It’s finally here! I’ve been procrastinating a bit on this post but I hope it was worth the wait. As the cliche goes, our wedding day went by INCREDIBLY fast. Like warp-speed fast. I don’t understand what happened to the space-time continuum that day. Alas, I am so glad we invested in photos and video to remember the day. So let’s get right into it!
All photos by the incredibly talented Natalie of Here Today Photography
We got engaged while hiking on the Oregon coast and given that we backpacked the Timberline Trail the year prior and were so in love with Oregon, having our wedding there was our first thought. I will say that planning a destination wedding is not as intimidating as some may think. Pretty much everything can be done via digital communications. The only thing we did in person was visit our venue. We didn’t have a food tasting, we never saw our band play live and all other vendor “interviews” and conversations happened on the phone and Skype or FaceTime.
We did get our engagement photos done in Oregon so we had the pleasure of meeting our photographer before the wedding and we also had dinner with our videographer a month before the wedding while we were out there doing a site visit.
While destination weddings aren’t the most eco-friendly, they’re a great option if you’re having guests from all over the country, want to keep your guest list small-ish and want your friends and family to experience a certain area. The Pacific Northwest is our favorite part of the country and we were so happy to share it with our loved ones (and most of them made it into a vacation and did lots of adventuring).
We hosted an immediate-family-only rehearsal dinner two days before the wedding and a welcome party open to all guests the night before the wedding. I highly recommend this (destination or not) as it’s a time to connect with your guests so there’s not as much pressure to have a conversation with every single person on your wedding night (which is pretty impossible).
Now before we get into the fun details of the wedding day, I want to share how everything went on the body image front.
Bridal Body Pressures
Let’s talk body shame. Fear of letting others see us because we don’t look how we think we should look. I was engaged for 15 months and had plenty of time to prepare myself for negative wedding day body image thoughts. I wrote about how we don’t need to change our bodies for our weddings and how self-care matters more than anything during the wedding planning process (and connecting with your partner, of course).
Turns out I wasn’t immune to bridal body pressures. And that’s OK. We live in a culture that values thinness and you’re “supposed” to look your most beautiful on your wedding day, right? I’m really glad that I was well into my body acceptance journey when I got engaged because I never once was tempted to lose weight or alter my body for my wedding. I ate a bagel with hummus and tomatoes the morning of my wedding and had a banana before the ceremony. I succeeded in not giving into bridal body pressures or depriving myself.
But that didn’t mean I felt totally comfortable in my body.
I always imagined wearing a dress that hid my tummy, AKA “flattered” my shape. I don’t have a flat stomach. Never have, never will. Even in my disordered days. It’s just not my body. I ended up getting a very form-fitting dress. And so I bought my first pair of Spanx to help myself feel more comfortable. And they did, but they didn’t change my body. My tummy pooch was still there. (And I had some guilt about the shapewear but this is a journey.)
So while I look at these photos and see a belly that isn’t flat, I love them because I see myself and my partner. I look like me, and I didn’t want to be anyone else on my wedding day or any other day. And even if you don’t have a flat tummy, you can wear as tight of a dress as you want (no shapewear necessary)! I love Megan Crabbe’s (you might know her as @bodyposipanda on Instagram) mission to normalize VBL, or visible belly lines, and show just how happy you can be with your belly out for the world to see.
Now, let’s get into the wedding!
We got married at Mt. Hood Organic Farms, a 200-acre biodynamic apple and pear farm in the “fruit loop.” It was the first certified organic commercial orchard in the state of Oregon. Brady and John, the owners, take tireless care of the 50 acres of orchards and sprawling gardens. There is lots of bee-friendly habitat and plenty of wildflowers for them to feed on.
They also have some friendly companion animals, including Luna, the unofficial greeter. If you follow me on Instagram you probably saw me post these photos of her cameo in our wedding pics (which The Knot picked up for International Cat Day!). She showed up right after we did our first look and made the day that much more special.
It’s a truly magical place. It was the only venue we visited and I knew it was the one immediately. While Mt. Hood is the big draw, you also can see Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier from the farm. The wedding day flows throughout their farm in the most beautiful way, allowing guests to experience so much beauty and natural splendor.
My brother-in-law, my sister’s husband, officiated our ceremony. He delivered the most touching (and hilarious) secular ceremony that we loved and so many of our guests (including the religious ones) complimented.
Neither of us are tied to any wedding traditions and in my research for something unifying to do during the ceremony, I discovered ring warming. This sweet ritual is a wonderful way to include your guests in your ceremony. It involves setting out or passing the rings around throughout the crowd so each guests may “warm” (or bless, whatever you want to call it) the rings with their positive vibes. Now the bands we each wear are not only a symbol of our commitment to each other, but hold so much positive energy from our loved ones. This also is a great choice if you’re doing a destination wedding and don’t want to schlep a bunch of stuff to and from your ceremony site (as many unity rituals require).
Our “wedding party” consisted of my best lady, my sister, and AJ’s best man, his brother. We loved keeping it simple and letting them pick out their own outfits!
