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Jodie's Tips For Your Gatlinburg Wedding

So many times we go out to do a wedding in a cabin and they have no idea what we want them to do. What we want people to understand through this website (and all our interactions with them) is that it's not so much what we want, as what they want. We are happy to be there and to be part of your special moment, we have no need to be catered in any way. Probably the only time that I really want my opionion listened to is when I'm taking pictures, sometimes what the bride and groom have in mind will not be viable for good pictures, then I will say something like, can we shift over here? or have Rev. Bill stand there? just so I can get the best possible shot. My tip for today is this: RELAX, have fun, and have the wedding you want, not the wedding you think we want.

How do you include your family (without actually including your family)?
Very often people who want to get married in this area, especially people who want to get married in their cabin, just want to leave the family behind. It doesn't mean that they want to totally exclude them from the relationship, they just want to be alone for this one precious moment. It's hard sometimes for the families that have been left behind to understand and appreciate this impulse. There are a couple of ways you can include them without actually having them there. We have had people call their parents on their cell phones and lay them near the "staging area" so the parents could hear the ceremony. We have had many people say that a week or two after their wedding they were having a reception at home (in that case I suggest getting a video and pictures so that the video can be played and a memory album set out for everyone to enjoy). I have had people display photographs of family members around the staging area, and even light candles for family members that have passed. Just remember, with a little creativity and cooperation everyone can feel included even if it's just the two of you in your cabin.

About Rev. Jodie S. Champoux

Jodie was ordained in 1994 and started her wedding ministry soon after, going from cabin to cabin to marry couples. Her favorite part of her job is interacing with the many brides and keeping them on an "even keel" and calm. When you call Smoky Mountain Cabin Weddings it will often be Jodie that you talk to, so feel free to avail yourself of her years of experience with thousands of couples.

Rev. Bill and Jodie,
We wrote you a thank you card and then realized we had deleted the e-mail we had with your mailing address.  Do you mind sending it again? We REALLY appreciate everything you both did to make our wedding day so special.  You guys are awesome! :)  We are attaching one of the beautiful pictures Jodie took. Jodie, you did an amazing job...every single picture is a treasure.  We have watched our video over and over with friends. They have all been astounded that we found such great folks over the Internet. :) We know it was God looking out for us yet again. Best wishes for a delightful holiday season and an abundantly joyful new year!
In His Amazing Love,
Josh and Julie :)
Rev. Jodie S. Champoux
If you have a question you would like me to answer, just send it to: revbill@cabinweddings.com I will be happy to e-mail you an answer & I might use your question for my next tip!

Now that a park wedding is so expensive, what choices do I have? What we like to tell people is "Use what you have." This not only sounds simple, it is! If you want a gorgeous mountain view as the backdrop for your wedding, book a cabin with a gorgeous mountain view. Not only will you save yourself money, you will save yourself tons of aggrevation. You won't have to fight traffic, or even get a permit for your wedding. (One note, however, make sure the rental company allows weddings in the cabin before you book it. Be honest with them as to how many people will attend, but stick to their policies. If their company isn't "wedding friendly," move on, there are thousands of cabins in the area.) . The main thing is to ask a lot of questions about the view and insist on seeing pictures taken from the deck. (A hint: If the pictures show a lot of naked trees "framing" the view, then it's probably what we would call a "winter view," visable only when the trees have no leaves.)

If you look on our "Rental Cabins" page, you'll find links to Jackson Mountain Homes and Timber Tops Cabins, both of whom have a wide assortment of cabins with great mountain views. Another alternative to a park wedding would be an outdoor wedding at "The Pond" or Serenity Falls. Wherever you decide to stage your wedding, remember to relax and have fun!

We would like to involve our children in the service, what can we do? This is a great question, and like many things involving a wedding, there are many different answers to it. The first thing to look at is the age of the child you want to involve. If the child is under five years of age, then about the best you can hope for is to dress them up a bit and hope they don't cry, get sick or talk over the minister throughout the service.

A slightly older child can be involved by asking them to be ring bearers, flower girls, or even walk their Mom down the aisle. (A quick note about asking a young child to be a ring bearer. It is best if you have a wedding outside or on a deck to give them the decorative pillow without the rings on it. We have seen too often where the rings ended up coming off the pillow and down through the cracks of the deck. Although a bit amusing for onlookers, this is a stressor you don't want or need for your wedding day.) Try to keep whatever you ask them to do age-appropriate and fun for them. Most of all, if the child is reluctant about participating in the wedding, then by all means save yourselves the stress and let them sit it out.

