Michelle & Philip's multi-cultural, 1930's, wedding and tea ceremony

By on Jun. 3rd

cut ze cake please

The offbeat bride: Michelle – visual artist/graphic designer (and OBT Member)

Her offbeat partner: Philip – video game programer

Location & date of wedding: Door games and tea ceremony (own house); Official ceremony (Capri Theatre); Reception (Hotel Richmond) all in Adelaide, South Australia, Australia — March 27, 2010

What made our wedding offbeat: We had a multicultural wedding! We had Chinese Door games (where the aim is to make the groom and his men do challenges in order to prove himself worthy of the bride) and a Tea Ceremony. We got married in an art deco movie theatre that has a Wurlitzer organ. I had a bridesman. The bride and bridesmaids had henna.

The hand fasting ceremony

We wrote, directed, acted and filmed a black and white silent movie about how we met, to be played at the art deco movie theatre before the ceremony – we had an organist play along. We had a DIY 1930's theme. We made our own invites in the form of a movie poster, RSVP's were movie tickets. Centrepieces were combo of vintage champagne glasses found at thrift stores, ikea vases and candle holders on sale. We painted sticks black and added yarn pompoms to them. I handmade all the bridesmaids' fascinators and groomsmen boutinerres. We had a cake buffet instead of one wedding cake, which my cousin handmade bird cake toppers for. Most cake platters were DIY, vintage plates and upside down vases – all from thrift shops. We didn't have a first dance. We had an open mic and it went off!

Benjamin Liew - bridesman

Table names were twenties and thirties famous movie posters. We had home made caramel popcorn as favours and a vintage typewriter where people wrote what they thought about love. Also black and white movies played throughout the night. A jazz band played that we found busking on the street.

Tell us about your ceremony: We had a tea ceremony and an official ceremony. In the tea ceremony, it was much more intimate. We offered cups of teas to our parents firstly and thanked them for looking after us and bring us up. Then they gave us gifts of jewellery or money. The jewellery is for the couple to sell if ever the couple were ever in strife. The official ceremony featured a handfasting, it wasn't too pagan, but we spoke our vows while we handfasted. We took parts of the handfasting traditions we connected with and fused it with vows we liked. I'm spiritual, whereas my partner is highly agnostic, so we had to be careful in the wording we chose.

after the tea ceremony

The bride had an outfit change for the tea ceremony


Our biggest challenge: I'd say our biggest challenge was my mother. She had very old fashioned, traditional chinese ideas on what a wedding should be. We had problems with her and the guest list (we were accused of not inviting any of her friends.. all 'her friends' were apparently "our friends"). She fretted over 'face' if she didn't invite this or that guest. I have divorced parents who have not been in the same room since I was eleven. They had a bitter divorce and it was quite a nerve wrecking thought that they would be in the same place. Let alone be together the WHOLE day! Will there be fisty-cuffs? (I had quiet talks to them beforehand and they managed to behave themselves, to my surprise, very well!)

We wanted to have some but not all of the traditions of the tea ceremony and this upset my mum. She said we were butchering it and we can't just take the bits we like. The thing is I actually researched it as we don't like doing things we don't know the meaning of and doesn't relate to us. I think it was just time that let my mum get over these sort of things. In the end she was surprised how smoothly, well planned and creative the wedding was. In a way it felt good to be able to prove it could all turn out well. :)

Bridesmaids Henna!


My favorite moment: The tea ceremony with the family was very intimate. We had special moments with every family member that was there. Also, we were upstairs while the theatre was watching the movie we made. We were hidden away from our guests and I was really nervous, but the support of my bridal party was incredible.

Rising up with the organ and facing everyone with my soon to be hubby by my side was an amazing feeling. We are actually both slightly shy so it was really grounding to have him by my side, enjoying the moment. The handfasting was also very special as we made our own chords with charms weaved on to it.
northern lights 2
Towards the end of the night, the photographer took Phil and I out to see the light installations projected on to the city's historic architectural iconic building. Walking out in all our wedding gear with people congratulating us and being super nice was an amazing experience. It made me want to wear a wedding dress everyday! We sat on the grass and took some final pictures and finally we lied down on the grass and looked up at the stars… all the hard work was over and we had a fabulous time.

Im bringing sexy back2

Groomsmen playing 'door games' to win the bride!


My funniest moment: Definitely the Door Games. We played some nasty challenges on the boys! It was hilarious to watch them sing, dirty dance, do push ups on top of each other, eat disgusting foods, etc! Also we didn't really expect many people to talk when we opened the mic up, but after the usual speeches, one by one people just wanted to say something. It was amazing and funny to hear what these people had to say. Normally they would never have gotten the chance at a traditional wedding. Luckily, all kept it really short and sweet. It still went on for an extra thirty minutes I think!

My advice for offbeat brides: Listen with patience to your family who have differing points of view, if they go a bit crazy during the planning stage (too excited, too snappy, etc.) it's normal. Just try and talk through your vision with them, it helps to show photos and examples so they can understand.

Have fun, but don't take yourself too seriously. When you get frustrated, angry, or sad, just try and do something else that will take your mind off it.

Wedding invites in the form of a movie poster


Photographer – I can't stress how important a photographer with a great eye is. Our photographer stuck with us from 9 AM until 11 PM. (He was just excellent and patient. Worked quickly and most times you don't even know he was there!) Great photos were important to us so we splurged on that!

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? Planning ahead helps a lot (it did for me). Also, keep believing in your vision even when everyone is questioning you about it. Compromising is hard, but it does save drama. Pick which battles to fight. Try and spend some non wedding related time with your FH and keep your feet firmly planted on the ground. Those websites, magazines, pictures of what a wedding could and should look like will drive you crazy. Especially closer towards your wedding date, stop looking at wedding porn! :) I felt a lot of love and support even though there were a lot of drama to be dealt with, and sometimes hard to see… but it was very evident on the wedding day.

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!