The venue was a river-rafting camp on the Cheakamus River in British Columbia. 95% of the 110 adult guests, 48 mountain bikes, 17 dogs, and 12 little guests (most under 6) stayed on site, in cabins, tents and RVs. I know, it sounds like a recipe for chaos, but the bride and groom, plus those they enlisted to help with big chunks of the event, were all highly organized. I would say the event went off without a hitch, except for the little ring-bearer, who not only lost the rings on the road somewhere, but also chose to roll around in the dry leaves at the feet of the wedding party (after the rings were found!), wrap herself around the bride, and sniff the groom’s crotch. Yes, you guessed it – their dog, Sinka, was the ring-bearer, and she did her best to steal the show.
The event took place in a forest of mature cedar trees, with some deciduous thrown in for perfect measure. In the 30 degree (86F) heat for the two days, we were very grateful to be in shade. We had a campfire in the evenings.
I volunteered to be head caterer for the weekend. That meant overseeing the recipes, shopping, preparation, food-safe storage and clean-up for the entire menus for Friday night’s BBQ, the charcuterie table after the ceremony, and the wedding feast in the evening. Jessica was in charge of the desserts, including the wedding cake, and Verna was in charge of the pancake breakfast and the meat-cooking. We drafted willing friends and relatives to help us with the prep, cleanup, decoration and everything else. It was a huge communal effort, all big-picture-orchestrated by the bride and groom.
Cooking facilities on site were extremely limited, so many of the dishes were partly prepared off-site. Here’s the pre-event crew celebrating our efficiency by having a quick lunch with wine.We used the barbeques to roast the grass-fed beef, grill pancakes, roast vegetables, boil water for noodles, potatoes, eggs, etc. both because of insufficient stoves and a need to keep the kitchen cool. The huge salmon fillets were cooked over the campfire on a metal rack. With only two regular-sized fridges, we rounded up ice and coolers, including a homemade one that was as big as a chest freezer, and moved about the site when required, on a truck.
You might be waiting with breath bated to learn what made this a green wedding? Here are some of the many ways (followed by a fail):
1. Dishes were rented, eliminating all paper plates and plastic cutlery. They were hand-washed by the guests themselves for re-use for the next meal.
2. The napkins were rented, so no paper waste was generated.
3. The bride’s mother made 120 pottery cups, so each guest could use one at the dinner, and then take it home as their beautiful wedding favour. The cog design is a nod to the wedding couple, both ardent mountain bikers. Classy.
4. Drinks over the weekend were consumed from pint canning jars, with a chalkboard label for each guest to write their name on, for identification. Jessica took them all home to use to can her fruits and chutneys.
5. Picnic tables were rounded up from all over the site, put together, end-to-end, and covered with long canvas drop cloths and burlap, which will all be re-used for other purposes. Table decorations were canning jars with lights inside, blue napkins in Verna’s pottery cups, and plants wrapped in burlap (given to guests to take home to plant.)
6. All the giant serving dishes were rented or borrowed or re-used – there was almost no garbage produced (but see the “fail” below).
10. All food made from scratch, and some ingredients from my garden. Care for a recipe? Roasted veggies were all eaten up, so I know they were popular. I used Liam’s Godmother’s simple recipe: 1. Cut up veggies into bite-sized pieces, and place in roasting pan. We used: carrots and beets from my garden, new potatoes, broccoli, small onions/scallions, sweet peppers, parsnips, garlic cloves and cauliflower. 2. In the roasting pan, marinate veggies in a mixture of: equal portions of balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and olive oil (to serve 8, I’d say 1/3 cup of each) and add salt and pepper to taste. 3. Put into a 350 degree oven or BBQ for 1.5 – 2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes or so.
11. Every cook frets over the quantities of food, and we tend to produce far too much. If the reception had been at a hotel or prepared by a real caterer, large quantities of quality food would need to be discarded. Except for the leftover potato salad, which had to be tossed because of food safety, almost all the leftover food was given away to organizers and guests, and kind friends came over to our house the next day to claim a stack of salad ingredients. I only wish I had remembered to take mountains of “tupperware” for bringing food home.
Now for the fail:
The venue had no facilities to compost plant waste, largely because of the bear and other pest attractant factor. After all, this location is about a kilometre (as the crow flies) from the grizzly bear and her cub-spotting three days before the wedding! So, I guess I can relinquish one of my green habits in the interests of safety.