This Couple Transformed Their Former Summer Camp Into the Ultimate Destination for a Four-Day Wedding
The summer after their junior year of college, Sofi Newmyer and Ben Schultz were working as counselors at Seeds of Peace International Camp in Otisfield, Maine. Though she had been a camper there years prior, it was Sofi's first summer on staff, and the pair ment during orientation. They quickly hit it off and dated the entire summer—carrying over into their final year as undergrads in different parts of the country. They made their long-distance relationship work for six years, when Sofi finally let Ben propose.
Ben decided to pop the question on the weekend of her much-younger sister's Bat Mitzvah since all their respective families would be in town. All weekend long, everyone but Sofi knew what was in store. After hosting a late-night after-party on Saturday at their new home in Los Angeles, they woke up early and had coffee in the backyard. That's where he got down on one knee with his grandmother's engagement ring. After she accepted it was time for surprise number two at her mom's house, where Ben had arranged for friends and family to be waiting outside with Champagne.
"Much to our parents' disapproval, we proudly had a nearly two-year engagement," Ben explains of setting the date for August 26, 2017. "Just long enough for Sofi to enjoy every little detail in the wedding process." Working with Alexis Eskenazi of AE&Co., Sofi (the director of partnerships at TOMS) and Ben (who also works with partnerships, at MedMen) planned a multi-day wedding back at the place where it all began. The destination wedding was a journey for most of the couple's 205 guests. It was also a trip down memory lane for the pair, who revisited the site of their first kiss on the way up the ceremony. They wanted to let the landscape and atmosphere take center stage, but they also brought the summer camp spirit with nightly campfires, a round-robin tennis tournament, and a fireworks show.
Watch Sofi and Ben's wedding film
In addition to the sentiment of the location, Sofi and Ben chose to host their wedding weekend at Seeds of Peace International Camp because of the good it does. The 25-year-old program brings together teenagers from conflict regions (namely Israel and Palestine) to engage in conflict resolution in a summer camp setting. Each year, hundreds of campers fly in from all over the world as enemies and leave with a deeper understanding of the "other sides" of their respective conflicts, to become a Seed of Peace. Sofi and Ben grew up going to different summer camps, so the idea of inviting all of their loved ones together to experience the joy they had on Pleasant Lake was too great an opportunity to pass up. And, on a deeper level, they were able to showcase the organization they had grown to be a part of.
Over half of the 200-person guest list stayed in bunks—some were more private in design and others house eight people in bunk beds.
A Care Package
The couple's friends nicknamed them "Bofi" as a mashup of their two names, Ben and Sofi. The nickname stuck and became part of the "Camp Bofi" theme of the weekend.
Sofi's a big fan of swag, and it was important to her that guests had plenty to go home with. Playing off the camp theme, the couple gave everyone traditional care packages when they arrived, including an activity schedule, map of the grounds, Turkish towels and koozies branded with "Camp Bofi," saltwater taffy from Kennebunkport, Dr. Bronner's soap, bug spray, and bandanas that would signify what team they were on for the pre-wedding tournament.
Because so many of the guests stayed at camp, it meant they were close to the four days of action. A welcome dinner and bonfire with s'mores kicked things off on Thursday night. Friday was full of fun starting with yoga, steal the bacon, canoeing, a general swim, projects at the art shack, and some tennis. After a barbecue lunch, it was time for Color Games.
After the green and blue teams huddled up, the competitions of brains and brawns began. There was a wedding party rope pull, a big game of kickball, a bride-and-groom-themed crossword puzzle (courtesy of Sofi's grandmother), and a relay race with tasks such as eating Saltine crackers and whistling, a three-legged race, and lighting a fire to burn high enough to burn a rope hung above it.
After a full day, guests gathered for a cocktail hour on the beach. Every year, the camp hosts a canoe race during Color Games. Sofi and Ben decided to put those big canoes to good use as beer coolers. Sofi's brother Teddy and his now-fiancée Cynthia were more than eager to hop in.
Everyone went to the mess hall for a New England lobster boil complete with gingham-patterned bibs and picnic tables covered in butcher paper. Each person got their very own Maine lobster, as well as summer salad, steamed corn, and potatoes. For dessert, there were Portland Seadog Biscuit ice cream sandwiches which are named for the Boston Red Sox's AA minor league team that's famous for serving a scoop of vanilla between two chocolate chip cookies.
Dressed for a Camp Wedding
The wedding day began with a girls-only mikveh, which is a Jewish purification ritual. All guests were invited to join in for a yoga session, a softball game led by the groom, and general activities like tennis, canoeing, and swimming. After lunch, it was time to get ready. Thankfully the weather was a perfect 78 degrees and sunny.
Ben wore a midnight blue Armani suit and Sofi worked with Los Angeles designer Ali Rahimi of Mon Atelier on her custom wedding dress. "Ali and I loved collaborating on a design that felt fancy enough for my wedding day while still being camp-appropriate," Sofi says. They were inspired by Elizabeth Taylor's flirty white-belted dress from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and used blue silk overlayed with pin-striped silk.
Her White Bouquet
Sofi's bouquet was composed of white garden roses, tulips, poppies, lisianthus, and clematis.
A Long Veil
Ali Rahimi, the wedding dress designer, crafted Sofi's veil from Italian lace. "It felt perfectly Old World and was courageously long," Sofi says. "By the end of the night, it was covered in pine needles."
The Bridal Party
Sofi, who hails from a large family, had a sizable group of attendants and even a brides-man. Here, the bride posed with one quarter of her 12-person bridal party, who wore a mix of blue floor-length dresses.
Ben's groomsmen chose their own suits in the same shades of blue and wore matching socks with lobsters on them that were gifted to them by the groom. The group of six was a mix of family and friends—and the best man was Ben's best friend from his childhood years at summer camp.
