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Getting hitched in the great outdoors
by Camilla Mortensen
Weddings are no picnic, as any bride in the midst of planning the “happiest day of her life” will tell you, but some brides don’t mind a few ants, bugs and other outdoor beasties at their big day.
“I feel more comfortable outside,” says Jasmine Minbashian, who is planning her summer wedding in wilds of the Methow Valley in eastern Washington. With all the different friends and relatives coming together all at once, “You feel like you have breathing room, not all crammed into a small space.”
So Minbashian, like other outdoor lovers and open-air romantic types, is planning a camping wedding. One hundred of her closest friends and family are going to pack their tents and cookstoves and trek out into the countryside to watch her exchange vows with fiancé Dave Werntz.
“We met outside in an old-growth grove,” she says, brought together by their love of the outdoors, from botany to birding (Minbashian is an avid twitcher). Their wedding proposal happened on a camping trip and both work for the nonprofit eco-organization Conservation Northwest.
No matter what’s happening in their relationship, she says, “Going on a backpacking trip fixes everything.”
But as casual and outdoorsy as a camping wedding is, it still takes some planning. Minbashian says that “finding a place that can accommodate and withstand the impact of 100 campers” isn’t easy. Things to consider are access to toilets for those who aren’t into “primitive” camping, a lack of showers and the weather, she says. “The tenet I’m using is ‘expect rain,’” she adds. “I’m going to make a contingency plan.”
Eugene attorney Misha Dunlap English had her camping wedding at an organic blueberry farm in Lobster Valley, Ore. She says she and husband Rob English decided to have a camping wedding because with guests spending money to fly in from all over the world they wanted to keep the accommodations reasonable. Also, they wanted guests to have fun and not hit the road inebriated. “Nobody had to drive; they just needed a designated person to get them back to their tents,” she says.
English, former proprietor of local café Morning Glory, was concerned about feeding her guests and says one of the hardest things to plan was how to feed people at a location that was two hours from the closest town and had less than ideal cooking conditions. “Finding someone willing to work in those conditions wasn’t easy,” she says. Local mealmakers from Tsunami Sushi pulled off the feat, she says, and in the morning, the newlyweds came back from their cabin at the beach to make their wedding guests pancakes and coffee as they crawled out of sleeping bags and tents.
Minbashian says that rather than try to wrestle with a wedding cake in the backcountry, she’ll serve Persian pastries as a nod to her Iranian heritage. Her dress, however, is still up in the air. “I was looking at used wedding dresses on Craigslist,” she says, “and most of them I couldn’t imagine wearing while running through the sagebrush.” She says she’ll probably go with a simple cotton beach dress. “I’m definitely not wearing pointy heels,” she says, “because those will poke into the ground. Square heels.”
English says the camping was hardest on the members of the wedding party who had to look nice, especially since many of them were also helping with the set up. Casual attire, hair and makeup is the order of the day at a camping wedding. “You need to go in with low expectations about the formality of the affair,” says English.
“We didn’t want to deal with presents in the middle of nowhere,” she says, so the couple asked for donations to an ecofund to make improvements to their house. Other brides, like Amy Atwood of the Center for Biological Diversity, take into account the sometimes-long drive to a camping wedding by calculating their carbon impact. Atwood added up the driving and flying and discovered that her outdoor wedding had a 45 thousand pound carbon footprint, equivalent, she says, to the “average American in one year.” She says, “It was an eye-opener.” She and husband Noah Greenwald, also of the CBD, purchased carbon offsets from the nonprofit
www.carbonfund.org and had them put towards energy efficiency projects. She advises checking into what the offsets are going towards to make sure they fund something the wedding couple supports.
Atwood also advises other outdoor brides who want to offset the environmental impact of their nuptials to ask guests to carpool and to use reusable dishes and local foods.
In the end, Minbashian says after all the stress of planning is over, her wedding will be a “wild dance under the moon and the stars.” And that’s worth a couple of ants in the cake and some leaves in the hair.