Joanna & Will's four-day camp-out wedding

February 5 2014 | offbeatbride  
Photos by: Stephanie Kaloi Photography
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Photos by Stephanie Kaloi Photography

The Offbeat Bride: Joanna, engineer of physical things

Her offbeat partner: Will, engineer of 1s and 0s

Date and location of wedding: Camp Zanika Lache on Lake Wenatchee, Leavenworth, WA — August 25, 2013

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: When deciding what type of wedding we wanted to have, it occurred to us that weddings are one of the best opportunities to get people to take a moment from their busy lives to come spend time with you all at the same time. Our friends and family live far and wide, so we wanted to make the travel worth their while by actually spending time with them and giving them the opportunity to make new friends out of each other. And thus the process of planning a four-day wedding that was everything we wanted it to be began.

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Over the course of four days, we took some of our friends and family up to see their first glacier in The Enchantments while a big group tubed down the Wenatchee River. We had big campfires and made s'mores. Our guests also insisted that we show them how to contra dance.

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Tell us about the ceremony:
Our amazing friend worked with us to write a more personal ceremony than we could have hoped for, for which she then acted as officiant. She also was kind enough to indulge our desire to canoe in and out of our ceremony. We work hard to be equal partners in all ways, which our officiant did by mixing the order of our names and pointedly switching up about half of the typical gendered phrasing. We stated our legal availability for marriage (as is required in Washington) by agreeing together to forsake all traditional transactions of livestock for spouses, and played rock-paper-scissors for who got to kiss whom.

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Prior to the wedding, we had polled some family members for advice on having a long, happy marriage, which two of our best friends compiled into a hilarious and heart-warming "reading," of sorts, complete with their own interpretations. We were also able to use the beautiful language of Justice Margaret Marshall in Goodridge vs. the Dept. of Public Health to acknowledge the importance of marriage equality to the validity of all marriages.

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Also, we made our own rings under the tutelage of a local artist, With These Rings HandmadeThey ♥ OBB; we ♥ them, which was suuuper fun.

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Our biggest challenge:
At some point along the way we realized that having a four-day-long party meant (light bulb!) planning for a four-day-long party. Due to the remote location, we effectively needed to provide food, shelter, and entertainment opportunities for approximately one hundred people for the full four days. With the exception of two fantastically-catered meals, all of the food was purchased in bulk for a serve yourself-style set-up.

Having one big ol' master document with the detailed schedule made a huge difference. This schedule described what would (ideally) happen when, where to find the "ingredients" for the wedding, and who was the "mastermind" for each activity. Handing copies of that document over to our spectacular friends (dubbed the "Chaos Control Committee") turned it all into reality.

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My favorite moment:
While it may have been a long string of moments, the most meaningful thing for both of us was simply being surrounded by such wonderful, hard-working, giving, and hilarious people. We had around 100 guests, and pretty much every person who came helped in some way to make the weekend super-fun. Whether it was making pancakes for the hordes, setting up the kid-run lemonade stand, organizing a hike, making sure cabins were stocked for those who flew in from afar, or simply being a new friend to those who knew few, everybody made the weekend as fantastic as it was.

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My funniest moment:
After the ceremony, reception, campfire, campfire after-burners, and campfire after-after burners had ended, two friends stayed up very late having a good time catching up with each other by shouting loud stories and trying to kill the keg. That kept a few very tired people from their sleep, one of whom happens to be a professional bugler in the Marine Corp Drum & Bugle Corps for a living.

When the two late-night revelers weren't yet at breakfast the next morning, the bugler treated them to a round of Reveille… in their cabin. Sure enough, within five minutes, they arrived for pancakes with tired eyes but smiles on their faces. They were fantastic sports.

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  1. OMG I love all of this so much! Alot in fact! 😉 Looks like a magical weekend. Word to the wise, it's exhausting to have four days of events (we did also), but SO WORTH IT!

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    • Yep, it was a lot of work, indeed, but absolutely worth it. We were both very glad to get to spend real time with everyone.

  2. As someone else having a cabin campout weekend wedding, ya'll have a ton of great ideas. Thanks for sharing! It looks amazing. I dig the groom's look too. 😀

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    • You know, I think we don't actually have a written copy…. We should get one. Hm. It was a great mix of friendly pokes and great advice from a bunch of people who really know us well. It was wonderful to get advice from our friends and family (which we directly solicited with a few questions to a few people beforehand). Their effort helped to make it not just about us, but about the fantastic people we're lucky to be surrounded by as well.

  3. What a beautiful wedding! My fiance and I met at this very camp 10 years ago. We began dating the summer of 2003 when we were both camp employees and we have been together ever since. While we live in California now and we are planning our wedding out here, we have always toyed with the idea of having our wedding at Zanika. So thank you for sharing your photos and your experience. We both thoroughly enjoyed looking at these photos and seeing how happy the camp looked on your special weekend!

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  4. YOU!!!! I worked at CZL last summer and we were hearing about your wedding all summer!!! I'm so excited I got to see it, its beautiful… there's something about seeing the same places I had a campfire or doled out tomato soup hosting a wedding. I love it! Gorgeous, simply beautiful!

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  5. I want to do a similar type of family reunion, camp out style wedding, but I have a few questions. Were there issues with people who did not like more rustic accommodations, couples who wanted more privacy or elderly that were not comfortable enough? I think it sounds so fun, but we have older family members with limitations. Any thoughts anyone has on how to find a venue that strikes the right balance of fun, cost and guest comfort, I would really appreciate. Thanks!

    • There were many different levels of vacation rental houses nearby, and each of our families chose to find one for the exact reasons you mentioned. It was still a great way for people to stay together rather than in hotel rooms, but more comfortable for a few people. I think we only had one couple stay at a B&B nearby instead of at camp or in our families' rented houses. The area also has a ton of variety of activities for people, so there were touristy shops and antiquing for those folks, hiking and climbing for those folks, hanging out at the lake for everybody, etc. It was a great find f0r us. Good luck with your search!! We found it to be well worth the extra effort to see everybody so much more.

      • Hi Joanna,
        Is there someone in particular you worked with at the camp to get everything arranged? I just got engaged and we are really interested in trying to see if CZL would work for our families next summer. I was so happy to stumble upon your wedding, you created an event that's totally inline with what my fiance and I had hoped for!

  6. Perfect choice of venue, if I do say so myself! Mine was the very first wedding ever held at Camp Zanika (that anyone was aware of) back in 1974, with homemade dresses, picnic lunch for all (that dining hall didn't exist in that form yet) and it was beautiful and fun and rustic and perfect. (I had attended the camp for many years, the last few as a counselor) I love that the platform is there now to have the ceremony right on the lake, with Dirty Face Mountain (almost) in the background. I love that you arrived via canoe! I love your dress and those shoes! I love the shot of you dancing! It looks like everyone had an amazing time – it's a beautiful place to push off from into the next chapter of your life together ^o^

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