I was completely smitten with Aimee and Richard’s wedding in Maryland the minute I saw Amber Wilkie‘s photographs from the ceremony – which took place in an outdoor amphitheater in front of a giant wooden eagle! Aimee and Richard fell in love with Camp Puh’tok in Monkton, Maryland as the perfect venue for their DIY wedding in early September. They pulled in nearly all of their friends and family to help out with wedding preparations and looked online for deals on everything from Aimee’s dress to DIY materials and décor, which helped keep the wedding budget below $15,000!
From Aimee: Our wedding was a crazy fun weekend in the woods. I wanted a laid-back wedding but I didn’t want it to be too casual. Our caterer came up with the idea of “upscale barbecue,” which fit into the setting perfectly. I settled on a peacock color scheme of turquoise, green, blue, and tan/brown. The color palette looked great with the trees and the wood structures on our site.
When we started planning all we knew was that we wanted an outdoor wedding, possibly at a farm. One night we were discussing venues while out to dinner and when the woman sitting at the table next to us passed us a note that said, “Sorry to intrude but I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation and you should look into Camp Puh’tok in Monkton for your wedding.” We went to Puh’tok the next weekend and knew we had found the right place. The woodsy setting is beautiful and we loved that all of our friends could stay in the cabins and that there were multiple fire pits.
We made things personal by involving many of our friends in the execution of our wedding. One of our guests described it as an “all hands on deck” wedding, and that was so true. Friends of ours who are graphic designers offered to design our invitations. A friend who used to work in catering was our day-of-coordinator. A few of my unsuspecting friends made the mistake of asking what they could do to help and ended up putting together all of the flowers, including the bouquets.
I also wore some amazing diamond-and-emerald jewelry that my mother passed down to me a few days before the wedding. The jewelry was made by my great-grandfather, who was a jeweler. My engagement and wedding rings were also made by him and belonged to my late grandmother. Getting to wear her jewelry every day makes me feel closer to her and remember her often.
I was most proud of the DIY elements of the wedding. I made the fascinators for my sash and hair out of bleached peacock feathers, and I made fascinators for all my bridesmaids and the mothers of the bride and groom out of fabric rosettes and peacock feathers. I also made boutonnieres out of “real touch” calla lilies and peacock feathers.
One of our best friends officiated the ceremony, two other friends (including the best man) performed songs, and two close friends did readings. I am a big jazz fan, and my friend from college sang “Come Rain or Come Shine,” a song I love for what it says about being together through good times and bad. Our best man, a professional musician, played and sang the song “Love All That You Know,” by John Fullbright, a singer/songwriter from Oklahoma (where Richard is from).
Richard and I are both atheists and it was important to us to have a completely secular wedding. Our ceremony took place in an outdoor amphitheater under a huge wooden eagle. Our first speaker told the story of Carl Sagan and his wife falling in love, and our second speaker read thoughts on marriage by Rilke. We wrote our own vows (with help from the internet!). For our recessional music we threw in a surprise song from our favorite movie, Cannibal the Musical. A lot of our friends recognized it and started singing along.
For table decorations, I wrapped tin cans in rope, decorative paper, and yarn and used them to hold flowers on the tables. I put table numbers on tags and hung them from mason jars filled with flowers. I hung the escort cards on a string with clothespins and I loved the way it looked.
Richard and I balanced each other well during planning because I prioritized the decorations and details, and he prioritized the music and ceremony. Food and booze were a main priority for both of us (especially delicious craft beer – we had kegs of Troegs Pale Ale and Victory Prima Pils). For the favors, I put together s’mores kits (our after party was a campfire) in brown kraft bags and closed them with turquoise and green tags stamped with the phrase “S’mores for you.”
For the cocktail hour, the bluegrass band that I sing with, Hollertown, performed for guests, and our mixologist friend (who runs the bars at Proof and Estadio in DC) designed and mixed our signature cocktail – a gin fizz. My maid of honor put together an amazingly fun playlist for dancing after dinner, full of great songs for all ages.
The paper lanterns were difficult to hang, but they looked awesome!
My biggest takeaway from the whole wedding weekend was how humbled we were by the way every person there did anything and everything they could to help out. Even though I knew that doing the wedding with very little professional staff was going to be a lot of work, I overestimated how much I would be able to do myself. But the help everyone gave — often without even being asked — made the weekend go so smoothly and allowed the wedding to be everything we had wanted it to be.
Aimee’s advice for other Washington, DC area couples:
Only work with vendors who make you feel like they are on your side. You’re paying them a lot of money and should feel entirely comfortable with them. Based on my wedding and others I’ve been to, make sure the food (and booze) is great: people notice and appreciate good food. Make your ceremony personal. It will mean a lot to you and your guests will appreciate and remember a unique ceremony.
For DIY brides, I would definitely advise to not drive yourself crazy. Pick just a few projects. Don’t take on too much because in the end people aren’t going to notice every little detail. That said, DIY-ing some parts of your wedding is super fun and rewarding. Check out blogs and magazines for inspiration – but don’t obsess over them too much because there’s so much information out there, it can get overwhelming. For supplies and deals, check webstaurantstore.com, save-on-crafts.com, lunabazaar.com, linentablecloth.com, and craigslist. You can find so much of what you need — cheap! — if you’re good at searching, and search often for the best deals.
The following Washington, DC and Maryland wedding professionals contributed to Aimee + Richard’s wedding:
Venue: Camp Puh’tok, Monkton, Maryland
Photography: Amber Wilkie
Catering: Rouge Catering
Bridal Attire: J.Crew “Goddess” dress (purchased via ebay), sash purchased from Nimli
Hair: Spa in the Valley
Groom’s Attire: Suit from Overstock.com, tie from Brooks Brothers
Wine: The Wine Source
Floral Design: DIY, flowers purchased in bulk at Costco
Decor and DIY Materials: Save on Crafts and Luna Bazaar
Photo Credits: Amber Wilkie Photography
Submitted via Two Bright Lights