Lauren and Joseph’s love story is a true life fairytale. Their magical wedding included an enchanted forest, singing, dancing, a candlelit reception, lightsabers (a nod to their May 4th date) and a trash the dress photo shoot under a waterfall to top it off.
Lauren and Joseph
May 4, 2019
Lauren and Joseph met in graduate school as part of The University of Virginia’s Professional Actor Training Program in 2014. The friendship bond was almost immediate and their love for each other undeniable. After several months together Joseph declared to Lauren “I am hopelessly and irrevocably in love with you.” Three years later during a hike in the woods he proposed.
Their wedding weekend began at The Orenda Campground at Prince William Forest Park in Triangle, VA (about 75 miles north of Richmond). The site was equipped with. cabins, the perfect ceremony spot, and even a dining hall. The theatrical couple were married in a council circle in the middle of the woods. “We opened our ceremony with everyone singing What a Wonderful World together under the trees and sky.”
Lauren and Joseph said their vows atop a ceremonial Siapo (or tapa) given to Lauren’s father as a thank you from a group of chiefs when he was working in Samoa. Lauren unexpectedly lost her father just seven months before the wedding so including this helped the couple feel as though he was a part of their wedding day. “Beginning our life together on top of something that represents the good will, friendships, and gratitude that filled every aspect of his life was a perfect way to start.”
These two old souls and their love of the natural world and romantic literature filled every aspect of the wedding. The aisle was a hiking trail 1/8 of a mile long lined with quotes about love from books with fictional forests. Each reception table was also named after a fictional forest. “The seating chart was stuck into a tree with an arrow like a declaration from Robin Hood.”
“Honoring our family and ancestors was incredibly important to us. The slip Joseph’s Grammy, Betty Clemmer, is holding is the Family Slip first worn in 1903. Having been passed from bride to another for over 100 years, the beautiful garment is worn under the wedding dress. Each new bride to wear it joins the “Slip Sisters.” There is a photo of the Slip Sisters that were in attendance at the wedding. I was the 20th bride to wear it down the aisle. I tied a locket with my father’s picture into my bouquet so he could still walk with me down the aisle. Our banquet style tables were lined with magnolia leaf garlands that we made ourselves from my mother’s tree.”
Lauren’s mothers side of the family is from Louisiana and she went to school at Tulane so they had to include some traditional Cajun food on the menu! Both families like to thrift so the year leading into the wedding they collected candlesticks and goblets to adorn the table. They all lit candles to start the reception to signify their new life together.
Lauren’s cape added the “WOW” factor to her attire. She did not want anything that was too formal and when the cape was offered at a fraction of its original cost from a designer she was following, she knew it was hers. “It is a true one of a kind item. Every element, every piece of lace and each pearl are hand stitched. It was the first thing I bought for the wedding. It totally changed my plans for what dress I would get and inspired a lot of the style for the wedding. Just because you get married outside or in a setting that some would call “rustic” doesn’t mean your style has to go that way!”
Their favorite parts of the day:
<Lauren> In honor of May the 4th, we had the most epic LIGHTSABER duels halfway through the reception. Watching Joseph fight his father was one of the highlights for me!
<Joseph> Early in the morning of our wedding day, Lauren and I unexpectedly found ourselves both in the campground kitchen at the same time. After frantically hiding ourselves from each other, were we able to hold hands and connect with each other without anyone awake or around. It was unplanned and perfect.
Trash the dress:
“A huge thunderstorm started at the end of the reception and lasted throughout the next day. We put on our wedding clothes, and all of our camping guests (with the forest ranger!) hiked through the downpour and mud to take some amazing photos with our wonderful photographer, Leah. We waded through the creek and kissed in the waterfall. It was perfection and will remain one of my fondest memories.”
Final notes from the couple:
What was the biggest challenge you faced in planning your wedding?
The road to our wedding day was not an easy one. I unexpectedly lost my father seven months before the wedding. Though planning through the immense grieving was difficult, our friends, family, and the local Richmond theatre community helped us put it all together by donating their hearts and talents. Actors Matt Shofner and Kelsey Cordrey were our day of coordinating team. As Matt said “Coordinating a wedding is just being a stage manager of a different kind of show.” Theatrical hair and make-up stylist, Jackie Cook, did my hair and make-up, and local costume designer Ruth Hedberg turned my $100 ebay bid of a dress into a dress fit for a forest princess! Our friend, Catherine Illian, owner of Richmond Rides Bicycle Tours, acted as our officiant. Our friends created the extraordinary ceremony arch the evening before the wedding from things they found in the woods. It was a labor of love for all, especially this bride here and my wonderful mother. But it gave us all something to focus on after losing my father, my uncle, and my brother’s lifelong best friend all in the same couple of months. We all had candlesticks to look for, decorations to make, and something positive and beautiful to look towards during those few months.
To read more about this artful wedding see Flit Photography blog here.
Their best advice:
“Don’t think that your wedding has to look a certain way or has to cost a certain amount. Remember what’s most important. It’s not about the instagram photos or what kind of linen your napkins are made of. Your wedding is about you, what makes you who you are, and how you want to start your new life together. Be creative. Take risks. Have fun. If you are both true to yourselves, then there is no way it won’t be beautiful.”