Larissa & Red's Game-filled, Art Centre Wedding

The Offbeat Bride: Larissa, medieval graduate student extraordinaire

Her Offbeat Partner: Red, IT Professional

Location & date of wedding: Registry Office (wedding), Arts Centre (reception), Colchester, UK — 19 December 2008

What made our wedding offbeat: Neither one of us wanted to plan a wedding, really, but we also wanted to give our family and friends an opportunity to celebrate our marriage with us on the day. We were on a really limited budget, since one of us is a jobless graduate student, but we also wanted to be able to provide our guests with a really great night. We saved loads by opting for a Registry Office ceremony (we just had to pay the cost of getting married), and we had our reception in the local Arts Centre. However, the local Arts Centre just so happened to be in a deconsecrated medieval church, so it was by no means lacking in some wonderful character.

3258877120_606ebf9ac4We didn't care about things like chair covers or cutlery, so instead we left the chairs bare and served only food that could be eaten with one's hands. We made all our own decorations (that we stole from Martha Stewert and the offbeat brides and grooms that came before us).

For entertainment, we made our own playlist and danced to Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake to our hearts' delight. We put cards, Jenga, and Hungry Hungry Hippos on the tables and bought a fooseball table and asked our guests to have some fun.


The bride & groom & some hungry, hungry hippos.
The bride & groom & some hungry, hungry hippos.

Also, with all the money we saved on not caring about what people told us all weddings had to have (e.g., linens, favors, etc.), we had enough money left to provide an open bar from 3:00pm to 10:00pm! Fun was had by all.


Our biggest challenge: For about six months of the planning process (the most important time, really, when decisions are being made about venues, vendors, etc.), I, the bride, lived in the United States. During these months, I went through this crazy wedding phase during which time color coordination and chair covers mattered to me. I blame this on the fact that I was separated from the planning, which just created an amazing amount of anxiety. The more I read about other people's "offbeat" weddings on the internet, however, the more I realized my wedding was just one day in the many of the rest of my married life and that I didn't really care about traditionalism anyway.

I also realized that I wouldn't think about how my chairs were bare twenty years from now, hell, not even after twenty days!

My favorite moment: We chose to have pictures taken in the ruins of a medieval priory around the corner from the registry office before the ceremony (when the light was still out in December!). The bridal party arrived early. While I stood alone on top of a flat-topped tomb to save my dress from the wet ground, my groom and his attendants came walking down the steps from the road and toward the priory ruins. It was a fantastic role reversal, in that he came to me on the wedding day instead of me to him down some aisle. It was a joyful moment seeing him before the wedding, getting to hold his hand and revel in the fact that it was our wedding day. At the wedding itself, we walked down the aisle hand in hand, because we're not into pretenses.

3258877698_539f9cc6b9My advice for other offbeat brides: If you don't have a friend or family member with a space big enough to accommodate your wedding guests, do your research thoroughly. Send an email to any and every venue that might even look like it can host a wedding! The Arts Centre where we had our reception never advertised itself as a wedding reception site, but, having been to the space before for other things (beer festivals, gigs, etc.), we realized it would have been a great place for a wedding party and ended up getting the space, a coordinator, bar staff, door staff, and technical staff on a prime day of the week for what was comparatively pennies in comparison to local "wedding venues."

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?:

Enough talk — on to the wedding porn!:

  1. I love the colours and the venue! Sounds like you had an absolutely amazing day and your guests also look like they're having a fab time too. Still, my overwhelming thought is this… flippin' heck girl – you are beautiful!

  2. I cannot believe you got married in the arts centre! My finance used to play there tons around the time we first met! It would seriously have never crossed my mind, what a fantastic idea! Never thought I'd see an offbeat wedding in Colch either. Congrats!

  3. Ohmigod! I live in Clacton! I'm only like, 30 miles down the road! How much did it cost to hire the Arts Centre? It's such a lovely place, did you get married in the town hall? That's where I hope me and my man-thing will get married….
    Yay! Finally, a really local Offbeat bride!

  4. I love the Colchester Arts Centre! The Beer Festival rocks! What a great place for a reception. And I love the fact you got a photo near the Roman Wall. Was the Registry Office in the Town Hall? That place is gorgeous!

  5. Yeah, the Arts Centre didn't seem like an obvious choice for a wedding, but after searching and searching and being dismayed by the insane costs of other Essex wedding venues, both of us just thought, 'What about the Arts Centre?' and the rest was history.

    I believe we got the entire venue, bar staff, door staff, a 'coordinator' (on the day, basically just a manager to make sure the staff and other things ran smoothly), electrical guys (to set up the disco lights to our specifications and hang the fairy lights as well as our sound system) for £600 on a Friday. The sum is a little fuzzy; it could have been £700, but I'm pretty sure it was £600. Plus, corkage was only £1 per bottle, and, I think that after the fact we didn't end up having to pay corkage anyway. The guy who runs the Arts Centre is WAAAAAAY laid back. I'd say he'd be too laid back for someone who was really anal about the planning of their wedding, as it was basically a situation where we told him what we were expecting on the day and just had to hope that he'd hold up his end of the deal (he did).

    We just got married at the register office in Colchester. The cost of getting married at the Town Hall was way too expensive for our budget. We were all about a wedding on the cheap!

    Also, I believe the Arts Centre now has a license as a wedding venue, so you could actually have your ceremony there too. It was in the process of getting its license when we were in the process of planning. But before we even started planning a reception, I knew that I wanted a fuss-free register office ceremony, so it didn't matter to me.

  6. Yeah, the Arts Centre didn't seem like an obvious choice for a wedding, but after searching and searching and being dismayed by the insane costs of other Essex wedding venues, both of us just thought, 'What about the Arts Centre?' and the rest was history.

  7. Yay – games!! This is exactly what the Spaniard and I are planning for our wedding next October – no favours, or themes, or extra costs, just fun. Now I have a picture of a bride and groom playing Hungry Hungry Hippoes to prove to anyone that games at a wedding reception = AWESOME. Thanks so much for sharing this, everything looks brilliant!

  8. btw, that's actually my cousin-in-law and me playing Hungry Hungry Hippos.

    My husband and I did play, but there's just not a picture of it.

  9. Great idea about the arts centre as a reception hall!! Love the relaxed playful vibe! I only wish Indian weddings could be so layed back! thanks for the idea =)

  10. Not really, no.

    I think, if I had to pick one thing I would change, I might have incorporated more recognisable music for the older people at the reception to dance to. We had a strictly 'No ABBA' clause in our music line-up and definitely didn't want to put in all the traditional, corny wedding dance music. But, at the same time, our indie preferences might have alienated some of the older women at the wedding who really would have liked to dance, danceable though it was.

    So, yeah, I might have put a little more thought into balancing the play list with some more accessible dancing music.

  11. I don't know how you managed to make such a beautiful wedding and not go insane. I have been in America for three months and I've already gone round the twist. We're given so many expectations that it really starts to prey on the mind when we realize we're three weeks behind the date we should have booked the cake on!!!!! It's good that you managed to stay calm. Thank goodness, I've got my visa so now I can come back and hopefully feel a little more in control.

  12. I have been looking for something EXACTLY like this! I fell in love with the Arts Centre when my now-husband took me there on my first trip to England (I'm from Southern California, where we got married). He used to hang out there a lot in his teens, and it's beautiful. We will most likely have a vow renewal at the Registry Office first. Thank you for sharing this with us, you are absolutely gorgeous in your pics.

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