The bouquets, centerpieces and AJ’s boutonniere were made with all local herbs and flowers from Oregon and Washington. Our florist did an amazing job and even honored my request to use reclaimed fabric to hold my bouquet together and donate the flowers to a local senior center after the event! While flowers are pricey, they were the only decor we bought (and we only had to get two bouquets thanks to the small wedding party!). That was a win in my book because it was super easy and required no crafting or schlepping on my part.
The Food & Drink
One of the many reasons I fell so deeply in love with our venue is because they work exclusively with Cultivate Catering, headed up by Chef Ginger, who creates amazing farm-to-table meals using produce grown in their garden and from local markets. They accommodated a full vegan menu wonderfully, which was based on the produce available to them at the time. So our menu was plant-based, local and seasonal. And it was DELICIOUS.
We kept the tables pretty minimal. Which was aesthetically pleasing to me and also functional as dinner was served family-style. We did floral centerpieces and rented chalkboard table signs from the venue for the table names (major points on our backpacking trip on the Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood). A little sprig of lavender was at each setting.
Instead of a cake we brought in doughnuts from VooDoo in Portland, which are affordable, a crowd-favorite and don’t require extra cutlery. Not to mention we love them (even though neither one of us had a chance to eat one that night!).
AJ was in charge of beverages as this is one of his passions. He chose some our favorite Willamette Valley and Napa wines and we selected a couple beers from a local brewery. We had two specialty cocktails during the cocktail hour: our favorite sparkling grapefruit gin punch that we serve at our annual holiday party and a classic old fashion.
We also had small bags of our favorite Portland coffee as favors for the guests. I originally put favors in the FIB (f*** it bucket — one of the many wonderful things I learned from Aleisha of the Bridechilla podcast) but AJ insisted and the guests enjoyed it (and there was only one left!)
We chose to do a sweetheart table for dinner, which I’m so happy about as this was our only alone time to sit and talk all night. Highly recommend.
I’m listening to some of our wedding playlists while writing this and it make me miss that day so much!
We had a live pianist play during our ceremony, which was oh-so-lovely. They played How Long Will I Love You (from my fave lovey movie About Time) and City of Stars (yes, from La La Land) while guests were getting seated. While our wedding party walked they played Hoppipolla and when I walked down, they played The About Time Theme. AJ and I exited to Married Life (from Up!).
I had SO much fun putting together the cocktail hour playlist of 70s and 80s songs (which was a crowd favorite, especially among our parents’ generation).
I didn’t realize dinner tunes were a thing (oh, the memories of wedding-related arguments) so AJ threw together a lovely playlist of chill background music that was perfect for the evening.
We had a live band play during the reception and they were phenomenal! We had a DJ play modern stuff at our after-party so we had the best of both worlds.
Advice to People Getting Married
I’m by no means an expert but I did learn a thing or two during this experience. Here is a rapid-fire list of 10 nuggets of wisdom for people getting married:
- Set boundaries as early as possible with family and “wedding donors” (people who are contributing financially to your wedding) in terms of what they can have a say in. We were pretty lucky in this department but I’ve heard horror stories of wedding planning tearing apart families and creating so much unnecessary stress.
- Set a realistic budget. Get a clear picture of what you and others are contributing. Research what vendors in your wedding area cost. Buffer your budget as things will always come up that you didn’t initially plan for.
- Hire a coordinator. Ours was required with our venue and she took care of all the day-of logistics. I didn’t have to think about greeting the vendors, decorating, writing on chalkboards, setting up table assignments or anything like that. So worth it.
- Avoid mainstream wedding media. I didn’t crack a single bridal magazine, read any articles from the popular websites or join their forums. Which I’ve heard can be super shaming, patriarchal and stressful. My wedding info came pretty much exclusively from the Bridechilla podcast and community. I did read Weddiculous which was more entertainment than guidance but still useful.
- Know that you can do whatever you want. Literally. There are no rules. Except for the marriage requirements in whatever area you’re getting married in. Otherwise you’re just throwing a party. Life is too short, and you’re spending too much money, to do crap you don’t like.
- Don’t diet. Obviously. You have enough to stress about. Your partner wants to marry you as you are. You don’t need to change. It will only be hell.
- Connect with your partner. This might sound obvious, but it’s easy to get tied up with all the decisions and wedding madness that quality time goes by the wayside. We also set wedding planning dates so we had a dedicated time to bring up wedding tasks rather than letting it take over our lives (even though it still kinda did).
- Utilize the Bridechilla podcast and community. I cannot sing enough praises. If you’re looking for inclusive, no-BS info on planning a wedding, this is it. Aleisha also published some physical wedding guides which came out too late for me but I imagine they’re amazing and incredibly helpful.
- Maintain your self-care habits. Do whatever you normally do to take care of yourself. And if that’s not much, now is the time to start some healthy habits. From adequate sleep to alone time, be sure “take care of me” is high on your to-do list.
- Talk to your partner about your day-of plan. Aside from the ceremony, dinner and first dance, AJ and I were hardly together on the wedding day. We immediately split up at the cocktail hour to talk to guests and did the same during the reception. The only regret I have is not being together for more of the night. Discuss with your partner what this will look like for you.