The offbeat bride: Chantel, aspiring artist/certified art teacher (and Tribe member)
Her offbeat partner: Mike, math teacher
Location & date of wedding: Delia's Garden, McMenamins Grand Lodge, Forest Grove, OR — July 31st, 2010
What made our wedding offbeat: The themes of love-birds and Asia are very much "us" because we lived in Korea and traveled around Asia for a year. We acquired the nick name "the love-birds" from a friend we met there.
The most obvious nontraditional part was that we got married under a tree full of ribbon instead of in a church. We had uneven bridal parties and mingled the two parties at the altar so that there was no "bride's side" and "groom's side," but a random assortment of all our friends and family standing around us. Also, the bridesmaids and groomsmen picked their own clothes, the only rule being that it had to be a shade of blue (the groomsmen did buy matching ties though).
Our first dance was a foxtrot that we practiced beforehand but was not choreographed, and we had both bride-father and groom-mother dances (theirs was a waltz as his mother is an amazing ballroom dancer!). There was no bouquet/garter toss because I always hated being labeled as a "single lady" at weddings even though I was in a long term relationship. I didn't want to make my single friends feel awkward. Instead, we had a bouquet dance where all couples, married or not, were invited to slow dance to Etta James "At Last," and I awarded the bouquet to the couple who had been together the longest (my grandparents).
At the entrance table where we kept the guest book we also had a ring warming station where people could hold and bless our rings, and a bowl of White Knots with pins and a note explaining that they are a symbol of marriage equality. It also said that guests could wear them to show that they support the right for everyone to "tie the knot."
The tables were named after cities we'd traveled to in Asia and included a map and a story about what happened to us there. At the tables we had packets of shiny origami paper, instructions on how to fold a paper crane, and an explanation that folding 1,000 cranes is good luck and that they could use the paper to get us started on our 1,000 cranes. We had a big basket that we labeled the "Crane's Nest" where guests could place their finished birds. But we got more than a few paper airplanes as well.
We made a photo booth with fun fabric from Ikea and brought our collection of crazy costumes from home for people to wear. We also had small chalkboards that people could write messages on and include in the pictures. The photo booth was a huge hit and definitely kept the kids entertained throughout the reception.
There were a lot of things we made ourselves, like the invitations, table signs, programs, favor tags, white knots, the photo booth, and the music playlists that we played through my laptop which was connected to big speakers. However, we had tons of help from our friends and family which kept the cost down. My mother decorated the tree with ribbon, our friend Alex took the photos (isn't she amazing?!), we also had friends officiate, emcee, make the bouquets/centerpieces, coordinate the day, and man the photo booth. In the end it was a community effort and it made our wedding day more personal and special by them being a part of it.
Tell us about the ceremony: Even before we were engaged we agreed that if we ever got married we would use our friend Eric as an officiant when we learned that he was ordained on the internet. He's a very eloquent, smart, and funny guy, and we just knew that he would do an awesome job. Since he lives in New York we had to Skype with him for our meeting about the tone and theme of the ceremony. We wanted to keep it pretty short, personal, non-religious, and not overly sappy. Eric did an amazing job and we received so many compliments afterward.
The theme of the ceremony was the balance of lightness and heaviness based on "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" by Milan Kundera. The lightness was our playfulness, friendship with each other, and sense of humor. The heaviness was the serious commitment of marriage. It was perfect and unlike any ceremony I'd heard before. We chose two readings that we thought summed up our relationship: "Loving the Wrong Person" from Daily Afflictions by Andrew Boyd and "Love is a Temporary Madness" from Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernières.
Our biggest challenge: My biggest problem was ME! I was in graduate school earning my Master of Arts in teaching for a majority of the time I was engaged, so I was used to being very busy. When I graduated in January there were no teaching jobs and the wedding was getting closer, so I threw myself into full-time wedding planning mode. This was fine since my husband-to-be was teaching and was pretty busy himself. Then summer came and my husband was free to help more with the planning, but I found I had a really hard time letting go. I reluctantly let him take on some projects, but when a few things arrived ordered in the wrong amount, or were the wrong kind, I freaked! I think I threatened to take over the planning again, but afterward realized that I was making the planning process miserable and he was just trying to be a part of it and help.
