Leah & Mark's amazingly fun, love-filled weekend wedding #Real Weddings: Southern US#diy centerpiece#dr seuss#georgia#karaoke#lake#non-floral centerpiece#outdoor#wedding weekend May 26 | Offbeat Editors offbeatbride You've kind of seen Leah and Mark before when we introduced you to their wedding photography biz. Now here's what it looks like when THEY got married. The offbeat bride: Leah, grad student of Social Work/human rights activist (and OBT member) Her offbeat partner: Mark, software company employee by day, Creative Genius by night Location & date of wedding: Big Canoe, GA : a woodsy lake community in the North Georgia mountains — May 23, 2009 What made our wedding offbeat: I have a rather traditional Southern mother, and I knew my parents would prefer for us to have a more typical wedding. As the funders of the big event, we wanted to let them call the shots, so Mark and I were fine with having a somewhat-traditional wedding, but it was important to us that the ceremony reflected us as a couple, celebrated our partnership and our community of loved ones. So we wrote our own vows, and we asked our Reiki Master to write and officiate the ceremony. She created a beautiful, touching, perfectly "us" ceremony to cement our union. Their Reiki Master created and officiated the ceremony We also asked two of our friends to choose readings to share, and they each picked great ones! Anna read from "Oh the Places You'll Go" by Dr. Seuss and James read lyrics from the Alanis Morissette song "Utopia." Both readings reflected the life Mark and I want to lead together, and I loved having our good friends participate in the ceremony. We also placed stones at each seat and asked all of our guests to hold the stone and put their blessings for us on it. After the ceremony, the stones were collected in a vase that we will keep in our house. After the ceremony, we were ready to party! The reception was a blast, with awesome food, drinks, dancing, and karaoke! Our biggest challenge: I'd have to say the biggest challenge was deciding what we wanted our wedding to feel and look like. I had a rough idea of what I didn't want, but I'm not one of those girls that dreams about her wedding day forever and Mark isn't one of those guys, either. Our friends and family were so willing to pitch in and help plan the wedding, but they kept asking us what we wanted and at first, we just didn't know. Offbeat Bride was a huge help! Especially after other wedding websites just seemed to focus on BUYING things to make your wedding special. We wanted a ceremony that was unique, non-religious, and meant something to us both on a spiritual level and realistically, in terms of the promises we make to each other and ourselves. Reassuring my parents that the ceremony would not be off-putting to our guests, especially our more conservative/traditional ones, was another challenge. We invited them to dinner with our Reiki Master, Cyndie, and she went over an outline of the ceremony (we wanted the actual ceremony to be a surprise). Cyndie was able to answer their questions and ease some of their concerns. Encouraging my mom to take charge of other aspects of the wedding, like the decor and invitations, helped her feel like she could still put her special touch on the day, and not leave it to my and Mark's more colorful, eccentric choices. My favorite moment: Wow, there were so very many! Mark and I didn't see each other before the ceremony, so one of the best moments was walking down the aisle and seeing his huge grin and handsome tux. Another favorite moment was when the karaoke started – everyone hit the dance floor, and our friends rocked out to an awesome Bohemian Rhapsody. Then my dad challenged them to a show-off, and he and his friends rocked out to Walking in Memphis. Lots of different music, lots and lots of dancing and singing ensued. Inspired by the Great Wall of China (where they got engaged) I also got a kick out of so many guests telling my mom that they loved my orange sash – because she really, really, really did NOT want me to wear that sash! In the end, she admitted it did suit me – and the dress – quite nicely. I appreciated our guests saying how refreshing it was to see a non-traditional ceremony, how they really, truly felt the love Mark and I share and were honored to be a part of our ceremony. I loved all the little moments throughout the day, seeing all of our loved ones – and feeling just how much they loved us. It was absolutely magical. My advice for offbeat brides: If you're like me and you don't really know WHAT you want, and are somewhat turned off by weddings in general, start with the Wedding Porn, and the Offbeat Bride book. And borrow, borrow, borrow ideas that pop out as fun, lovely, and/or representative of you and your beloved. It also helped for Mark and I to sit down together and write down key words that we wanted our wedding to embody – both for us, and for our guests. We had lots of folks traveling long distances to be with us, and we really wanted them to have a great time. We wanted our wedding to be lots of fun, but we also wanted a ceremony that celebrated our partnership and conveyed the importance of our decision to marry, and what that decision means to us. Ultimately, we wanted a joyful, love-filled day with good food and good company. Care to share a few vendor/shopping links? My dress: Bridals by Lori, which was way above my budget, but I had a super nice consultant who found a sample dress for me that was perfect. Our awesome photographer: Jason Spruill Our fabulous caterers (a husband-and-wife duo):BaddaBing The bridesmaid dresses: Jim Hjelm The fabric for my sash was purchased at Gail K Fabrics Cake: the amazing bakers at Highland Bakery Enough talk — show me the wedding porn! http://www.flickr.com/photos/leahforehand/sets/72157619201694683/show Get your daily dose of Offbeat AWESOME Reporter Name * Reporter Email * Original text Enter the original text here. Edited text* Enter your suggested copyedit here. Notes You can add a note for the editor here. * Required information. Fix Typo PREVIOUS DIY Dia de los Muertos unity candle NEXT Easy-to-pack decor options for destination weddings Show/Hide comments [ 22 ] This was so wonderful to read! WHat a great way to incorporate tradition with your own unique personalities. 