Nicky & I have been together since we met in Ann Arbor in 2009. We have always been adventurers and made a move to Brooklyn, NY in 2011. For most of our years together, we knew we'd found our lifetime partner but we weren't sure about getting married, what that would mean and what it might look like. We became domestic partners in NYC in 2013, and in 2015 decided we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to get all of our family and friends together by getting married.
While we are currently city folk, our hearts lie in the forests, in the trees, lakes and mountains of the great outdoors, so when it came time to make wedding decisions, we went big in the beautiful woods of Michigan, our home state. We rented out a YMCA summer camp and hosted a three-day event which felt, intentionally, more like a family and friend reunion than a traditional wedding. My father and his friends served up a hunter's feast on Friday night, feeding our guests meat and fish they had hunted themselves, as well as a plethora of potluck-style side dishes. Then we all sat around, and our loved ones toasted us, told embarrassing stories, and reminisced about all of the memories we've made together. We ended the night around a campfire, playing instruments and catching up. A good number of our guests even stayed in the cabins at the camp.
The day of our wedding consisted of swimming, kayaking, canoeing, lounging in hammocks, climbing a rock wall, ziplining, and working on our archery skills. We wrote our ceremony from scratch. My brother, a comedian, was our officiant and actually quoted Spice Girls in his opening remarks. The readings included bell hooks and a request from our guests to hold us accountable as individuals and a couple. In short, it was perfection. We spent the rest of the night eating, drinking and dancing, shooting fireworks, singing around campfires and watching the sun rise. On Sunday morning as everyone dragged themselves to our brunch, exhausted farewells told us one thing for sure: this weekend had been about us, but it had also been about the community we've built and the people who have helped us through everything. Our wedding was all about us and our people, from the family-cooked foods, to the DIY bar built by my stepfather, to the Armenian cocktail hour organized by Nicky's family, to the cookies made by Nicky's mom, and the handmade decorations courtesy of my mother, aunts and all sorts of family friends. It was overwhelmingly personal and communal and, in our opinions, exactly what a wedding should really be.
Photos by Emily Dykema. Words by Nicole.
Emily Dykema is a West Michigan-based photographer specializing in lifestyle and wedding photography. She is passionate about storytelling through imagery and fostering bully breeds through a local rescue.