Phyllis Fletcher's backyard wedding

Phyllis & Josh

The offbeat bride: Phyllis Fletcher, radio journalist (and Offbeat Bride lab rat!)

Her offbeat groom: Josh Knisely

Location & date of wedding: A friend's backyard in Seattle, WA; September 2005

What made our wedding offbeat: We fed people before and after the ceremony — something that's not offbeat if you're Jewish! We aren't, but we like the tradition of food first. So we borrowed it. Otherwise, our wedding was offbeat mainly because of things we *didn't* do. No: aisle-walking, bridesmaids, wedding colors, printed program, ceremonial music, or poetry. No "now is when we dance" dancing; no assigned seating, cake-cutting, bouquet-tossing, party favors, or choreographed exit. What's left, then? Everything else you have at a party! With a short and heartfelt civil ceremony between the appetizers and the barbecue.

Our biggest challenge: Making sure people knew it was OK to wear anything, to start eating and drinking when they got there, and to stay as long as they wanted. We had one die-hard couple who were the last to leave, and who apologized to us a year later for having stayed so long. I explained that we were glad they stayed — we wanted to kick it! Besides, we had to bum a ride. (One of the things you lose when you decide against a choreographed exit: a way home. D'oh!) Fortunately it didn't rain during the ceremony and food. If it had, I would be telling a much sadder story about our biggest challenge. We lucked out!

My favorite moment: During the ceremony, laughing along with our friends and family at the story of how we met.

Take in what's useful; smile and nod at the rest. When people tell you there's no way to do a wedding for less than $x, that's a "smile and nod" moment.

My offbeat advice: Think about how you want to feel on your wedding day. Let that feeling shape your plans.

Divvy up tasks according to areas of expertise, interest, and maintenance of sanity. (This is good advice for marriage, too!)

Prepare for more advice. From everyone. Relax and enjoy their stories. Take in what's useful; smile and nod at the rest. When people tell you there's no way to do a wedding for less than $x, that's a "smile and nod" moment. You can do it!

Cupcake towerBe ready to put your faith in people you hire, and in people whose help you accept. Your professional photographer may have well- founded reasons for asking you to consider not wearing your glasses; your aunt who offers food may have experience on her side when she says chili is a bad idea.

If your vision makes the glasses and chili crucial, follow your heart. What I'm suggesting is an openness to compromise. If you accept money or unpaid help, be open to the companion gifts of expertise and ideas. If you see your wedding as a day that involves no compromise other than those you make with your intended, it's a good idea to have only paid help, and to pay for it yourselves.

Even that precaution won't control everything — weather, behavior, hiccups. So write this on Post-its, and stick them on your dressing room mirrors on your wedding day: "Be happy! Because you pulled this thing off."

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn: Take at look at Phyllis' wedding gallery.

Are you an offbeat bride? Tell me all about it, honey.

  1. I love you ridea for your wedding – no aisle, formal "dance time" eating all the time, everyone wears what they want – I will add a Christian minister, because I want it to be a Godly union publicly recognized, but this was great! Who says you must wear white & have an aisle?!

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  2. Good for you, Sonia! I'm sure many ministers would be delighted to participate in your vision. Congratulations and best wishes!

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  3. I'm Phyllis's mom. The wedding was great! I was so proud of Phyllis and Josh for having their wedding be a welcoming and loving experience for everyone.

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  4. This rules. Thanks for the $x encouragement, BTW…

    …and congratulations.

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  5. Navkat! You're welcome! It's fun after the wedding to prove to the doubters that you did it for

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  6. –oops!

    –that you did it for less than $x. The funny thing about those theories is that the value of x can vary by several factors of 10, depending on who's talking. Which just goes to show how silly all those theories are. You'll spend what makes sense to you! And I hope to see your pix up here when you're done! Congrats to you as well.

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  7. this was so lovely it; makes me want to cry!

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  8. Aww! Dashingdiva, thanks! I did cry. :) It was a beautiful day. Whatever phase of planning you're in, and whether it's for you or a friend, I hope your day is special.

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  9. What a great wedding!

    I'm going to do something similar at my own wedding. I'd like to ask a question: how were your invitations done? did you let the guests know on the invitation about the lack of traditional choreography? was anyone lingering, wondering what they were supposed to do?

    Thanks!

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  10. Rosy! I'm sorry I'm responding to this so late! Hi there. Congratulations on your wedding. I hope I'm not too late to be useful. (And that you happen to check this page again!)

    Our invitations gave no indication that anything we left out would be missing. It just said we would be getting married at 2PM on this date at this address.

    Some people were confused when they arrived–seeing food out and wondering if they could eat it. So, anticipating that, we asked our friend Val to tell people they could go ahead. Once the word spread, people seemed comfortable filling up on snacks and drinks, which was great to see in the photos. Any momentary confusion was soon alleviated, and people enjoyed our ceremony with plastic keg-cups in hand.

