Remember this handmade Victorian-inspired dress? Now we get to see the rest of the DIYed details.
The Offbeat Bride: Rowan, Urban Farmer, Textile Artist, and owner of Rowanica Designs
Her offbeat partner: Peter, Occupational Safety and Health Specialist, Science Nerd, Musician, and Permaculturist.
Date and location of wedding: Camano Island State Park, Camano, Washington — May 4, 2013
Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Peter and I are permaculturists, obsessive DIYers, mycophiles (mushroom fanatics), festival-goers, and artists. We wanted our wedding to reflect all of these values, keep us out of debt, and be deeply meaningful. We made everything we possibly could ourselves, and asked friends and family for help making stuff wherever we could. We chose the weekend closest to the Pagan holiday of Beltane as our wedding date, and incorporated many elements of a traditional celebration into our event. Peter and I were the May King and Queen presiding over the festivities.
We found our venue while mushroom hunting late last fall, and knew instantly that it was the right place for our union. Peter grew up camping at Camano Island State Park, and his late grandfather, who had a big influence on his life, lived in an old house just a few minutes away. The meadow at the group campsite is ringed with trees and native berry bushes, with plenty of little hideaway spots for camping, and several cabins for ourselves and out-of-town guests. It was phenomenally gorgeous, and we were blessed with the most perfect weather we could dream of.
I made our wedding invitations and RSVP postcards with Vistaprint. All of the decorations were handmade, and mostly from recycled and found objects. My mother made a bunch of beautiful burlap bows. Many friends assisted in creating our fairy lights: recycled glass jars covered in decoupaged vintage lace and tied together with jute, each with an LED candle inside.
The picnic tables were covered in thrift store lace curtains, and each table was decorated with a recycled wine bottle filled with lilacs and irises from our garden and Peter's mothers' garden, fern fronds, and rooster feathers. We surrounded those with beeswax candles in quilted jelly jars. The mushroom lamps were made from thrifted glass punch bowls and vases with LED candles in them.
We had a kids area, with puppets, crayons and paper, bubbles, and hula hoops (the hula hoops were a hit with everyone!). The chill-out tent had a a rug and cushions to lounge on, drums to play, and a hookah and flavored tobacco to enjoy.
A friend created a beautiful love altar for us on and around a large stump in the meadow, featuring crystals, candles, and beautiful wooden statues to represent the Divine Masculine and Feminine. Just beyond that was an ancestor shrine, where we had photos of our dearly departed, including my mother's sister who passed away suddenly just a couple of months before the wedding. My mother also scattered some of her ashes at our ceremony and reception site so that my aunt could be with us in spirit. Our kitchen area ended up being a great hang out after dark, where we all sat around the campfire roasting marshmallows and partying into the wee hours.
Etsy makers provided my rings, boots, earrings, and garters. Peter wore his clan colors in a handmade woolen kilt. For our toast, I home-brewed 150 bottles of hard cider and also canned 60 quarts of soft apple cider, all from apples we picked and pressed the previous fall. I made hairclips/boutonnieres for our family and for some of the friends who donated huge amounts of time. I also made my headdress. My bouquet was made the day of the event using rowan tree flowers I had picked the previous day, rooster feathers, ribbons, and two freshly-picked fiddlehead ferns bound together into a heart shape.
All of the photographs were taken by friends and family, and we had great success using the free service WedPics to collect them. We got well over a thousand photos! My sister and her husband own a video production company, and they were gracious enough to film our wedding for us as a gift. You can see the two-minute teaser for it here:
Our friend Geordie was our fabulous, warm and funny MC. Another friend had planned to MC for us, but due to an emergency he was not able to make it. Geordie stepped in with no notice and totally rocked it! We had a talent show after the potluck feast. Peter kicked it off with a couple of acoustic songs, starting it off with Led Zeppelin's “Thank You,” followed by AC/DC's “She's Got the Jack.”
Other performers included three incredible poets, my stepfather wailing on the guitar and knocking everyone's socks off with a blues solo, a little girl who had an awesome hula-hoop routine to a Macklemore song, and a lovely acoustic performance of Ben Harper's “Beloved One.”
We asked our guests to bring a potluck dish, a contribution to our community wine and juice bar, or join the “Cupcake Brigade” by bringing a dozen cupcakes. I made four-tier cupcake towers from epoxied glass plates and glass candle holders, and they were filled with a rainbow of different delicious cupcakes. Our couple cake was a small gluten-free carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, decorated with edible violets from our garden and a kissing frog prince and princess. The cake was made by a friend using my late grandmother's heart-shaped cake pan. We cut the cake with Peter's buck knife that he's worn since childhood.
