Bex & Dan's kids and Cookie Monster-friendly wedding

We got an email from an Offbeat Bride and Offbeat Mama reader asking for us to do an Offbeat Mama-Brides week. And what better time to do so than as a countdown to Mother's Day!? So here it is — A week full of couples that are parents, featuring how they involved their kids, what roles the kids had in their weddings and just featuring amazing brides with babies of all ages.

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The Offbeat Bride: Bex, government bureaucrat

Her offbeat partner: Dan, grad student and rabblerouser

Location & date of wedding: Chapel of East Liberty Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh PA — 1/15/10

What made our wedding offbeat: We planned an intimate, low-key ceremony that combined our need to keep costs down with Dan's desire for over-the-top showmanship. We aren't formal people and weren't interested in much tradition.

Our Friday evening service began at 6:00 in our gothic birthday cake of a church. Dan agreed to process to "manly" music — Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor and Boellman's Toccata from Suite Gothique. My six-year-old son from my first marriage walked me down the aisle, and our 18-month-old daughter, the flower girl, carried Cookie Monster with a boutonnière (she vetoed the hair wreath pretty quickly).

We were married by two friends who are both Presbyterian ministers, and kept the twenty-odd guests seated around us in a semi-circle near the altar. Our photographer was also one of our minister's brother-in-law, and the same minister made us our cake to match our daughter's dress. Our flowers were designed by an old high-school friend who I found on Facebook about a year ago.

Instead of a formal reception, we had dinner at the Church Brew Works, and kept up the "excessive worship space tour of Pittsburgh" by staying overnight at The Priory hotel. The small scale gave us the opportunity to be ourselves with our closest friends and family and to enjoy the evening without any artifice. Our wedding gifts to each other, ceramic vessels by a local artist with an environmental/political message, are daily reminders to be true to our convictions.

Tell us about your ceremony: We had a fairly standard Protestant service. Our ministers, who are our age and good friends of ours, worked closely with us to make sure our readings and the sermon reflected our beliefs.

IMG_9254_ds1Between our politically progressive leanings, my career as a civil servant working with low-income and homeless populations, and Dan's interest in political science and energy policy, we wanted to make sure our reading reflected who we really were. We chose to feature the Beatitudes in Luke (not Matthew) because those focus on the poor, not the "poor in spirit," and help inform our belief in the Golden Rule. Our amazing ministers crafted a beautiful sermon around that idea and how it can impact our daily lives. I was thinking the whole time that "wow, they're really good at their jobs!" because of the effort they put into making sure the ceremony reflected us completely.

We also had our small families heavily involved in the service. Because my parents are both deceased, my son walked me down the aisle and carried the rings. My sister escorted our daughter, and Dan's sister and mother processed with him. We had close friends (one from each side) take a few minutes to speak as well; one had us in stitches while the other had beautiful thoughts on the nature of unconditional love.

What were the most meaningful moments of your wedding?: Hearing my husband completely choke up when he said his vows. He's such a macho guy but he's a teddy bear at heart and seeing him struggle to keep his composure started my own waterworks.

I also loved having our guests close to us in a semicircle. It felt like we were surrounded by love. All those people came just to see us make a promise to each other. I've never felt so loved by so many people.

What was your biggest challenge?: I am a planner and organizer by personality and training and I found it very hard to delegate. Not having a traditional "bridal party" didn't help matters. I had a few friends who are into weddings more than I am help with logistics and remind me of things I'd forgotten, but I still did a lot of the work the day of myself.

I'd also not recommend houseguests; it's not hard to find inexpensive hotels for out-of-towners and then you can be comfortable in your home and not feel like you need to be a host the entire time.

What was the funniest moment of your wedding or reception?: Dan cracks me up on a regular basis. His excitement and personality shone through the entire ceremony. I do believe his rendition of C is for Cookie while taking pictures brought the house down.

Have you been married before and if so, what did you do differently?: This was my second marriage. I was married in August last time, in a church without air conditioning. So I went completely the other direction with a January wedding (thankfully, the weather was above thirty-two degrees so the Texas delegation didn't freeze). I DIY'ed quite a bit the last time; this time, with two kids, a full-time job, and a husband in grad school, I couldn't do as much myself. An off-the-rack dress (instead of a handmade one) and sticking to the basics really helped my stress level.

Advice for other offbeat brides: Know your limits. Decide what's most important and focus on that. We splurged on a good photographer and beautiful flowers for the ceremony; our son didn't need new shoes that he would wear once and grow out of. We picked a restaurant that we love to make sure our guests enjoyed their meal instead of wowing people temporarily with centerpieces and favors. When you have a small budget, you need to prioritize.

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?:

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!:

  1. At ours three weeks ago, as well as our "I do"s, our five-year-old had a vow in the ceremony as well, to love and support Mummy and Daddy. As well as her as a flowergirl (aka executive bridesmaid), a friend brought bouquets for all the other small girls and we were led in by a motley posse of very excited five and six-yr-olds. The Easter Bunny came – and was chased to within an inch of his life – while the grown-ups sipped champagne. Thoughout the day, small children added flowers, feathers, lemons etc from the garden to my bouquet. And the first songs were Bare Necessities and Ghostbusters so everyone hit the dancefloor together. It was great, for small and big alike.

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  2. I love that your daughter carried cookie monster. That is so adorable. My daughter will be 2.5 when we do our wedding and I suspect she'll be carrying Angus (her beloved dragon) down the aisle! Not that I mind. He'll fit right in with our celtic/butterfly themed wedding, complete with Kilts!

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  3. Lovely wedding, and so jealous of your Church Brew Works dinner! My fiance and I moved from Pittsburgh to Nebraska two years ago and still miss that place terribly.

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    • I don't know what we'd do without CBW – we had one of our first dates there and love going back!

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  4. Yeah for Pittsburgh weddings! Congratulations!

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  5. Cookie Monster saved the day. We were concerned she would try to eat or rip apart real flowers because she was so little, but Cookie Monster matched her dress perfectly and kept her occupied for most of the service! His boutonniere was quite a conversation piece for the guests too!

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  6. What a great, low-key wedding. My favorite picture is the group photo with your son hamming it up.

    Love the cookie monster with the boutonniere. I'm sure my son will be carrying plenty of little cars (he will probably even ask me to hold them for him if he tries to bring too many).

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    • Mine too! What's funny is that Dan's sister and BIL's faces never changed in all of the photos, while the rest of us slowly disintegrated into chaos.

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  7. As an attendee I have to say that my favorite moment in the wedding (aside from just the awesome picture moments) was the moment the music started. The acoustics in the church were amazing and the music was just over the top great. My husband looked at me and said "Dan picked the music." We were giggles and smiles the whole way through.

    If you check out the pictures and you see Emmy's shoes, HOW FREAKING CUTE! We loved every moment.

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    • I showed Dan your comment and he guffawed, Pg. We hadn't heard that story before!

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  8. What a cool idea! We have three kids and they'll all be involved in our wedding because we think it's really about the five of us rather than just the parents. Congrats!

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  9. Love that you described the church as a "gothic birthday cake" :D What a fantastic cake too!

    I love that you included your children in the ceremony, so nice to see the whole family together. And cookie monster too of course!

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    • No one ever seems to believe me when they look at our pictures that we got married in the small worship space at church. ELPC takes up an entire city block and the main sanctuary space is probably 5X the size of the chapel. It's ridiculously ornate and way over the top – I've always thought it looked like it was covered in icing!

      Our cake was amazing; even more so was that our friend did it *and* was one officiants in the service. She blows me away.

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  10. omg i freaking LOVE the boutanniered cookie monster

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