    To make sure of this, I should ask my guests, but: I think after the ceremony, things were even more clear. A professional barbecuer was cooking up a storm, and we were hidden away for just a few minutes of privacy. There was plenty of the earlier food and drink to keep people occupied in the meantime. And we had a sound system blasting music. We came out and were the first in the BBQ line, and everything after that was mostly just people doing what they do at a cookout. (Although our friend Val called for toasts, and people watched me & Josh eat the first cupcakes. And my aunt insisted that Josh & I slow dance just so she could get a photo of it, but otherwise, no forced dancing.)

    With no big-exit cue as to when to leave, our guests left on their own time. We were happy to enjoy as much of the day with them as possible, rather than choreograph an exit. We would have been happy to have more people stay longer, but folks have their own sense of when they're ready to go, and that's fine. (Ever been at a wedding where people were trying to get out before the cake cut or bouquet toss, and a bride or family member actually stopped them? "You can't leave! You haven't seen this thing you've already seen a thousand times!" Not our style. So whenever people wanted to leave was fine with us.)

    Rosy, whatever you decide to do, I hope you have a wonderful day!

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  11. Phyllis, this is almost the exact vision for my wedding! I want people to come and go as they please, and to not have to freak out about having to buy a dress or shoes when they get my invitation. I want a laid back party for my friends and family. Wanna come in flip flops and capris? Go ahead! I'm not having a DJ; instead I'm having my dad bring his sattelite radio (it's commercial free!) and I'll tune into the 90s station. I want a catered BBQ, and I want Bud Light! No stuffiness here! Thanks for the inspiration; you've given me hope that people will still have fun at my wedding even if it is in my backyard and for under $x.

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  12. Karen, that's great! Satellite radio is a great idea. I have Sirius. I put it on '80s for my book club, and oldies for Thanksgiving. At my house the signal drops out sometimes, so that might be something to test with your dad's radio, if you haven't already. Or you can log on to his radio account with a computer online and hook up speakers to that. At any rate, satellite radio is a great solution, and you don't even have to plan it or pick songs–awesome. People will tell you for years that you had a great wedding–they'll remember the fun, and that you were happy and relaxed. It'll be a great day! Best wishes!!

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  13. Karen, that's great! Satellite radio is a great idea. I have Sirius. I put it on '80s for my book club, and oldies for Thanksgiving. At my house the signal drops out sometimes, so that might be something to test with your dad's radio, if you haven't already. Or you can log on to his radio account with a computer online and hook up speakers to that. At any rate, satellite radio is a great solution, and you don't even have to plan it or pick songs–awesome. People will tell you for years that you had a great wedding–they'll remember the fun, and that you were happy and relaxed. It'll be a great day! Best wishes!!

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  14. I don't know if you are still checking up on this, it's been a while!

    I was just starting to get really discouraged because I cannot find anything (even on OBB) that remotely resembles what I'm looking for. Between not wanting any of "stuffiness" and not knowing what a "regular" wedding really looks like.. I'm sort of at a loss for where to start or where to go or what to do. But, your wedding… it's exactly what I want. I want people to have fun, mingle and it just be a celebration.

    How did you get people to realize it was time to go from your appetizers to the ceremony part? I think that is my biggest challenge right now, imagining how to get peoples attention for the few minutes of ceremony part.

    Thanks!

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    • Hi Jessica! Good for you for envisioning the wedding you want and going for it. I'm glad you found this post! I asked Josh if he remembered the answer to your question. He says our friend Val made an announcement that we'd be starting in a few minutes. She made the announcement from the back porch where we did the ceremony. Then, a few minutes later, we and the judge stepped out onto the porch through a set of french doors. Incidentally, the judge had us do the paperwork before the ceremony, so she wouldn't have to chase us down or interrupt the fun afterwards. That worked great, because Josh and I had a few minutes to ourselves, then we came back out into the yard and dove into that barbecue!

      We had such a beautiful day. I know you will too. :) I'm glad this post was helpful to you, Jessica! Sorry the photos aren't up right now; Josh just switched web hosts and he'll be putting the pix back up any day now.

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    • Hi Jessica! Good for you for envisioning the wedding you want and going for it. I'm glad you found this post! I asked Josh if he remembered the answer to your question. He says our friend Val made an announcement that we'd be starting in a few minutes. She made the announcement from the back porch where we did the ceremony. Then, a few minutes later, we and the judge stepped out onto the porch through a set of french doors. Incidentally, the judge had us do the paperwork before the ceremony, so she wouldn't have to chase us down or interrupt the fun afterwards. That worked great, because Josh and I had a few minutes to ourselves, then we came back out into the yard and dove into that barbecue!

      We had such a beautiful day. I know you will too. :) I'm glad this post was helpful to you, Jessica!

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