Jenny & Damon's quirky steampunk Buddhist wedding

September 23 |
Jenny and Damon wedding April 14, 2011
Photos by Jessica Watson Photography

The offbeat bride: Jenny, Office Manager

Her offbeat partner: Damon, Customer Service Rep

Date and location of wedding: The Historic Treasury Ballroom, Portland, Oregon — April 14, 2011

What made our wedding offbeat: After ten years of being together, we finally decided we should get married. We picked our wedding date first: April 14th, because we wanted to get married on our ten-year anniversary. April 14th just so happened to fall on a Thursday, so a Thursday evening wedding it was!

Jenny and Damon Wedding April 14, 2011

Our goal from the start was for our wedding to be a big party with all our close friends and family. I did a lot of the things for the wedding myself. I made our save-the-date magnets, response cards, and the wedding programs (with glow stick bonus!).

I didn't want a white dress, and ended up going with a silver one I found for $60 at Nordstrom Rack. My mother-in-law and aunt-in-law tailored and added detailing to the dress. They also handmade my awesome matching birdcage veil!

Jenny and Damon Wedding April 14, 2011

Damon wore a top hat and tail coat ensemble that we rented from a costume shop. I got a lot of his accessories like his cane, pocketwatch, and monocle from Etsy vendors. Etsy is also where I found my very snazzy paper flowers made out of sheet music to use as table settings, bouquets and boutonnieres. I loved it since I have played the piano for 25 years!

Paper sheet music flower bouquets!

Jenny and Damon wedding April 14, 2011
Music tat!

I made the favor boxes that held our customized blueberry lollipops and fortune cookies. All of the vases and candle holders I gathered up for cheap from second-hand stores. I made the ceremony arrangements out of dried sticks and milk cartons.

Blueberry customized wedding lollipops

The guest book I made out of an old picture I had cut out of a magazine many, many years ago and a piece of cardboard.

Homemade guest book!

My crafty husband-to-be made our card box monster out of a few boxes we had around the house and some blue felt. Damon did not want to have a wedding ring of his own, so instead he bought me a ring to wear on my right hand. We DJed our own reception and ceremony with music from our laptop.

Damon's Card Box Monster!

For our cake, we had bride and groom doughnuts from Voodoo Doughnuts.

Voodoo Doughnut wedding cake!

Cutting the doughnut cake!

My mother, mother-in-law, aunt-in-law, and one of my friends were my bridesmaids. We had no groomsmen. They all walked into the ceremony to "Addicted to Love" by Robert Palmer. Rather than be already waiting for me at the end of the aisle, Damon made a grand entrance into the venue with the Halo video game theme playing in the background! That definitely caught some people off guard!

Jenny and Damon wedding April 14, 2011

Kiss kiss!

Tell us about the ceremony: Our ceremony was a Buddhist one, which included chanting and the recitation of the Lotus Sutra, a Japanese sake ceremony (San San Kudo), a simple exchange of vows (no rings), more chanting, and then done. Japanese sake setWe wanted a short ceremony and I think it took no longer than 20 minutes total. Our officiant was someone who had known me since I was born, so it was nice to have her do the ceremony for us.

She read a few Buddhist readings, including:

A man is like a pillar, a woman like the crossbeam. A man is like the legs of a person, a woman like the trunk. A man is like the wings of a bird, a woman like the body. If the wings and the body become separated, then how can the bird fly? And if the pillar topples then the crossbeam will surely fall to the ground. Love is not two people gazing at each other, but two people looking ahead together in the same direction. A healthy relationship is one in which two people encourage each other to reach their respective goals while sharing each other's hopes and dreams. A relationship should be a source of inspiration, invigoration, and hope. If you genuinely love someone, then through your relationship with him or her, you can develop into a person whose love extends to all humanity. Such a relationship serves to strengthen, elevate, and enrich the inner realm of your life.

After the kiss, we walked out to Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now."

The big kiss!

Our biggest challenge: I was constantly getting flack for not doing things the traditional way or "how you are supposed to do a wedding." It was hard at times to fight through the critical and sometimes hurtful remarks. We held true to ourselves though and decided that if they truly cared about us, they would accept how we wanted to do our wedding.

