We have decided to share with you the story about how we organised our wedding. It might be helpful if you’re planning a wedding yourself or it might just be an interesting read into how things can be done a bit differently.
We had been thinking about getting married for more than 2 years (We got engaged back in 2012), but for a long time we didn’t really know how we wanted to do it.
Getting married is one thing. Having a wedding is a completely different story. People have weddings for all kinds of reasons, but most of them do it because it's a tradition. Sadly, this tradition or rather set of traditions have lost any kind of meaning and people are often just following them without any understanding of what it is that they are doing and why are they doing it. Even the words "I do" don't seem to mean anything nowadays.
We knew from the beginning that we didn’t want our wedding to be like that. It might sound odd, but we didn’t even want our wedding to be about us. Actually we didn't even want to have a wedding. We don’t like being around many people and we feel awkward being in the centre of the attention so we definitely didn’t want to organise a special event just to find ourselves looking for the nearest exit while a distant relative we don't really know is saying pointless toast. We did however want an adventure - something to remember. With that in mind we decided to plan a day full of surprises, great food and music as a thank you for our families and friends. This way while they would be having a good time we could be out of the picture working our asses off setting up the place - laying the tables, decorating etc.
We were super exited cause it was finally happening, but also a bit scared cause we didn’t really have any savings for it and the date we set was only 5 months away. Anyway, we knew if we pick up more freelance jobs, do all the organising ourselves and put some creativity into it we might just pull it off.
We had seen an interesting TED talk by a photographer Shantanu Starick about his project “The Pixel Trade” a while back.
In his own words: “I am travelling to all seven continents of the globe trading my services as a photographer for life’s basic necessities. No currency, no contracts, only my camera and an eager smile. The idea is to reintroduce the bartering system into day-to-day life in a global environment. In exchange for my skills as a professional photographer, all I’m asking from each of my subjects is a roof to sleep under, food to keep the stomach happy and a ticket or ride to the next trade. Shelter, food and transport traded for whatever photography work you need snapped. It’s that simple."
The idea of trading stuck with us and when we started to think about the event we knew immediately that we would love Shantanu to take part in it. He was actually the first person we told about the event.
His project inspired us to do trades of our own while organising the event. This led us to meet new and interesting people and helped to reduce the cost of the whole thing. We traded with a guy that provided tents, with a family business that makes beautiful linen products and with the band. In return we did animations, video, web and graphic design for them. This was an awesome experience and we would definitely like to introduce this concept more into our lives. The only thing we regret about the trading is that we didn’t do more of it.
So we had a date and a photographer. Time to invite some people. We designed and (with a help of a friend) screen printed the invitations ourselves. The design was very simple and basically only contained the date and a link to a website where all the necessary information could be found. You can check out the website at saules.vedības.lv.
Usually we are very indecisive about the smallest things (like what to have for dinner), but picking the location was surprisingly easy. Liepene is a small, quite village by the Baltic Sea. Surrounded by a magical forest full of stories and secrets it was a perfect place for what we had in mind. Toms spent many summers there as a kid and we visited Liepene together the previous summer so we already had a special connection with the place.
The title of the event was "Saules Vedības" which translates to "Wedding of The Sun". An event often mentioned in Latvian mythology - folk songs and stories. There are variations of the story but it usually includes the morning star "Auseklis" wondering away from all the other starts to find the daughters of The Sun. This tied together nicely with the idea that we didn't want to have a wedding ourselves - we were there to celebrate the Wedding of The Sun.
We made up our interpretation about this story to send our guests on a quest. The day before the event we went out to set up a trail. When the guests arrived at the beginning of the trail they received a message from The Sun. They found out that she had lost all her daughters and they are the only ones who can help. Auseklis was visiting Liepene that night and they had to find the daughters to make the Wedding of The Sun happen.
This is when the things started to heat up. Literally. It was a very hot day. Unusually hot for the end of August. We were very lucky that the weather was good that day cause we did not have a plan what to do in case of rain.
