Meg & Zach's simple Southern kid-friendly Christian wedding

July 27 |
CoxWedding-135
Photos by StoryPhotographers: Ashley Stephenson and David Teeter

The offbeat bride: Meg, Special Education Teacher

Her offbeat partner: Zach, Youth Pastor

Date and location of wedding: Rock Hill, South Carolina, Ebenezer ARP Church — March 19, 2011

What made our wedding offbeat: Our wedding is definitely what I consider to be "offbeat lite." At first glance it would seem like your average, Southern church wedding. All of the usual suspects were there: the big white dress, lots of attendants, flower girl, ring bearer, father giving the bride away, etc.

But we did our best to look at all the traditions and only commit to the ones that we felt were true to who we are, what we believe, and what we wanted people to remember. For us, that meant picking and choosing between a lot of traditional aspects and balancing our slightly offbeat nature without doing things just for the sake of being "different."

Cake Kisses

We ditched:

  • "Traditional Wedding Music" played on the organ or piano and instead used all of our favorite hymns played by an acoustic guitarist for the processional and recessional.
  • A unity candle (or similar ceremony) and instead I had important people in our lives each hand me a flower as I walked down the aisle. Then our moms tied them together to create my bouquet.
  • An adult-only dinner and dancing reception and instead had lots of kids. We had finger foods under a tent in the front yard of the church with Bocce and cornhole for family-friendly entertainment.
  • A DJ, and instead Zach set up the sound system from the youth building and played a mix from his iPod.
  • Garter and Bouquet tosses and instead opted for spending more time with our guests without making our single friends feel awkward.

Momma's tying the bouquet

Stickers + Hanger = Easiest project ever!

Tell us about the ceremony: Our ceremony was about as bare-bones as a Christian ceremony can be. There was some praying, some bible reading, some preaching, some vows, a little bit of singing, a little more praying, then "Yay! We're done!" We were in and out in under 20 minutes.

"Oops!"

Our biggest challenge: My biggest challenge was myself. I questioned EVERYTHING I did. Am I DIYing enough? Am I DIYing too much? Are people going to think this is tacky? What if it rains and my outdoor reception dreams are ruined? Am I asking people to help too much? Do people think I don't want their help because I'm NOT asking them enough?

My poor fiance and friends had to put up with a lot of second guessing from me. I'm not sure if I really "overcame" this challenge, but in the end I realized that it didn't matter. As long as I included the people who were most important to us, tried my best to glorify God in our worship service, and did my best to make sure everyone was comfortable and happy, it really didn't matter.

"Surprise!"

My favorite moment: There were plenty, but my absolute favorite moment (other than, you know, pledging my love to my new husband and whatnot) was receiving my flowers for my bouquet. I'm a special education teacher and people with disabilities are one of my biggest passions. One of my all-time favorite women with Down Syndrome was able to come to my wedding. I've known her for years as my camper, my teammate in Special Olympics, and my friend.

I didn't set this up on purpose, but she was the very first person to give me a flower as I came down the aisle. After the ceremony, I had tons of guests coming up to me saying how they didn't think they were going to get emotional, but when my dear friend with Down Syndrome handed me that flower, they all lost it.

T practicing her flower hand off

My funniest moment: Let me set up the story by putting it out there that I go to a fairly conservative Presbyterian Church in the South. In the 226 years that this church has existed, I'm the first bride to have a "bridesman" in her wedding — and apparently this was causing some slightly raised eyebrows from many members of the congregation.

Originally, my bridesman (my brother-in-law) was going to walk down the aisle with the Matron of Honor (my sister/his wife). But one of our attendants had to drop out at the last minute and it turned out that my bridesman was going to walk out with one of the groomsmen. In theory, I could have just had each of those boys walk alone, but it didn't occur to me that anyone would even notice. I figured they'd just walk side-by-side and be on their way. Well, my brother-in-law grew up in this church and wanted to turn some heads. So on the way out the door, he linked arms with that groomsman and practically skipped.

