Our love story has been an interesting one, to say the least. From meeting at a music festival, to following our favorite band around the country, to living in China, to hitting the road on a gap year, it’s been a wild ride. After six years of living and traveling together, we finally got hitched in the summer of 2015. Here’s the whole story behind our wedding, broken down into different segments. Feel free to jump to the part you’re most interested in, but please go ahead and read it all.
- Engagement Festivities
- Bachelor / Bachelorette Parties
- The Big Weekend
- Rehearsal Dinner
- The Big Day – Preparations
- Our Vendors
To be honest, my grand plan was to see Phish in Las Vegas for Halloween, propose at the show, and go have an impromptu wedding. Anyone who knows some of my past stories understands the significance of this idea and the touch of humor you’d expect from me. Alas, tickets were damn near impossible to come by, and we weren’t in a position to fly across the world with nothing but our fingers in the air. Back to the drawing board it was. When the boys announced a third trip to Miami to ring in the New Year, the choice was clear. I had been to the previous two, and we had gone together to the last one. By hook or by crook, we were going to see Phish in South Beach and I was going to propose. It was quite the wild ride searching for and obtaining the ring, but I managed to pull it off. You can read the entire engagement story and even check out a little video below.
For a variety of reasons, we decided to go ahead and do the wedding in the summer of 2015, which gave us just over half a year to plan it. Anyone who has gotten married knows that this isn’t exactly a lot of time, especially considering the fact that we wanted to get married in Asheville – a wildly popular spot for summer weddings. Things were complicated even more by the fact that we were trying to plan it from thousands of miles away and 12 hours ahead. Thanks to the magic of the Internets and the diligence of Rachel’s mom, we managed to put the pieces together and set things up. Naturally, we sent our Save the Date and proper invitations online, as we weren’t about to mail a few hundred cards from China back home.
With just over a month to spend at home – and two of those weekends obviously already reserved for Grateful Dead and Phish shows – we had to cram everything into a short time frame. One week before the wedding, we threw an engagement party in Grosse Pointe. As Rachel’s family was coming up to the Mitten for the first time, the choice was easy – it was going to be a Detroit-themed party. Kudos to my mom for taking the reigns and doing just about all of the planning. I was put in charge of beer and music for both the engagement party and wedding, so the ladies clearly know my areas of expertise.
As a lot of my extended family, friends, and neighbors wouldn’t be making the trip down south, the party was a chance for all of them to celebrate with us in a more relaxed setting. We had National Coney Island cater the party with the legendary Detroit coney dogs, accompanied by Better Made chips, far too much Faygo, Mitten-shaped cookies, and an ice cold keg of Bell’s Oberon, the nectar of the Gods. Motown classics pumped through the speakers all night, and it was a great party down at Windmill Pointe Park. For decorations, we put together a few poster boards with pictures of our travels, mixed in with some Detroit fare.
Naturally, there was an after-party that very closely resembled our high school parties of years gone by – “Sherm’s parents are out of town!” – that went late into the night.
Despite the late night, we got up and hit the town to show Rachel’s family and Alex around for their first time in Detroit. First up was a stop at Belle Isle, where we hit the fountain, aquarium, greenhouse, and the giant slide. Next was Mercury Bar for some awesome burgers and a view of the old train station, followed by a quick stop at Eastern Market. We wound the day down with a stroll through the Heidelberg Project, and then I caught a much-needed power nap before another big night.
To say that my friends were more excited about my bachelor party than me would be an understatement. Some coffee and a shower brought me back to life, and then I headed to my aunt’s place for a BBQ pool party. From there, the guys threw me in the trunk of a car and drove me downtown to Dan’s (AKA Big Bird) place. We had a rousing night of board games and juice boxes and stayed up all the way until midnight. Thanks for the crazy times, dudes!
Seriously, did you really think I was going to give the details of a bachelor party here?
As for Rachel’s big night out, she really didn’t even want one. When Alex went through the trouble of making her a crown and a special t-shirt, though, she couldn’t say no. Some of the ladies had beers at Atwater Brewery in GP and then headed down to Honest John’s where my sister works for a few more drinks. Needless to say, their night was a bit more subdued than ours…
The Big Weekend
Cloud 9 Farm
We decided to hold our wedding at Cloud 9 Farm, a beautiful place a few miles outside of Asheville. This fully functioning farm has cows, chickens, blueberries, bee hives, hiking trails – the whole 9. As a nod to the festival where it all began and our website, we decided to call the event Camp Gypsy.
