When Rachel Jamieson and Andrew Bennett met about six years ago while working at Boundless Adventures camp north of Bancroft, it was their love for the outdoors that brought them together. The pair enjoyed hiking, skiing, paddling and just going on road trips together, and they shared a common passion for the environment.
They’re both born-and-raised Ontarians – she is from St. Jacobs and he is from Hagersville – but their love for the outdoors drew them to Calgary about two years ago. She works as a paramedic and he works with school children who have been diagnosed with mental illness.
When the couple got engaged last July, they wanted their wedding to reflect their enthusiasm for the environment and their love for their community, so they set out to organize a wedding that would not only showcase their dedication to each other, but as a way to celebrate their friends and their families.
Their chosen site was the millrace along the Conestogo River in Rachel’s hometown, and for her that site by the riverbank has had a very special meaning for as long as she can remember.
“I used to hang out there as a little girl. Any time I went for a walk or left the house I usually ended up down there exploring for treasure along the shores of the river, or going for picnics and trying to catch bugs,” said the 29-year-old. “We wanted to have an outdoor wedding and that felt like a really nice spot to do it.”
They also wanted to have as little impact on the environment as they could, but admit it turned out to be trickier than they expected.
Instead of renting dishes or buying disposable ones, they decided to ask their guests to donate any unused dishes that they might have. That way the couple could save both money and the environment by avoiding needless trash.
What developed was an eclectic group of place settings where each table was different than the next, but it suited the couple’s personalities perfectly. They then donated the dishes to a consignment shop so they could enjoy a new life with a new family.
“Our dishes had all different lives previous to our wedding, and now they’re continuing on in other people’s homes, which is kind of cool,” said Rachel.
Continuing with the dish theme, the couple also gave each guest their own mason jar that they could use to drink from during the night. They asked each guest to keep track of their jar, and should they wish to clean then over the course of the night, a dish station was set up.
“If people felt their glass was getting to skunky to use it again, they could wash it themselves,” she laughed, adding that the jars were then cleaned and donated back to a local family who used them to make preserves.
Instead of traditional seating for the ceremony, the farmer who owned the piece of property donated 110 straw bales for the guests to sit on, and the archway at the front of the aisle was made of old cedar rails from Andrew’s sister’s farm near Simcoe. Both added to the country feel of the wedding and made use of old materials to make something new.
One of the biggest ways they decided to go green was by avoiding any paper invitations. Rachel built a website to keep their guests informed of the date and location, as well as the finer points of the wedding, and sent electronic invitations through email closer to the date with a link back to the
“We really wanted to have as little impact as possible and it was actually really tricky to do, so we weren’t 100 per cent green but we certainly gave it a good effort,” said Rachel.
Another huge aspect of the wedding was to encourage a sense of community and family bonding through the preparation. To that end, all the food was made from scratch in the kitchen of her parents St. Jacobs home. She arrived home from Calgary on July 20 to start the preparations for the wedding scheduled for exactly one month later.
“Food is really important to us, we spend a lot of time sourcing our food locally at home [in Calgary] and preparing meals, so that was a huge contributing factor to our wedding.”
She said it was as if the house had a revolving door, new people were coming and going every day, cooking and preparing and preserving and freezing, she said.
The menu included a veritable feast of local food. Roasted red pepper and yam soup, caesar salad with portobello mushrooms, grass-fed and hormone-free beef raised in Baden, veggie burgers, potato salad, pickles, pie and chocolate beet cake – none of which were prepared using processed ingredients.
“All of us spent a lot of time at the market meeting local producers and grabbing fresh produce, and all of our flowers came from within St. Jacobs,” she said.
“All of that was literally a stones-throw away from where we were.”
With all of the work involved in preparing for the wedding – on top of the dress fittings, rental of the Waterloo Rod and Gun Club for their reception, and the coordination of all their guests – it would have been easy for the stress to become overwhelming for the family.
And while tempers did flare at some points, Rachel said it was well worth the effort.
“It was so wonderful because we don’t have that many opportunities to go home and spend time with friends and family, and by having those three weeks together the sense of community was just amazing.”
They also took solace in knowing that they would be spending the rest of their lives together, and that it was going to be a party to remember regardless of the pains along the way. The wedding went off without a hitch and all their guests had a truly memorable time.
“Things didn’t go perfectly, and when they didn’t, nobody would have known that something was not the way that we had intended.”