Bridesman and Groomsman

Cake and Bouquets

I also completely rejected my poor dad's farewell kiss for me at the altar! When it was time to join my hands with Zach's and walk up to the stage, I was so focused on making sure my Maid of Honor got my bouquet and that I didn't trip over my train up the stairs that when my dad leaned in to kiss my cheek, I was shoving my flowers in my Maid of Honor's face and was halfway up the stairs. Everybody laughed, my poor daddy just shrugged his shoulders and sat down.

Minister updating facebook.
Facebook official!

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? From the moment I said I wanted an outdoor reception, my mother was completely against the idea. She is a very practical person (which I love about her) and thought it was a waste of money for me to rent a tent for my March wedding. March in South Carolina is definitely an unpredictable weather month.

The tent

Her biggest fear was that I was going to rent this tent, then it was going to monsoon or be freezing and we'd end up paying for a tent while having the reception in the church gym. Leading up to the wedding, the weather reports were not looking great. It wasn't going to be bad weather, but it was going to be a little chilly. But we had record highs that day and tons of sunshine! It really could not have been a better day for a wedding.

Mother of the Bride approves :)

My advice for offbeat brides: Create a mission statement. We never had anything formally written down, but we knew we wanted to keep things simple, honor our beliefs, and create a kid-friendly environment. Making decisions was much easier when we'd evaluate them based on those characteristics.

Mr. and Mrs. Owl

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? Don't get caught up in obsessing over details for your wedding. Zach and I only argued a few times about wedding-related things, but I learned a very important lesson from one of these arguments. I had my heart set on making bunting to decorate the front of the church for the ceremony. I searched for the perfect fabric. I searched for tutorials. I pored over inspiration pictures. I was seriously obsessed with the idea.

Zach didn't have much to say about it, but then one day we got into a big philosophical discussion about weddings and all the fanfare that goes along with them. We had said from the beginning that we wanted a simple wedding and that our main goal was to honor God and honor the covenant of marriage. Zach felt that by putting TOO much thought into decorating the church we might be shifting the focus from the covenant of marriage to trying to impress people. At first my feelings were completely hurt. I just wanted to make things pretty! But after the shock wore off, I realized it wasn't wrong of me to want to do something cute, but I needed to take a step back and remember where my focus should be.

Cake Kisses

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. Another fan of your bouquet idea, it's so sweet. Definitely squirreling that one away for future reference!

    Also I love the picture of your two dudes skipping down the aisle. Too cute.

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  2. I love that dress (and wanted desperately to love it on me, but really, really didn't)! Any chance Meg can chime in and tell us where she got her goooooorgeous bolero?

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    • Thank you so much! I actually found the bolero on the clearance rack at Ross Dress for Less for $5. Then I dyed it with tea so it would match my ivory dress. It didn't have a tag in it so I don't even know who made it – I wish I did though! It was so perfect and so comfortable, and I would love to be able to tell everyone where to get one!

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  3. What a beautiful and genuine wedding! Thanks for sharing and for being open about your Christian faith–it's a perspective not shared here too often, so I love the diversity. And I am soooo jealous of your custom Chacos!

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  4. Swoon for custom Chacos!! Such a great shoe decision!

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  5. Beautiful color combo that isnt used very often and bride looks great in her dress with the beautiful short laced bolero…. Amazing wedding pictures all around.. Congradulations on your wedding!!

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  6. I think this is one of my favourite OBB weddings of all time.

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  7. Love love love it. I laughed when I read about the "rejected dad kiss," because I also totally did that! Also, LOVE the cake topper. Congratulations, fellow offbeat-in-the-ministry types!

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  8. The cake is soo cute! Love that we're wedding-color twins!

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  9. I actually picked the exact same dress from David's – LOVE IT! You look so great in it! Where did you get your lace shrug? Looks great with the dress!

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  10. Yay!! I am so excited to see Megan and Zach featured here! We have gotten so many comments, as their photographers, about how awesome all their details were. Doesn't it make a difference when you choose to do things because they mean something to you, not because it's "supposed" to be done? Woohoo Megan and Zach!

