Stephanie & Charlie's Mystery House rainbow wedding

July 25 |
On the porch
Photos by Bonnie J Heath

The offbeat bride: Stephanie

Her offbeat partner: Charlie

Date and location of wedding: The Abita Mystery House, Abita Springs, Louisiana — April 30, 2011

What made our wedding offbeat: The Abita Mystery House, in Abita Springs, Louisiana, is a quirky spot we wanted to share with friends and family on our wedding day. It has been described as a folk art museum and roadside attraction, just outside of New Orleans. It's full of evocative items such as automatronic fortune tellers, taxidermied Fiji mermaids, multi-headed chickens, and Darrell the Doggigator.

Inside the House of Shards

Posing at the Hot Sauce HouseBeing that it originated as a gas station many decades ago, it's not exactly your run-of-the-mill event space. However, our hearts were set on the place. The founder of the Mystery House, our dear friend John, thought it was a smashing idea and graciously opened his doors after hours for our celebration. So many things about this place speak to us, from the alligator snapping turtles on exhibit, to the largest paint-by-numbers painting collection in the world, to the early '80s video games and even earlier pinball machines.

The Mystery House embodies the sentiment of delightfully odd, and we thought that this would be an ideal setting to begin our journey through married life. We got the ball rolling a few months prior to the wedding by producing our Save the Date video with a Doggigator theme, setting the tone for the upcoming event while saving money on postage!

Other elements that made our wedding offbeat included colorful fashion choices, a not-so-serious wedding ceremony officiated by John (who kept us smiling the entire time), and ecelectic rainbow-hued vintage decor elements that added fun and zinginess to the day.

Walking down to the aisle

Tell us about the ceremony: We arranged the chairs in a semicircle in the courtyard in front of the exhibit of the Airstream trailer that had been crashed into by a UFO. The ceremony music began with "Emma Blowgun's Last Stand" by Beulah, and I walked down the aisle to "Stephanie Says" by The Velvet Underground.

Bouquet

We passed the rings around for a ring warming, and John told everyone there how much it meant to us that they were all there to share our special day. The ceremony included a reading from Jonathan Safran Foer's "Everything is Illuminated" by our friend Josh. Cathy read "The Story of Stephanie and Charlie," which we had written the previous day, that outlined the evolution of our relationship. Both readings had our wedding guests simultaneously scratching their heads and nodding knowingly.

Just Married!

We kept our vows (which included promises about flowers and kitty cats and loving each other unstoppingly) short, sweet, and full of personal meaning. After exchanging rings and a kiss, we ended the ceremony while playing "Go Do" by Jonsi.

Shoes!

Our biggest challenge: It was quite a challenge having our wedding and reception in an unconventional venue. Since we had first visited the Abita Mystery House in 2005, we have considered this place a sort of home away from home. Each time we would pass under the "Have Your Next Next Wedding Here" sign, we would point and giggle.

Have Your Next Wedding Here

We had a fair amount of trepidation regarding logistics before we decided to rent a large tent to place outside of the courtyard. This doubled our space and ensured we'd have plenty of room for tables and dancing.

There was no place for food prep, so initial plans to save money and prepare some of the food proved impractical. About two weeks before the wedding, we decided to hire a caterer (whose rates proved to be surprisingly affordable) who prepared some of the tastiest jambalaya I've ever eaten, in addition to a full menu of southern yumminess! It was one of the best decisions we made.

Listening to Joel giving a toast

My favorite moment: We chose to give John free reign to spice up the ceremony and he delivered! He added his own brand of humor as every line included a chuckle and some zingers, too. We wanted to involve our guests in the ceremony as well, so we included a new tradition that we experienced at our friends' wedding last year — the ring warming. We were taken with the concept of all of our friends and family instilling their love and wishes into our rings.

Ceremony giggles

Post ceremony celebration beerAfter the ceremony, Charlie and I spent a few minutes with our lovely photographer, Bonnie Heath. We were able to take a breather to regroup away from the bustle. As we headed back into the courtyard, we were greeted by our friend Josh with two glasses of our Wedding Day Brown Nut Ale, exactly what we needed at that point.

We had gotten together with our friends Brian and Kip several weeks prior to homebrew a commemorative ale. The small keg of Wedding Day Brown Nut Ale was walnutty, sweet, and super refreshing! It was served up to our guests as well, in glasses that served as wedding favors. This eliminated the need for disposing of plastic cups and creating trash.

