Anne & Andrew's colorful, secular, swing dance wedding

July 8 |

Anne & Andrew before the wedding

The offbeat bride: Anne, Program Coordinator for an education-related non-profit

Her offbeat partner: Andrew, video game designer

Location & date of wedding: The Thaxton in downtown St. Louis, MO — November 1, 2009

What made our wedding offbeat: Our wedding had the same basic shape as a "traditional" wedding: family and friends, a ceremony, a dress, food, dancing. In the details, however, we played to our own tastes. We kept the invite list under seventy people. There was no wedding party, no bouquet. We ascended a spiral staircase together instead of walking down an aisle separately. Our ceremony was entirely secular and included a reading from Plato's Symposium. The dress was an orange 50's-inspired swing dress with a purple crinoline. The food consisted of classic St. Louis Italian (toasted ravioli FTW!), organic cupcakes from a husband-and-wife run bakery, and local craft beer.

And don't forget the swing dancing!

Aside from, you know, us actually getting married, the highlight of the event was having Kim Massie, a St. Louis blues and soul diva, perform while we and our friends, all big lindy hoppers, danced the night away. A couple of our friends gave a short lesson before the ceremony for anyone new to swing dancing, but even those who stayed seated enjoyed the music and watching the twirling dancers move across the floor.

The wedding took place at the Thaxton, an art deco building owned and restored by friends of my parents–meaning we got to use the gorgeous place for free! (Keeping costs down was important to our vision.)

In the end, it was both a wedding and the best party we ever could have planned for ourselves.

Tell us about your ceremony: Our ceremony was officiated by a minister from the Unitarian Universalist church I sometimes attended during high school. One of my favorite things about it was that at one point, instead of asking if anyone objected to the union, he asked "Who supports this couple?" I loved the affirmative twist, allowing everyone to participate. Because this is somewhat unusual, however, we let many people know ahead of time to listen for it–we didn't want a silent room when the time came! Luckily, we either got to everyone or they were all paying attention, because when the question was asked, the hall reverberated with a chorus of "We do!"
The dress
As readings, we chose the story of the origin of love, from Plato's Symposium, about finding your soul mate, and a Kahlil Gibran poem about loving one another while being independent from each other. When I expressed concern over the contradiction between the two pieces, our officiant pointed out that good marriages often exhibit the juxtaposition of unity and autonomy, and he brought this up during the ceremony.

The ceremony ended with him sending us off "in the spirit of adventure."

Our biggest challenge: At the time of the wedding, Andrew and I were living in Houston, TX. Planning the wedding in St. Louis while living somewhere else was headache at times, and a nightmare at others. I was uncomfortable with not being able to deal with vendors face-to-face, especially when communication was breaking down.

My mother and mother-in-law were amazingly helpful. It took some prodding at first, but they met with vendors for me and completely took over furniture acquisition and decorating responsibilities. Don't be afraid to ask for help, especially if having some help will keep you from going out of your mind. Giving up some control is better than going crazy. Thanks, moms!

My favorite moment: 1. Reciting our vows (borrowed from a Kvetch thread) that we had been practicing and memorizing together for the two days prior to the wedding, and then walking back down the staircase hand in the hand to our waiting family and friends while Cat Stevens' "If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out" played.

Everybody dancing!

2. Dancing our first dance to "More Today Than Yesterday." Andrew and I basically started swing dancing around the same time; he's the one who got me into it in the first place, eight years ago. Dancing with my oldest friend and new husband was wonderful.

3. Seeing my parents dance together. (My father NEVER dances.)

My advice for offbeat brides: Keep it simple and be flexible. Things in life rarely go perfectly according to plan, so the more wiggle room you leave yourself, the better. The fewer details, specifics, and elements you're counting on turning out "just so," the less opportunity there is for anything to go wrong.

In other words, let go of your expectations and just have a good time!

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

  1. That dress is gorgeous. And I usually hate orange!

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  2. BAH, I am so JEALOUS! I live in STL and have drooled over the Thaxton, but it was out of our budget. The wedding was gorgeous, congrats!

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    • me too!!! that building is absolutely incredible! and sweetart… yum! congrats guys! looks awesome.

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    • Believe me, we wouldn't have been able to afford it, either–we seriously lucked out with the parental connection. And to think we were originally planning to have the wedding in Andrew's folks' backyard! (Back when we'd planned to have an early September wedding.)

      -Anne

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  3. One- You look so beautiful in that dress
    Two- I would steal that dress if I could! Wonderous!

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  4. OMG! I'm totally jealous of getting Kim Massie. She's amazing. And that dress is out-of-this-world amazing! Great color! Beautiful wedding!!

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    • I love Kim Massie; we've known each other since I was 14 or 15 (when I started dancing), so it was extra terrific to have her be part of the experience. Plus, you can't not enjoy her show.

      -Anne

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  5. I think this is one of the prettiest dresses I have ever seen. Very classy, and I wouldn't normally choose orange, either.

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  6. Beautiful!!

    We are also thinking about having swing dancing at our wedding, with instructors to help people out. However, a lot of our guests don't know how to swing dance. I was wondering how this worked out for you: How much of the crowd stayed seated? Did newbies try it out? Did you guys try mixing in modern music?

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    • It think it worked out really well! If nothing else, it got people up and mingling before things got started. Newbies definitely did try it out, both old and young, and our dancer friends mixed in to help. (Andrew's parents had actually been taking dance lessons for a month or so, just for the wedding, which was pretty cute.)

      We had a modern but dance-able playlist going during our cupcake break, but everyone was busy eating. =p Otherwise, I had asked the band to play soul and motown standards because that's what they're good at.

      -Anne

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  7. Oh lordy, I am praying to see my parents together at dance at my wedding!
    Also, I'm stealing your ceremony idea of asking, "who supports this couple". It's beautiful :]
    And your wedding is gorgeous!

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    • "Also, I'm stealing your ceremony idea of asking, "who supports this couple". It's beautiful :]"

      Isn't it just! So positive and a good way of getting the audience involved

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      • I can't take credit for that one–it's actually a part of our officiant's standard ceremony. It's definitely when I knew we'd made the right choice about our officiant.

        -Anne

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  8. Thanks for the compliments, everyone!

    Orange is my favorite color, and I found the designer I ended up working with because she had a dress in this orange organza in the window of her studio. Before finding her I had been looking at vintage dresses, but couldn't find any that fit, frankly. Working with a designer is certainly not stress free, and I ended up paying more than I planned on spending on my wedding dress, but I think it was worth to have something totally unique and totally me.

    I made my jewelry myself from freshwater pearls, because I knew I wasn't going to find anything to go as well!

    -Anne

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    • I believe I linked the correct one now!

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  9. love the pic called "alone time" ! it really looks like your wedding was a lot of fun.

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  10. Love love LOVE the orange dress – what a happy color. Love the idea of ascending the staircase too. The pictures are gorgeous, but I think I like the shadow pic, just because it's so unique and fun. Congrats on your beautiful day!

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    • Oops – so sorry – saw the "don't promote" text as I was hitting submit. Feel free to erase my link or if not possible, I can resend the comment. So sorry!

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