Greta Christina's agnostic commitment ceremony

By on Jan. 24th

Greta & IngridThe offbeat bride: Greta Christina, Writer (and Offbeat Bride lab rat!)

The other offbeat bride: Ingrid, nurse practitioner

Location & date of wedding: November 12, 2005 in San Francisco's Swedish American Hall in the Castro district

What made our wedding offbeat: 1. We encouraged all our guests to dress in festive/glamorous attire, including historical costumes. Boy howdy, did they take us up on it.

Greta Christina's wedding2. Both of the brides performed traditional English folk dancing during the reception — one bride did a stick dance with her Morris dancing team, the other did a sword dance with her English longsword dancing team. (We also did our recessional through a sword arch made by my longsword dance team.) Instead of the usual tepid boogie dancing, we did traditional English country dancing — we chose easy dances, and encouraged all our guests to join in. Which most of them did, with wonderful results.

3. The wedding was entirely secular — we're both firm agnostics/atheists, and felt strongly that our vows should reflect that.

4. It was in a lot of ways a stone soup wedding — a close friend who introduced us performed the ceremony, my bride's cousin was the wedding coordinator for the day, our arty friends did most of the decorating including making the bouquets, other friends designed the invitations and programs, the band were friends of ours, and so on.

5. Neither of us wore white. She wore a green corset dress, I wore a blue one.

6. We skipped the multi-tiered wedding cake. Too expensive, for not enough payoff. We just got a really good sheet cake — and the guests were thrilled.

7. Wrote our own vows. I mean, really. I've never understood brides who spend hours fixating on what color the napkins would be, but never give a thought to what it is they're actually promising to do.

FYI, the fact that this was a lesbian wedding isn't on my list of things that made it offbeat. I suppose it would be to some, but I've been in San Francisco too long for that to seem like anything other than normal.

Lemon Meringue cakeOur biggest challenge: We let the guest list get out of control, and as a result it all got more expensive than we'd planned for. We were delighted to have everyone there but we really hadn't planned on it being as big as it was (about 200 guests). We also grossly underestimated how much food would cost, and had some serious sticker shock once that became clear. How we dealt with this, alas, was to get an increase in the credit limit on our credt card.

My favorite moment: There were so many. My most intense favorite moment was the vows — we'd spent so much time writing them, and actually standing up there making that promise, with all our friends and family to witness and celebrate it, was an out-of-body experience.Greta & Ingrid's wedding

But I think my most fun favorite moment was when the dancing started, and all our friends and family were there on the dance floor with us. Dancing is a huge part of our lives, and it meant so much to us that our guests were willing to share it with us.

My offbeat advice: Get a group of family and friends who are (a) unbelievably talented and (b) happy and even eager to share their talent at your wedding. Have friends and family who will sing, dance, play music, help organize, design invitations and programs, arrange flowers and decorations, read their writing, and shamelessly bedeck themselves in imaginatively festive outfits — and who are extraordinarily good at all these things. Do not do this because it will save you money (although it probably will). Do it because it will make your wedding yours. Do it because it will make your wedding a unique reflection of your own life together, at its very best.

My second piece of advice would be: As much as possible, use vendors you have some sort of personal or sentimental attachment to. Have your catering done by a local place where you passionately love to eat. Ditto the cake. Have your bouquets made by a dear friend of yours who's an assemblage artist. Have your dress/dresses made by a dressmaker with ties to your community (ours were done by a corsetmaker with connections to both the fetish/sex world and the historical recreation/dance world). Hire a band made up of friends of yours who are kick-ass dance musicians that you've danced to many times. Have your rings made by a jeweler who made the rings for beloved friends of yours.

Get the photographer who took the photos at your same-sex civil-disobedience City Hall wedding (okay, not everyone can do that, but you get the idea). Get your wine and champagne from old friends of the family; get your beer from the brewpub whose festivals you dance at twice a year. Have your officiant be the friend who introduced you. And have the ceremony in a neighborhood where you spend a lot of time and have a strong emotional/political attachment to, in the city you call home.

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn: Check out this gallery on Greta's blog.

Are you an offbeat bride? Tell me all about it, darling!