You’re lying if you haven’t spent time and energy daydreaming about your ideal wedding. If you’re the type who takes themes to extremes, you know you’ve wondered what it would be like to have a Renaissance wedding. Who doesn’t want to feel like a king and a queen for a day?
For creative and artistic types, modern wedding trends can leave little to be desired. You feel forced to drop upwards of $30k on a wedding that may be enviable and impressive, but looks just like everyone else’s wedding. If you’re someone who values self-expression—as well as capturing a very specific type of ambience—you should consider a Renaissance or medieval-themed wedding, as it can not only be executed on a limited budget, but ensures an experience that lingers in your guest’s memory and sets it apart from others.
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If anyone has executed this theme to perfection, it would be my best friends Alek & Christina Hermon-Hayes. Christina owns Ferngully Studio, a tattoo and permanent makeup shop in Portland, Oregon, while Alek is the lead chef at Katchka, a Russian-style restaurant that is also Portland-based. Allow me to take you on a tour through their Renaissance-themed wedding, which took place during September, 2022 in the remote town of Rainier, Oregon, a place where you’re surrounded by trees that vastly outnumber the people. It was also accomplished on a budget of no more than around $10k.
As long as you’re willing to research the Renaissance-themed traditions that speak to you, keep an open mind and embrace a DIY vibe, your wedding will not only be a success, but it will capture the meaning of the word “renaissance” in its purest form. Let’s not forget that the Renaissance was a period of creative and artistic rebirth that lasted from the 15th to 16th century. It was during this time that weddings started becoming more elaborate and ornate, which makes a Renaissance wedding perfect for a couple that wants to start off on a joyful, celebratory and coin-saving foot.
If you’d like to transport your guests back in time, here are a few tips on how to have a Renaissance wedding on a budget:
How to Have a Renaissance Wedding
Choose an Unconventional Venue
The beauty of a Renaissance wedding is that your venue doesn’t need to be polished or overly manicured. As long as your wedding takes place in a beautiful natural setting, the venue will astonish your guests either way. This wedding took place at Camp Wilkerson Park, which is one of the most lush and secluded parks in Columbia County, Oregon, where they were able to reserve cabins for the bride and groom, as well as a main lodge for the guests to dine and toast in, all for under $2k.
Create a Map of the Wedding Venue
If you’re a fan of embarking on adventures through fantasy realms in which dragons roam the Earth, then you know you’ll want to create a map of your wedding venue for guests to have on hand. This is your opportunity to design the map of your dreams, so call upon your memories of fast-traveling through Skyrim or studying the geography of Middle Earth.
Hire a Flutist & Violinist
When it comes to the music of the Renaissance, simplicity is key. All that is required is a flutist and a violinist combined with birds chirping and the rustling of the wind through the trees. Your guests will be moved to tears as they hear soft melodies announce the beginning of the wedding procession. The musicians hired at this wedding were Phil and Gail Neuman, who are both academics in the field of medieval music. Their cost for this wedding was just $400.
Cleanse Your Wedding Aisle
As you plan your procession, make sure to include a cleansing ritual for your wedding aisle. At my best friends’ wedding, an elf held burning herbs and incense in an abalone shell and allowed the smoke to rid the aisle of negative forces at work. This ritual allows the bride and groom to start with a clean slate, as this ritual would never have been forgotten during a Renaissance-era wedding. Make no mistake—no evil eyes were seen at this wedding. 🧿
Make Sure Your Wedding Procession Is Costumed
At my best friend’s Renaissance wedding, the wedding procession felt like a glorious fashion show that also felt incredibly intimate and sentimental. The bride and grooms loved ones were all dressed to the nines, wearing an ensemble that would have been suitable for any Renaissance faire. It was lovely to see each family member taking the opportunity to express themselves in costume before celebrating the bride and groom’s love. It made it feel as though you were being introduced to all the many characters in this Renaissance-era love story.
Honor Your Heritage & Family Traditions
Everyone’s ancestral heritage stretches back into the Renaissance era. What traditions were your ancestors participating during this period of time in history? Our bride Christina Hermon-Hayes has ancestral ties to Scotland, which is why her father walked her down the aisle wearing an old fashioned kilt. Taking this extra step will remind you to take a step back and honor your legacy and the way you’re merging your lineage with that of your betrothed. This is also the country the bride and groom chose to honeymoon in, which is more than appropriate.
Have the Bride & Groom Share a Drink at the Altar
It is custom in old Renaissance wedding traditions for the bride and groom to share a goblet of wine or alcohol. This will signify “one blood” or “one kin” between both sides of the family. In this case, the liquor was scotch, sipped with the traditional Quaich ceremony to honor Christina’s Scottish ancestry.
Raise Swords as They Take Their First Steps
As the bride and groom take their first steps down the aisle, your guests should raise their swords and provide a protective barrier above them. This allows your guests to offer you strength and protection as you start your family together. You can also offer some of your guests ribbon sticks to soften the effect.
Hire a Falconer & Owl Keeper
It is not uncommon to see a pair of doves be released at a wedding, symbolizing harmony and peace between the bride and groom. Turn it up a notch at your Renaissance wedding by hiring a falconer and an owl keeper, as watching these birds fly up and around the venue was a joy for all. At my best friends’ wedding, we were all able to take photos with these birds! Your guests will love you forever for giving them a chance to pose with an owl, believe you me.
Hire a Tarot Reader
People relied on divination forms and fortune telling even more during the Renaissance era. By hiring a Tarot reader, you’ll give your wedding guests a chance to take stock of their own lives and have hope for their own futures. After all, a wedding is always a momentous occasion and often stirs deep emotions within your guests. By giving them a chance to speak with an oracle, you’re helping them make sense of it all.
Create a Makeshift Longhouse
Let’s harken back to the cozy warmth of wooden Viking longhouses, as any cabin can be transported into a wedding venue fit for a celebration. This cabin at Camp Wilkerson was decorated in a whimsical and lighthearted fashion that reminded you of spring afternoons spent at your local Renaissance faire. If you’re unable to reserve a cabin, you can easily create the same effect with a playfully decorated tent.
Recreate Your Favorite Scenes
Which stories, video games and movies remind you of ye old Renaissance? No need to be too rigid about adhering to the correct time periods, as everyone knows the Renaissance faire accepts a blend of any time period in which you had to brandish a sword during times of conflict and upheaval. Call upon your favorite references when planning your wedding, as we all helped the groom enact this iconic scene from Braveheart (1995): “Tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom”!
Have a Sword Fight
On that note, what would a Renaissance wedding be without a sword fight? At this wedding, the groom announced a tournament of knights by engaging in a sword fight with his best man. As both men clashed in their heavy suits of armor, their guests were both thrilled and filled with belly-aching laughter.
Don’t Forget to Let Loose & Have Fun
The best part of a Renaissance-themed wedding? It should be fun, messy, silly and over-the-top! Instead of worrying whether everything goes according to plan and looks flawless, this theme encourages you to tap into the lighthearted energy of the Renaissance faire. There should be plenty of laughs, drinks and rowdiness, as no one partied harder than our ancestors.
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