A Photo Tour of Our Camp Wing Wedding

Alison Morris - January 27, 2010

After months of promising you a proper post about Gareth’s and my summer camp wedding, today’s the day I deliver. What follows is a snapshot of our wedding day, with an emphasis on the more “bookish” elements. While books weren’t exactly the theme of the day, we couldn’t help but include them!

If after you read this you want still more info. about how the day went and (better still) more photos of what it looked like, visit the beautiful wedding blog Green Wedding Shoes, where our wedding is being featured today, and read the post about our wedding written by our amazing photographers, Heather Gilson and Jon Almeda of One Love Photo. (Unless otherwise indicated, all photos you see here are were taken by this beyond-talented duo!)

Gareth and I tied the knot on a VERY rainy Saturday, September 12, 2009 at Camp Wing in Duxbury, Massachusetts — a children’s summer camp we rented for the entire weekend (Friday afternoon through Monday morning).

Our goal in hatching this camp plan was to provide interested guests with an affordable opportunity to spend a bit more time with us than just one day, and join us for low-key, good-time activities like eating s’mores around a campfire (or, in the case of rain, the fireplace) or making lanyards and playing board games (which our guests happily did for several rainy hours on Saturday) or shooting arrows at targets, which we did on Sunday. That day it was warm and sunny enough for us to do things like swim in the pool or pile 12 people into the camp’s “war canoe” for a trip around Keene’s Pond. (Photo below by Steven Hinds.)

It felt great to spend the largest chunk of our wedding budget on such memorable experiences, and better still to know it was going to the cause of enabling disadvantaged kids to attend summer camp. Camp Wing’s parent program, Crossroads for Kids, is a private, non-profit organization that offers at-risk youth the chance to develop coping and leadership skills through educational and recreational experiences, like attending overnight camp at Camp Wing. And, as one of their goals is reducing summer learning loss, their programs also include a literacy component. (They’d welcome donations to their newly established camp library!)

The staff at Camp Wing were beyond fantastic to us, both in the months leading up to and during our wedding weekend. They bent over backwards to make all of our guests feel welcome and happy — which they did. Those who chose to stay at the camp with us slept either in the camp’s very tidy cabins, like this one, in front of which stands our wedding party: me, Gareth, Gareth’s Best Man Wes, and my Matron of Honor (isn’t that an awful term?) Elizabeth…

…or they slept in the Duxbury Stockade, a replica of a Revolutionary-era fort.

Folks staying in the Stockade had the added benefit of being able to borrow books from the temporary “Camp Library” that I assembled there for our guests, using titles from Gareth’s and my personal collections. It was great to see our books getting so much use! (Photo below by Samantha Pozzi.)

Our original plan had been to spend Saturday morning doing archery and having canoe races, but those plans had to be scrapped when we woke up to scenes like this… (Photo below by Samantha Pozzi.)

Instead, our guests hung out in the Stockade enjoying raucous conversations and becoming fast friends as they played board games and made lanyards, tissue-paper flowers, and other camp-style crafts.

Arts and crafts were, in fact, a big part of the planning and execution of our wedding, and Gareth’s talent for illustrating came in handy for several projects, beginning with the co-creation of our “Save the Date” postcards. When we made these we didn’t yet know if our wedding would have a particular theme beyond that of just “summer camp,” but we knew we wanted to incorporate birds into our wedding somehow, so began by doing that here. First we came up with a visual concept together, then Gareth created a watercolor painting that brought that concept to life and scanned said painting into the computer. I then played around with the overall design and handled the typography. The end results looked like this (click to view larger):

Soon after those postcards were in the mail I stumbled upon Robert Frost’s poem “The Master Speed,” while perusing books of poetry in search of ceremony readings. Frost wrote this epithalumium in honor of his daughter Irma’s wedding in 1926 and what’s etched beneath his wife’s name on the Frost family gravestone is the poem’s final line: “Together wing to wing and oar to oar.” When I read that line I watched the pieces of planning slide perfectly into place. Wings and oars. Click. Birds and camp. Click. Camp Wing. Click, click, click.

“The Master Speed” was the first poem read aloud during our ceremony, and “Together wing to wing and oar to oar” was the wording we used on our invitations, which we designed via the same basic process we used for our save the dates. I want to tell you that it was blissfully easy, this collaborative project, but I’d be lying. After several evenings of staring at the same design feeling wholly dissatisfied, we called on brilliant designer/illustrator/author Scott Magoon for help, asking “what the heck are we doing wrong here??” Scott, bless his brains, looked at our design-in-progress and said, basically, “What if you do this or this or maybe this?” We took one of his suggestions, ran with it, and the results (thank you, Scott!!) were poster-sized invitations that we had silk-screened (click to view larger):

Gareth, who never leaves home without his sketchbook, did actually manage to do one drawing on our wedding day, when he and Wes were fully attired and waiting for Elizabeth and me to finish the last of our wardrobe details. In the sketch you see me, standing beside our ironing board, holding my bouquet, taking one last look at myself, in the mirror, dressed for our wedding.

