South Dakota isn’t necessarily the first place that comes to mind when you think Destination Wedding, but after spending some time with this wedding, I’m totally loving it. The couple returned to the first place they had ever said those three magical words – I love you – with their friends, family, & Mindy Myers Photography to create a Library-Law Love Fest in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The soiree, complete with mason jars, fantastic florals, books, typewriters, and lots of sentiment, was spectacular. Click here when you’re ready for even more!

Matt and I met as teachers in the South Dakota corps of Teach for America.  We worked on two different Reservations, but most of our first dates were in Rapid City or the gorgeous Black Hills.  The SD corps has a taste for camping, so we spent many weekends out under the mountain stars.  Sylvan Lake was the first place we said “I love you.”  When it came time to choose a wedding venue, even though Matt is from Iowa and I’m from Nebraska, so South Dakota was a destination for most of our guests, we knew it had to be there.  We organized a weekend of adventures, including a hike up Harney Peak and a welcome campfire on Friday night.  Getting to see our friends from all different points in our lives bonding together over the weekend was one of the greatest parts, and for that reason, I’d highly recommend a destination wedding to any other bride.

If you asked me to describe our wedding going into it, I would have said “classy folksy.”  We wanted big vases of curly willow and greenery, little mason jars stuffed with wildflowers, typewriters and cowboy boots, beautiful hard-bound books, handkerchiefs, baskets of petals, and a campfire.  Matt is a librarian and I just got my law degree, so we took the law & libraries theme and set it in a cabin in the woods.  Laura from Letter Box Ink couldn’t have captured our vision more perfectly than she did in our invitations; she created a book for us, titled “Lawyer Meets Librarian” with eight pages of information for our guests, and an RSVP styled like the library return card tucked in the back.  Our florist, Cynthia with Bent Willow Designs, gave us exactly the style we’d envisioned, with vases overflowing with wildflowers and willow.

We pursued the theme in a number of do it yourself projects, too: we typed the ceremony programs on our typewriter, themed like court orders and officially sealed with a wax stamp.  The escort cards were a library card catalogue; guests looked up their names to find their table.  Each table was an actual Dewey Decimal number (who knew that the Dewey Decimal system included category 0.21: “Library Relationships” ?!).  Matt’s mom hand-stamped bookmarks, which we paired with sea salt caramels (from Giggle Sweets on Etsy) as favors for our guests.  Our guest book was the typewriter, and our incredibly talented friend Dan drew us a tree for guests to fingerprint and sign.  I made paper cones for everyone to fill with petals out of the pages of my Civil Procedure book, which was, I’ll admit, incredibly satisfying to tear to pieces.  We set up my camera in the corner with a box full of costumes and chalkboards, which resulted in some of my favorite photos of the night.

Coming out of the wedding, though, if you asked me to describe it now, I wouldn’t say “classy folksy”; instead, I’d say “joyful.”  All the little details, the pretty things, the DIY projects we spent hours on, fade away in comparison to the feeling of being surrounded by loved ones on such a special day.  Ultimately, what I’m going to cherish isn’t the flowers or the sea-salt caramels, but the memory of my grandfather giving us a benediction, wearing the necklace Matt’s grandfather gave his grandmother the day before their wedding, watching as our guests passed our rings along a ribbon and blessed them before we exchanged them, our TFA best friends surprising us with a choreographed song and dance routine … and then everyone in the room standing up to sing along.  I’ll remember dancing with Matt surrounded by a circle of everyone we love.  I’ll cherish our photos, taken by Mindy Myers, because they completely capture the joy we felt.  That joy, coming out of that love, is what a wedding is really about.

To future brides, I’d recommend: do things your own way!  Everyone on this blog says it, but it’s true.  Make your own traditions, and the day will be that much more special.  Matt and I had our parents walk us toward one another, then he and I shared the walk down the aisle together, and I loved the feeling of facing the ceremony together rather than being “given away” to him.  Instead of tossing the bouquet, we gave it to my grandparents, who had come all the way from Virginia to witness and bless our union.  Our friend Emily wrote us a song, and dancing to it as we entered the reception just felt right.  We had an amazingly delicious carrot cake.  We never chose colors, per se, and our sisters and brother looked fantastic in the outfits they’d picked out for themselves.  I couldn’t be happier that even the most romantic photos of the night seem to include buffalo hats or pirate eye patches.  Your wedding should reflect who you are, even if it’s unexpected.

Most of all, surround yourself with the amazing people in your life, because sharing the day with them is going to be what you end up cherishing the most.

Photography: Mindy Myers Photography / Flowers: Bent Willow Designs / Venue: Sylvan Lake Lodge / Bride’s dress: Marisa, Kleinfeld Bridal / Groom’s suit: Badower’s of Des Moines / Save the dates: Sunshine and Ravioli / Invitations: Letter Box Ink / Cake: Piece of Cake