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How We Crafted a Magical Midweek Wedding in the Woods for 200 of Our Loved Ones

What happens when a costume designer plans her own epic wedding?

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Melissa, COSTUME DESIGNER and doula & Benjamin, artist

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: A mini festival forest celebration of love in full flower.

Planned Budget: $20,000

Actual Budget: $20,000

Number of guests: 200

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Where we allocated the most funds

We rented out the camp area for one week (Monday through Friday).

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Where we allocated the least funds

We made a lot of what was at our wedding with recycled materials, and with careful planning and patience, ended up saving a lot of money. It took me over a year to collect and create all of the components. The last six months leading up to the wedding were intense, and I had a lot of help. I asked friends to help out with certain projects and organized two craft parties at my sewing studio and had friends come help with the big stuff. My twin sister and I made the guest book from scratch. It’s a huge book full of romantic, magical art prints where the guests could add their well wishes!

I hand made my own beeswax candles for the dinner tables. I made the huge faux flower crown for the maypole and cut thirty-two forty-inch ribbons for the maypole. Over time I collected mason jars with handles for each guest to keep as a memento. My good friend Airy Feller made one-of-a-kind earrings for me, all my bridesmaids, the high priestess, and my mother. My friends and I also made over fifty hanging crystals for special gifts! My twin sister Elizabeth created all the headdresses for the bridesmaids. I made my own headdress from the extra fabric I took off the hem of my gown. Jesse (roadkill) Wilson handcrafted the giant paper flower from recycled paper and cardboard. There are so many elements it’s hard to name it all! I would say that ninety-nine percent of materials were recycled. I really tried to buy nothing new.
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What was totally worth it

Having a midweek four-day wedding gave us time to enjoy our own event. We included a contra dance on Tuesday, ceremony on Wednesday, and maypole on Thursday. Having a videographer, getting a massage before the ceremony, and being far, far away from cars was the best, and not having to deal with sound restrictions from a venue was ideal.

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What was totally not worth it

Our venue had an on-site industrial kitchen, and meals were potluck style, except for the wedding dinner and brunch, which we planned and provided. We tried to save money by ordering wholesale cases of produce for our chef to work with and to have extra provisions for our helpers, but we still had way too much produce at the end of the week and ended up donating to food banks.

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A few things that helped us along the way

Our community of amazing friends, including professional chefs, event planners, costumers, builders, musicians, artists, photographers, and body workers were so important. We were gifted a wedding chef, radios for communication setup, sound and lighting equipment, decorations, and so much volunteer time and labor to keep the party rolling smoothly. It was delightful to have an event that was bigger than us, so that people could have their own magical moments with each other and moments of solitude in the redwoods. Because we had a wedding camp-out that lasted for multiple days, almost everyone had a role to play, so guests left feeling like they had helped to create the collective experience.

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My best practical advice for my planning self

Plan for a long honeymoon afterward—you’ll need it.

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Favorite thing about the wedding

Getting so many of our loved ones to take a week-long vacation at the same time, and literally being woven into our own love spell during the maypole ceremony.

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Would you have done anything differently if you had to do it again?

Of course there are things I would have done differently. You can never know what you forgot until it’s been forgotten. I was very overwhelmed and busy in the brain and I forgot to have the photographers take a group shot of all the guests and us after the wedding. I really wanted that. It’s hard to talk about this because there are a lot of little things I might have done differently. I think most of all I would have wanted more time. We had the place for four and a half days, and it would have felt less rushed if there was one more day in there. It was such a festival, so many elements going into it and so many people working hard to make it happen. Having more time is always my style, and with such a special occasion I really wanted it to LAST!

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