As a bonus to everyone, they doubled as time machines! Embossed with "Time and Space Transport Machine — Instructions: Drink from this glass to transport to Abita Springs, April 30, 2011." The thought was that each time our guests use our glasses from now on they will think back to our wedding day and hopefully smile!

Time Machines!  Glasses as wedding favors

Wedding photobooth fun with Judy and Sasha

My funniest moment: While being introduced as a couple after our entrance into our reception tent, we had requested "Parties in the USA" by Jonathan Richman to be played. Upon our arrival, I was so excited by the moment and seeing everyone smiling and clapping that I just grabbed Charlie's hands and started dancing! After about a minute, we realized we were having such a great time that we wanted all of our friends to join in, so we waved our friends on the dance floor then and there. We spontaneously sparked a dance party right from the start of the reception.

steph_charlie_317

The next day our friend was telling us that in her dancing glee, she bumped the wedding cake table pretty hard and thought it was going to topple. Now THAT would have been quite a wedding memory!

Rainbow cake

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? Red is my favorite color, but it can be overpowering at times. I knew I wanted a multicolor theme, but my color choices would continuoulsy default to red, even though I didn't want it all that same hue. That being said, I could not have been happier with how the color scheme played out. Some of my favorite elements of the decor were the red ribbon curtain (made from ribbon that we calculated as equaling the length of over 3 football fields) that served as a backdrop at our reception, and my gerber daisy dominated bouquet. I was especially tickled when Charlie chose his red tie. This man knows what excites me!

post-cake kiss

Ooh whee!

Another thing that we were unsure of was our cake. As we live six+ hours from Abita Springs, my stepbrother and his partner were lifesavers at wedding planning. They had heard of a bakery in town that could fulfill my wishes of a multi-tiered, white-frosted cake with a rainbow fruit surprise element.

Colorful Cake

They met with the baker and explained the rainbow tiers and the fruit filling I pined for, plus my need to surprise Charlie with a geeky comic book-themed groom's cake. My highest expectations were surpassed. The cakes were both wowzamatic! The rainbow tiers even had the fresh blueberries, kiwi, and strawberries I had dreamed of. And the groom's cake was a 3D extravaganza!

Whoa!

Charlie eats the city

My advice for offbeat brides: Too much DIY makes for one frazzled bride. There was a point before the wedding where I had a teary breakdown, running out of time to put the finishing touches on the reception area. When planning the wedding and reception, I initially had the idea that almost EVERYTHING could be done the DIY way. I'm crafty, right?!

Photo clothesline

In the end, I was able to release my fervent grip of control. Without some generous help from unexpected sources (our photographer's husband even jumped in to help!), I doubt everything would have come together as amazingly as it did. My advice would be to save yourself this anxiety and limit your DIY elements to what you know one person can accomplish. None of our guests even knew or cared that I ran out of time before setting up a Yoko Ono-inspired wishing tree!

Table decor

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? I learned a lesson that I should have probably known beforehand: timelines are important. I was half an hour late arriving to the Mystery House, and my tardiness pushed our start time. Hence, we lost some good "magic hour" light for photographs, making our photographer's job harder than it should have been.

Bouquet toss!

With so many of our favorite people to visit with and spontaneous dances to dance and friends to high-five, it was way later than initially planned when the fireworks display began. We might have awoken some early-to-bed types. Then we knew that had been the case when the local police showed up and advised there had been reports of loud music and unexpected fireworks. We turned the music down low and began the painful process of hugging our guests goodnight. If we did it all again, I'd stay on track and do the fireworks right after sunset, and all the townspeople would cheer.

Fireworks right above our heads

Mini Wedding Chapel kiss

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. This was SO cool!! Thank you two for sharing all of your wedding story. If you ever decide to have kids someday, I want to see their nursery. Word.

    6 agree
  2. What was the reading from everything is illuminated? I love that book and would love to hear it!

    2 agree
    • Our selection from Everything is illuminated was The 120 Marriages of Joseph and Sarah L. It starts on the bottom of page 207 and ends at page 209 in the version available on Google Books.

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    • Thanks! I HAVE to figure out ways to work those shoes into my regular wardrobe rotation!

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  3. I LOVE "Stephanie Says" (I think of it as my own mini personal anthem) and I love that you walked down the aisle to it! :)

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  4. Yay Stephanie and Charlie! I loved reading about all the great details, like the ceremony music and fruit in the cake! Yay Bonnie and Rob and Brian and Kip too. :) And everyone who made this happen! It's so beautiful and fun — the perfect components of a wedding.

    1 agrees
  5. WOW! BEST. WEDDING. EVER.

    I hope you're very happy together!

