Being from a big family and having been a wedding photographer for several years, I’ve seen a lot of weddings.
So, when iMa and I became engaged, I had a good idea of what we did, and did not, want to do.
The biggest thing I’ve observed is that brides and grooms typically get little quality time with their guests. Because my family and many of iMa’s friends live out of state, we had the week leading up to our wedding be a retreat, so they could visit Washington and camp, boat and hike with us before the big day.
The 28 people who joined us for the week were also incredibly helpful with final preparations for our wedding celebration on Aug. 1, 2015.
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To provide more time with our guests, we spread the celebration over two days. We held the ceremony on a Saturday afternoon, followed by a picnic reception, and then a formal dinner at our house for 90 people, including family, out-of-town guests and our wedding party. We then held an open-house reception Sunday for our other local friends.
We even did our formal wedding “couple photos” the week before, when iMa had her hair and makeup test, which gave us more time with our guests at the reception.
We didn’t have a set budget for our wedding. Instead, we talked about our inspirations and how we could make them happen for as little cost as possible. We used that as an exercise to see how resourceful we could be. In the end, if we had paid retail for everything, we would have paid 4.5 times as much as our $8,000 outlay.
We had three work parties to get ready for the wedding; one to work on landscaping in our yard, and two to make bamboo and fabric flags, eight large blankets and 32 pillows for the ceremony and picnic reception, with most of the materials from thrift stores.
We grew our own flowers, out of our love of gardening and our concern about the droughts in California and Mexico, where most local florists obtain their flowers. We washed 40 gardening pots we had collected, spray-painted them gold, and planted two combinations of flowers; dahlias with calibrachoa trailing over the sides, and sunflowers with flowing blue lobelia. The planters reached full bloom just in time for the wedding.
A friend altered and adorned the bride’s second-hand dress and the groom’s linen shirt and pants.
We also grew edible nasturtiums and viola for the dinner salads, and planted 125 gladiola bulbs around our property.
We bought a beautiful second-hand dress from Gown and Glove Bridal Consignment on Cornwall Avenue, and a linen shirt and pants at Marshalls. A friend altered and adorned them with custom applique, crystals, and intricate gold patches from India, and added the train from iMa’s mother’s wedding dress.
Because I own a photography and web development studio, I was able to barter for several wedding services. Two-thirds of the catering for the picnic and formal dinner was done in trade for custom photography.
Our custom gold wedding rings were done in trade for a new website for the jeweler, Rod Smithson of a Jewelry Affair in Fairhaven, and we had five pounds of fresh organic shiitake mushrooms from Cascadia Mushrooms as part of a website trade. Both of our musicians for the picnic, and our minister who also played music at the dinner, were mostly paid in trade for CD artwork.
Before the wedding, the bride and groom spent three days with guests camping and hiking at Baker Lake.
Our photographer and videographer were people I work with, and they did it for us as a gift. The three sound systems required for the events were also donated by friends.
After our guests arrived, we spent three days with them at our favorite campground on Baker Lake, with two ski boats, kayaks, a paddle board, and beach games and toys to keep us entertained. We soaked at Baker Hot Springs, and hiked in an old-growth forest. Our guests got to experience Washington at its best.
We held our ceremony on Treasure Island at Glenhaven, our community in south Whatcom County. It’s a small island you can walk to on Reed Lake.
We decorated the island with our planters, green-and-gold flags, and hundreds of tiny gold butterflies. The white pergola was adorned with gold-tipped cedar branches, sunflowers, and large golden butterflies.
Nearby, in an open ring of pine trees, we spread the gold picnic blankets and pillows on the ground to be used during the afternoon picnic reception. iMa and a friend had found the blankets and pillows at thrift stores and covered them in gold and rainbow sparkle fabric. The meadow at the far end of the island was set up to be a kids’ area with yard games, bubbles, and bird and butterfly kites tied to 6-foot lengths of bamboo.
The ceremony itself was performed in modern Hawaiian style, because both iMa and I have a deep connection to the islands. Afterward, our guests were given small golden bags of birdseed and asked to line up in two rows. iMa and I exited under an enormous shower of birdseed, instead of the traditional rice, leaving behind us great memories and happy birds.
Photos by Tad Beavers of Peter James Photography Studio