They also have a huge house – where my family stayed – and a romantic cabin that we obviously claimed. There is a lovely pond ana d big green space where they hold events, and that’s precisely where we got married.
We hired a company to set up a big tent for us along with chairs and tables, and then went about finding a caterer, decorations, etc. It was a DIY wedding, but we should probably call it an MDI wedding – Mom Did It. Sure, we helped a bit, but Rachel’s mom put in all of the hard work that we were incapable of doing due to geographic reasons. Thanks, mom! I can say that now because we’re married!
On Friday night, we gathered together with our families and wedding parties for the rehearsal dinner. After a short and sweet run through the ceremony with Rachel’s grandpa (our minister), we all sat down for a tasty dinner courtesy of Home Grown.
After dinner, we headed over to the party house. About 20 of our friends crammed into one house – and school bus – for the weekend, so naturally this was the go-to place to rage. I hadn’t had so many good friends in one place since the Rothbury festival back in 2008, which is precisely where we met. Our friends are amazing, and it was so nice getting together and partying with them all weekend.
It was an awesome night catching up with people and swapping stories. Although we would have partied all night, my mom insisted that she take us home at 1. “I don’t want everyone looking like shit in the wedding!” Thanks, mom.
The Big Day – Preparations
It felt like any other day waking up, until Rachel put on her awesome “Bride” robe that her mom got her. “We’re getting married today!” It finally sunk in. We’d been too busy running around talking to everyone to really think about it that much. After breakfast and coffee, I was kicked out of the cabin so her party could come over and help her get ready. Rachel’s old friend Paula did her hair and make-up, and what a job she did! Seeing as how it only takes me about 10 minutes to get ready – yes, even on my wedding day – I went over to the rage house to see the pig and drink an Old Fashioned.
Once all the dudes were ready, the photographer came over to snap some photos of us. With the pictures out of the way, it was time for more whiskey while we waited on the ladies.
Instead of doing the traditional thing where we wait until the ceremony to see each other, we decided to do first-look photos in the interest of joining the reception sooner than later. After all, we were more concerned with having a good party than anything else. Rachel looked absolutely stunning, as you can see…
We went ahead and got all of the group photos out of the way so that everyone could just enjoy themselves after the ceremony rather than hang around for pictures. If you’re wondering why we chose the color scheme we did, it was to match the colors of Rachel’s ring.
Although there were thunder clouds all day, the rain never came. Thankfully, a few of the clouds stuck around to block the intense summer sun from blinding our guests. Thanks to Rachel’s grandma – it was her job to pray for good weather.
With the assistance of DJ Dan (AKA Chando), we were able to put together a great walk-in sequence of music. The guys and Rachel’s party walked in first, accompanied by the “You Enjoy Myself” version from Phish’s first live album. Come on, you knew there had to be some Phish in our wedding.
Finally, it was time for the main event, as all heads turned to watch the beautiful bride walk down the aisle. Accompanied by her dad, she came in to “Glory” by Umphrey’s McGee, a lovely song that has a lot of significance to our relationship.
Rachel’s grandpa delivered a great ceremony, as he expertly mixed bible verses with jokes, tying in themes of love throughout. It was truly beautiful and we’re so lucky he was able to join us in marriage. After exchanging vows and rings, it was made official – we were husband and wife! “Glory” came back on through the speakers, and what a glorious moment it was. Once upon a time, I made a silly video for the song about the things that were glorious to us college boys at the time – disc golf, beer pong, and meeting girls. Now I’ll always remember the song that was playing when I married the woman of my dreams, which is a bit cooler than a frisbee.
While our guests moved over to the tent to feast on fried chicken and mac & cheese, we hung around the pond to take some “freshly married” photos. Our photographer was a great guy who went above and beyond the job, and his pictures turned out great.
Finally, it was time to party! We had our own little table set up, where we sat and had dinner. Rather than hire a band or a wedding DJ, I made a few playlists to shuffle through, full of a nice mix of songs we thought everyone would enjoy.
