Forest Wedding

After being friends for 7 years, dating for 3 years, and buying a house together, we had a lovely forest wedding that we put together in 3 months on a $3,000 budget. We pulled it off with the help of our awesome and talented friends and a ton of do-it-yourself projects. It turned out even better than we had hoped for.

Since moving in together we have made a conscious effort to live a ’green’ lifestyle. It started with a decision to change all the lightbulbs  to cfl upon moving in. Since then we have accomplished several little steps towards reducing our carbon footprint over the years from purchasing reusable shopping bags to replacing our outdated appliances with more energy efficient models, and installing new carpet made from recycled plastic bottles. So, when we started planning the wedding we knew we wanted it to be as economically and environmentally responsible as possible. In addition to our commitment to the environment we are also adamant about remaining debt-free (including sparing the burdon on our parents). We also wanted our wedding to reflect the life we have chosen to spend together with as few traces of commercialization as possible. A celebration of our commitment to each other, and to our shared values, with our closest friends and family.  To that end we decided to:

  • buy locally, and choose recycled/recycleble materials as much as possible including our rings
  • keep it small to reduce waste of time, money and products
  • DIY where practical which also helped give the day our own personal touch
  • Enlist the help of our amazingly awesome friends along the way

Seeing as a rather large part of our courtship has involved spending time outdoors, the venue was the easiest choice. After a quick search of the options we settled on the perfect spot, a local forest preserve, with features like a pond, several large trees and a semi-secluded shelter that was the perfect size to accomidate our guest list.

With the reservation set for October 3rd, 2009, we had exactly 3 months to plan. Our small guest list made it a lot easier and more affordable to add the personalized touches we were hoping for.

We started with individually hand-made invitations. I wanted something fun, yet elegant. I took a trip to Michael’s to check out their blank wedding invitation kits. I ended up buying one from the Brides Magazine line. It came with more than enough extras which gave us room to make mistakes. I also came across some bride and groom outfit stickers in the scrapbooking isle, which gave me the idea to make little 3d cartoon versions of us. I can’t draw though, so we used real photos for our heads and cut out tons of little pieces for our attire.

then we assembled them (this is the demo version, I made slight changes to the finished product like a real ribbon belt on the dress and no shoes or necklace on the bride)

and used the templates in the invitation kit to create inserts with details

It was a lot of work and took the better part of two weekends to complete. But, I think it was totally worth it, and our guests liked them too.

I registered for a gmail account specifically for wedding correspondence, a wordpress blog for the details & communication, and  iRave account as a place for everyone to post their photos. We asked our guests to R.S.V.P by email to cut down on paper. All of this information was included with the invitations.

I hired a local photographer who typically shoots seniors, babies, and family Christmas cards. We were her first wedding, and she made the day look even more beautiful than I remember it being in real life all for a $50 ‘sitting fee’ plus the cost of prints.

I found a dress at Nordstrom, at $500 with alterations, it was the most expensive thing we bought. It made me feel pretty, and since it’s not a traditional gown, I can wear it again should the situation present itself.


We bought Scott’s suit at Sears with a tie that matched my dress perfectly that got left behind at home. A fact he realized 30 minutes prior to the ceremony. So, Scott ended up tieless, but everything turned out just fine.  

I embroidered part of our vows onto a pocket square for him. I know it’s horrible, but it was my first try at embroidery and the sweet sentiment was too hard to pass up. Looking at it now makes me smile. (based on tutorial here)

We reserved a hotel room across from the preserve and used it as our base of operations. It was the only hotel in the area with a ‘green’ philosophy, and luckily for it is was less than a mile away. We assembled my bouquet at the hotel the night before from flowers bought at the grocery store for $25 (we spent $100 total on flowers, including my bouquet – all purchased at the local Jewel). I picked up some ribbon in the bargain bin at Michaels and used it to wrap the stems to create a handle. A vintage broach purchased online for $10 held everything together and added the perfect amount of bling and counted as ‘something blue’.

I knew I wanted decorations that were both classic and clean and that worked with the environment. I bought a bunch of brown, green, and white, chinese paper lanterns in various sizes online, along with some battery powered led lights to put inside. They were suspended from the ceiling with fishing line and staples. We covered the tables with brown craftpaper and used long rolls of printer paper as ‘runners’. The plates were compostable and the ‘silverware’ was bamboo.

