over your thumb so that it forms a little bit of a curve/dish shape. Glue it on the circle at the narrowest end, with the edges of the petal curving inward. Do a whole row of petals around the outside of the circle, and then another row inside. Make the little nub at the center of the poppy by cutting a long, very narrow strip of paper, roll it up so it becomes a little fat cylinder, and glue it into the center of the flower.

      Then take a piece of the paper-covered wire and form a loop at one end. Glue the loop to the back of the flower, let it dry, and bend the rest of the wire so it creates a stem.

      For the white lily-like flowers, I free-handed a bunch of eye-shaped petals on vellum paper. Then I just wrinkled them vertically so they looked all crinkly and textured, and glued several petals together at a narrow end, overlapping them, so it formed a bud shape. I added some smaller vellum petals inside to give each one some depth. Glue directly onto a piece of wire.

      The leaves were just free-hand drawn, cut out, and folded the long way to give the leaves some shape and depth.

      Then, when you have all the flowers you want, just bundle them up and arrange them, add any ribbon or feathers you want for texture and to hide any wires that might be visible, and secure the whole bunch with some twists of wire or zip ties. Wrap the stem in ribbon and glue or pin to secure it.

      Pretty simple, but it takes some time. 🙂

  6. I'm so glad to see what a national park wedding can look like! I've always fantasized about getting married in Zion National Park (few hours south of Moab) but I had never seen what it could look like…I'm kind of sold now. 🙂

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