As the guests were getting on a bus we were starting to set up the place. There were so many things we had to carry and set up. Thankfully some relatives arrived the previous day with us and helped with these things. If we were on our own we probably would have collapsed before the guests even arrived.
Decorations and tableware might be the things we were most worried about when planing the event. We knew what look we wanted, but we had no idea where to get, buy or rent the things we needed and how to do that on a budget. We think, in the end everything turned out nicely so here's what we did:
We bought about 50 percent of the tableware we needed in second hand shops. We did rounds almost daily for couple of weeks and brought home all kinds of pretty stuff. We figured that if we sell them after the event buying them would be cheaper than renting. We haven't sold anything yet, of course. The second half we borrowed from our relatives and other incredibly kind people.
The flags. All the ones we could find were pink or had polka dots on them so we decided to go the hard way - make them ourselves. It took us couple of hours and advanced geometry skills, but the result was nice and it cost us a lot less that it would have if we bought them.
The linen. We contacted a very nice family business "not PERFECT LINEN" from our neighbouring country Lithuania. They were incredibly kind and agreed to provide us with their beautiful table cloths, napkins and aprons. You should definately check out their etsy store.
The Flowers. As the day of the event came closer it started to look as if we won't have any flowers at all. We couldn't use cut flowers because we had to bring everything to the location in advance and they would have died. We wanted to use something like heather, but we couldn't find where to buy them. Then two days before the event something interesting happened. We were driving down a highway in a van we were going to use for the event and it broke down. Well, shit, we thought. We're done. But then we looked outside the window and there it was - a field full of heather. As we were waiting for the tow car we had plenty of time to pick as many flowers as we needed. Yes, they might have been full of spiders and as we later discovered they are traditionally used on graves, but we think they matched the feeling of the event perfectly and they looked beautiful on our table.
Although we were very conscious about our budget, there were some things we bought or rented that didn't get used at all. We were so scared that we won't have enough dishes for people to eat from that in the end we bought and borrowed way too many. We rented 35 meters of string lights that we forgot put up. We also rented too many food preparation things (pans, heat boxes, gas burners etc) and we bought a nice drink dispenser that did not find a place on the table.
When the guests arrived we finally put on our outfits. We don't know what to tell about them other than that they were tailored perfectly and we think we looked great in them. The traditional belt Madara was wearing is usually made from wool, but we had it custom made to be vegan.
This is where we had to shine. Latvians are known for having a lot of food on the table and it always includes many kinds of dead animal products. We had to show our sceptical families and friends that you can easily have a rich vegan feast and there is know need for meat, dairy or eggs on the table.
We are both control freaks and the idea that someone else would cook for the event was hard to grasp. Thats why for a while we were actually considering cooking everything (or at least a part) ourselves. After some thinking that idea went away and we found a cook. It took a while to agree on the dishes because most of the stuff we wanted was too difficult or risky to cook in our situation. All the food had to be either cooked outside or brought from a different location because we didn't have access to a proper kitchen. As a result all the snacks and sweets were cooked and prepared the previous night in a different location, but the main dishes were cooked outside on a camp fire.
Our advice? Definitely do a tasting before the event to see if you are on the same page with the cook. We wanted to do this, but the cook was very busy and she didn't have a place to do something like that. The result - most of the guests loved the food, but we thought that many of the items were extremely salty. To be fair, this is probably because we use very little salt when we cook at home and we have adjusted to it. Anyway, we definitely would have made some changes if the cook had found a time and a place to do the tasting.
The second advice - think very hard about how much food you will need. It is probably worse if you run out of food in an event like this, but its not nice if you have a lot of leftovers also. And we sure did have a lot. We were so worried that the guests won't have enough to eat that the cook made way too much food. Even when we gave a lot of the leftovers for guests to take home still a lot was thrown out because it got bad very quickly in the heat. Not very nice if you have a tight budget.
As the guests had to hike about 10 kilometres, at the beginning of the trail they each received a lunch bag with some healthy, nutritious snacks. Our friends from DIVI10 volunteered to help with those and we owe them big time for that. Definitely check out their website.
