How our wedding celebrated our outdoorsy lifestyle

You know that guy, Derek, who I always to refer to as my “hiking buddy” in my blog? We’ve been dating for six years, and last weekend, we made our commitment to each other official on the shore of Millinocket Lake near Baxter State Park.


Photo courtesy of Linda O’Kresik of LCO Photography

The backdrop of the wedding ceremony was Katahdin, Maine’s tallest mountain, and appropriately so. It was atop that very mountain that Derek asked me to marry him last September. I was sick at the time — down with a cold or some sort of nasty bug — but everyone in my hiking party kept encouraging me to make it to the summit. You’re doing great, they told me. You don’t look that pale… Now I know why they were so merciless. Everyone knew Derek was carrying a beautiful ruby engagement ring in his rain jacket.

Though weddings are very personal events, I’d feel remiss if I didn’t share a bit about our big day with BDN readers. After all, you’ve followed Derek and I on so many adventures. And I agree with my fellow BDN writer Chris Cousins, who recently wrote on my Facebook wall: “Down the aisle was the best 1-minute hike you’ll ever take.”


Photo courtesy of Linda O’Kresik

Of course, so many things went into the big day. I could tell you about the huge success of our makeshift photobooth, or about how we found our wedding venue — New England Outdoor Center. I could write about the angst of choosing the wedding party or the danger of searching for images of “naked wedding cake” on Google.

But what I think BDN readers would really be interested in is the many ways Derek and I tried to incorporate our outdoorsy lifestyle and enthusiasm about the Maine wilderness into the special event.

One of my first attempts at wood burning. My mom took home the keepsake.

Photo courtesy of Linda O’Kresik. One of my first attempts at wood burning. My mom took home the keepsake.

Like many couples, Derek and I wanted our wedding celebration to be a reflection of some of the things we care about most. Therefore, we wanted our wedding to be “outdoorsy,” natural, rustic and 100 percent Maine.

It wasn’t difficult. There are all sorts of ideas on the internet. But the best idea came from Derek.

“Instead of numbering the tables at the reception, why don’t we name the tables after hikes we’ve been on?” Derek said to me early in the wedding planning process. “We could frame photos we’ve taken during the hikes and put them on the tables.”

If he hadn’t already won my heart, he would have then.

Photo courtesy of Linda O'Kresik

Photo courtesy of Linda O’Kresik

In the four years I’ve been writing (and filming) my “1-minute hike” column, Derek and I have explored many wonderful trails. But we only had 10 guest tables in the reception tent, so we chose 10 of the most memorable Maine hikes we’ve been on together so far:

Mount Abraham, Cutler Coast, Eagle Rock, Precipice, Cadillac Mountain, Doubletop Mountain, Tumbledown Mountain, Schoodic Head, The Owl and Mount Kineo.

And for our “sweetheart table,” we of course chose Maine’s beloved Katahdin.

In addition to framing a photo from each hike, I purchased a wood burning kit and created rustic wooden signs for each table arrangement, which consisted of antique mason jars filled with smooth stones and topped off with bright flowers of gold, oranges and reds, and Queen Anne’s lace that my dad and stepmom harvested last minute from the side of the road.

Photo by Aislinn Sarnacki Derek and his friend Seth paddle boarding before our wedding rehearsal.

Photo by Aislinn Sarnacki
Derek and his friend Seth paddle boarding before our wedding rehearsal.

Of course, the venue itself was reflective of our outdoorsy lifestyle. The NEOC Twin Pines Cabins is a community of beautiful lodges scattered among tall white pines on the shore of Millinocket Lake. There my guests could rent kayaks and stand up paddle boards, play with their children on the small sandy beaches or explore nearby hiking trails.

The night before our wedding, Derek and I sat with a group of friends on a big dock and stared up at the dazzling Milky Way.

Photo courtesy of Linda O'Kresik. My dad and I walking to the aisle.

Photo courtesy of Linda O’Kresik. My dad and I walking to the aisle.

On the big day, my walk down the aisle started on the porch of a cabin. My dad helped me gather up my ivory tulle skirt so I could pass under the pine trees ahead without collecting too many needles. We then navigated around a big boulder and over some roots before reaching the lawn by the lake. The rest was a piece of cake.

I’ve heard that “the wedding is all about the dress.” I don’t agree, but I was very happy with my dress, which I purchased from Andrea’s Bridal in Portland. The dress was made by Waters and the design is called “Penelope.” It’s comfortable, flowy and not too fussy. There are no beads or pearls or gems — just a bit of lace, an illusion neckline and a lot of flowing tulle. The under layer is a bronze silk, which peeked through the ivory layers to make the gown look a bit earthy.

The layers of tulle also made for a good bug net. Just a few minutes after reaching Derek, I discovered a fly crawling underneath a layer across my stomach and had to dispatched it — with a squish and a sweep of the hand — as gracefully as possible.

Photo courtesy of Linda O'Kresik

Photo courtesy of Linda O’Kresik

For the cake, we went with something natural. Made by Kara Griffin of Flour Box Bakery and Boutique in Bangor, the lemon-blackberry cake was a style called a “naked cake,” with frosting between the layers but not covering the outside. Blueberries, blackberries and raspberries were scattered on each tier. And for the cake topper, I found just the thing (on, no less) — the silhouette of a couple and their dog standing by a tree.


Photo by Aislinn Sarnacki

Our dog, Oreo, couldn’t be at the wedding, unfortunately. He’s just not good with crowds. I was a little sad that he couldn’t be there, so before heading to Millinocket, Derek and I organized a photo shoot in our backyard. We dressed Oreo up in an orange tie — the same color the groomsmen were going to wear — and photographed him with our wedding rings. Somehow, that made me feel better.

We also photographed our housecats, Bo and Arrow, with the rings. When Bo tried to consume Derek’s gold band, we called it quits.

For the wedding party gifts, I decided to go with an outdoorsy theme. Each of my seven bridesmaids received a towel with their name on it to use at the lake, as well as a glass cup with a lid and straw, which were classy but also practical for keeping out insects. They also received some non-outdoorsy items — nail polish and jewelry.


Photo by Aislinn Sarnacki

Derek gifted his groomsmen with leather koozies displaying a map of Maine, as well as some necessary items — their orange ties and socks.

I think the most outdoorsy moment of the wedding happened without any planning, though. After tromping around to take photos with my wedding party and my brand new husband, I was walking to the reception tent when I felt something catch at one of my bejeweled slippers.

“Oh no,” I thought. “My dress has already snagged on something.”

Photo courtesy of Linda O'Kresik

Photo courtesy of Linda O’Kresik

I looked down and at first, I thought the delicate tulle skirt was torn and unraveling. I bent down. And upon closer inspection realized that my dress was fine. My legs were wrapped in a tangle of fishing line.

Derek sprang into action to release me. By now, he’s used to me getting into inexplicable messes. And now as my husband, it’s his solemn duty to help me out.

A few more photos:


Aislinn Sarnacki

About Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at