There's a lot that Devon Bergum doesn't remember about her decade-long romance with Ross Ballinger — like how they first met, for example.
She's pretty sure they shared calculus class freshman year, and that her future husband sat in the front. But she's also pretty sure that they didn't actually speak that year (quite a feat considering they attended a pretty tiny liberal arts college in Ohio).
Ballinger, however, claims to remember the fateful moment when they first found each other. “Ross says that he was in a dorm room, talking with friends of mine, describing his ideal lady,” Bergum says. “And they were like 'you've got to meet Devon!' And he said, within five minutes, I walked through the door asking for sugar.”
While she can't remember that exchange, or their first kiss for that matter, she says she can vividly recall the turning point in their relationship — a simple moment that preceded that first kiss by a few months.
“There was this Saturday night where we were both at different parties, mine was theater, his was football, and we decided to meet up on this street corner at Woodlawn and College. We talked for 10 minutes. We wanted to kiss incredibly bad, but didn't. And then we turned around and went back to our parties. It makes no sense, but it's true.”
Then Bergum left promptly for study abroad in France. They kept in touch, and Ballinger was the first person she saw when she got back: “I was like, 'Yup, he's just as wonderful as I remember.'”
She also remembers their first official date, probably because it happened at his parents' house. “He took me down to Cincinnati and we slept in separate bedrooms,” she remembers. “It was pretty bold.”
Six months into their relationship, Bergum says she knew this was it. “I had this calm feeling about him,” she says. “He is the most open, the most accepting of people. He was just it.” But, as they continued to date for the next eight years, they left their families wondering if they would ever tie the knot.
“We'd get harassed by family and friends,” Bergum confirms, but says she wasn't in a rush. “We were always just going to do other things that were more exciting to us. We love to travel and there were few dull moments with us.” Instead, they road-tripped across the country for a month post-college and, later, made some big changes so they could see the world.
“Ross quit his job so we could travel around the world," Bergum says, noting that people thought they were crazy. "We bought an open-ended, around-the-world ticket and were gone for eight months. We went from LA to Fiji, to New Zealand, to southeast Asia, up into Tokyo, then Hong Kong, ending in Egypt.”
One day, getting married became the most exciting, adventurous thing they could possibly do together.
It was after Christmas and the couple had just moved from Minneapolis to Rochester together, but had decided to celebrate the new year in Turkey. On an abandoned beach, that same feeling of calm came over Bergum. “Looking at him,” she says, “I was like, 'He's going to ask.' And he did.”
And then she asked him right back. He said "yes."
“He didn't have a ring. It wasn't planned,” Bergum recalls. “And then we didn't tell anyone for the month. It was our secret. We told people in Turkey, but we wanted to tell our family in person.”
Ballinger soon re-proposed, with a pearl ring, at Bergum's childhood home, in the fort where'd she played as a kid with the neighbors. “Me and these other girls had etched our name into a this log," she remembers, "so Ross and I drew a heart with a ring around and both etched our names.”
Then the pair jumped right into wedding planning. “We could not be bothered to have a long engagement,” Bergum said. They even debated eloping somewhere exotic before settling on a September day in Minnesota.
Sept. 07, 2013, became the official date once they'd secured the venue: Singing Hills Girl Scout Camp. With a lake to swim in, walkability, and general adorableness, it was the perfect spot — but most importantly, it would not shut down. In other words: the party would never have to stop.
“We didn't want people driving, so we rented out the whole camp," Bergum says. "It was so fun. And on Friday night all of our families came in and ate at the dining hall. Having all our friends and family in these little cabins was too much happiness.”
As an added bonus, the Girl Scouts earned a little extra coin. “We felt better giving that money to the Girl Scouts,” Bergum explains.
After seven months of intensely personal DIY prep, the couple invited all their loved ones at camp. And it was a lot of DIY. Most of the cute, atmospheric details came pre-packaged with the venue — down to the classic plastic silverware and camp cups — which left Bergum and Ballinger able to devote their time to personalizing the big stuff.
“We wanted to highlight our friends and family who have wonderful skills,” Bergum said.
So while the twosome designed their our own save-the-dates and wedding invitations, Bergum's mom made her daughter's perfect wedding dress, with a sweetheart neckline and A-line skirt draped in sheer floral applique.
“She made our clothes when we were little,” Bergum says, “and there was this one fabric I couldn't stop pining over.”
Ballinger's mom was in charge of the flowers, bought from a farmer friend of Bergum's. “Our friends helped put the bouquets together,” she says, “but his mom made my bouquet and the boutonnieres. She's an excellent florist.”
Bergum, a small-scale farmer herself, tackled some of the food: “We grew a ton of the vegetables for the wedding.” But the flatbreads, pork tenderloin and post-ceremony popcorn were taken care of by the caterer, yet another friend.
Kimie, their wedding photographer and buddy from college, was called upon to capture the big day — a day that began with something of a snag. “We didn't have our wedding bands,” Bergum admits. “We'd ordered them the week before, because we'd completely forgotten, and they were shipped to the wrong address. That's how the day started.”
On top of that, it turned out to be, by the bride's estimation, one of the hottest days ever. “No wind, high humidity,” the bride says. “Ross went through three shirts!”
Despite the setbacks, Bergum describes the day as “a continuous celebration of love with friends.”
The ceremony, though spiritual, broke from tradition. Their band "The Ericksons," formed by the couple's friends, played their own music. There were poem readings and, Bergum's favorite, a ring warming ceremony. “Guests are supposed to pour love into the ring by holding it,” she elaborates. “It took a while, but it was pretty amazing."
There was one tradition Bergum is thankful they embraced: “We waited to see each other, formally dressed, until the ceremony. My nerves were on high before walking down the aisle, and his reaction was pretty incredible — he was crying.”
The couple asked the audience to play the kazoo as they left the ceremony.
At the reception, guests found their table numbers corresponded with classic pictures of the bride and groom as kids. This was done primarily for Bergum's benefit. “I couldn't handle how cute he was growing up,” she jokes. “I was like, everyone needs to see this classic 8th grade bowl cut!”
Dessert came courtesy of one of the bridesmaids, also a pastry chef, who whipped up a lemon cake with sugar-encrusted thyme and, fittingly, a s'mores cake. A signature cocktail kept guests happy all through the night—a whiskey, black tea, honey mixture of her husband's, who is a beekeeper in his spare time.
And true to the couple's dreams of that night, the party never stopped. “The reception, the dancing, it kept going on and on," Bergum remembers. "And when it finished, we drifted down to the lake and people went skinny dipping.”
The newlyweds refused to hit the hay until all their guests were asleep, around 4 a.m. The next morning, the campers awoke to the smell of donuts for breakfast.
While Bergum wouldn't change a thing about that long, glorious day, taking so much on did make for a crazy, exhausting experience — the happy couple and guests were still putting the finishing touches on the event well into the wedding day itself.
“We didn't know how deeply DIY it was until afterward, when we were like, why was that so wild?" the bride remembers. "Oh, because you made your own vegetables.”
All photos provided by IYQ Photography. Check out more TODAY real weddings here.