Liz & Mark’s fanciful handcrafted Northwest forest wedding

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 | Photography by Carly Bish Photography
Photos by Carly Bish

The Offbeat Bride: Liz, architect

Her offbeat partner: Mark, architect

Date and location of wedding: Bride's parents' yard in Port Angeles, WA — August 24, 2013

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: After being completely overwhelmed by wedding books, we jumped online and came across Ariel's book, Offbeat Bride: Creative Alternatives for Independent Brides. I looked at the back cover and was like, “This girl is a freak! And she's a Washingtonian. And wait — we can make our wedding whatever we want? Awesome!” Little did I know that the author was a blogger who would end up crashing our wedding.



I grew up in Port Angeles, WA, so when we moved to Seattle from school, I tried to explain to Mark what it was like to grow up in a small Northwest town. Finally I was like, “let's watch Twin Peaks!” The spooky weirdness and humor of that show became a shorthand between us, and colored (warped?) Mark's perception of this area.

before 1 by Liz Pisciotta
The lot before the big renovation!

Our guiding wedding concept quickly became Northwest Local. For us this meant mossy mysterious forests and expansive water views, tempered with lots of great micro-brew, cider, and Asian food. My dream was to have the ceremony in a grove of evergreens, while Mark wanted to show off the coast to his Midwest family. We scoured Washington for the right venue. Meanwhile my parents had invested in the property next door to my childhood home, but weren't really sure what to do with it. It was a wild, overgrown lot with a giant maple, stand of hemlocks and cedars, and a view towards British Columbia over the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It dawned on us: when we talked about our dream venue, we were describing that lot!

before 4 by Mark Dorsey

berms by Christina Chapman

After my parents' blessing, we went to work: drawing up plans, assessing, budgeting, and then realizing that we were going to need more time. We decided to put off the wedding a year. It allowed us to build our dream venue, but it also gave us more time to save up money, craft decorations, and get the best vendors at the greatest value.


Having the wedding in my hometown also allowed us to share all the quirky, totally authentic experiences of Port Angeles and the Olympic Peninsula. For example, we had our rehearsal dinner at Granny's Cafe, a logger truck stop with damn good coffee and a petting zoo in the back. Our reception was catered by Sabai Thai, a Port Angeles favorite owned by two Thai sisters who conjure up the most delicious dishes using local ingredients.


The naked cake, by Raindrop Desserts, showed off the fresh strawberries and cream inside. And of course the reception dance party had to feature Sasquatch.


We wanted the decorations to be lush, vibrant, and filled with surprises. Our color scheme centered around purple, partly because of my dress, but also because it's a color that suggests mystery. Guests discovered miniature creatures hiding within the terraria and a meandering trail led to a two-person tree swing down by the bluff.



We DIYed most of our decorations. Mark hand-dyed the table runners in ombré magenta, I soldered table numbers, and our friends and family helped us clean salvaged bottles and make tissue paper lanterns. We made escort card/name tags with a watercolor effect that matched the aesthetic of the runners.



I learned that many stores will sell their displays to customers who ask. The silver garlands and wire/flower mobiles mesmerized me as soon as I saw them. It turned out the store managers were total romantics. When I told them what they were for, they really went out of their way to make sure we had them for our wedding.



Tell us about the ceremony:
The ceremony was held in the woodland amphitheater we built together. Before the wedding day, my sister smudged the site with sweet grass. My childhood friend officiated the ceremony and wrote a beautiful speech about growing up together, meeting Mark and his experiences with marriage. The rings were passed among the guests by Mark's sister and nephew during a ring warming ceremony.




We had three readings: “I Like You” by Warburg, Sonnet XVII by Pablo Neruda (translated by one of the groomsmen and read by my cousin), and an excerpt from The Irrational Season by Madeleine L'Engle, selected and read by Mark's brother-in-law.




After we read our vows, we placed them in a box with a special bottle of cider, to be opened on our anniversary. The string musicians performed a custom arrangement of Smashing Pumpkins' “Today” for our recessional. As we walked off, we jumped over a broom to symbolize the risk and optimism of marriage.




Our biggest challenge:
We weren't sure how to get the chairs from the ceremony area to the reception tent. Would it be okay to ask guests to move them? Renting two sets seemed silly and having a couple of ushers move all of them would be time-consuming. Finally, our coordinator, Kelli, convinced us it would be okay to ask guests to move them and it really was no big deal. I can't believe how much I worried about this.




My favorite moment:
During the year leading up to the wedding, we invited friends and family to come and help us make our vision a reality. We all bonded over the work of this project. Mark and I spent so much time building the site that it felt like we blessed it with our intentions.




