prince william forest park wedding

T-2 Days: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3

T-1 Day: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4

Wedding Day: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9

I turned to Ken, and tried not to move my lips much as I said, "Oh.My.God. Look at those cakes." Ken turned and looked at the cakes. Then turned back and said to me, "Well, huh, how about that. That’s not even close to what we ordered. Another thing the coordinator messed up."

There wasn’t much we could do about it, so we just continued on. We turned on the microphone while up on the stage and once folks started to notice we were there, they all started to applaud. We welcomed them to the wedding. We told them that if they got too chilly, that they could head to the Mess Hall just about 200 feet away and warm up in there and that we had some beer, wine, other beverages, games, and a photobooth in the Mess Hall. We also pointed out the board games that were on the table next to the cakes, and where the kids table was.

The "dinner" music was playing, but dinner wasn’t scheduled to start for another 45 minutes or so. It was time to mingle with our guests!  The photographers went off to take some detail shots of our rings, bouquets, and lego ring bearer box.



I LOVE this photo of our rings on top of s’mores ingredients!






I had read in so many different places online that your wedding day, especially the reception, is a complete blur and that it goes by so fast. I was really cognizant of both these issues, so I had made two decisions. Try to be completely "present" in each moment at the reception. For instance, when interacting with guests, I would completely focus on them. Not wave to people in the distance, not worry about how our first dance would go, not worry about our incorrect cakes.

I also made the decision not to drink any alcohol at the reception.

Here’s the thing about me and alcohol. When I drink, it tends to be for relaxation purposes, not for "fun purposes." I become relaxed when I drink (or when I drink too much, I get sleepy and boring), not fun and animated. Like the previous night when I started drinking before the rehearsal, it was so that I could relax. And earlier in the morning at the hotel when I was getting ready, I drank to relax.

There was no more need for me to relax! It was time to have fun! I did get a glass of wine just so I could carry it around with me as I interacted with guests, but I never actually drank any it. I also realized that by not drinking alcohol, perhaps the wedding would be less of a "blur" like many people describe it as.

So, I would definitely NOT describe our reception as a "blur." But there were a lot of things that happened that I can’t necessarily remember the sequence.

One of the first things, I think, remember happening to me after our little introductions is a little girl coming up to me with the card that had our table "number" description. She was sitting at the Betta Fish table! Our description card had told the story about how Ken and I have a fish tank at home, and we even had a betta fish that lived for more than two years. The little girl, who was probably 8 or 9, proceeded to tell me the story that she had a betta fish that lived for more than THREE years!



This was a really poignant moment for me for some reason. First, the fact that little kids almost always find weddings miserable, and she was just really excited about everything, especially telling me all about her betta fish. Second, the fact that folks were actually reading our table postcards and learning more about us!

I walked around, sometimes with Ken and sometimes without, mingling with all the guests.



I’m not sure what story I’m telling here, but it looks like a good one!



There were already folks making s’mores in the fireplace.


Before I knew it, dinner was ready to be served and folks started lining up for our BBQ buffet. Then my mom came up to me (I think it was my mom) and said, “isn’t the pastor going to do a blessing?” Oh, right. Yep, that was on our wedding timeline! That our COORDINATOR had in her possession. But, oh well. I saw the pastor and asked if he would go up to the microphone and give a quick blessing. So he did.


Everything was just so amazing. Sure, the weather was chillier than we had hoped, and it was especially annoying because that was the only day below 60 that entire week, but folks didn’t seem to mind that much. They had all dressed accordingly and looked stylish with their jackets. And the kids were running around like crazy, so that was keeping them warm.

Before we knew it, dinner was over! Ken and I hadn’t even eaten anything! It’s okay though, with all the excitement, I don’t think I could’ve eaten anything if I had wanted to!  Plus, interacting with our guests was much more important to us than eating.


T-2 Days: Part 1; Part 2Part 3

T-1 Day: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4

Wedding Day: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7

** Unless otherwise noted, photographs in this post were taken by our awesome professional photographer, Debi Parker **


We kicked off the ceremony with a very well-kept secret. Only the pastor knew. We called it our "camera ceremony."