1 agrees Reply Also, I wonder if Leah would be willing to share some of the activities that she and Mark hosted for their guests throughout the weekend. 1 agrees Reply Hi Courtney! Thanks! We had 2 hosted activities during the weekend â€“ a brunch the day after the wedding, and the rehearsal dinner, to which we invited all of our out-of-town guests. We catered the rehearsal dinner from a local BBQ place (that also had awesome vegetarian and vegan options) and Markâ€™s parents hosted the dinner at the house they rented â€“ all of our out-of-town guests rented cabins at Big Canoe, so everyone was in a central location and it was a really laid-back, grab-a-plate-and-find-a-seat-somewhere kinda dinner. The brunch was held at the house my parents rented, and my momâ€™s friends prepared the brunch (a benefit of staying somewhere with kitchens!). It was another laid-back, self-serve meal. On our wedding website, we let folks know that Big Canoe had a lot to offer in terms of hiking, swimming, canoeing, etc. and linked to the website. We made sure guests knew that they were on their own for whatever other activities they wanted to do, and Big Canoe provided everyone with maps of the area which showed the various hiking trails, swimming spots, etc. 1 agrees Reply thanks for sharing! This gives me a lot of good ideas. Reply Congratulations! OMG the stone idea is perfect! I've been trying to find a way to do a ring warming but my guest list is way to big to make it practical. I love your cake it is really delightful! Reply Thank you, Jessica! Yeah, we wanted some way of having every guest contribute their blessings, but didn't want to pass the rings around. I found the stone idea online somewhere. Now we have a big vase full of blessed stones! Reply Congrats!! You can just FEEL the love through your photos. I just love every single one…I love the cake with those (what looks like anyway) red stones, I love the idea of collecting stones from people at your wedding…so many great ideas! Thanks! Reply The Cake! It's actually supposed to be reminiscent of the Great Wall of China – because that's where we got engaged. The 'stones' are the wall along the 'mountain'. Reply your bouquet is beautiful! what is it made with? Reply Thanks, Stephanie! Mango calla lillies! And… some other berry thing? Oh man, I don't even know. I just asked for orange-colored calla lillies and the florist surprised me. Reply Agreed, your flowers were beautiful! I think the berries are hypericum…only know this because I've asked for the same "berry things" in my bouquet! Reply I LOVE the look of your wedding. Your dress is beautiful, and the cake is amazing. We got engaged at the Taj Mahal, so I'm going to try to do the same thing with my cake too. Reply OMG, your mom really IS traditional if the orange sash was too much for her! Kudos on everyone for working together on this wedding. It really is quite pretty, but not annoyingly so, you know? Reply Your photos are so amazing! They're so candid and beautiful. Reply candles on top of the cake? how freaking awesome! Reply Thanks! Yeah, we couldn't find any cake toppers we really loved, and we both love candles/sparklers/fire, and we figured that our wedding is the birthday of our marriage, so… why not put candles on the cake? You can't tell from the photo, but they were actually sparkler candles. We did, however, forget to bring a lighter (neither of us are smokers or tend to carry around lighters), but at least 5 people stepped up to light the candles – we have an awesome photo of that which I love – just a bunch of hands and lighters lighting up our wedding cake! Reply Oh man. I hope to someday be where you were at with this wedding – perfect mix of traditional and individual and parental involvement and couple involvement. Someday I'll get there… Reply You'll get there! It was really helpful for all of us to sit down and hear out each other's concerns, expectations, etc. Mark and I picked a few things that we really cared about: food (not just having good food, but having food that ALL of our guests could enjoy – vegan, kosher, etc.), photography (cuz we're photographers, too!), and the ceremony. We let my parents figure out all the rest and really made an effort to answer their questions and ease their worries. Reply Leah and Mark are our photographers! Yay! It's so great to see your wedding here Reply Yay!! We are super excited for your wedding, Liz! Reply Love it! Yet another example of doing what's important to you, and letting the love flow, and then magically it all looks like something straight out of a magazine to boot! Reply I LOVE Leah and Mark! 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