Jenny and Damon April 14, 2011

My favorite moment: We had several friends and family who flew in from very far out of town just to attend our wedding, which meant a lot to us. There was one couple we had not even met before they came here, but we had been friends online for years. It was very exciting to meet them finally.

Also, for me, it was very nice to finally get to take some pretty pictures with my husband. He is very anti-camera. He knew that these pictures meant a lot to me, so he worked really hard to make sure they came out nicely.

Jenny and Damon wedding April 14, 2011

My funniest moment: Part of our wedding ceremony involved a sake ceremony. Since I am not a big fan of most sakes, I decided that we would just use water. Apparently, one of our friends decided that we absolutely had to have sake to use, so he ran all the way through the city and back to find us a bottle while Damon and I were taking pictures.

As I didn't know about this, when it was time to do the sake ceremony, I took a big gulp of what I thought was water (I was really thirsty!). As soon as I tasted it, I just made this horrible, awful, disgusted face as I tried to get the sake down. Everyone just started cracking up! Each time I had to drink it, it was just horrible. But at least everyone found my disgust amusing.

Japanese San-San-Kudo sake ceremony

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I was actually very concerned about doing a Buddhist ceremony, especially since a lot of our friends and family are not. I really didn't want to make people feel awkward or out of place. In the wedding program, I wrote out how the ceremony was going to be carried out so people could follow along. Thankfully, everyone said that the ceremony was very interesting and different.

Glowstick wedding program!

My advice for offbeat brides: The internet is your friend! Without it, I would have been completely lost. I looked up practically every aspect of the wedding online and got some great ideas I wouldn't have even considered without.

Raspberry panna cotta
Raspberry panna cotta = yum

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? Putting together a wedding mostly by yourself is hard, but worth it in the end. I started a year out and I'm glad that I did. I don't think I could have done it in six months or less. Also, it's good to have some really good friends around you to help out. I normally don't let stress get to me, but the few days before and the day of the wedding, I was so stressed I'm surprised I didn't cut someone's head off! Luckily, I had my friends to keep me somewhat cool, and they also took care of the last-minute problems for me too.

Jenny and Damon wedding April 14, 2011

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. We got married on our tenth anniversary too! Yaaay!

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  2. Your bouquet was simply perfect! Best colors, size, everything! Well done on that front (as well as all the others, but your bouquet stood out to me).

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  3. lovely! OMG those doughnut bride and grooms are great!

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    • Thank you! And VooDoo Doughnuts are sooo tasty! :)

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  4. I love the invitations! Did you use a program to design them? I am working on mine and having little luck…

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    • Thank you! I just used Word, Photoshop and MS Paint. It took me forever, but was worth it! :)

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  5. You guys look amazing! The ceremony sounds lovely, congratulations. :)

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  6. I wonder if you are SGI Buddhists? I am an SGI member marrying a non-practicing Catholic, so our ceremony is definitely a mix of traditions. We are planning a San San Kudo as well, but I wasn't going to read from the Lotus Sutra. I'm thinking it might be too much for my guests…maybe I need to rethink.

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    • Yes, we are SGI Buddhists and the officiator is an SGI-USA local leader here. :) She had a collection of quotes from Nichiren Daishonin's writings to choose from. I don't think it was too much at all. If you want to have a reading, I think you should! :)

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      • I think I could include a reading, but since there will only be a few (3) members there, I think the chanting might be out of the question. Thanks for posting your wedding, it's helpful to see other Buddhist services.

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        • There were only my parents and not even a handful of other guests who were members/former members. I had them limit the chanting to 5 minutes tops to avoid too much akwardness. From what I was told, everyone found it very interesting. :)

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          • I'm getting a number of people saying, "We can't wait to see a Buddhist Wedding" but I'm stuck because a: my fiance is Catholic and b: it's not a show.

            Did just your handful of members chant or did you teach the daimoku to everyone?

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          • I wrote out what was going to happen during the ceremony (see my wedding programs) so that people knew what was going on, but only that handful of people actually chanted along with the officiator.