Closer to the wedding when I was crashing from planning overload, he totally shone. It turns out that he's great at creating super organized color-coded schedules that he emailed to everyone to let them know exactly what was happening at what time, what music would be playing, and what job they would need to do. If I hadn't let go of some control I wouldn't have discovered he has such a great talent of creating organization out of my chaos.
My favorite moment: One of the moments that surprised me was when I started to walk down the aisle everyone stood up and turned to watch me. I don't know why I forgot that was going to happen, but it really wasn't until that moment that I realized I was the bride that everyone was looking at! It was so great to see all of my friends and family in one place smiling at me.
Another moment was when one of my bridesmaids delivered a speech from a bridesmaid that couldn't be there because she'd given birth to her daughter 3 ½ months early in a different state. She started crying part way through the speech and couldn't even finish. I was a mess too because I missed my friend so much. Then after all the toasts I got a phone call from her and it was the first time I'd gotten to speak to her since she had her baby.
I'd have to say that the most meaningful moment came at the very last song, Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling." Everyone came out onto the dance floor and sang and danced along. I spotted my new husband across the dance floor and we started to make our way over to each other when everyone parted to give us room to dance. All our friends and family formed a circle around us clapping and singing, then right at the end of the song he picked me up and swung me around and everyone cheered us on. For me that moment summed up how I felt about the whole wedding.
My funniest moment: My husband was in an improvisational comedy troupe in college, as was our emcee. They hadn't gotten a chance to "play" together for a number of years and missed feeding off of each other's crazy energy, so they had an improv comedy dance number during the wedding. They started dancing at each other during Justin Timberlake's "Sexy Back" and began to mimic each other's dance moves so that it looked like a ridiculous choreographed dance routine. What made it even funnier was the fact that our emcee was wearing a tiger hat from the costume box at the photobooth and they starting using it like a prop, passing it to each other and incorporating it into the dance.
Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? When we were planning the wedding one of my sister's friends offered to do our photographs for free, and since he seemed good with a camera we agreed. We got lazy about meeting up with him because we were so busy and the wedding was so far away, and when we tried to set up meetings we could never get in touch each time. One day my sister called me to tell me that a mutual friend of theirs told her that our photographer had agreed to be a groomsman in his cousin's wedding on the same day as ours! He didn't even tell us about this conflict because he wanted to find a replacement photographer for us first. But hearing it through the grapevine so late in the planning made me totally panic.
We hadn't budgeted for a professional and they were all going to be booked for the summer at that point, but I remembered that our friend's girlfriend was an aspiring photographer who was creating her own business. I crept around on her website and her stuff was amazing! I emailed her a desperate plea since she was already flying out for our wedding and she happily agreed to do it for us. The photos were incredible and we completely got her at a steal, so I'm trying to repay the favor by promoting her amazing talent and website.
My advice for offbeat brides: Pick three-to-four things that are most important to you and spend more time/money/effort on those and let some of the other things go a little. Our priorities for an awesome wedding were: kick-ass venue where people could stay without having to drive, good beer and wine that was free for the guests, lots of good vegetarian food, and lots of dancing. For things like cake, flowers, clothes, and decorations, we had other people take over, we made ourselves, or went with the cheapest option with which we were comfortable.
What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? Weddings are these emotionally charged, sometimes complicated and expensive events that come with cultural baggage and traditions whether you follow them or not. I found that ours was like a lightning rod that intensified the best and the worst in people's personalities. Lots of friendships were rekindled but also several relationships (and marriages) were ended shortly after. With all the chaos, drama, and details, it's sometimes easy to lose sight of why you were planning this thing in the first place. When I would get bogged down in all the mess I had to keep reminding myself that it's just a party to celebrate our commitment to each other, and no matter what happens we'll be married in end. Or at least we would have been married in the end if we had remembered to bring the marriage license to the venue. Oops! (Don't worry, it all worked out fine).
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Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!