This was probably the least planed out part of the day. We literally had only a faint idea of what we were going to do. As you might imagine we didn't want some priest or any other random person to say a pointless speech about love and stuff. We had an idea that Mārtiņš (Toms stepfather) could do it, but for reasons we have forgotten that did not happen.
The only thing we had planed was to walk down to the beach just before the sunset, take a tree washed out from the sea, put it up vertically and ask the guests to decorate it with things they collected on their journey. Although we almost missed the sunset everything turned out to be better than we could have ever imagined. We planted and decorated the tree but it didn’t end there.
To our surprise the guests (With Toms mother in charge) had planed a special ceremony by themselves. While on their journey they had rehearsed a ritual dance. They sang and danced around us while symbolically bringing us together. At the end of the song they tied our hands together and gave us crowns made from flowers they picked that day.
We didn't have vows or anything like that and we also decided not to have wedding rings. We just didn't see any point in that.
We really hope that the tree is still standing. We will definitely go there and check it this summer.
We didn't ask for gifts, but we told the guests that if they really wanted to give us something we would appreciate cash equivalent of what they would be spending on that toaster (or whatever) they wanted to buy. We are against buying meaningless gifts and this way we could put that money towards something we care about.
And thats what we did. We donated half of the money to a local animal rights organisation "Dzīvnieku Brīvība". They are regularly organising educational events about animal rights and veganism, last year they stopped a construction of a new fur farm and they are making great progress to ban animal circus in Latvia. As of writing this they are fighting to stop the construction of yet another fur farm. Please consider helping them with a donation.
We're planning to use the second half of the money to adopt an orphan elephant and support local animal shelters.
We wanted to end the day with a concert and there really was only one band we could think of that would fit the occasion.
Iļģi are the most internationally recognised world music band from Latvia. They came together in 1981 as a folk ensemble, but over the years they became the founders and leaders of Latvian post-folk movement.
Toms: Ilga was my teacher in primary school and i have been amazed by their music since i can remember myself. When my parents took me to their concerts i used to sit on the edge of the stage and play along imaginary drums on whatever i could find. Its fascinating how their music still speaks to me the same way as it did when i was a kid.
We still can't believe that they agreed to play for us and we don't know what we have done to deserve such a gift. This was without a doubt the most special, magical, beautiful and emotional part of
the day our lives so far. Words could never describe how incredible it was to have our favourite band perform that night. We were both so overwhelmed by the power and beauty of their music that we were in tears from the first song all the way to the last.
The concert started just after sunset and as they played the skies filled with thousands of stars and a big bright moon slowly appeared above them. Many of the songs were about The Sun and her daughters, as well as the The Moon, stars and sea so it was a perfect ending for the adventure we and our guests had that day.
We said at the beginning of this post that we traded with the band, but that isn't correct. We still haven't done our part of the trade. We are waiting for them to come forward and say what they would want in return. We know they are working on a new album and we hope we will have a chance to help them with it in some way.
We have a video of the concert, but we still have to do some work on that before we publish it.
Lastly we would like to thank everyone who helped to make this happen (in no particular order) -
Mārtiņš - for being the best stepfather and driving 3 times from Riga to Ventspils and back in less than 48 hours.
Iļģi - for the greatest gift ever.
Shantanu - for inspiring us to think differently and not killing us in our sleep (and for the amazing photos).
not PERFET LINEN - for all the beautiful linen products.
Enriko from Cosmic - for the tents.
Girls from DIVI10 - for the tasty lunch bags.
Laura and Ilze - for the never-ending mountain of muffins and cakes.
Māris - for the help with saules.vedības.lv.
Aleksandrs - for the help with the invitations.
Linu Lāde - for our beautiful linen outfits.
Dace Grīnberga - for the beautiful traditional Lielvārdes belt.
Pauls from Siltumnīca - for making the wooden boxes.
All the people who helped out with the dishes and decorations.
And all the guests - for finding the daughters of The Sun.