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I hope your manners are nice and polished, because after spending all morning with this Portland wedding, you are going to be profusely thanking the talent of Stott Shots Photography and Videography. I know I have been since I first laid eyes on it. There are so many fantastic pieces to this soiree, but they are all made even better by the couples’ obvious love. It’s beautiful. Make sure to check out the gallery on this one – it’s packed full of image after pretty image!
My husband, Nick, and I met while attending the University of Washington in Seattle. We formally met when Nick interviewed for a job with the student government. I was the student body president at the time and served on the hiring committee. He was such a professional during the interview – he took each question very seriously and I knew right away that he would be a fantastic student leader. I certainly did not look at him in any romantic capacity at that time! Nick ended up getting hired for the position and we became co-workers and great friends. We both still look back fondly at our time together in student government and treasure the moments we shared with other students, all passionate about doing good in the world.
Nick and I stayed good friends for the next few years, even after we moved to different cities. Nick eventually moved to Connecticut and I left Seattle to attend law school at Cornell. I’ll never forget arriving at the Syracuse airport, with only two suitcases (nothing short of a miracle for me, the consumate clotheshorse!), and with my only friend on the East Coast – Nick – waiting to pick me up and help me move to my new town. I was incredibly nervous, but the second I saw him I felt myself breathe a small sigh of relief, knowing that at the very least I had one friend nearby to rely on.
Over the next months, our friendship grew into much more and we eventually started dating. In fact, we dated for more than six years before deciding to get married. We went through so much change over those years but were lucky that the one thing that stayed consistent was that we grew with each other and developed an incredibly strong relationship throughout the various trials and tribulations. Let this story be a lesson to those out there looking for a life partner — a friendship can most certainly develop into the greatest love of your life! …
We loved this couple so much that when we heard that in addition to this gorgeous wedding and highlight film, courtesy of Stott Shots Photography and Videography, there was also a full Cambodian ceremony to celebrate this couples love, we just had to see it. And when we saw it, we just had to share it. So here you go!
I am Cambodian American and grew up in a very traditional Cambodian home. It was incredibly important to my family (and myself) to incorporate our culture in the wedding celebrations. Nick and I decided to have a traditional one and a half day long Cambodian wedding weekend in my hometown, Vancouver, WA, followed by a small civil ceremony in New York in support of marriage equality (we always knew we wanted to get married in a state where marriage is legal for all — we originally planned on Washington D.C. but were thrilled when our own state passed the new law) and, last but not least, a “Western” wedding in Portland, which incorporated my Cambodian heritage and Nick’s Scottish heritage, as well as other cultures, one month later. How lucky were we to have three weddings?!?
The Cambodian wedding weekend was a family and community effort. My parents, auntie, uncles, cousins, and countless friends and loved ones (including two from Cambodia) worked tirelessly to prepare the wedding festivities. They cooked amazing traditional food, pulled together the most beautiful wardrobe (I had seven costume changes!), decorated the venues, played the music at the reception — they really did it all! The Cambodian ceremonies at my parents’ home featured traditional wedding rituals, including blessings from monks, a procession of the groom, his family, and the guests through my childhood neighboorhood, a hair cutting ceremony (to signify the shedding of our old selves and the start of our new life together), string-tying ceremony (guests tied red strings around our wrists and provide a blessing; the strings tied by the parents and the elder running the ceremony remain on until they fall off), a circle of light ceremony (couples married 10+ years sat around us and passed a candle around while providing blessings). All of this was topped off by a dinner reception for 450 people, with live Cambodian classical and modern music, as well as a performance by children from the Cambodian classical dance troupe that I performed with when I was younger.
My favorite memory from the Cambodian festivities was seeing how seamlessly Nick’s non-Cambodian family blended with my very Cambodian friends and family, and feeling all of the love and energy from both sides of the family. Truly, all of our friends and family came together for a magical weekend — my uncle from Cambodia, who was separated from my dad over 30 years ago during the terrible war in Cambodia, came to the the US for the festivities (his first trip outside of Cambodia), and even Nick’s 93 year old grandfather pushed aside his wheelchair at the reception in order to dance!
As for our “Western” wedding, Nick and I spent a lot of time and effort coming up with every little detail and were blessed to find the perfect vendors, in addition to family and friends, who helped execute our vision. We actually secretly started wedding planning six months before we got engaged because we wanted the planning to be “our” thing, without input from anyone else. I highly recommend this for couples who are antsy about too much family involvement! The experience was a great way for us to bond in a new way.