Photographs are very important to me and Ken. We both have digital SLRs and we just love taking pictures. I had the idea very early in the wedding process to photograph our guests. Because, while the professional photographers would take pictures of our guests, they’d never be able to photograph the guests from our perspective of standing there in front. Ken and I wanted to make sure we captured that moment, from our own perspectives, forever.

I also realized that I’d probably be paying no attention whatsoever to where different guests were seated and such. So, Ken and I decided that it would be a great idea to take pictures of our guests! We had provided language to the pastor and he read it at the very beginning of the ceremony:

“As Melissa and Ken stand before you this afternoon, they’re probably a bit nervous but undoubtedly excited.  They want to make sure they never forget this moment and all of its details. Therefore they could like to capture this moment, from their perspectives, forever."

I then signaled to my sister, who had been holding both of our cameras. Even she had not been let in on the secret, although later she told us that she thought we might be doing something since we made such a big deal about her holding our cameras.

She stood up and brought us both our cameras. We lifted the cameras to our faces and began snapping photos of all our guests. We then turned the cameras towards each other and took photographs of each other. There were lots of giggles and laughs coming from our guests!





We stitched together the photographs to create a panorama of our perspective. This was the end result

(personal photographs)

Ken’s Perspective:


My Perspective



Here are the photos we took of each other. Again, these are our personal photographs:



I love the professional photographer in the background. You can tell she’s smiling behind her camera!

The rest of the ceremony is a bit of a blur, but I’ll do my best to recap the things that stood out in my mind.  Some very talented relatives that sang songs during the ceremony.

Ken’s stepdad, sister, and my sister all delivered readings. When my sister came up to give her reading, I signaled to her that I wanted my jacket, a vintage Oscar de la Renta ivory sequin jacket I had bought from an Etsy seller for $34. She helped me put on the jacket and then she read her reading.


The homily was short, as I had hoped. I had asked Ken if we should ask the pastor to ditch the homily since it was going to be fairly chilly outside and I didn’t want the guests to have to sit out in the cold for so long. But it was nice and short. I can’t be sure, but perhaps even less than 2 or 3 minutes. I’m used to those Catholic homilies. Ugh! He started out his homily with "As you can tell, pictures are very important to Melissa and Ken. Do you remember when you first got their invitation?"

He then continued to "paint a picture about God" or something like that. 

I was very cognizant of not jumping the gun during the promises like I had during the rehearsal (which led to me saying, "Oh Shit!" very loudly during the rehearsal).  During the vows, Ken started to get choked up. I just squeezed his hands and smiled at him. I made it through my vows without so much as a voice waver. I guess I had gotten it all out of the way the previous night at our rehearsal when we practiced our vows in their entirety.

I had been really worried that my hands would be shaking so much that I would drop Ken’s wedding ring or something as I put it on his finger, but there was no shaking. Just like my nephew as ring bearer, I was as cool as a cucumber. Something I never, ever expected.




Our sand ceremony went beautifully, although the sand took longer for the sand to go through the funnel than I expected and I tapped the funnel a few times to make all the sand go through the funnel.





When we were pronounced husband and wife, I could barely stop smiling long enough to close my lips for the kiss! It had been such a lovely ceremony! We were very cognizant of our 1-one-thousand, 2-one-thousand kiss length that we practiced. Long enough for folks to capture photos, short enough to not be mistaken for a gross public makeout.




The guitarist played our processional song, "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles, and we walked up the "aisle."


And that was it! We were married. At the top of the "aisle," the pavilion was just a few feet away and I could see that everything was set up and ready for the guests. Although I still hadn’t been inside of it to see everything clearly and in its entirety!


Over the next several weeks, heck, probably the next several months, I will recap our wedding wedding week through a series of posts I will publish on Wednesdays.  Here’s your first full recap, starting Wednesday November 9! Check out all our wedding recaps here.