Just before the wedding, I read a post on Offbeat Bride that suggests reserving some private moments throughout the day. This is great advice! The day can fly by, and I think this gave us the opportunity to appreciate each other and the occasion. We did a first look before the ceremony, and then later ate some apps together and walked by the bluff.

Also, we were so busy making stuff that we kept forgetting to practice our first dance, which was to the The Cure's “Mint Car.” We didn't want to just sway back and forth like we were at a high school prom. Finally, it was the night before the wedding, so we devised a simple verse-chorus strategy that worked for us. After the rehearsal dinner, Mark spontaneously pulled into a parking lot and we practiced right there, in the middle of town. It was so romantic!



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Comments on Liz & Mark’s fanciful handcrafted Northwest forest wedding

    • Port Angeles is my hometown too! So great to see such a gorgeous wedding take place there. I would definitely rent this space.

  1. Everything about this makes me so happy! SO beautiful and well thought out and meaningful … you guys are freaking amazing! (Talk about ‘building a marriage’ lol!)

  2. Holy crap, that dress!!! Wow.

    We had people move chairs from our ceremony to the reception tent (~100 m) as well, and it was no big deal. If your guests are relatively chill, they won’t mind in the least.

  3. I just LOVE that you danced to “Mint Car”! I wanted us to dance to “Lovesong,” but my mister didn’t want us to just stand there and sway like teenagers while everyone watched, so we picked a more traditionally danceable song (“I Only Have Eyes for You”). Congrats on a beautiful wedding and best wishes for a happy marriage!

    • I looove “Lovesong.” You two should just dance to it in your living room. 😉 Picking a first dance song is hard!

  4. This wedding is so incredibly gorgeous! We are having a purple wedding in a little over a month and this gives us so much inspiration! Just curious, was the bride’s shrug part of the dress, added on later, or separate? I love it and am thinking of something like that for my wedding, but don’t know where to get it.

    • The shrug is a wool (cashmere?) wrap I got from Nordstrom. I think it was in the ballpark of $100. I like that it’s totally something I can use again. 🙂

        • I don’t see it on their website anymore. : ( It’s about 18″ wide and 5′ long? Try calling the downtown Seattle Nordstrom. You might even be able to send them the picture. They were really helpful when I went in.

  5. This wedding is so pretty and happy that I just want to curl up and live inside it. Weird? Nope.

    • Aw thank you! I’m sure everyone feels this way about their own wedding, but it felt so magical to me. In a way, we have curled up inside it–we kept the ceiling decorations and have them hanging in our bedroom.

  6. Oh my gaaaaawwwwwwwwwddddddddd. This is THEEEEEEEEEEEE most gorgeous wedding I have ever seen. Everything is impossibly perfect. Swoon.

  7. Bookmarking this for when I get married.

    In, like, five years. No, I’m not engaged shutupshutupshutup 🙂

    Absolutely GORGEOUS!

  8. One of the most breathtaking weddings I have ever seen! I hope my own in April can capture some of the wonder and romance and respect for nature that this beautiful bride and groom do!! 🙂

    • It’s gonna be awesome! One nature-ey lesson learned…pay attention to the time of the sunset. Everybody was watching it and it was so beautiful but we had limited time with some vendors so we had to move on to other parts of the reception. It would’ve been cool to make it more of a thing. 😉

  9. OMG your cake is freaking adorable. I loooove naked cakes, no one else agrees with me though :/ !

  10. Your parents are fortunate to have such creative and industrious children. You tilled the soil, cleared a path, and spent numerous hours implementing vegetation. WOW! Now they get to enjoy their own personal bed and breakfast with an amazing view.

  11. That cake, that propery, those decorations…. Goodness gracious.
    Totally adding a tushflower to my dress too. I love how it looks.

    • TUSHFLOWER!! My new favorite word.

      Also, I may have suggested to Liz & Mark that they attach that flower to some honeymoon lingerie. Not like that would be an inappropriate comment or anything.

  12. LOVE your wedding! I’m doing terrariums as my centerpieces and am wondering where you found your miniature creatures at????

    • I spray painted little model animals from an online toy store. I can send them to you, if you want. They’re collecting dust in my basement. 🙂 Find me on facebook or maybe offbeat can pass along my info.

  13. BEAUTIFUL!!!!! I love the topiaries with the little silver critters 🙂

    The chair thing is actually something I’ve been stressing about too! So glad to see someone who just said “Fuck it” and let it happen. Eases my stress a bit, thank you.

  14. Love your wedding. How I wish we could get married in Washington State. I’m from Kirkland. However we do get to get married on my husbands family’s ranch (where we live). So that’s going to be special as well.

  15. So enchanting! The ethereal dress, the woods, everything. I loved that you jumped the broom!

  16. I love love love the baskets! Did you hand-make them or did you buy them somewhere?

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