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  7. You guys look amazing! I love your dress, your tattoo and his outfit. And those bride and groom donuts look fantastic!

    It sucks that people can be judgmental of anything that is different. My husband and I had a rock and roll theme wedding, and we received a little flack at first about a couple aspects of the wedding. However, so many people told us afterwards that our wedding was one of the best they had ever been to, and they really liked some of the different things we did. Even our conservative Christian relatives were donning fake tattoos by the end. People really should be more open minded when it comes to weddings – they may find they actually enjoy things they might have otherwise deemed tacky once they actually experience it.

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    • Thank you so much! :) Yes, after everyone got over their hang-ups it seemed we all had an awesome time. I was told many times that our wedding was different, unique, fun and one of the best weddings people had been to. :)

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  8. God, I love this wedding. So gorgeous, congratulations. :) And the photographs, wow. They are incredible, please frame ALL of them.

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  9. Your wedding is so gorgeous! I was stunned when I read that your husband is anti-camera. These pictures are just too amazing for words! You both look so perfect; it almost seems unreal. The picture of you two kissing is the sweetest. :)

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    • Awww, thank you so very much! Yes, the husband dislikes any picture of him – I have no idea why, he looks awesome in these!

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  10. I must have that Veil! Please do a DIY… Your wedding was beautiful!

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    • Thank you! :) I unfortunately did not make the veil, all credit for that goes to my mother-in-law and aunt-in-law. They did an awesome job making it though!

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      • haha I love that the pic of us being naughty with the boys taking pics of us is being included!

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        • I think the one of us leaning in for a kiss is super cute! :)

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  11. Kudos to you for staying true to what you wanted and for all the hard work to create what looks like a very personal and beautiful day!

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  12. Wow, you did a really good job of recreating those invitations! I used the same inspiration for my graphic designer to re-create a similar look.

    I was super bummed the original designer lives in Europe! They're really cool, you did a good job! (original: http://peterbowen.co.uk/ )

    Ps. LOVE THE DRESS :)

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  13. Ps. I would be really careful saying that you designed them, I think a lot of graphic designers keep track of who use their art and graphics without copyright rights. Not trying to be rude but I had to redesign ours to be different so I know what a pain it is.

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    • No worries, I actually didn't know they came from there, now I feel bad!! I saw them on another site for wedding invitation ideas, but they were different than even those and I thought they were cool, so I used them as inspiration. So someone already had the same idea as me, I guess. Hopefully they will be ok with it! You're right, should be "recreated" rather than "designed" now that I know that!

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  14. Hi,

    I'm actually the original designer of your invite and reply card. I'm flattered you liked the work enough to want to use it, but I'd appreciate it if you didn't write that you created it and instead gave me credit for the original, especially as you haven't used them for inspiration as you say, or recreated them, but have just replaced existing text.

    The design isn't available to use as it was a bespoke commission for the original bride and groom and is also fully copyrighted (as seen on my website at http://www.peterbowen.co.uk). Hope you understand this is my livelihood and for it to be seen on sites such as this without proper credit can be damaging.

    I don't mean to spoil your post-wedding high but hope you can appreciate the situation.

    Thanks in advance.

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    • My apologies! Like I said, the webpage I saw it on didn't indicate they were yours, so I did not know they were copyrighted or what not. I didn't mean any ill intent and I have always been careful to give credit where credit is do on anything. It appears that this wedding blog post has already been edited and I have added your information to the pictures in the Flickr feed. Again, I apologize!

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  15. Absolutely loved this original and highly personalized wedding. Congrats on following your own path! Thanks for the inspiration!

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  16. Jenny! I JUST saw that you had posted this to my facebook- thank you SO much, you guys look SO amazing! I love how different your ceremony was and how true you stayed to yourselves. Your flowers are the only flowers i've ever hand delivered (and it was my pleasure!) I'm so glad you've enjoyed them.

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    • Thanks Dana! Everyone LOVED your flowers !! I wouldn't toss my bouquet because I wanted to keep it, lol :) Feel free to use any pictures from here/my flickr or I can send you some if you want!

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