Wednesday November 9 – The Story of Our Movers

On Wednesday November 9, we were able to check into our venue, Cabin Camp #5 at Prince William Forest Park. We had rented the venue for three nights so that we would have plenty of time to get things set up and organized for our Friday afternoon wedding.

One of our fairly last minute decisions was to hire movers. We had about 75 boxes of stuff that needed moved, as well as other odd shaped items, like chalkboard sign A-frames and wooden stake signs.  We already knew that we needed to rent a U-Haul truck to move everything all in one trip. The truck itself was going to cost us about $20 plus $0.99 per mile. Since our house to the venue was 48 miles roundtrip, we were looking at about a $70 expense. We figured it might be a worthy expense to pay a bit more and have someone actually move the stuff for us, that way we weren’t exhausted by the time we actually arrived at the venue.

guest bedroom wedding stuff

Wedding stuff in our guest bedroom. We actually had to disassemble the bed months ago to fit it all in there

Wedding Stuff by Front Door

Electronics equipment for the wedding ready to be moved by the front door (this is only a small fraction of the electronics equipment we used at our wedding). The helmets stay.


Even more wedding stuff in our breakfast nook in our kitchen

After researching a few moving companies, I called College Hunks Moving Junk, and they ended up being GREAT. Seriously. I called them less than a week before we needed moving services and they were able to accommodate everything. They charged $124/hour plus a $124 flat fee that included things like the truck and packaging materials.

Our campground check-in time was 3PM, so we asked the movers to arrive between noon-1pm (they required a 1 hour window).  I used Wednesday morning to run some last minute errands.

Wednesday Begins! T-2 Days till the Wedding!

Wednesday morning, we woke up at 6:10AM, our normal wake-up time on a work day. I had mentioned a few days earlier that I had a last minute idea to decorate the mess hall at the campground, using this as the inspiration. So first, I went to the fabric store and purchased about 40 yards of muslin and about 30 yards of tulle.

After the fabric store, I went to Target to buy some gladware containers, some apple cider that we were going to serve at the wedding, and a few cleaning supplies for the campground, like lysol wipes. Actually, “some” apple cider may be an understatement. I bought about 12 gallons of it. Then, I went to Home Depot to buy a push broom, anticipating that there might be a lot of leaves in the pavilion that we’d need to clear out.

While I was at Home Depot, the movers called to say that they were about 30 minutes away. That was at 10:50AM. While I appreciate that they were running early, it was problematic for us. 1) Ken was still getting things packed for them, and 2) Since our check-in time wasn’t until 3PM, we had to be careful. We didn’t want to arrive at the venue at like 1:30 and then have the venue groundskeeper tell us we couldn’t start unloading for another 1.5 hours, especially paying movers at $124/hour. So, I just told them flat out that that was way too early for us. They were understanding and said they would wait to arrive until later.

I wrapped up at Home Depot and headed home. I had to do a few last minute seating chart rearrangements, and while I was working on that, the movers arrived right at noon. It was GLORIOUS. Ken just showed them the guest bedroom that housed most of our wedding stuff and they started moving it. I continued to work on my seating chart while they did all the work! Already the movers were a great investment.




They finished loading the truck at around 1:45, and we headed to our campground venue. I drove ahead of them so I could check in with the campground host, and Ken followed the movers in a separate car to make sure they didn’t take off with all of our wedding stuff.

We arrived at the venue around 2:20PM. I was a little worried because we were early, but luckily we were able to check in with no problem! As I signed all the check-in paperwork, the movers started unloading all our stuff into the Mess Hall.  The movers were done by 3PM.

Let’s recap this. Truck loaded, transported, and unloaded by three professionals in 3 hours. It probably would’ve taken Ken and I at least twice the amount of time to do that. Plus, we weren’t exhausted by the time we got to the venue. In fact, we were quite relaxed! That was a great investment of $496!


That’s me, starting to arrange things after the movers left!

Next recap post will be a continuation of Wednesday November 9, T-2 days!