As for Gareth’s wedding attire, my favorite piece of his “wardrobe” might very well have been the boutonierre he was wearing that day. I had asked our fantastic florist, Erin Carpenter of White Gate Gardens, if she might able to incorporate a few paintbrushes into whatever she created for Gareth. What she delivered was a stunning combination of rose, clover, succulent, cockscomb, and paintbrushes. It was so beautiful! AND a delightful surprise, considering that I knew nothing about Erin’s talents.

When it came to flowers our main priority was wanting to give our business to a local, organic farm. Through the website of the Duxbury Farmers Market I found White Gate Gardens, and wrote to Erin, outlining our moderate (if not meager) floral budget and low expectations, saying that we basically just wanted fresh-cut, organic flowers – whatever was in season. I didn’t know she had a background in floral retail, and I had no idea she’d create the most beautiful arrangements any bride could ask for — from the bouquets all the way to the arrangements she made for our reception and ceremony site.

Our original plan had been to have our wedding ceremony outside, beside the pond, but the rain made that an impossibility.We opted, instead, to use one of the camp’s prettiest buildings, Ziskind Hall. Between the soft glow of the lights and the sound of the rain on the roof, it was the loveliest space you could ever hope to be married in.

Our guests sat on rows of wooden benches, in true camp style.

There were three books we employed as props during our wedding ceremony. The first book was a small, red volume containing two of Shakespeare’s comedies: The Merry Wives of Windsor and Measure for Measure, out of which Gareth cut a space just large enough to hold our wedding rings and the ribbon with which they were looped together.

I glued ribbons under the front and back endpapers so that the book could be tied shut, thereby avoiding any risk of the book falling open and the rings falling out.

Our four-year-old ring bearer carried it nonchalantly up the aisle and placed it in his father’s (our officiant’s) hands.

The second book we used was Have Faith in Massachusetts, written by Calvin Coolidge. We pasted the full text of our ceremony (which we wrote ourselves) onto its pages, so that our officiant, Kelly, could read directly out of the book — or at least appear to. As for how Kelly, a native of Missouri who is neither judge nor minister, was able to officiate our ceremony? The great state of Mass. will grant a one-day license for anyone to officiate your wedding. How cool is that? It meant Kelly was actually able to say, “By the power vested in me by the State of Massachusetts…” before pronouncing us “wife and husband.” (You should have heard the laughter generated by that word reversal!)

In October I posted the poems that Gareth and I included in our wedding ceremony and/or glued to book promo signs we placed in various locations at our reception. What I failed to mention at the time was that we used NINE of those poems in our ceremony. Seriously. Nine of them, with each of them being read by a different friend. Of course, not all of the poems were lengthy, so that helped. We included three poems near the start of our ceremony, one poem at the end, and another five poems in the middle.

If this sounds crazy to you, consider the fact that the five poems in the middle were actually built in as “use only if needed” poems. Our ceremony began with a ring blessing. Kelly, our so-good-people-thought-he-was-a-professional officiant, explained that he’d pass our wedding rings through the ranks of our assembled guests, and asked them to bless the rings before passing them along to the next person. Because there were 115 people at our wedding, we knew it would take too long to pass the rings as a separate ritual, so the ring passing was designed to happen while the rest of the ceremony moved forward. The flaw in this simultaneous-passing-and-chatting plan was that we might reach the ring-exchanting part of the ceremony before our rings had made it completely through the assembled crowd, so we had to devise some way of “stalling for time.” Which is where the extra five poems came in.

We asked five friends if they would each read a poem we’d selected for them, when and if we needed to “stall for time” during the ceremony, which it turned out that we did. Through luck or really excellent guesswork, though, we wound up with exactly the right number of poems/readers to fill the necessary time. And out of what book were they reading? The answer is a very slim volume called Better Say: A Book of Helpful Suggestions for the Correct Use of English Words and Phrases compiled by James C. Fernald (Funk & Wagnalls Company, 2010). What cracked us up about this book was the idea that “Better Say” (which seems to make no sense whatsoever) was a good title for a book about, well, saying things in a more precise manner. The poems used by our “stall for time” readers were all glued into this book, their pages then nicely “tabulated” by our friends Tim and Sarah, to make it easier for each reader to find their designated poem.