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  11. Oh, your wedding is so sweet and beautiful! I love what you said about making a wedding beautiful being OK, but not to let it take the focus off of what is really important. I have been learning that lesson too, as my wedding is 3 1/2 weeks away! At first I was all about the inspiration and cute details – now that we are closer I'm realizing that what I want to focus on is writing the ceremony and our vows, making our friends and family feel welcome, and ditching some of the DIY projects I don't have energy for.

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  12. LOL, the two dudes is awesome, and I'm so glad they decided to just have fun instead of fall to the pressure! That's such a fun picture.

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  13. It's so nice to see that we Christian girls can still have a fun offbeat wedding :)

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  14. "Zach felt that by putting TOO much thought into decorating the church we might be shifting the focus from the covenant of marriage to trying to impress people."

    This really resonated with me. And it sounds exactly like the kind of thing my boyfriend will say once we're engaged. Which is why I love him – because he stays way more focused on what is Biblical. But dang, sometimes I just want my pretty!!!

    While I love all the offbeat brides on this site, it sure feels good to see my personal demographic here. Believers, represent! :D

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  15. I LOVED reading about your wedding and seeing the final results! My promised and I are devout Christians (non-denominational) and the biggest goal is to keep the focus on God's joining us together in marriage! Thank you so much for sharing!

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  16. I kept thinking that church looked familiar and then I read the location! Egads! An off-beat wedding a half mile away from my humble abode! Coming from a native of Raw Kill, this is definitely a refreshing take on a traditional wedding. It's one thing to personalize a funky night club or caberet, or bring a personal touch to an adorable garden or park. To carve out an individual, intimate wedding with lots of unique details from the uncompromising bulk of a 200+ year-old brick and mortar church is something else entirely. Every inch inside and out is consummated with generations of tradition and solemn dignity iced with industrial strength carpet and desolate wood paneling. In many ways, these off-beat "lite" weddings require more skill, cunning and creativity than their fully off-beat equivalents.

    And best use of owl cake toppers. Ever.

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    • It's so funny I saw the architecture & thought for sure it was the Baptist Church around the corner from me in Central Florida. I guess builders in these small towns in the South were all working off the same blueprints :)

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  17. I'm glad someone else had an outdoor wedding in a month with unpredictable weather and it all went down okay. My mom and dad have similar reservations about my planned picnic wedding in May (I live in Canada)

    I love your planning philosophy too, the marriage is way more important than all the fuss. At the end of the day, it's a celebration of your love and commitment.

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  18. What a beautiful, simple wedding! I love it! the owl cake toppers are adorable! Best wishes!

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  19. Absolutely BEAUTIFUL wedding. So sincere and lovely. Good for you, guys! Also- I may have to hijack that bouquet idea ;)

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  20. I have no prospects of being married any time soon, and was searching around to help a friend with her wedding but I had to read this article. I feel such resonance with your goal with your wedding. It has made me feel so much happier to know that there are people out there who cherish the essence of marriage and are not affaid to to show their love to each other and their commitment to God. Inspirational and heart warming, something for me to look forward to I hope!

    God bless you beautiful people.

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  21. I really appreciate what's said about the outdoor reception .. having an outdoor reception with lawn games and picnic baskets/blankets it's exactly what I envision, but dealing w/ family and their opinion has been a pain… glad to see someone pull it off,:)

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  22. Meg,

    I absolutely adore your wedding! I am dying to know where you got your owl wedding cake toppers?

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    • I found the owls in the dollar section of Target and then just spruced them up a little bit with some fabric and buttons I had left over from other wedding projects.

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  23. I absolutely loved everything about your wedding!! It is such an inspiration as I gear up for my own in December :)

    I've been calling mine "offbeat lite" around the house too :)

    I realize this is 2 years after the fact, but if you are still on the site, I would really love to know what readings you included – I am really struggling with this! Hymns have been easier to find that gibed with our faith and sensibilities, but readings…. yikes!

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