A Collection of Kids
A Natural Chuppah
"The birch chuppah was created years ago and is shared between many families who live on Pleasant Lake," Ben explains of the structure that anchored the ceremony. "We were fortunate to have been able to also use it for our wedding." It was decorated with prayer shawls from both our families and luscious greenery and florals designed by Chickadee Hill Flowers. The chuppah included windswept, arching foliage with bigger focal flowers like dahlias and garden roses anchoring the birch pillars.
Escorted by Mom
Ben and his parents entered to the sounds of the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra playing "The Weight" by the Band, then the wedding party followed. After that, it was time for the bride to proceed, and she was accompanied down the aisle by her mother. "My dad passed away 12 years ago and he was deeply missed on my wedding day," she says, "my mom has always been the rock and center of gravity for the family. She's fiercely been both mom and dad to my three siblings and me, and I was honored to have her by my side."
Here She Comes
"My favorite moment of the day was watching Sofi walk down the aisle," notes the groom. "We purposefully didn't see each other all day, so it was so special and amazing to see how beautiful she looked in her wedding dress. I had been so nervous waiting for her, and all my fears and anxiety melted away when I saw her."
Set at the camp's lineup area overlooking Lake Pleasant, the service was officiated by Sofi's aunt and uncle. "They have a truly aspirational 30+ year marriage and we were so happy that they could guide us into marriage with humor, wisdom, and the slightest bit of Jewish spirituality," Sofi says of the duo. The bride and groom exchanged vows they'd written themselves. "Being under the chuppah with Ben, making this huge commitment to one another, and feeling all the support and love from our friends and family around us, was truly unforgettable," says the bride.
A Petal-Strewn Recessional
Guests tossed white rose petals as the newlyweds walked back up the aisle to a version of Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" by the Hot 8 Brass Band. "We've been obsessed with the cover of that song and were hoping to capture some of that joyous magic," explains the groom. Seems like it worked, as the couple couldn't help but pause for a kiss—which coincidentally took place at the exact spot of their first kiss eight years earlier.
Black and White Snapshots
Lara Porzak, a dear friend of Sofi's family was a guest at the wedding but couldn't help but put her skills as a fine art photographer to use—like during the post-ceremony portrait session on the docks. She took a few black-and-white film photos throughout the weekend that the couple treasures, as did Jamie Mercurio, who officially documented the weekend from start to finish.
A Coastal Accent
Repurposed mussel shells served as escort cards thanks to calligraphed names on each. The coastal touch fit in with the menu for cocktail hour in a field just a short walk from the ceremony. While the musicians played everything from The Rolling Stones to Otis Redding, guests enjoyed mini lobster rolls, frosé (a crowd favorite), crab cakes, and a raw oyster station.
Everybody Dance Now
For the reception, the camp's indoor rec hall was converted into a festive venue for dinner and dancing. Basketball hoops were swapped out and a dance floor was set up, with chandeliers, uplighting, and a stage giving it the party vibe it deserved. After sharing a dance to Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" it was time for the hora—which was a highlight for Ben. "Our band played a ripping rendition of the song right at the beginning of the reception before people took their seats," he explains. "It went on for almost ten minutes, with Sofi and I bouncing in chairs, along with our parents, all our siblings, and a few rowdy friends even managed to sneak up there, too. It was honestly the best hora I've ever been a part of. Everyone was sweaty and out of breath before the first course."
Move to the Music
"I cared that we had great booze and an amazing band, so happily took those responsibilities on," Ben says of his planning priorities and hiring Flipside as the wedding band. "It was an insane dance party and the dance floor was packed all night. We carefully chose all of the songs that the band played."
Fancier Than Usual
Alexis Eskenazi of AE&Co. worked with Sofi to design the elevated reception setup in the traditional camp environment. The existing tables and benches were repurposed, with cheesecloth linens over the former. Jewel-tone floral centerpieces of local garden roses, dahlias, and foxgloves and taper candles in a mix of golden candlesticks dressed up the space.
A Campy Touch
As a juxtaposition to the more formal elements on the table, enamelware plates were placed at each setting. Menus topped with their crest (which features Maine staples like lobsters, blueberries, pine trees, and a buoy) outlined the hearty, family-style meal prepared by 111 Maine Catering. Guests passed platters of pan-seared salmon, beef tenderloin, handmade ravioli, quinoa and currant salad, and grilled local vegetables.
Afterwards, guests dug into the dessert buffet of berry tarts, whoopie pies, cheesecake, and teas.
A Small, Naked Cake
The couple's flourless chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting was made by their caterer and topped with the same flowers in Sofi's bouquet.
Going Out with a Bang
"My dad loved fireworks, so growing up he took every opportunity to light them off during celebrations, family vacations, random Tuesdays, etc.," Sofi says. "Turns out fireworks are also very dangerous, so while some of my dad's best friends wanted to buy a bunch of fireworks and light them off themselves, plans were reassessed for something more prudent. Instead they hired a firework company who displayed a spectacular show while playing my dad's favorite song 'Baba O'Riley' by The Who." Then it was on to the bonfire that lasted until sunrise.
Location, Seeds of Peace International Camp
Event planning, Alexis Eskenazi of AE&Co.
Catering and Cake, 111 Maine Catering
Flowers, Chickadee Hill Flowers
Videography, Well Spun Weddings
Stationery and Calligraphy, Pigment & Parchment
Bride's gown and veil, Mon Atelier
Bride's shoes, Barneys New York
Hair & Makeup, Akari Salon
Flower Girl's dresses, Zara
Groom's suit, Armani
Lighting, Port Lighting