We would like to involve our children in the service, what can we do? Part 2... There are a couple of services out there that are designed to help incorporate children into the service. These specialized services seek to honor the "blended family" while they also allow the new parents to make a special commitment to their new wards.

One such service is the "family vows" which I created to allow the new parent to exchange a promise with their partner's children. Rather than asking them to love each other (after all, that might not be something the children feel able to do right that moment) the vows ask the new parent to be a guide and mentor to the child. In return the child promises to respect and listen to the adult. Sometimes the vow exchange is followed up with a present like a necklace or ring to the child. (I've even seen cases where the new parent gives a particularly desired toy to a child as a gift...it depends on how formal the situation and your personal preferences.)

One particularly lovely service I officiated at was a "sand" service. The bride had obtained three glass vases, one with her name, her daughter's name, and and one with her fiance's name engraved. There was a fourth vase with the new last name of the family engraved (this was a much larger vase). The bride had obtained the fine colored sand from a craft store that is used to make sand sculptures. Each person's vase was filled with their favorite color sand. I created a service to give dimension and meaning to the intermingling of the grains of sand and then they all poured their sand in at the same time. The neat thing was that this created a unique sculpture from their favorite colors all mixed together and was something they could cherish as a family forever.

The last kind of service I would like to discuss is the family unity candle. You can obtain unity candles with multiple wicks so that each child lights his/her own wick while the parents light the center wick together. This is also a great meaningful service, but should be restricted to children old enough to handle a candle. As always, feel free to call me (or e-mail me at revbill@cabinweddings.com) if you would like to discuss any of these ideas.

What can I do to make my wedding more "my wedding?"
Too often today, we are forced to accept things the way that everybody else has them. Our clothing is mass manufactured, our food is all the same. The one thing that I think most people want to be personally theirs is their wedding day. The first thing you want to ask yourselves is "what can we do that will best reflect our personalities and our relationship?" For instance, if you are really "outdoorsy" people, it would be out of character to rent a tux and gown and have a formal service. Feel free to show up in the clothing that makes you feel "you." If your relationship is low-key and private, then maybe having 200 people witness your service would not be your style either. Find a way to get married that reflects your relationship, your style. Use those bride magazines for ideas that reflect you more, or, just make something up. If you want to carry streamers or kites or balloons, then, by all means, streamers, kites, and balloons for everybody. Your wedding day shouldn't be just a day of getting dressed in really uncomfortable clothing and worrying whether the flower girl is going to cry, it should be a day to celebrate the joy of your being together, the wonderful experience that you have discovered in each other.

Being a wedding minister in the Smokies means that I've officiated at litteraly thousands of wedding services from the very very simple to the profoundly formal. The ones that have touched me the most are the ones that I know the couple is having a ton of fun and when they look into each other's eyes, it is hard for them to contain all the love they feel for one another. Sometimes it has been the form of a "Jimmy Buffet" wedding (yes, we had plastic palms & parrots & of course margarittas), or sometimes the bride and groom wore sandals and blue jeans. All I knew was that it was most certainly "their" wedding, and nobody would ever quite duplicate that feeling or that moment.

I have about 20 guests & want a wedding on the deck, how can I be sure the deck is big enough?
To be brutally honest, you can't be 100% certain, at least not without staying at the cabin. There are things you can do (short of a pre-wedding "scouting" trip) to be more certain that the deck will be big enough. First thing, look at the pictures provided of the cabin, is the deck a "wrap-around" or just across one side. A wrap-around will give you a lot more flexibility in staging. Next, ask questions. Ask the reservation personnel if they know the approximate dimensions of the deck. If they don't know, see if they can find out by asking the home owner, maintenance, or cleaning personnel. Third, use common sense! If the house is an intimate studio-style one-bedroom cabin, do not expect to get 20 of your closest friends on the deck to have a formal wedding.

I've actually seen where the bride's train was too big for the deck on some of these smaller cabins. The way to avoid this is simple, rent a larger cabin. If you are having 20 or more guests you should rent a 3 to 4 bedroom cabin. Let your immediate families stay there and rent a small honeymoon cabin for the two of you to "escape" to after the wedding. That way the party can continue, but you aren't spending your honeymoon night with your new mother-in-law camped out in the loft above you.