We chose our ceremony venue because we wanted to get married in a church, but a church whose principles and religious views align with our own and explicitly seek to include of people from all walks of life. We found the perfect fit with the First Unitarian Church. We chose our reception venue because we immediately liked and trusted Via, our contact with the venue (super important since we live across the country from our reception venue), and also because the catering featured locally sourced products and is in my favorite Portland neighborhood, the Pearl District, which feels like a little slice of Brooklyn to us.
Our wedding ceremony was planned from start to finish by the two of us. We wanted the ceremony to feel very intimate, so each detail came from one of our heads and involved someone close to us. We opened the ceremony with a prayer by my best friend and matron of honor, in recognition of our Christian beliefs. The officiant was a dear friend and judge who I used to intern for in law school. We worked with her to develop the script for the ceremony, which included some reflections that she shared during our civil ceremony in New York. We wrote our vows together and also wrote personal sentiments to share with each other in front of our friends and family. I am a huge music afficianado, so the songs selected for the string quartet to play before, during and after the ceremony, as well as some of the DJ’s song selections at the reception, took a long time to choose. For example, I’ve wanted to walk down the aisle to a string version of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Hysteric” for years, and I spent a lot of time tracking down the sheet music online!
We also asked four of our friends to share their reflections on marriage and love. Each person brought a unique perspective: there was a modern version of the Seven Blessings (we have great affinity for the Jewish religion and culture since moving to NYC), a Navajo blessing, a reading of “Love” by Roy Croft, as well as one friend’s personal reflections. At the altar, we created a small display in recognition of our ancestors. Rather than lighting a unity candle, both sets of parents lit incense at the altar, a Cambodian Buddhist tradition. We incorporated the Cambodian string-tying ritual into our ceremony, and each set of parents tied a red string to our wrist as a blessing. We also incorporated the Scottish “pinning of the tartan” ceremony, where Nick’s mom, on behalf of his family, pinned their family tartan to me as a sign of their acceptance of my family and I into theirs. It was incredibly meaningful to have our ceremony feature each of our heritages, as well as other cultures that we respect and love. Hands down, my favorite moment of the ceremony was when Nick and I exchanged personal sentiments with each other, reflecting on why we love each other in front of our family and friends.
We wanted the cozy feeling to continue at the reception, so we worked with the venue to create four very long rows of tables to seat our 180 guests, which made the dinner feel more “family style.” We also wanted the reception to feature a mix of elements from the Pacific Northwest (where we grew up), parts of my Cambodian heritage, with touches of NYC (where we’ve lived for almost our entire relationship). To that end, the reception featured gorgeous, lush and woodsy floral installations, and locally sourced food, desserts, beer, wine and liquor to reflect the Pac NW; table runners made out of traditional Cambodian silk and homemade Cambodian desserts as a shout-out to my heritage; and miscellaneous “city” touches to reflect our current hometown — the open, gallery-like venue, naming each table after some of our favorite city locations, along with a description of why each location holds a special place in our hearts. Other favorite reception items were: the stunning floral wall, which stemmed from a picture I found during a late night on Pinterest, the collection of love related books, a wall and table of family wedding photos and photos of us (created by Nick’s mom), as well as a bevy of awesome Etsy finds, some stemming from my ideas, others purchased directly from buyers (“Keep Calm and Marry On” signage, personalized cake topper, “Mr.” and “Mrs.” chair signs, birdcage for cards, photobooth props, love and marriage themed books, etc.). Although it was a very small thing, our favorite touch at the reception was handwritten notes written to each guest, which we placed at each table, thanking them for coming and explaining why they are an important part of our lives.
As for wedding favors, we created CDs of our favorite love songs, each of which played at some point during the wedding festivities, found a design for the CD label and cover, and one of our wedding attendants went through the painstaking process of assembling almost 200 labels and covers. We also made out-of-town guest bags which were filled with local snacks and information on Portland, sourced from farmers markets, local stores, and the Chamber of Commerce by another amazing wedding attendant.
Photographer: Kacie, Kyle and Dylan of Stott Shots Photography and Videography / Videographer: Troy Costa, Stott Shots Photography and Videopgraphy / Floral Designer: Rosemary Stafford Floral Design / Day-of Coordinator: Ryan Mattson / Stationery: Jack & Jill Wedding / Dessert Table & Floral Wall: Amy Childs of One Divine Party / Wedding gown: Jenny Lee, from Divine Designs / Reception Dress: Leanne Marshall / Bridesmaid’s Dress Designer: Jenny Woo / Linen, Chair and Lighting Rentals: West Coast Productions / Hotel: The Nines / Out-of-Town Guest Bags: Wedding Chicks / Ceremony Music: Collage Music / DJ: Maushole / Ceremony Site: First Unitarian Church / Reception Site & Catering: Urban Studio, Pearl Catering / Hair: Salon 77 / Makeup: Event Cosmetics / Photobooth: The Original Photobooth