I usually have something to say when I post a wedding. There are so many memorable parts of this wedding, that it’s tough to choose what to mention, and what to leave up to the imagination. Ideally, a wedding post doesn’t need a single word to tell the story, but I love the context of words. So the question is, what should I write? Hopefully the importance of community comes through. Maybe I should explain how every detail in this wedding wasn’t about how Pinterest-worthy it was, but selected because of its meaning to the couple… like a bouquet of peacock feathers from family property, or using a mirror from a sentimental truck to do your makeup. The hybrid elopement/intimate ceremony comes through for me, but will it to a random reader? Sometimes you just have to trust that the connection of the couple carries the whole thing. That, the landscape of Central Oregon, and the thoughtful advice from the bride and groom. Here’s to love and travel.
WORDS FROM THE COUPLE:
Andrew & Jodi
Andrew is from New Zealand and though Jodi is from Oregon, she’d been working internationally for five years. We met May 2011 in New Zealand, were acquaintances for about a year, and embarked on a much more intentional relationship July 2012. Long distance was the norm until May 2014. After summer hols in Oregon, Andrew joined Jodi in Argentina for her last year of work.
The Hoped For
We set ourselves a bit of a challenge in planning our celebration. We wanted a multi-day, bespoke, intentional, and small gathering that allowed us meaningful time with friends and family traveling locally and internationally, all resourced by a relatively modest budget. In addition, we were planning all but the last two months remotely from Buenos Aires.
We hosted a 3+ day celebration over Memorial Day Weekend 2015 in Bend, Oregon. Common meals, campfire readings of Sugar Free Gummy Bear reviews, coffee dates, much laughter, and a stunning ceremony and dinner at Smith Rock State Park filled our time. Friends and family joined us from corners of Oregon, Boston, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. We came in under budget, and more importantly were free to deeply enjoy the time and space with those dear to us (oh, and delicious food and a kickass photo session).
Moving From Point A to B
Yes, details and to do lists abounded in our planning. More critical then deciding on the tangibles, however, was our from-the-get-go decision to be a united front and commitment to prioritizing. We had both observed and heard of celebrations that sucked energy, joy, and resources, as well as those that didn’t quite hit the mark of what the bride and groom hoped for. Before talking with any vendor, family member, or friend, we spent time discussing our takeaways of what did or did not make for a great celebration.
Thoughts on having each others backs: Lop-sided or utterly one-sided planning was a persistent culprit in our experiences of celebrations gone awry. Sure, maybe one partner really is indifferent in every way, shape and form about what goes into the celebration but peel back the layers and you’ll find that those cases are rare. So much of life and relationship are hopes and expectations. Discounting this reality is foolish. Layer on the reality that weddings seem to bring out everyone’s opinions and ideas (remember second-cousin-twice-removed Edna and your parents’ neighbors’ best friend?) and, well, it was clear to us that our best way through all the complicated or not so pleasant bits of planning a celebration was to co-create a vision and clearly support each other through the planning process. (Side note: it also seemed like great practice for… wait for it… doing life together.)
What it looked like for us: We dedicated a lot of time to creating our vision before pulling others in. We read up on marriage traditions, and threw out most. We spent several weekend mornings apart with good coffee, creating individual lists of what we each did and did not want (nothing was too small or too big – life size purple triceratops? sure, we can discuss that…). (To be clear: we weren’t mean or dismissive. Parents were consulted about their perspectives on what was necessary to honor family or faith traditions. Well intended advice from close friends and mentors was cherished.) In hindsight, our attention to this co-creation had a two-fold effect. We were better able to graciously handle conflict and we were able to provide those helping us with clear direction and useable ideas. Jay knew from the get go that we wanted dramatic landscape shots, and we had a few examples from his and others work on hand to illustrate our vision. Jodi‘s younger brothers helped construct the tables and benches used during the common meals; we had plans and pre-scouted materials ready for review and were able to complete the bulk of this project in a day. Concrete questions and ideas allowed us to lock in a rental with Cottage Bend well in advance, and save a bit too. Our ceremony reflected gratitude for the privilege of being able to easily, legally marry and readings articulating life and love wisdom.
Thoughts on prioritizing: Lack of a firm budget and prioritization to stay within that boundary was the other factor we’d seen scuttle celebrations. Agreeing on the elements we were willing to go all in for and those that could be done well enough was a massive gift to ourselves and the process.
What this looked like for us: We boiled down our “musts” to three things: great food (we hosted three common meals, one fully catered and on-site at Smith Rock), relaxed connection with people, and spectacular photography. To allow our largest line items to be working with Jay, food, and renting a cluster of cottages, we cut corners elsewhere. Jodi‘s dress (J.Crew) and Andrew’s suit (Hugo Boss) and shoes were EBay finds. Jodi did her own hair and makeup. The tables and benches were made from recycled door frames and scrap wood a la BRING recycling and renovation leftovers. We went without fresh flowers, and music, and a dance floor. We decided rings could wait. We created our own Save the Dates and sent those via email instead of post. We found inexpensive and/or second hand cutlery, plates, and glassware (and have either now re-sold or incorporated items into our day to day use). We created our own website using Squarespace. Friends and family gifted cakes, pies, and cookies for the wedding dessert. We lucked out on ceremony venue cost, but also saved by adhering to Smith Rock’s high-risk fire season requirements in order to have the reception there too. We went without a wedding planner, instead creating an “A Team” of a few close friends who handled the day-of details on our behalf.
Elements we loved/highly recommend:
- Carve out time to rest and check in with one another. Even if you’re pulling off a wedding with only two months prep, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Downtime, non-wedding chats, and honest conversations about how you are each being impacted by the planning and this amazing but heavy decision will go a long way in sustaining you.
- Wear comfortable shoes. I (Jodi) opted for moccasins and hiking socks. I could walk the next day and had warm feet when the temperature dropped to 45’F post-dinner. If heels are your thing, sweet! But there is no rule that says a successful wedding equals blistered, aching feet.
- Think carefully about your relationship to holding something in your hands. I (Jodi) know I am not mindful about keeping bouquets upright and so crafted a bouquet that was meant to hang. Added bonus: non-flower elements equaled unique and non-wilting.
- Unless you’re really into prepping and sleeping in, get up early, get ready in a reasonable time frame, pare down family photos and set aside several hours with your photographer. We were amazed when Jay told us how rare it was to have 3-4 hours of photo time with the bride and groom. That struck us as a missed opportunity. Most likely you will have few if any other days in your marriage when you can dress to the nines and record memory after beautiful memory.
- For outdoor weddings, scout your location. We spent an afternoon at Smith Rock in July, noting sun angles, sunset, etc. which proved critical in creating a realistic timeline of events. (Add tacos and ginger beer: instant date!)
- Scout your food. Whether professionally or friend/family provided, if you want a certain taste day of, eat it ahead of time, and be honest if it’s not what you had in mind.
- We loved incorporating readings into our ceremony, and having those shared by family and friends.
- If you have the desire and can pull it off, plan a multi-day celebration. Potlucks, giving people plenty of prep time, and lots of planning make this entirely possible.
- Think about how you plan, or if you don’t , pull people in who do. Pinterest, Google Sheets, pen and paper lists, post its. There is no right way. More important, use what you’ll actually use.
- Ultimately, create a celebration reflective of your hopes, values, and relationship. There is no “right way” to celebrate the reality that you’re choosing to do life with a person you love and respect. Make a day (or days) you both are going to enjoy planning for, participating in, and reflecting back on.