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

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wedding Wisdom: Gretchen & Danny

By Gretchen


Danny and I began our adventure in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, love-at-first-sight style. We moved to Alaska, then New Hampshire, then Maine, got engaged, got pregnant, and had our first wedding in our backyard under a willow tree (Danny's dream wedding) in the middle of winter on our two-year anniversary, February 11th, 2010.

It was intimate, simple, and beautiful. We shared breakfast with the three friends who did our ceremony then drove to Quebec City for a three-day Winter Carnival honeymoon. Danny opened a solar energy business in March, we had our baby in April (an Earth Day home birth), and I spent the summer planning and preparing for our second wedding in between being a first time mom and having my in-laws move in with us temporarily for a few months. Whew!

"Love Fest 2010!" was born out of the desire to have a big festive gathering of family and friends, share our vows with our community, share our new baby, Yukon, and to get married by the ocean (my dream wedding), so we did this at Moose Point State Park in Belfast, Maine on August 8th, 2010.

It was 99.9% DIY, entirely family and friend executed, and a total blast! I designed my dress and it was handmade by a friend. Danny's sister did my hair and my sister helped me get ready, no make-up. The flowers were from another friend's farm and put together into bouquets and boutonnieres by friends. I made my own sugar-free cranberry walnut carrot cake with butter frosting, which was insane to do in retrospect, but turned out to be over-the-top delicious and was one of my proudest accomplishments. My mom's friends decorated it with edible wild flowers that morning.

The favors were herb seedlings from a friend's farm that were put together in little pots by friends, herbal lip balms I made from scratch (I'm an herbalist), and "wish rocks" which doubled as table decor. Danny and I (and many other hands) made colorful flags to use at our rehearsal dinner and at the wedding. The music was local, acoustic, and performed by friends.

We wrote our vows and the ceremony, my aunt made us a wedding quilt, we had a kid parade to the alter, a dress-up box, hoola-hoops, Frisbee, and bubbles. Brightly colored lawn signs like "listen," "let go," "smooch," and "inspire" guided guests to the ceremony.

A few of our friends were designated photographers and took awesome spontaneous informal pictures. Our first dance was a waltz which Danny's parents taught us how to do a couple of days beforehand. The big splurge was having the main meal catered with local, organic, fresh, and absolutely yummy food: roasted beets and fresh goat cheese, kale salad, grilled veggies, local organic beef, and seafood. The desserts were all made by friends and unbelievably gorgeously decorated: chocolate dipped strawberries, blueberry, raspberry, and even chocolate avocado pie--crazy good! The entire event was an expression of generosity, real community, and love, and it was really, really fun!

Considering it was four events in total with 150 people--Friday night dinner, Saturday night Talent Show Rehearsal Roast, Sunday wedding, and a Monday brunch--I think we did well to come in under $10,000 for everything, although our initial budget was $6,000 so we did go way over. We had to continually hold the line with family members who wanted to get extra stuff we didn't want or invite guests we didn't want. Anything we did buy was local, organic, eco-friendly, or compostable.

In terms of sharing my wedding wisdom with folks, if I had it to do over again I'd go to bed earlier and not look at quite so many wedding websites. I'd do paper invitations in the mail vs. online invitations because although we did save paper it ended up being way more of a headache than it was worth. People forgot to RSVP on time and we had four different events to get head counts for, etc, etc.

I am so glad that I stuck with our original plan of having our Talent Show Rehearsal Roast in a funky art school basement instead of a fancy rental hall. We had a stage, lights, long tables, candles, and a borrowed vintage popcorn maker. Since we have so many talented friends and family we had over two hours of varied acts from acoustic guitar to stories and jokes, original love songs created just for us, kids karaoke, and martial arts demonstrations! Not only was it a real hoot; it was an awesome way for folks from all different parts of our lives to relax, have a good time, and get to know each other before the wedding.

It was definitely stressful managing the entire production myself leading up to that weekend, with Danny working 24/7 on the new business, and both of us being sleep-deprived with a new baby. When things got rough I centered myself by reading my vows, coming to this site, and collecting "wish rocks." It was also hard to let go and know if it was all going to work out the day of the ceremony but once I did I had a blast and it couldn't have turned out more perfect.

Had I known it would go by so fast (I know that's what everyone says) I would have gone around to talk to every table and thanked everyone for coming (we had a reception line after the ceremony but I still didn't get to talk to quite everyone). My aunt said that at her wedding she spent the whole time talking to people, ended up starving and didn't eat with my uncle until after the ceremony, at McDonald's. So at least I ate, danced, ate cake, and danced again, and that was about it!

Silly as it might sound, I am glad I went with 37 different color table clothes against several people's opinion of "pick only two or three colors" because it was gorgeous, different, super colorful, the same price as plain white would have been, and it was what I really wanted.

Overall, despite the stress, I loved the entire process of planning and executing all the details. I was blown away by people's generosity in helping bring it all together. We got lots of positive feedback about the ceremony, party, and the whole vibe of the weekend. It brought us closer together as a couple, and it united us in front of our families and community in a meaningful and important way that was in line with our values and was a real expression of who we are.

Things I've enjoyed in the wake of "Love Fest:"
  • a friend pulled the "expecting" angel card (set up on our guest book table) and then found out she was pregnant with her second child
  • another friend shared she was inspired by our ceremony to find true love, signed up for "green dating online" and now she's engaged
  • seeing our "love fest lemon balm" in several friends' gardens this summer
  • having two anniversaries to celebrate this year instead of one!

But honestly, the real deal of what I'm left with after thoughtfully preparing for "the biggest day of my life"--yes I do have the pictures, the dress, and the wedding quilt, all very cool, and the memories, wonderful--but the real deal is that when my sweetheart does or says something that makes me want to scream and run away, I have those vows, and we have actually read them out loud to each other at least three times in the last year which has helped to keep alive the spirit of "Love Fest!" and will continue to guide us in the years to come!

REMINDER: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on September 4. Register today!

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Amanda said...

Beautiful! Just perfect. :) You two are adorable.

Anonymous said...

Sounds wonderful! I especially like all the colour in your first photo. That just looks right to me. It and the smiles!

We're looking at doing something in a similar vein - gathering our loved ones together for a weekend of celebration (although not an actual wedding) and I'm curious to know how you managed to balance planned activities with giving folks the freedom to enjoy where they were.

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