REAL BRIDE - KARI

THE STORY: Billy and I both grew up in Michigan and met in college through a mutual friend. We were close friends for two years before we finally started dating and realized that we shared the same dream of moving to the west coast. After my graduation from college, we packed only the items that could fit in our jeep and made the 2,000+ mile move to Portland, OR.

We entered Oregon through the Columbia River Gorge, and the sheer beauty of our surroundings took our breath away. We fell in love with the surrounding forests and picked up hiking and backpacking to spend more time outdoors. Billy and I talked about getting married in the woods or near a waterfall. We had our eye on a spot in the Columbia River Gorge, and when the time felt right, we began to plan our intimate Oregon wilderness wedding.

Our original plan was to marry on an inconspicuous forested peninsula in the gorge and have photos taken at our favorite hike-in waterfall - Wahclella falls. We told only our closest friends and family members as we wanted to keep that small intimate feeling that would make it that much more special. Billy and I enjoy all things macabre and decided on Friday, October 13th. We imagined fall colors and a moody, overcast sky.

On September 2nd, almost one month before our wedding date, a teenage boy went hiking with his friends in the Columbia River Gorge and carelessly threw fireworks into the dry, hot forest. A fire began that would grow to consume 50,000 acres and last for two months. The place where we planned on getting married did not get spared from the raging fires. We were beyond devastated and had only a month to prepare an entirely new wedding. We spent some time feeling sorry for ourselves but began a new search. Oregon is not short of beautiful locations, and we knew that the best part of having a tiny wedding with only those closest to us was the flexibility. We were fortunate and felt extremely lucky for things to fall into place quickly.

THE STYLE: We scored a vacation rental cabin on the Sandy River near Mt. Hood that was amazing and accommodating. There was plenty of space for our friends and a hot tub overlooking the river. Our two best friends flew out from Michigan to stand by our sides during the ceremony. We had a close friend officiate the ceremony, and she and her husband sang a couple of songs that are significant to us.

The river overflowed during the previous night and took our planned ceremony location with it. So we hiked further down the river to find a lovely clearing with a rock pile that somehow had the perfect mixture of eerie and serene. The morning of our wedding was beautiful and sunny, but by the afternoon clouds rolled in and eventually it began to rain during our ceremony - good thing we bought a bunch of umbrellas!

The ceremony was non-traditional, personal to us, and very fun and of course emotional. We had a friend videotape it on his phone so that we could send it to our parents. Our lovely officiant passed out bells to ward off evil Friday the 13th spirits as we kissed. Then as we were taking a group picture, the rain changed into hail and forced us to seek shelter. Still, I wouldn’t change a thing. Our friends were so great about it and had a genuinely good time. We had the cabin booked for the entire weekend allowing us to spend more time together and continue our celebration!

As our friends dried off and enjoyed each other’s company at the cabin, Billy and I (accompanied with a few friends) took off with our photographer to take a wedding day hike up to an alpine lake near Mt. Hood called Mirror Lake. We had hiked it a week earlier to get a feel for how difficult it would be. The week earlier the hike was bright and sunny with stunning accents from the changing fall leaves and a view of the mountain.  

However, on our wedding day, as we gained elevation, we hit snow! We started the mile and a half trip trekking through wintery conditions. The fall colors against the snow were breathtaking, and there were numerous photo opportunities the entire way up. Again, we have fantastic friends (and incredible photographers!) who were happy to do this with us in the freezing cold. When we reached the lake, the view of the mountain was gone, but the foggy winter wonderland was incredible. We knew we were doing something unique and special to us. We toughed out the freezing wet cold in our wedding outfits and used up every moment of daylight before hiking back down in the dark. We loved every moment.   

We arrived back at the cabin to a champagne toast and a casual thai dinner prepared by a local catering company. We danced the night away and watched shooting stars from the hot tub. The following day our wedding guests went for a group hike. It was something we will always remember and cherish.

BRIDE’S LOOK: I’ve never been a fan of traditional bridal styles and even less of a fan of synthetic materials typically used in wedding gowns. I needed something that would be comfortable but still make me feel extra beautiful. My husband and I also preferred the idea of going vintage or at least non-traditional to create a more relaxed wedding day that would be a better reflection of our relationship all while avoiding the ridiculous “wedding tax.”

I also have a love of all things ‘70s. The music, the fashion, the political movements… I can’t get enough. When I found this dress on Maggie May’s etsy shop I must have stared at it every day for nearly a month. I already had a dress that I bought on ebay - it fit, and it looked nice on me, but I didn’t feel beautiful or special in it. I could imagine myself in this dress feeling more like myself and loving the way I looked. It seemed very risky to buy  a dress online that I couldn’t try on but I just couldn’t get over how perfect it was for our vision. I finally bought it and became very nervous that it would be too small but it was an exact fit and so comfortable! I’m usually not the type of person to believe in fate but I have to say this definitely felt like it was meant to be. The dress set the style for the rest of our wedding. My husband found an awesome rust brown suit and hunter green floral tie that looked great and fit our theme. I also found my wedding ring at an etsy vintage shop - an opal in 22k gold that was also from the ‘70s! I found a necklace at Ann Taylor Loft that was the perfect mix of casual and glamorous. I tried several jackets and finally landed on a faux-suede one from American Rag. I found the lace up boots at Target! They were incredibly comfortable and had a rubber sole that gave me the confidence to walk through mud and rocks in 3 inch heels.  My hair and makeup stylist gave me exactly what I asked for: a casual romantic look with a loose side braid. I took the ferns used in my hair from a bouquet my mother-in-law sent from MI to congratulate us. We both received so many compliments and couldn’t believe how easy it was to pull together after buying the dress. Everything turned out better than we could have imagined and we wouldn’t change a thing.

DRESS - Maggie May Bridal
PHOTOGRAPHER - Nathan Coltrane Photography
HAIR & MAKEUP - Whitney Rene Paige

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