Of course, we had to go through a lot of wedding traditions, such as feeding each other cake (we had cupcakes instead) and having a first dance. Without any time to really practice or take dance lessons – we can’t do much beyond the stoned hippie dance – we decided to go a different route. Dan cued up “When a Man Loves a Woman” and we started slow dancing, much to the surprise of a lot of guests. The song crashed and burned, though. Some thought it was a technical difficulty, but it was all a rouse! We wanted everyone to dance with us instead, so Dan dropped “Shakedown Street” and we boogied with a bunch of our friends.
A bit later in the evening, it was time for the best men to give their speeches. Sean and Pete did a great job working together and getting the crowd into it. There were some hilarious moments, most notably when Sean said, “We had to find a way to get hippies and old people together, so we told everyone that we were giving away extra Grateful Dead tickets and that everyone would be getting free vitamins.” Next up, Rachel’s mom gave a short speech and delivered some live music by leading the crowd through an epic rendition of “Forever Young” by Rod the Bod.
More wedding traditions followed, as Rachel tossed her bouquet in the air. Her brother’s girlfriend, Jessica, caught it, so I guess they’re next. When I tossed her garter belt up in the air, all the guys scattered and screamed, which got a nice laugh from the rest of the crowd.
The rest of the night was full of music, dancing, and shenanigans. When a bag of wine was running low, it obviously had to come out of the box to get slapped around. Surprisingly, my mom jumped at it and was first to slap the bag. Our photographer turned to Rachel and said, “Now this is a custom I’m not familiar with.”
When “Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones came on, we knew there just had to be a Jagg-off. For anyone not familiar, a Jagg-off is when you do your best Jagger. Myself, my brother Pip, and Sean all gave it a whirl, with Pip coming in first.
After the Jag-off, Rachel’s brother Joe showed up with a few jars of moonshine. It just wouldn’t have been a southern wedding without a couple jars o’ ‘shine. I was first to try each of them, and I have Joe and his moonshine to thank for the fact that I ended up sleeping on a picnic bench before the night was over.
With most of the youthfully-challenged crowd having departed, it was time for some untz. DJ Dan officially morphed into Chando and delivered a killer set of his homegrown electronic music. The dance floor was bumping, the beer was flowing, and everyone was getting down.
Around 1 or so, the moms alerted all rage house inhabitants that their sober rides were leaving, thus signifying the end of the festivities. It was at this point that I was sleeping on the bench, while Rachel was of course still trying to party. “What?! You passed out on your wedding night?” Don’t worry, we saw that coming a mile away. Let’s just say we took care of business earlier in the day. Anyways, we’re Biscuits fans – we like things inverted.
Thankfully, our good friends Miriam and Tyler decided to entertain Rachel for a while longer. After they put my drunk ass to bed, the three of them continued sipping wine in the hot tub into the wee hours of the morning. And thus ended our amazing wedding weekend.
It’s been hard trying to thank everyone one by one, so let me go ahead and thank everyone here.
First of all, a huge thanks to our moms, without whom the wedding and engagement party never would have happened. We have the best moms in the world, that’s for sure.
Thanks to all of the people who helped make our wedding such an awesome gathering – Cloud 9 Farm, Hendersonville Tents, Flowers by Larry, Home Grown, and Ruth & Ranshaw.
Thanks to Bill McElveen (Rachel’s grandpa) for his touching ceremony and for all of his help with the wedding and everything else. We’re so grateful for everything you’ve done for us through the years.
Thanks to Dan for taking care of the tunes and for crushing it with his set. Our wedding would have been much less fun without you and the music.
Thanks to my mom for buying all the beer. Without free booze, most of my friends probably would have stayed home.
Thanks to our wedding parties – Sean, Pete, Paul, Pip, Magee, Jessica, Helen, and Holder. You guys rock and we’re so lucky to call you friends and brothers.
Thanks to all of our friends, family members, and neighbors who came out to celebrate with us. We feel so thankful to have all of you in our lives, and we think about you guys all the time on the other side of the world.
Thanks to everyone for the generous gifts. While we may not be doing the traditional thing of buying a house and all that, ya’ll can rest assured that the money/gift cards you gave us are being put to good use as we live out a life of adventure and discovery in faraway lands.
If you’re interested in having a DIY hippie wedding in Asheville, here are links to all the people who helped us out. Sorry, but you’ll probably have to find your own minister.
- Cloud 9 Farm
- Hendersonville Tents
- Mike Thornhill Photography
- Flowers By Larry
- Ruth & Ranshaw