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  6. Huzzah! What a lovely treat to find in my Google Reader on a Monday morning! I got to remember all the fun and fabulous details that made this event such a perfect representation of Charlie & Stephanie. Thanks to OBB for featuring it and sharing with the whole internet how fun weddings can be!

    1 agrees
  7. I've lived in Louisiana my entire life and had no.idea. that place existed! Amazing wedding, beautiful bride and groom, y'all did the South proud!

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    • Thanks! You should make a trip to the Abita Mystery House post haste! It's a not-to-be-missed Louisiana spectacular!

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  8. i LOVE the please draw a picture of yourself, that is so creative! did you have a photobooth as well?

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    • Yes! We had bunches of fun photos from the photobooth. It's always one of my favorite parts of weddings/parties. All of the photos with the "House of Shards" background are photobooth shots.

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  9. YOURS SHOES OMG YOUR SHOES I LOVED THEM SO!!!!!!!!!!

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  10. Those shoes! They're so incredible!! And I love the look of the venue. I wish I had something like that near where I live.

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  11. Stephanie and Charlie,
    This might be my favorite wedding so far. I loved everything about it. The video was so so wonderful! That jitterbug piece just cracked me up, and the editing was fantastic. I loved your venue, the outfits, and your whole attitude in general. Y'all seem like very cool people. Congratulations to YOU!

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    • Wow, thanks for the sweet compliments! I have to agree, it's been my favorite wedding so far as well! Really, though, it was a magical day, and I'm glad we could share it here. Our photographer friend did such a fantastic job of capturing the details of the day!

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  12. Do you mind if I ask what the name of the style is of your shoes? The clickthrough isn't working for me and I can't find them on the Irregular Choice website.

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    • This sounds awesome and colorful– I wish I could see the picture, but the link says it is unavailable. :(

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  13. I love, love, love this entry!! The more I read, the bigger the smile got on my face because I'm an La. bride-to-be, have been having a hell of a time finding an awesome venue, I dream of multi-colored crinoline, my wedding music HAS to be Sigur Ros (aboslutely nothing else will suffice), & I love fireworks!! Congratulations on your day & thanks for being a pretty awesome person & thanks for sharing!! :)

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    • Sigur Ros would make perfect wedding music! Good luck on finding your perfect venue! I'd be curious to hear the spot you decide upon.

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      • Went to a wedding where Sigur Ros was played while everyone waited pre-ceremony, it was the groom's selection. My boyfriend and I love Sigur Ros so it was really cool but then he was like, now we can't do that at our wedding bc we're inviting them!

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        • I was able to see Sigur Ros in concert just a couple of weeks ago. I love them and Jonsi so much! But, anyway, the point of this reply is this–even if your friends played them, their music has so many different moods that you shouldn't feel that you can't play their songs as well. And, I'm sure your friends that you are inviting will especially enjoy hearing it!

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  14. Stephanie and Charlie included more special memories that could be told here. My favorite is that my granddaughter who was flowergirl, surprised me wearing a headpiece I had worn in a friend's wedding in 1967. I had given it to Stephanie with no thoughts of a wedding at that time.

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  15. Love this wedding! We were visiting the US from New Zealand last month and I made sure we stopped at Abita Mystery House on our way to New Orleans. So much fun!

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  16. Please oh please share how you made your rainbow crinoline! It has raised the bar impossibly high for wedding day couture and I would love love love to recreate it!!!

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    • I hope you still need this info– I haven't looked at this page in a while… Anyway, start with a white crinoline as a base- a pre-purchased one is easier. Then, buy all of your rainbow tulle and cut to the same length as your base crinoline. Gather and hand stitch the colorful tulle to the white crinoline below the waistband. Trim bottom to proper length. Hope that helps!

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  17. LOVE to see a Louisiana wedding profiled, especially one in a tiny town I grew up in & around! So great. I almost expected to see people I know in the pics!!

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    • Marien- Did you grow up on the North Shore? I love the sleepy vibe of the area. If I had unlimited funds I would definitely have a second-home-hideaway there!

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  18. I totally recognized that the groom's tie was from Cyberoptix TieLab (we used them for our wedding too!).

    Love.

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  19. This wedding is SOOOOOOOOOO me! I'm a side show performer and work a mystery museum booth and am a ghost tour guide. We are using cups as favors and we'll have a bit of Doctor Who (time travel) thrown in. There are so many elements to this wedding that are already in our plan- even the date! We'll share an anniversary come 2016! So glad to hear that this wedding was as memorable as we hope ours will be! And that it all worked! :-) <3<3<3!!!

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