Hiking boots, bug spray, long underwear — not your typical packing list for a wedding.
Unless it’s a summer-camp wedding, a hot new twist on the destination wedding. Such nuptials are increasingly popular, wedding planners say, and offer a mix of nostalgia and adventure.
“I was never that girl who grew up dreaming about her wedding dress, about her wedding day,” said Lorelle Binder, who got married last year at Camp Highlander in Horse Shoe, North Carolina.
Instead of engaging in the quintessential hotel or ballroom revelry, Binder’s guests spent the weekend doing traditional camp activities, including a color war.
“Everyone there was able to relive their childhood, and that was something we could give to our guests,” Binder said.
There are many reasons for the summer-camp wedding, but couples often choose it because they love the outdoors.
“It’s one of the newer trends, and I don’t think it’s going anywhere,” said Tonia Adleta, a Philadelphia wedding planner.
Destination weddings accounted for 1 out of every 4 nuptial ceremonies, according to a 2014 report from The Knot, which studies industry trends. Summer-camp weddings can capture the same appeal as a far-flung destination, but in a low-key and often low-cost way.
“What happens is that the wedding weekend turns into a family reunion, or it’s a time for the families from both sides to really get to know each other,” said Drew Taylor, who co-owns the 120-acre Kingsley Pines Camp in Raymond, Maine.
Taylor said the camp has hosted about 10 weddings a year in recent years, and the number has been growing.
Extended families typically “come in on Friday and stay all weekend,” she said. “Their meals and activities are provided.”
David Blacker, who got married in 2009 at a camp called Club Getaway in Kent, Connecticut, said he saved money: “The cabin was a fraction of the price a hotel would have been.”
For many couples, a camp wedding simply sounds like fun.
“We weren’t sure people were going to be game for this — showering in a public shower and all,” said Alison Bartolone, who got married at Sheldon Calvary Camp in Conneaut, Ohio, in 2013. But her guests “were enthusiastic and had a lot of fun with it,” she said. One group even broke into the camp’s costume closet one evening.
“It was old-school fun,” Bartolone said.
Mandee and Thor Morgan, who now live in Denver, met while working as counselors at Camp Highlander. They got married at the camp for sentimental reasons, and also because it let them incorporate their outdoorsy lifestyle into the big day.
“The biggest draw for us was that it wouldn’t be a quick night when we wouldn’t get to see anyone for more than a couple seconds,” Thor Morgan said. “It was a long weekend where people could do activities they had never done before and all in an outdoors setting.”
A summer camp also can offer some relief from the typical pre-wedding frenzy.
“What camp allowed us to do was to forget about the little tiny details, such as the table settings, signs, lighting, and focus more on our friends, family and the beauty of Maine,” said Emily Tong, who married Cory Elowe in 2014 at Camp-O-At-Ka in Sebago, Maine.
Of course, camp weddings aren’t for everyone. Bad weather can cast a pall, especially if you insist on wearing stiletto heels through the mud.
“If you’re the type of couple that wants to be at the Ritz or the Four Seasons, a camp wedding is definitely not going to work for you,” said Adleta. “It’s a completely different animal.”