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Handmade Folk-Inspired Summer Camp Wedding

Emily and Aaron
June 2012
Hendersonville, NC 

Oh my! You’re in for a treat with this gorgeous rustic summer camp wedding shot by Oh Darling Photography. Not only is it sweet and gorgeous, but a lot of DIY and DIT (Do It Together) elbow grease when into it. The bride, Emily, shares her experiences  with letting friends and family chip in, not worrying about her shoes, and the importance of a late night snack and a wedding coordinator. Read the full details and Emily’s Hindsight Advice below this gorgeous wedding…

yellow flowers in a wooden flower box

DIY wedding flowers

Camp Life booklet

bride buttoning her lace gown

groom getting ready

bride finishing getting into her dress tying tan sash and table numbers bride and groom by a lake wedding flowers and bouquets bride walking to ceremony woodland wedding ceremony black and white of bride and groom pale printed tie and lace wedding dress with tan sash rustic wooden table numbers

black and white bride and groom by a lake wedding flowers under terrarium rustic table setting bride and groom portraits escort cards first dance in a rustic barn first dance guests dancing more guests dancing bride and groom love

Why a mountain wedding?

We live in North Carolina. Our families live mostly in Texas and Pennsylvania. And our friends live on both coasts, in Chicago, and all points in between. Since just about everyone was going to be traveling anyway, we thought we’d have the wedding in a place that would be interesting and beautiful to visit. We also wanted to have the wedding at a summer camp, and those tend to be concentrated in the mountains of North Carolina.

Where did you find your inspiration?

Aesthetically we found inspiration in books of sheet music from the first half of the 20th century. We first met while we were working in an archive of folk culture, where I was working with a collection of sheet music books. The covers are beautiful, and we drew on them in designing our save-the-date postcards, invitations, escort cards, and thank-you cards.

What are some things you’re glad you did?

  • Created a website. It felt a little self-indulgent at first, but as time went on we were glad to have one easy, focused way to share information with our guests.
  • Let people help. Early in the planning process we got in the habit of saying “yes” and we were so glad we did. Our friends and family astonished us over and over with their generosity, creativity, and talent — making terrariums, creating playlists, baking cookies and our wedding cake, hanging lights, running sound, and on and on. Over the long weekend at the summer camp, guests also signed up for volunteer jobs making breakfast, cleaning up after meals, and serving as a welcome crew for new arrivals. New friendships formed over the industrial dishwasher, and it bound the party together in a beautiful way.
  • Had extra time to relax with guests. Before the wedding, everyone told us what a whirlwind it would be. They weren’t kidding. We were glad to have opportunities outside of the reception to enjoy the party, including a Friday night welcome party, a mellow Sunday afternoon swim in the lake, and a Sunday evening barbecue. Not only was it nice to spend so much time with our family and friends, but it took a lot of pressure off of us during the reception.
  • Used an instant camera for our guestbook. One of our favorite moments during our honeymoon was paging through the guestbook to see the photos our friends had taken of each other, along with their sweet well-wishes.

Any thing you wish you had done?

  • Had a late-night snack. We’d planned to serve food to the late-night party-goers deep in the evening, but in the frenzied last-minute tying up of loose ends, we decided it wasn’t all that important. I regretted that decision around midnight the night of the wedding, when I found myself wandering off in search of a blood-sugar boost.
  • Asked someone to videotape the toasts. Not an official videographer. Just someone with an iPhone and a steady hand.

Any thing you wish you hadn’t done?

  • Spent our wedding night in a twin bed. We stayed in a private cabin at the summer camp. It was rustic but it had a bathroom, which was my only requirement. It didn’t, however, have a double bed. The air mattress we’d brought didn’t quite fit between the two twin beds and it broke as we tried to inflate it. But we were still on cloud 9 from the reception, so nestling into a twin bed seemed like a perfectly fine option… until we awoke in the wee hours, cramped and grumpy.
  • Bought my dress in a faraway city. I wanted to go dress shopping with my mom, who lives in Pennsylvania. And I’m glad I did: It was a fun experience and we found a fantastic dress. Still, it would have been wiser to do it closer to home. A year before the wedding, buying a dress three states away didn’t seem unreasonable. But when the planning heated up, making regular interstate trips for fittings proved to be less than ideal.

Three things you wish you hadn’t worried about?

  • Finding the right shoes. It sounds like a cliche, but on our wedding day nobody was looking at my shoes. In the end, I bought ballroom dance shoes, which proved to be a smart choice. But I wish I hadn’t spent so much time trying to find the perfect footwear.
  • Planning (or, rather, not planning) a honeymoon. Half a year before the wedding we rented a cabin in the mountains as a honeymoon destination. We planned to sit down at some point and plan hikes, day trips, dinners, etc. We’d never gone anywhere without doing at least a little advance research about what we might do there, but “plan honeymoon” kept getting bumped from one week’s to-do list to the next as we attended to hotter fires. And there were always hotter fires. It nagged at me right up until we were driving off to our honeymoon. When we arrived at the cabin, deep in the woods by a little stream, we concluded that the best thing to do there was nothing. We needed it.
  • Whether we should hire a wedding coordinator. There were so many things we wanted to do ourselves, and so many things our friends and family were doing for us. Did we really need to pay a professional? An unexpected set of circumstances led us to hire a coordinator, and it was the smartest money we spent.

What is your very best hindsight advice?

Don’t feel like you need to do everything. Traditions are wonderful, and so are all those fun DIY ideas, but trying to do it all just breeds unnecessary stress. Your time is a limited resource and it’s important to allocate it wisely. Take the same approach with your time that you should with your financial budget: Think about the things that are most important to you and invest your energy there. On the list of things we decided weren’t particularly important to us: RSVP cards in our invitations (we used an online form), champagne for toasts, a photo-op cake-cutting, incorporating music into the ceremony (we just had a solo guitarist beforehand). They’re little things, but they all require attention and decision-making. Letting those things go freed us up to invest our energy in other efforts that were more meaningful to us. For me that meant coordinating with a yoga instructor to come and teach a Sunday morning class; for the groom it meant cooking a Sunday night dinner for 150 guests. The yoga session and the dinner were incredibly fun, genuine expressions of how we like to spend our time. And nobody ever asked us why we didn’t have RSVP cards.

Team Wedding:

Team DIY

  • Cake: Groom’s mother
  • Cookies: Family