Why blow the budget on the big day? Newlyweds Carolyn Simons and Shandy Campos are proof that, when it comes to weddings, inexpensive doesn’t have to mean cheap. The Pemberton couple pulled of the wedding of their dreams on a shoestring budget of just $8,000. Equally impressive, they planned it all in only four short months.
Preparation for the whirlwind nuptials began shortly after Shandy, a former professional snowboarder, popped the question to his sportswear-designer girlfriend of a decade in the most unlikely of places — on a remote Ugandan mountainside, where the two had travelled in April 2012 to fulfill a shared dream of seeing mountain gorillas in the wild.
It’s a moment Carolyn says she will never forget: “In the presence of the giant silverback gorilla and the other 16 members of the gorilla family, all sweaty and exhausted and overly excited, Shandy popped the question — complete with a ring he made out of a jungle vine. [It was] one of the best days of my life.”
The proposal came as a complete surprise to Carolyn, who admits she had no clue at first how the two should go about staging their big day.
“I have never been the type of person who has planned my wedding my whole life,” she says. “Initially, I wanted it to be in the forest, but that turned out to be too difficult to pull off.”
To do this, they stacked tree stumps on tables to serve as tiered towers, created favours for guests by wrapping plants in small burlap bags and assembling jars of homemade preserves, and tucked cutlery settings into brown paper packets, each rubber-stamped with the initials “S & C.”
A rustic vibe was one benefit of marrying on a farmyard; another was that it allowed the couple to invite as many friends as they wanted, freeing them from the dreaded task of trimming the guest list.
“We had about 200 people, which was surprising considering we’d been thinking of having a small wedding,” Carolyn says. The crowd even included a few very special guests of honour — a trio of alpacas. “I am just fascinated by them,” she explains. “I really wanted to include them, so a friend in my knitting club who owns a few of them loaded them into a trailer and brought them over.”
Feeding a crowd of 200 is no small task, so the couple fashioned the affair as one big potluck party. To round out the meal — just in case the offerings yielded multiple spinach dips or salads — the pair sprang for a spit-roasted 200-pound pig, freshly caught fish and a dessert table loaded with eight types of pie, 100 cupcakes and a two-tier chocolate cake.
With a crowd of that size, there was only one time during the whole event when they all fell uniformly silent. For the duration of the ceremony, all chattering and chewing temporarily ceased as Carolyn and a trio of bridesmaids swept down a grassy aisle, accompanied by harmonica music.
And when the longtime lovers stood hand in hand at the altar, they confirmed their commitment to one another before a justice of the peace with an exchange of self-written vows. For many couples, it’s a time when words become choked with tears, but not for this easygoing duo: “We both thought we’d get emotional but we didn’t,” Carolyn says.
She was surprised, too, that the ceremony went off without a glitch. “It went really smoothly, considering we didn’t do a dress rehearsal. We just winged it.”
Still, the bride’s favourite moment of the day came just moments after she and Shandy were declared newlyweds.
“I absolutely love surprises and I’m a hard one to get a secret past,” she says. “Right after we walked back down the aisle as husband and wife, Shandy grabbed my hand and swung me around the side of the barn and up onto a tractor with a beer-can train and a ‘Just Married’ sign taped to the back. He started it up and we drove around the field. I had the hugest grin plastered on my face.”
Photographer Anastasia Chomlack | Ceremony & Reception Venue: Justin Davies Farm, Pemberton, 604-966-4511 | Flowers Bathtub Gardens | Bride’s Dress Tiffany NY Bridal | Groom’s & Groomsmen Outfits Volcom | Hair Amanda Glasser-Steel, JoNo Hair | Catering Two Rivers Specialty Meats (roast pig) | Rentals Sabre Rentals | Music Marble Canyon & Wes Makepeace