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DIY Travel Themed Wedding

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forest wedding photos

Planning a wedding far from the bride’s and/or groom’s home comes with challenges and opportunities. Emily and Matt’s event shines in today’s Real Wedding feature. Since many of their guests traveled for their wedding, the couple incorporated travel details throughout their day while showcasing their new home. Their use of maps — from the bouquets to the decor to the favors — unified the event and the catering from local farms gave their guests an opportunity to enjoy the flavors of Washington. Enjoy this travel themed DIY wedding!

outdoor bridal photos
blue groom attire
blue bridesmaid dress
violinist processional
beach wedding ceremony
beach wedding ceremony
first kiss
brick wall wedding photo
brick wall wedding photo
seaside wedding photos
seaside wedding photos
forest wedding photos
field wedding photos
field wedding photos
travel-theme wedding decor
travel-theme wedding decor
father-daughter dance
first dance
first dance

Emily + Matt


Port Townsend, WA | Fort Worden State Park

What was your wedding budget?

Our budget was set at $10,000.

Ceremony site + reception venue: $1,000.00

Reception food & booze                    $4,300.00

Dress & shoes (bride)                      $300.00

Hair/makeup/nails                           $250.00

Grooms clothes                                  $200.00

Decorations                                        $600.00

Reception DJ                                      $500.00

Save the dates/Invites                     $350.00

Photographer                                    $1,700.00

Ceremony music                               $150.00

Total                                                   $9,350.00

How many guests did you have?


What creative or personal aspects did you include in your wedding?

Matt and I moved to Washington State from the Midwest in late 2013 – we got engaged on Christmas day. We started planning a wedding in Michigan to be close to family but ultimately decided that we wanted to have our closest friends and family travel to Washington and visit our new home for our wedding.

Because of the travel involved and our mutual love of exploration we chose a travel theme. I designed Save the Dates and Invitations that included a map of the US and a personal logo for our wedding. Our airplane logo was used on the invites, gift bags, and reception place cards.

The place cards were encased in a luggage tag from REI that doubled as our wedding favor. I went to the farmers market the morning before my wedding to buy six beautiful bunches of flowers for the tables at our reception. I volunteer for a local community garden so local food and flowers were important to me. In the months before the wedding, I made paper flower bouquets and boutonnieres for the wedding party out of maps. I had small map flowers decorating the tables and our “guestbook” was a calendar with world maps. We had each guest sign by their birthday so we could remember them throughout the year.

I wanted to honor our female family members in attendance, so I made bracelets with a piece of a map from the place they were born or someplace special to them. I gave a map pendant necklace to each bridesmaid and the officiant (who is a sister of the groom) to wear during the ceremony. I gave map-design thermoses to my brother (and best man) and to my good friend that helped set up the reception decorations.

The food we served was a taste of Washington. My husband is a meat eater and I am a vegan – we compromised by serving local meats and having everything else prepared vegan. Local salmon cakes were the main entrée, and Washington apple crisp was served in place of a cake. The day before the wedding, I took our friends and family on a local cider/wine tour and purchased wine and cider for the reception. We also served beer from the local Port Townsend Brewing Company.

Matt and I moved to Washington from Chicago, where a late-night food of choice was often tacos. Our final personal touch was a nod to our old neighborhood as our caterer served late-night tacos (vegan and non-vegan, with beef from Short’s Family Farm located a short drive from our new neighborhood) a few hours into our reception.

What was the biggest thing you did to save money?

I purchased my dress off the sale rack from the designer section of Macy’s for $279.00. I pretty much knew this was where I would purchase my dress. After I tried dresses at a bridal salon, ordered an ill-fitting dress online and kind of gave up, I walked into Macy’s in the Chicago Loop and found my dress.

What’s the best advice you have for planning your wedding now that you’re on the other side?

I tried so hard not to get caught up in details and to ENJOY what was happening. I did a good job 75% of the time. Take the time to enjoy this event and forget about perfection. I had a lot of fun and let my friends and family help when they offered. Turns out, they wanted to help, and it felt good to have them involved.

What was your biggest splurge?

The reception! We tried to throw a hell of a party for everyone that was willing to fly across the country to celebrate with us! We purchased our own alcohol for the event and took most of the leftovers home (giving some to the catering staff for their efforts) – that never goes to waste.

What was your favorite detail?

The bracelets I made for our guests. First, I love a good project and it took me a long time to make all of these; second, I got to learn a few new things about my guests by asking about their birthplace or special place; third, my sweet home Chicago was proudly displayed on my own wrist throughout our wedding day.

What is the most memorable moment of your day?

The end of the ceremony when I kissed Matt and he wrapped his arms around me and picked me up like he always does like no one else was there.


Photographer:  Samantha McFarlen • Venue: Ft. Worden State Park • DJ: Caleb Peacock • Catering: In-Season Catering & Short’s Family Farm • Hair: Izadoras Salon • Alcohol: Port Townsend Brewing CompanyEaglemount Wine and CiderLullaby Winery & Fair Winds Winery • Decor: Metsker Maps of Seattle  •  Dress: Macy’s


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