My last point is one I've made often enough...don't try to duplicate a big formal church wedding in a cabin. This is difficult to do. Pare down your guest list (if you can) and simplify the process. If you want a wedding in the smokies & want the big formal thing with lots of guests, then there are chapels that will be a better "fit" than a cabin and you will probably be happier with the results.

What one thing most "cabin-wedding brides" would recommend to future brides.
Most of the brides that we marry in their cabins truly enjoy the simplicity of the whole process. In talking to them later (after all the "new" has worn off their husbands), most say they would have taken more pictures. Now, this isn't the case with all my brides, let's face it, some people hate having their picture taken so much they don't even want wedding photos. Most brides would rather err on the side of too many, rather than too few. One way to have more photos is to take advantage of our complimentary digital photography. Think about it...whether your wedding is ultra casual or very formal you will want a variety of good photographs to remember the day. If it is just the two of you at the service having us take more photos makes even more sense. Just be sure to tell me what you want in terms of quantity and quality of photographs, and I will be glad to customize a package that will suit your budget, your personalities, and your future needs.

What Not to do on Your Honeymoon The following unedited entry from a rental cabin guest book might not, at first glance, seem to have much to do with weddings. Both couples featured in this article are on anniversary weekends, one on their 2nd, and one on their 54th. Read the entry over, and when you’ve quit laughing yourself sick, I will explain why this is so very valuable for a couple who are planning their wedding.

Day 1
We’ve just arrived for 3 nights of “Relaxation” and to celebrate our 2nd anniversary. Its Todd & I’s both 2nd marriage and we’re both so happy! “Bear Trap” is “perfect” so cozy and inviting…Let the celebration begin! We also met our temporary neighbors tonight. Mr. & Mrs. Smith from Ohio. They are an elderly couple on their 54th wedding anniversary, they are so cute!

Day 2
What a day! Spent most of it at Dollywood looking at the crafts and watching shows. We came back to the cabin to spend a relaxing romantic night by the fireplace. Started the fire…opened the wine…and got “comfortable.” Everything was perfect until the fire burned low. It was dark out so Todd wrapped a towel about his waist to go on the porch for wood. Just as he bent over to pick some up, his towel slipped just in time for the Smith’s to turn in and frame him in the headlights of their Lincoln. Well, within 30 minutes the deputy arrived, it took 45 minutes for me and Mrs. Smith to get Mr. Smith to drop the charges! Mrs. Smith now won’t leave us alone; she keeps knocking at the door with “chores” for my husband!

Day 3
Spent most of today in the Smokies. “How Beautiful!” We came back to our “Bear Trap” to try our romantic evening again. Once again it stated out so perfect but alas, after two years, I guess the “Honeymoon” is over and that’s when “IT” happened! Todd just had to prove that “toots” are “flammable.” How Horrible. He stood on the hearth, spread his cheeks and with a huge grin, “proved” his point! The sight of blue flames shooting up, scorching his bottom was terrifying. I was so startled that I jerked and sent my roasted marshmallow flying onto the couch. I’ve turned the cushion over and its hardly noticeable now. The paramedics arrived very fast! They dressed Todd’s burns and before leaving renamed the cabin “Blue Flame Bear Trap.” Now Mrs. Smith keeps coming over to help “dress” Todd’s burns….

Day 4
Going Home! Spent most of the morning getting the smell of burnt flesh out of our beautiful cabin. You can hardly tell a thing! I apologize for disrupting the tranquility of the mountains, but we did have a memorable time! The cabin was terrific, romantic and quaint. The emergency personnel of Sevier County very professional and courteous. We sure do look forward to coming back!

P.S. Please don’t tell Mrs. Smith when we’re coming back!

Well, what did we learn, boys and girls? We learned that the best-laid plans could go awry, and that no matter what happens, handle it with a sense of humor. Too often I have seen a bride (or even more often her mother) freaking out over the littlest thing. This colors the mood for everybody, stresses the guests, the minister, the attendants, and especially the groom. Remember, if you (the wedding couple) are on time and the minister has shown up prepared to do his/her job, you have all the essential elements of a wedding ceremony. Everything else is window dressing. Don’t sweat the window dressing. I know every body has an idea of what their wedding should be, but sometimes what actually transpires is much more fun (and memorable) than this perfect fairy-tale vision.