Our DJ, Domenica of Lost in Music, helped us to create a soundtrack to our wedding reception, featuring down-tempo acid jazz electronica, 60s/70s funk and soul, and psychedelic rock. I wanted to avoid most of the typical wedding music and focus on good, solid, listenable music that would set the mood and carry the energy. She was great at reading the crowd and guiding the flow of activity through song.
Tell us about the ceremony: Peter and I led the procession, parade-style, on a path through the woods to the ceremony amphitheater. Our friends had decorated the bamboo ceremony arch with lilac flowers from our garden. I saw it for the first time at that moment.
Peter's amazing lesbian moms and their long-time friends, both happy couples, sang “Annie's Song” by John Denver as our processional song. My little nieces were flower girls, Peter's nephew was our ring bearer, and Peter's 17-year old daughter walked down the aisle with our handmade handfasting cord wrapped around her waist like a bad-ass. Then we entered, hand-in-hand.
Our ceremony was performed by our friend Jacqueline, a founding member of the Beacon Food Forest, a public permaculture project where we volunteer. Our friend Marte' also performed part of our ceremony, acting as Priestess, invoking the blessings of the Four Elements and tying the knot for our handfasting.
We lit a unity candle made by a friend as our singers sang a gorgeous rendition of “Bramble and the Rose” by Patty Loveless. Then came the time for the vows, only we had both forgotten our copies of the vows we had written out. We had an awkward minute where we searched for them to no avail, then Peter broke the ice by explaining exuberantly to the guests that we've forgotten our vows, just in case they weren't aware of what was happening. That got everybody laughing and relaxed again, including me. We winged our vows in the end, and it went fine!
After we exchanged vows and rings, we joined hands in a figure-eight, representing infinity, as Marte' tied our cord around our hands. Our friends Allison and Andy, who are planning their own wedding, held the broom for us to jump over as we left the amphitheater, and we exited to a shower of lavender and calendula blossoms.
Our biggest challenge: Having our wedding outside during spring, when the Washington weather is totally unpredictable, presented a number of challenges. As there were no buildings or cooking facilities around, and a two-minute walk to reach running water, we had to import everything. We borrowed all of our shelters from friends rather than renting a giant tent, and that saved us hundreds of dollars. As the running water near the site was gross-tasting, we imported 50 gallons of Seattle city water for drinking and cooking. We created an outdoor kitchen for cooking and prepping food, complete with sink and pirate apron!
Since our budget was small (we did everything for under $3,000), we were hand-making or delegating everything, and we realized a few months before the event that there is no way we could handle everything ourselves. That's when we hired my friend and personal/business organizer, Marni of Marni Saves the Day. She is a passionate Burner and has lots of experience in organizing art events and outdoor festivals, wrangling volunteers, and Getting Shit Done. We had a massive amount of work to do and details to decide in a short period of time, and she got and kept us organized, motivated and sane.
My favorite moment: During the ceremony, Peter's daughter Keelin read a poem that she had written about us. It was so sweet, and recognized and honored us so well. It was a truly beautiful moment to hear with an open heart her poetic observations of us as a couple, what makes us unique and special, just as we were about to become family.
We had a Maypole dance just after our ceremony. Forty people helped to weave and dance their prayers and blessings around a 20-foot dead-fall tree which we brought for the occasion. Peter and I each wove rings from weeping willow branches, which were linked together at the top of the pole and designed to slide down the pole as the weavers braided the ribbons together. Towards the end of the Maypole dance, Peter and I were spontaneously bound to the pole with the loose ribbons. It was such a great feeling to be wrapped up by our community, loving and supporting us, giving us this magic.
What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? I learned how to organize and delegate. I learned how better to communicate my vision to others, and how to let go of my vision when it wasn't working for one reason or another. For instance, I was obsessed with making a free-standing curly willow arch for us to marry beneath, which would have been fragile, bulky, and difficult to transport. Peter got hooked up with some free bamboo, so he made a wonderful arch from bamboo tied together with leather strips which could be easily taken apart and transported.
I let go of desire for a polished wedding which would not be us, and allowed it to become a true reflection of who we are: imperfect, organic, a little dorky, thrifty, DIY, and community-oriented. As a result, we were relaxed, the guests were relaxed, and there was space for spontaneous and authentic participation.
Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?
- Wedding Planner/Coordinator: Marni Saves the Day
- Cake toppers: Allison Moore Ceramics
- Bride's bodice: Bethany Roulett
- Dress patterns: Truly Victorian
- Bride's rings: Etsy seller Bandscapes
- Groom's ring: Silver Cherry
- Groom's Kilt: Etsy seller ThePeriodTailor
- Tie-Dye ceremony backdrop: Sew it Seams Tie-Dye
- Beeswax unity candle and tapers: Long Life Candles
- DJ: DJ Domenica of Lost In Music
- Videographer: England Productions
- Photo collection: Wedpics.com