written by Dolly Marshall
Memories of summer camp and music festivals were the inspiration for Randi and Michael’s colorful vintage boho wedding. The couple’s majority DIY nuptials featured sustainable options, thrift shop decor and affordable details. If you are planning a DIY or intimate ceremony in the future then read on for some amazing ideas and tips!
How They Met
“Michael and I grew up in the same town but didn’t formally meet until high school. We were both voted as captains for our school-wide spirit competition Red and White Night which takes place over the course of a month or so. That sparked a flame that literally and metaphorically flickered for many years. Michael and I accidentally ran into each other at a mutual friend’s party my sophomore year in college and bonded over our shared interests – travel and live music! After that we spent the summer together and as they say, the rest is history.”
“In the summer of 2018 Michael and I were making the move from Denver, CO back home to New Jersey but not without an epic summer-long road trip. Our first stop was Mendocino, California. For years it’s been our special place, one we revisit frequently. We were staying on our friend’s beautiful land at Fortunate Farm in Caspar. One evening, with wine in our coffee mugs we ventured to the ocean pasture to put her sheep up for the night. Admittedly Michael did most of the work – with hay in hand, he was more or less chased by the herd into a trailer (while I cheered him on). We began walking back when he grabbed my hand and took a knee, right there in the pasture. He held out my Oma’s wedding ring and asked me to marry him – naturally, I said yes”
“From the start we knew we wanted to DIY the majority of our wedding, both for affordability and because we knew we were the only ones that could pull off everything we wanted. We understood that it would take a monumental amount of pre-event prep but really the bulk of the work would have to get done once we got to the actual campground. Luckily we invited tons of family and close friends out the night before the wedding and they were vital to helping us get everything set up in time! We had to string hundreds of feet of lights all throughout the walking paths, decorate the pavilion for the reception, arrange plants, set up large tents, organize the bunks… not to mention assemble a trampoline for cocktail hour. Then there was the basic infrastructure like cleaning out the musty old cabins, getting the bathroom trailer, figuring out power and kitchen access, carting in what would later be WAY too many cases of beer. We knew it would be hard work but it was all about creating that fun experience!
Live music played a big part as well, so we hoped to have at least 3 different musical events throughout the day. Securing the music had its ups and downs between trying to get a DJ and live bands that could play a variety of music and bring high energy. When our local buddy’s band had to cancel 3 weeks before the wedding we miraculously found a great band (Bazmati Vice) out of Philly who fit our vibe just right! We had Michael’s college friends’ band Shrimp Jam play cocktail hour and the after-party in our “Late Night Lodge.” We went as far as having fire performers transitioning from the reception to the after party to create that music festival energy.”
“We slowly realized there were so many special things we wanted to have happen during the actual wedding day but there was no way we could physically do it ourselves. Then Michael had a brilliant idea – we came up with “Secret Missions” for various groups of our friends reminiscent of summer camp prank wars. Michael created the briefings and sealed them in manila envelopes and left them on the bunks for each respective special agent. From distributing tequila shots during The Champs infamous song on the dance floor, to setting up a Glitter Bar, to being tasked with being “The Merry Pranksters” and dropping whoopie cushions on guests seats, we couldn’t thank our friends enough for being so helpful (and ridiculous). It was a great way to lean on others and also make them a special part of the day. Delegation is key with planning! For all you DIY-ers choose the things you know you need to be involved with but give out jobs to those that offer, they’re there to help!”
Roosevelt Scout Reservation
“Our venue was not a typical choice, in fact only one other couple had been married there and it was ages ago! We really wanted to create a fun summer camp type atmosphere so when we happened upon the Roosevelt Scout Reservation in Elmer, NJ it was perfect! I think Michael and I both knew it was the place when we saw the amphitheater where our ceremony would take place. Even in winter when it was covered in leaves we could see the potential, the trees framed out a vignette leading to the lake. We envisioned building our own arbor and draping fabric throughout (which we later did!) and walking down the aisle to one of our favorite songs.
Another big part of our wedding was that we wanted our guests to participate and take part in the entire outdoor experience. So we loved the fact that in order to reach our cocktail hour and reception our guests would have to walk down the dirt roads and cross a bridge – I mean how cool is that?! Not to mention, there were cabins to accommodate friends, plenty of room for tent camping, and we had the entire campground to ourselves the whole weekend.”
“Our wedding was 100% inspired by music festivals and summer camps, with a vintage flair. We wanted to be surrounded by art and create a participatory environment where people had to journey from location to location. As a thrifting enthusiast, I also wanted to be able to upcycle and contribute less to the waste pool. We wanted cheerful decor full of color, which meant my husband Michael sewing about 500 feet of pennant banners from vintage fabric I had found in an antique store basement. We had mismatched cloth napkins that our best friend’s mom found at an auction, for table decor we used doilies and lace from my grandmother, and we chose compo-stable bamboo plates and flatware.”
“We secured a food truck out of Philly that sourced local food from farmers and served seasonal dishes since agriculture and eating right are high up in our values. As a nod to music festivals we also created a “Chill Tent” covered in rugs, Chinese lanterns, and string lights to provide a quiet refuge from the party. Our after-party was a short walk from the pavilion and was actually an old camp dining hall we dubbed the “Late Night Lodge.” We decked it out in party lights and would have the band play there into the wee hours of the morning. People were free to come and go from their campsites or bunkhouses and take walks around the grounds just like a festival. We even had friends donate some bikes that we left parked on trails so you could get places a bit faster!”
“My favorite moment was the very end of the reception when Michael surprised me by having the band perform Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” to conclude the night. In college, we had an epic night where I took charge of the iPod and led a room full of frat guys and party-goers in a full out sing-a-long to the same song. I’m talking dancing on counter tops, screaming at the top of our lungs. I always wanted to relive the memory and in true fashion, the band started playing and my friends lifted me up in the air. The entire reception took part in a very rowdy, sweaty, passion-filled rendition. It was such an epic moment with all of our friends and family, a nod to our history and a band I grew up loving.”
Wedding Planning Advice
“Always, always, always keep you and your partner at the forefront of your planning. We found that so many people were quick to offer their suggestions or the infamous, “you know what you should do…” But ultimately this is your day, your celebration of love and it should be a genuine representation of your relationship. That being said, compromise is key with your loved one. If you’re arguing over napkins or fine details remember to take a step back to think about the big picture and choose wisely what matters most. Your actual wedding day will be such a blur and you won’t remember the small bits, just do your best to be present and have fun.”
“Overall positive! My florist completely understood my vision and was very open with communication throughout the whole process. We had some hiccups with our caterer because they switched ownership during the year of wedding planning but just be sure to ask plenty of questions and get clarity (and signed contracts documenting everything). Most times I think there can be some flexibility, all you have to do is ask! In our situation another challenge was hiring staff – since we didn’t really want to have a ton of strangers serving the event we ended up hiring a bunch of friends. It was way more organizing on our end to “train” and prepare them for the day-of logistics but completely worth it in the end.”