Everything from field-guide-inspired programs to "survival kit" welcome boxes made this Brooklyn couple's wedding weekend in the mountains unforgettable.
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Ryan and Alan
Self-dubbed "semi-professional online daters," Ryan, a social worker, and Alan, a writer and director, met on OKCupid in 2012. Alan asked if Ryan wanted to get a drink sometime in Brooklyn, but she was headed to San Francisco for a conference that week. Alan was also planning on visiting the Bay Area to help his parents move, and suggested he fly out to California so they could explore the city for their first date instead. Ryan happily accepted.
Two years of adventures later on a Thursday in October, the two were thinking of buying a charming log cabin in the Poconos. They drove out there that Saturday and fell in love with it. By Monday, they had submitted an offer, and since it had been on the market for a while, thought it was as good as theirs.
Ryan thought that maybe they could close soon so they would be able to wake up in their brand new cabin on Alan's 40th birthday. "What Ryan didn't know is as soon as she suggested this, something in my head just clicked. We wanted the same things in life and this cabin was the perfect symbol of that. I wanted to marry this girl! And I decided proposing on the steps of our new cabin the day before my 40th birthday was the perfect time to do it," says Alan.
Unfortunately, someone submitted a higher offer and they lost the cabin—and Alan had to rethink his proposal. He booked a suite in an over-the-top couples' resort with a heart-shaped pool, a round bed with a mirrored ceiling, and a two-story Champagne glass-shaped hot tub instead. With rose petals strewn around the room Alan popped the question—and then popped a bottle of bubbly after Ryan said "yes."
The camp theme followed the couple all the way to their May 24th, 2015, wedding at Whiteface Lodge in Lake Placid, New York. The two hosted 140 guests (including 20 kids!) in their 1960s-inspired lodge celebration and got a weekend in an Adirondack resort that they'll never forget.
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The Stationery Suite
The couple's stationery suite, designed entirely by Alan, hinted to the Adirondack camp-themed weekend guests would partake in. The muted greens, browns, and mustard yellow were all inspired by the woodsy surroundings. The save-the-date began with a vintage postcard of Whiteface Mountain, which Alan then added text, including a small paragraph on the back written in the classic description format often found on old postcards. It mentioned geographical facts, the Olympic games that took place there, and joked that the destination would soon be best known for hosting Ryan and Alan's wedding.
The invitation itself was designed to resemble a trail map, with a tri-fold layout that led guests through the various events of the weekend.
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Labeled "Wedding Survival Kit," this welcome box included all the things guests needed to endure the weekend: custom matches, trail mix, aspirin, a notebook of field notes, a pencil, bottled water with a custom label, and a deck of playing cards designed with pictures of the couple throughout their relationship. "Our friends know that Alan and I are pretty big Instagrammers," says Ryan. "We tend to post a lot of photos when we get out of town—whether it's a grand vacation or a hike in the woods. I also like collecting playing cards while on vacation as a useful souvenir, so this became an obvious wedding favor choice!"
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Looking for a New York locale, the couple started researching venues and had a "duh" moment realizing that a wedding reflecting their love of camping and cabins made the most sense. So the search was narrowed to nearby mountain ranges—looking at everything from summer camps to state parks. And then they stumbled across the Whiteface Lodge in Lake Placid. A week after the proposal, they drove up to the luxury Adirondack resort. Complete with fire pits, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, nature trails, hot tubs, and a movie theater, the elegant yet quaint spot was ideal venue for Ryan and Alan's wedding weekend. "From the thick timbers to the antler chandeliers to the hand-carved wood signs everywhere you looked, it felt like something from The Shining or Moonrise Kingdom," Alan says. After a fireside dinner at the restaurant bar and sharing a sundae, the couple quickly booked the available date over Memorial Day weekend.
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Ryan wore a simple, strapless ivory J.Crew dress under a Leanne Marshall lace top with cap sleeves. She accessorized white ModCloth heels, a lace-trimmed veil, and a pendant made from one of her late mother's diamond earrings (the other earring was used to make her engagement ring).
Alan went with a classic black, peak-lapel, single-breasted J.Crew tuxedo and a white Macy's tuxedo shirt. He wore cufflinks made from an old Maker's Mark cask, then tied the look together with a black bow tie.
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The Ring "Pillow"
The bride and groom created a ring holder by drilling holes into a small slice of tree trunk picked up at a crafts store, allowing for ribbons to slide through to hold the rings in place, and painting on the wedding date.
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Since Ryan admitted she would most likely shed a few tears at their ceremony, Alan gifted her with a specially embroidered vintage handkerchief during their first look. "Turns out having a handkerchief did come in handy. First off, by wiping away the tears after I gave it to her!" says the groom.
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The Bridal Party
The couple chose Ryan's nephew as the ring bearer and included all of their nieces as flower girls. Although Ryan opted to not have any bridesmaids, she became closer with Alan's best friend since high school throughout their courtship—they even ended up dubbing him their "best of honor."
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Ryan and Alan signed the ketubah with their rabbi and immediate family before the wedding ceremony. The groom had designed the Jewish marriage contract himself to fit with other day-of paperie, and each family member gave a blessing to the happy couple.
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The ceremony took place in the room that serves as the lodge's main restaurant every night, complete with large skylights, taxidermy moose heads, beautiful timber beams, and a view of Whiteface Mountain.
