Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Emily + Greg

Emily shared her wedding with me, and I'm very excited to hand it over to you, so you can hold it in your hand and peek at it.

Here's the hitch: she and Greg haven't gotten married yet.

You don't often see blogs featuring weddings that haven't happened yet, but I figure, why not? Emily and Greg have so many great ideas to share, why wait until July to share it with you?

So, without further adieu, here is Emily to share her and Greg's story:



We're getting married July 4 on the North Shore of Lake Superior, in Lutsen, Minnesota. We originally wanted to get married in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a place where we both have spent lots of time camping and canoeing, and we wanted to have a wedding that was not only outdoors, but also outdoorsy.

Unfortunately, there aren't any easily accessible cabins in the Boundary Waters. We looked long and hard for a reasonable place to hold our wedding - I wanted everyone to be able to stay in the same place as the reception, so there would be no drunken driving and everyone could just relax and have fun.

We wanted a place that was a) beautiful, b) inexpensive, and c) allowed dogs (we have a lab/shepherd and a newfie). And even though Greg is from Minnesota, he had no contacts up in the North Woods. So we ended up with Lutsen resort, which is definitely beautiful...Since it is a 3-day weekend, most people are staying the full weekend with us, and we are providing food for the whole weekend (with only the actual wedding dinner being catered). So there will be a lot of communal food preparing.


We're trying to involve everyone as much as we can without being obnoxious (though this is a finer line that I would have guessed).
  1. We're making a wedding quilt from squares decorated by our family and friends (this is a long-standing tradition in my family, and I can remember as a child admiring all the different squares in my parents' wedding quilt, and asking about the people that made them, learning about our family's history).
  2. My sister is performing the ceremony, and my college roommate, cousin and aunt are providing all of the music (it helps that my roommate is a flautist and my aunt has a Ph.D. in choral conducting). One of the pieces of music is "One Voice" by the Wailin' Jennys, which has four verses: This is the sound of "one voice", "both of us", "voices three", and finally "all of us". We emailed the sheet music to everyone, and will print it in the program, and hope that everyone will join in on the last verse. The only parts of church I ever really loved were the hymns - there is something truly magical about a large group of people all singing together that we're hoping we can capture.
  3. The end of the ceremony will be a handfasting (an old celtic tradition where you tie a rope around the couple's hands to symbolize their joining together - from whence "tying the knot" comes from). The plan is to have everyone bring a piece of ribbon, or cloth, or string with them, and then at the end of the ceremony, everyone will form a circle and tie their strings together, then my sister will tie the ends of the giant circle of cloth/love around our hands.
  4. We wanted to do a planting, where everyone brings a bag of earth from their home and you combine them all in a pot and plant a plant in it, but that idea seemed too messy. We're having a quaker wedding certificate made, so everyone can sign to endorse our marriage. Many of my friends are quaker and I love the idea of a quaker ceremony, though without the silence.
  5. And another aunt (who is a folk dancer) will lead a folk dance on the beach.
The flowers are going to be organically grown, potted native plants that we will take home to plant in our yard in Ann Arbor afterwards as a lasting reminder of the wedding.

We're making our own wedding rings at the Wedding Ring Workshop in Chicago. The prices are a little steep, but since we never did any sort of engagement ring, we figured we could splurge on our wedding rings. And how fun to have your wedding ring made by your partner.

We're thrifting all of the dishes for the weekend (except for the catered dinner), so as to not have to throw anything away. A family friend volunteered to make cloth napkins for everyone out of old fabric she had lying around. Then we will put grommets and tags on them so everyone can write their name on the tag and hang them on hooks so they can use them the entire weekend. We're also going to have thrifted mugs for everyone, so they can pick a unique mug that will be their beverage container for the weekend, so we won't need to wash all the mugs all the time.

Instead of favors, we're donating money to Heifer International.

Oh, we also designed our own invitations, and printed them ourselves on 100% recycled kraft paper using a used Print Gocco that we then passed on to someone else. The theme was "How to Tie the Knot", and the invitations were tied with hemp string. It took us two solid days of printing, plus a day of assembling to get them all done, but there are few things I have been more proud of (especially given that neither of us have any artistic abilities whatsoever).

Our Budget:

My parents have $10,000, but that needs to cover the lodging for everyone in my extended family (which is about $3k right there), my parents' and siblings' flights, and food for 100 people for an entire weekend. We're hoping we can come in at around $8k since they've lost so much of their money in the stock market recently and anything we don't use will be most appreciated, but we shall see. I guess that doesn't include any clothing or the rings, since we're paying for all of that, or the honeymoon, since Greg's parents are paying for that.

Our Website:



Thanks for sharing, Emily! I especially love the communal hand-fasting ritual. I hope others are as inspired by your ideas as I am.

Sending well wishes your way for a meaningful and memorable wedding and a lifetime of loveliness with Greg!

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Kelsey said...

I love the idea of a Quaker wedding certificate that everyone signs. There is something similar in Jewish tradition I think. Does anyone have good recommendations of where to have a Quaker wedding certificate created?

Unknown said...

The Wedding Ring Workshop is great! My fiance and I did that and it was one of the best wedding decisions that we made - I even got diamonds from my grandmother's wedding ring set in mine! And as far as cost - compared to what retailers were charging we actually saved a ton of money!

This wedding sounds great by the way! It takes the principles we're trying to shoot for in ours and explodes them into great awesomeness :)

Julie said...

Oh my gosh! I wanted a wedding near the BWCA. It was heartbreaking to not work it out - we've spent a lot of time up there together and it's our one must-do yearly trip. Ely has a few resort venues, but somehow none of them worked within our budget.

But Lutsen is fantastic! I love it up there, too.

qasiaraine said...

We also did the Wedding Ring Workshop (haven't had the wedding yet...this Aug!) and I second that it was amazing AND that it actually saved us money!

Actually our wedding sounds fairly similar in many ways to Emily's...we're also having friends/family do all the music, my childhood pastor (who's a dear family friend) is doing the ceremony, we're making all the napkins and tablecloths and gocco-ing the invitations, and we're having a quaker wedding certificate as well!

Kelsey - the ketubah is similar at Jewish weddings, but is a marriage contract rather than the vows and is only signed by 2 witnesses rather than all the guests.

One of my best friends is making my cert., but before she offered, I had looked online quite a bit and this woman does beautiful work and seemed to have the best prices (by a lot!) http://www.calligraphica.com/certificates2.html

You may be able to find someone who would do it cheaper on etsy or in your local artist community though!

Charlie said...

I really enjoy your blog and have given you a 'One Lovely Blog Award' on my website. It celebrates recently discovered lovely blogs. Have a lovely weekend! http://thenaturalweddingcompany.wordpress.com

Kelsey said...

Qasia - thanks! I think I have sold my fiance on the quaker certificate idea, his mom is an artist so I think we'll ask her to do one for us, it will be so neat and so special! I also saw some listings on Etsy, thanks for the suggestion.

Emily said...

I'm thrilled to be in the storied "halls" of this blog! How fun!

We did the wedding ring workshop two weeks ago in Chicago and it was without a doubt one of the coolest things I've ever done! I cannot recommend it enough! As others have said, it is likely cheaper than buying similar rings from a jeweler (it was just more expensive than the etsy rings we would have bought in their place).

We're having our certificate made by someone we found on etsy. I placed an alchemy request (etsy's mechanism for matching artists with people who want artsy stuff) and got many great replies. I can't comment on the quality yet, since I haven't seen it, but I have every confidence it will be great!

6 weeks and counting!

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