Here’s one of our friends reading Robert Hershon’s poem “Perfectly Situated.” Note that we are all laughing, as he managed to strike exactly the right tone, just as Gareth and I expected. We basically let the poems themselves point us in the direction of readers. “WHO is the right reader for this poem?” we asked, and the distinct tone and voice of each poem gave us the answer.

I worried a bit that some guests might be bored if the readings went on too long, but the rapt attention of everyone present suggested that was not the case, as did the comments about the ceremony that we heard from our guests afterward, almost all of which were about how much they loved the ring blessing and/or poetry reading. (See Lorna below, holding my best friend’s youngest, and — as she recently pointed out — trying not to cry. Seated on the bench beside her is our read-everything bookseller Margaret.)

The whole ceremony was a joyful affair. Can you tell?

After the ceremony and a brief cocktail hour, guests made their way over to the dining hall to pluck their table assignments from clotheslines hung on the porch by our hard-working, decorations-savvy friends. I’d written each guest’s name and table on a heart-shaped card, and these were suspended on the lines from arrow-stamped clothespins — an homage to good old archery(and Cupid, of course). (The first photo below is by Samantha Pozzi.)

For centerpieces I grew wheatgrass in inexpensive metal trays that my best friend and I spraypainted to match the tablecloths.

I attached floral wires to butterflies cut from colorful paper or punched from dictionary pages, so they could “float” over the grass and around the candles. The effect was even more magical than I’d been expecting!

I wanted to do something creative for placecards but was stymied until a $2 purchase at a library book sale saved the day. Using a single-volume edition of The Columbia Encyclopedia published in 1943, I made personalized placemats that added a bit of elegance to the tables and provided guests with some rather entertaining reading material too.

In addition to sporting a guest’s name, each placement featured a different wing-related word (types of birds or butterflies, mostly, then mentions of fairies or other winged-things when I started to run out of the former), called to guests’ attention by, again, a stamped arrow. Sometimes a particular bird suggested a particular person, but most of the time I paired words and guests at random.

When I started this placemat project, Gareth and I were both skeptical about 1.) how they would look on the tables, and 2.) whether or not it was worth the time I’d have to spend hunting for wing-related words in the encyclopedia.

But both after and during the reception guests commented again and again about how much they loved the placemats. At most of the tables guests read their words aloud to one another and shared the other entertaining entries their pages contained. In the end, I think this might have been the most worthwhile craft project I did for our wedding!

But there were others I was really pleased with too. Making use of book promotional signs again, I created two large displays of family photos — one for my family and one for Gareth’s. Each showed photos of our grandparents’ weddings, our parents’ weddings, and then us from early years to the present.

Much of the credit for the fact that everything went so smoothly and looked so good on our wedding day goes to our “day of wedding coordinators” Anna Alter and her husband Bruno Trindade. In what was a fantastic trade-off, we two couples agreed to play this role for one another so that none of us had to be “in charge” on our respective wedding days. Gareth and I had a great time doing behind-the-scenes work at their wedding in July, and it was an honor to have them do the same for ours. They were also kind enough to lend us their tiny photo printer, which meant our guests were able to paste small photos of themselves into our guest book, alongside whatever words they chose to write. Such a handy little piece of technology!

My own summer camp memorabilia was spread out along this table as well, including several letters I wrote to my parents from summer camps I attended as a child — letters I don’t think I’d ever seen, let alone read, until my mother surprised me with them on our wedding day. (They are SUCH a hoot!)

Finally (one more reading-related reference here), I assemebled goodie bags for all the kids at our wedding — each contained a tray of play money, glow-in-the-dark necklaces/bracelets, stickers, a party horn, flashcards featuring photos of safari animals or other “cool” things, and (of course) a book selected especially with each child in mind. At some point during the reception I realized that a couple of parents were taking turns reading the books aloud to the lively pack of four-year-olds in our crowd. Here’s one of them reading from A Birthday for Bear written by Bonny Becker and illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton (Candlewick Press, September 2009).

As for the more traditional stuff people have on their wedding days? Well, we had that too. The camp made us a tasty meal… (Can you tell this guest enjoyed it?)

…. and we followed it up with our favorite dessert — ICE CREAM! Nona’s Homemade drove an ice cream truck right up to the front of the dining room, with the music playing, and the hard-working Tom Donohue scooped huge servings to every one of our guests.

It tasted just as good in the rain…

and I think everyone agreed it was a fun departure from the usual wedding cake!

After dessert, there were toasts (yes, I cried)…

and we danced.


For more than four hours.

It would be a lie to say that our wedding day was every bit as wonderful as we’d hoped it would be.

It was several times better than that.