Covered in yellow roses, craspedia, and greenery, the couple's chuppah consisted of a birch tree base and the monogrammed Hudson's Bay blanket that Alan gifted Ryan at the beginning of their relationship. "The blanket kicked off my love affair with Hudson's Bay stripes—people now know it as my 'signature pattern,'" says the bride. "Our chuppah was very special to us."
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Inspired by nature field guides, these DIY programs contained descriptions of the different Jewish traditions being incorporated into the ceremony. "It's nice for the guests who aren't familiar with Jewish weddings to have a little context. Also, I think many of the traditions are so beautiful, and I hated the idea of our guests [not being able to] appreciate them," explains Ryan.
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A Vintage Touch
Ryan and Alan put an old-fashioned spin on their ceremony music and played songs from a vintage record player as they walked down the aisle. The rabbi flipped on the first record, then the best man cued up the next song (and the recessional soundtrack).
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Buddy Holly's song "Everyday" filled the air as the flower girls started off the processional, followed by the ring bearer, best man, and Alan and his parents. Ryan entered with her father to Andy William's "Moon River."
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The couple struggled to find a rabbi who would officiate their wedding, seeing as it fell on a Jewish holiday called Shavuot. "I must have called every synagogue between New York City and Montreal, no joke," says Alan. They finally found Rabbi Joe Forman, who agreed to officiate and created a customized ceremony. The final result included two Jewish traditions—the circling of the groom after the bride walks down the aisle and the reading of the Sheva B'rachot (the seven blessings)—and the exchange of vows the couple had written together.
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The bride and groom recessed to the sounds of Johnny Cash's "Ballad of a Teenage Queen."
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The Cocktail Hour
Guests moved to an open-air room with a large stone fireplace in the Whiteface Lodge for the cocktail hour, where apple-infused bourbon made by the lodge was being served in a wooden barrel branded with the couple's wedding design. "Just for fun I made a little sign for the bar giving the cocktail a name—the "Old Man Harris," which is what some of my friends call me when I'm being a bit of a curmudgeon," says Alan.
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Gimme Four, a barbershop quartet, performed during cocktail hour wearing red plaid flannel shirts. "After the cocktail hour while everyone was finding their seats in the reception hall, they surprised me and Ryan with a private little performance of "Grow Old With You" from The Wedding Singer that they had prepared," says Alan. "It was actually quite cute!"
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The Escort Cards
Each escort card, designed and printed by the couple, was decorated with a trail marker that pointed to the guest's "campsite" number and displayed on a birch log flanked by moss.
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After epically entering the reception hall to the Game of Thrones theme song, Ryan and Alan shared a first dance to Camera Obscura's cover of "I Love How You Love Me." They later posed in front of the mountain backdrop they had created to liven up a blank wall in the reception space. It consisted of black and red curtains, lights, cutouts, a 16-foot wooden mountain, and a sign that said "The Harrises," which now hangs above the couple's bedroom door.
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Moss encircled simple, natural centerpieces of candles and floral arrangements of yellow roses, craspedia, and greenery in assorted birch vessels on reception tables.
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A Father-Daughter Dance
Ryan's father was constantly listening to Elvis during her childhood, so it was only appropriate that the two danced to "Love Me Tender" for their father-daughter dance. Various other family members provided entertainment later in the night, including songs from the groom's siblings and a poem from his mother that they all wrote themselves. "But the highlight of all the performances was when my cousin's two kids performed a synchronized hip-hop dance routine that they had choreographed. It blew everyone away!" says Alan.
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The Whiteface Lodge created a three-tier chocolate cake resembling a birch tree, complete with the newlyweds' initials "carved" in to the "bark." A while before their wedding, Ryan told Alan how mad she would be if he smashed the cake into her face. Although he refrained during their reception, he insisted they save the top tier in their freezer. "No guarantees I won't smash a piece of that cake in Ryan's face on our anniversary! I haven't decided yet," the groom jokes.
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The Getaway Car
"The car was my trusty 15-year-old car that has taken my friends, Alan, and me on countless adventures over the years. Our friends decorated it for us," explains Ryan of their getaway vehicle. "We didn't drive too far with all those dragging cans (just a celebratory loop in the lodge's driveway), but we did drive home with the rest of the decorations still intact. We got so many honks and thumbs up on the way home, which made the long drive so much more fun! That and stopping at Taco Bell. I mean, it was a five-hour road trip, after all!"
It was off on another adventure shortly thereafter. The fun-loving couple had shown up for their Sunday brunch in safari outfit, since they were off to Tanzania the next day for their honeymoon.
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Photography, Oli Sansom Weddings
Location, Event planning, Catering, and Cake, Whiteface Lodge
Flowers, Trillium Florist
Officiant, Rabbi Joseph Forman
Music, Gimme Four Quartet (barbershop quartet); Karaoke Killed the Cat (reception)
Rentals, Drape Kings
Bride's outfit, Leanne Marshall (shirt); J.Crew (dress)
Bride's shoes, ModCloth
Hair, Nikki Flaming of Pelo Salon
Makeup, Maria Lee
Groom's suit, J.Crew
Groom's accessories, Macy's (shirt); Nordstrom Rack (shoes)