We used mason jars for drink glasses. I dropped the empty jars, along with bamboo cutlery and napkins off at my good friend Jo’s house, and she returned them to me the week before the wedding like this:

Each jar had napkins, fork, knife, wetnap, and dried flowers tucked inside (with beaded accents). Jo is my crafting hero. Behind the jar you can see the candle holders that Scott and I assembled out of sticks and leaves. He was a veteran crafter by the time the wedding planning was over!

We used a photo mat as our guestbook and asked everyone to sign before they left

We bought an arbor from Sears on sale for $50 and put it up in the little field behind the shelter. It is in our backyard now.

We debated over having a wedding party and also what to use for chairs during the ceremony. In the end, we decided to skip the traditional wedding party and chairs all together and asked everyone to stand up and be one big wedding party.

It was actually really nice, but I had not anticipated all the movement as people walked around freely to get pictures.  I’m sure this caused problems for our own photographer who had to work around our guests. She did a great job though.

This also meant we had to keep the ceremony short and sweet – we were done in 15 minutes.

We used wooden arrow signs hung from shepherd’s hooks to mark the way from the parking lot to the shelter (I bought the premade arrows from Michaels and ‘aged’ them with paint)

We hung our initials from the big tree at the entrance of the shelter so our guests would know they had found the right place

The hardest part was finding an officient that wasn’t overly godly, was willing to perform an out door ceremony, and didn’t charge an arm and a leg for the privilege of his presence. We ended up with Reverend Phil who did a great job with the wording and let us pick out our own vows.

My parents flew in from Cali for the weekend. My dad walked me over to the ceremony site and gave me away(doesn’t he look snazzy in his new suit?)

I met a baker in my pottery class, and commissioned her to make our cake.

We begged the pottery instructor to let us take a slice off one of the tree trunks they had collected to burn in the school’s new outdoor kiln to use as a cake base. He obliged, and Scott went over on the weekend and sliced up a few discs with a chainsaw. We actually had two cakes, one small and one large (but the small seems to have been camera shy and the only evidence it existed is wrapped in foil in our freezer). The small cake was on a elevated wood base made using this tutorial. The cake was originally meant to be plain, but suffered an accident in the car on the way over and needed some flowers to camouflage the scars. Wedding cake is probably my alltime favorite desert – I love me some buttercream! Ours was divine.

Rather than hire a DJ, I created a music play list on my laptop, which we hooked up to huge speakers that Scott borrowed from work. I also created a screensaver of baby pictures and other memories from our relationship to play on the screen at the same time, double duty.

Deciding on what to do about food was the hard part. The approved list of vendors for the forest preserve did not include a ‘green’ friendly caterer and mostly featured less than fabulous food choices. We entertained the idea of catering it ourselves but, making a three course meal for 30+ is a little out of our comfort zone. Then the most amazing thing happened… A few close friends came to our rescue and offered to help us create a fabulous family style BBQ complete with smoked ribs. We provided the main course, beverages and cake and asked the rest of our guests to bring a side dish or appetizer to share in lieu of gifts. Knowing that several of our guests not only enjoy cooking, but are really great at it, we thought an old style pot-luck dinner reception would be a really fun way to let our friends share their talents while creating the intimate feeling we are hoping to achieve. Besides, leaving the menu up to our guests was an intriguing prospect. It turned out great! And, most people brought gifts anyway which we graciously accepted.

We had an open, self-service, beverage table stocked with water, beer, and soda in glass bottles

and two specialty ‘cocktails’, limoncello and blackberry Sangria

We provided the main course, ribs, smoked by our friend Chris and featuring our own bbq sauce recipe.

We even made rib bibs, a touch of class 😉

Everyone seemed to have a good time

the guys even got to smoke cigars, they were happy campers

We gave away reusable shopping bags with a container of seeds inside as favors

It was a cool, overcast, October day, but the clouds parted long enough for the ceremony and reception. It didn’t begin to sprinkle until the last guest left. A few friends stayed behind to help us clean up. Then we all headed over to the hotel bar for one last drink before turning in.

It was a ton of work, but we had fun putting it all together and we spent the day just the way we wanted;  surrounded by unique, personalized details, friendship, and love.

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2 thoughts on “Forest Wedding

  1. Pingback: Happy Anniversary |

  2. Pingback: crafty, pot luck, green, forest wedding details «

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