Which is just how we believe our life together will be.

35 thoughts on “A Photo Tour of Our Camp Wing Wedding

  1. Anna Alter

    Gives me goosebumps just to see it all again! It was such a special wedding and such an honor to be part of it. Wishing you both a lifetime of love and happiness!

  2. Heather and Jon

    This was so wonderful to read! Thank you! I loved learning more about your planning process and all your thoughtful details. You two are so wonderful to work with and it was an honor and a joy to photograph such a happy day! Forever your fans:)-H&J

  3. Mitali Perkins

    As I read this post, Nat King Cole magically began singing in my head. The rain seemed to have magnified the romance. May you and your Prince live happily ever after in literary bliss, dear Alison.

  4. ShelfTalker Alison

    Thank you all so much for your kind comments! It’s a treat to be able to share these incredible memories with all of you. (And what a blessing to have such amazing photos to remember them by!)

  5. Tina

    My jaw dropped when I saw your wedding on Green Wedding Shoes!!! I am having my wedding this September at a camp very close to Duxbury (in Hanson). Such a neat coincidence! Your wedding was gorgeous!!! How did you like your florist? I am in search for one right now! Congrats and I wish you both many many years of wedded bliss 🙂

  6. Daryl

    I loved your literary placemats. I was hoping to replicate this for my book-themed wedding. Can you give me any tips on how you created these? The pages look pretty long. Did you paste more than one page together? Lovely wedding! Thanks P.S. you can email me at darylxlazaro[at]gmail[dot]com

  7. ShelfTalker Alison

    Tina, I absolutely LOVED the flowers White Gate Gardens did for my wedding. Erin Carpenter is the person to talk to there. If you are not a fussy bride (and I think she prefers to work with non-fussy brides!), just tell her the gist of what you want, give her some photos by way of example, and let her work her magic. That’s what I did, and it MORE than paid off for me. Her instincts are spot on and her skills are bar-none from what I could see!

  8. ShelfTalker Alison

    Daryl, For each individual placemat I tore out 2 encyclopedia pages. I left the torn edges just as they were, because I preferred the look of them that way and it was easier than having to trim the edges off all those sheets of paper. I used a gluestick to apply glue to the wide top margin of the lower page and laid the bottom of the top page over that sticky bit. Voila! A long placemat. Don’t worry about having to line up the side margins perfectly. Once you put a plate in the center of the placemat no will notice if you didn’t glue the sheets together very straight. The pen I used for writing guests’ names on the placemats was a black Galaxy Marker (made by American Crafts), described as “paint-like ink for dark & light paper.” It worked perfectly, because it wrote with a bold line, but it didn’t bleed. I got mine at Paper Source. Good luck with all your planning!

  9. Linda

    I don’t know you or Anna Alter personally, but both of your weddings touched me. They were so full of caring and thoughtfulness and artistry. May both couples be blessed with lives as rich and happy as your weddings.

  10. Kerstin

    Dear Alison, this is amazing 🙂 I’m sure you’ve had one of the most wonderful weddings ever! In fact – due to our wedding in May, I’ve been looking at tons of wedding blogs and found most of the weddings too dressed up, too theme-concentrated, whatever … But here you come and I sit there and finally think ‘Oh, this is a great idea … and that … and this one’. I can’t wait to show this to my future husband! Thanks so much for sharing your personal experience 🙂 Greetings from Germany, Kerstin

  11. Barbara

    Was directed to this through Erin C. What a fabulous non-traditional wedding! Your photos are fantastic! The one of the ice cream truck is a prize winner!

  12. J

    These are the most beautiful wedding picture I have ever seen. It must have been a fantastic day. Nearly makes me want to get married after all…

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  16. Maura

    Hey Alison, thanks for sharing your beautiful wedding day! I just checked out camp wing and loved it! Was wondering what(and how) you used to make the stencils hanging in the barn? Thanks in advance!

  17. ShelfTalker Alison

    Maura, I just sent you an email with all the details, but the simple answer is that we didn’t make the “papel picado,” as it’s called. My cousin and aunt bought it for us in Mexico. There are places here in the States through which you can purchase it, though — Casa Bonampak is one of the bigger distributors. If you’re content with more simple designs you can try making your own, but I think the key is to avoid folding tissue paper, so it’ll still hang nicely. There’s a nice tutorial on The Sweetest Occasion. I can’t embed the link here, but if you google “DIY” and “sweetest occasion” and “papel picado,” it’ll come up!

  18. Brian Lies

    This is incredibly well thought out and beautiful, Alison. These are phenomenal photos–what an incredible documentation of what seems an incredible weekend (and I’m bowled over that it all happened just two miles from my house!)


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