In the above diary entry that couple will have a very funny story to tell for the rest of their lives together. Had nothing interesting happened, the weekend would have been just a faint memory by the time they reach their 10th anniversary.

The last thing I want you to take away from this is: always know where the fire extinguishers are.
K.I.S.S...Keep it Simple, Sweetheart
Rev. Bill and I are always astounded how two people alone in a cabin can really complicate a simple thing like a cabin wedding. I can understand if you have a few dozen of your closest friends and relatives...then you are guaranteed to have complications...but two people? A classic case involved a couple that picked the most difficult spot in their cabin to get to, then had recorded about 45 minutes of music to soundtrack a 15-20 minute service (with lyrics being sung during the ceremony, never a great idea). This was all being recorded on their camcorder which was propped up on a window sill because they forgot their tri-pod. They were so "married" to this production they wouldn't even be flexible to move things indoors when a sewage truck showed up on the adjoining hill and the fumes from the pumping got overwhelming (and then there was the "beep beep beep...).

I think the lesson to be learned here is to keep things simple, be flexible, and don't get too "married" to a particular idea. In terms of simplicity I have found a great service that I know you brides will appreciate. You can take your gowns to Fantasy Bridal and Formalwear to be professionally steamed to get out the wrinkles that are bound to set in from travelling. Even if you don't have a formal gown, but are wearing a nice dress, a pants suit, or anything that is not totally casual you might want to avail yourself of their services.

Another way to keep things simple is by getting your flowers from Kroger on Wears Valley Rd. ((865) 429-0874) or Food City on the Parkway in downtown Pigeon Forge ((865) 453-4977). While you're there stop by the deli & pick up a nice cheese/meat tray for yourselves (simple, right?). My point is this: make it easy so you can have a stress-free relaxing day with your honey to enjoy getting married. Now you tell me where in all those volumes of "wedding guides" they talk about enjoying a stress free wedding?
Put Your Best Face Forward
Well, here it is your big day, you get all ready, your calm, cool, collected. After all, you're marrying the greatest guy ever, right. You don't think you're going to cry, after all, your not that sentimental. Then the moment comes when he's putting the ring on your finger, saying those words, "With this ring, I thee wed." and the waterworks start. Will you be ready?

I know, you don't think you'll cry (or you're sure you'll cry, in which case you'll be prepared), so you wear the make up that you normally would wear, the stuff that's easy to get off. Well, that means the last couple of pictures of your wedding service probably will include the famous "raccoon" look from your mascara wandering down your cheeks. What's more, you will have to delay the proceedings to go "fix" yourself afterward.

Today's hint is simple....use waterproof makeup for your "big day." Even if you don't think you will cry, there is a good chance you will, so, better safe than sorry. Just remember, the waterproof stuff will come off just as easily with a good makeup remover, and you will be glad that in your pictures you don't look like "Rocky Raccoon."

A Great Site for an Outdoor Wedding
For most people who are just bringing a couple of friends, our outdoor wedding location "The Pond" is a wonderful, inexepensive site for their Gatlinburg wedding.

Picture a gazebo in front of a cool, quiet pond surrounded by old growth forest. Quiet, private, and perfect for the wedding pictures. Add to that this location is a bargain, with rates at just $145, you will have the quiet destination wedding you desire with this wonderful location. Just look at our Outdoor Weddings page for a full gallery of pictures and the link to book your perfect destination wedding. Oh, and did I mention that there is a picnic pavilion just a short walk from the gazebo (just in case the weather doesn't cooperate?) Now that's what I call being covered!

Blending a Family?
Many couples find themselves creating (blending) a family as much as creating a couple. To this end we have developed a few things over the years to make this process fun and meaningful.

The first we can do is "Family Vows." These vows are performed after the vows between the husband and wife. Basically the "new" parent promises to care for and guide their partner's children and the children promise to listen to and respect their "new" parent. If both parents have children, then all of the children promise to respect each other. Another thing we can add to any service is to have each parent's respective children "give" them to be married. The other thing we have often done is to have all of the children participate with the parents in a Sand Service or Unity Candle Service. Of course if you have an idea of what will work for your unique blended family give us a call!