Lauren & Johnny’s rockin’ seaside aquarium boda

By on Oct. 7th

Photos by Brian Murphy Harker and Dean Aaron

The offbeat bride: Lauren, Massage Therapist

Her offbeat partner: Johnny, Spanish-English Interpreter/Translator

Date and location of wedding: The Seymour Marine Discovery Center-Long Marine Lab, Santa Cruz, CA — August 14, 2011

What made our wedding offbeat: The planning process was DIO (do it ourselves) and DIC (do it for cheap)! I had fun dodging the wedding industrial complex by coming up with DIY and inexpensive alternatives. We also went the eco-friendly route by keeping it local, using biodegradable flatware and plates, drought-friendly succulents, local wildflowers, and reusable tea-lights. We enlisted the help of our friends and family, and everyone generously gave us their time, energy, and amazing skills! For wedding gifts, our friends provided the entertainment, photography, cake, and presided over the ceremony.

Whale skeleton and Kiss

I came up with the idea of renting out a local research-based aquarium, The Seymour Marine Discovery Center. Not only was the venue well-priced and within our budget, they provided tables, chairs, AV equipment, and at the end of it all, our money went back to marine research, conservation, and education — something that is very important to us living in Santa Cruz so close to the ocean. They also have two amazing whale skeletons outside, which made for some really awesome wedding photos.

Flaming bouquet!

The reception had a taco bar (an homage to my husband's Mexican roots) and unassigned seating. Because we are avid Burners (attendees of Burning Man), art and fire are integral to our lives, so my best friend welded me a flaming copper flower bouquet! This was one of the first ideas I came up with and seeing it come to fruition was almost more exciting than finding my wedding dress. Obviously, we bucked tradition (to prevent injuries) and didn't have a bouquet toss.


My husband proposed to me during our vacation in Xocimilco in Mexico City. He is Mexican-Salvadoreno, and I am Puerto Rican-Italian. It was important to us to incorporate Mexican food and Latin decorations into our ceremony and reception. Our friend Stacie, who designs posters for bands like Animal Collective, Sleepy Sun, and Ben Harper, custom-made a Dia De Los Muertos-inspired image for our wedding invitations. We also blew up the image to poster size so people could see it when they walked through the door to the reception.

Yum yum!

At our taco bar buffet, we had traditional mole made from scratch, tamales, and many types of salsa. We used Sacred Heart decorations made by a cooperative of women in Southern Mexico who are fair trade artisans paid a living wage.

Keith, Groggs' guitarist!

Music is very important to us, so we had a live '60s-style garage rock band, The Groggs, play, as well as a DJ who spun '80s new wave, '70s punk, and '50s and '60s rock 'n' roll.

Groomsmen and Chevy

At the end of the night we hopped in our friend's '58 cherry red Chevy and checked in to a local B&B. Our friends partied into the night and we heard stories for weeks to come.

Tell us about the ceremony: Our ceremony was unrehearsed and we only exchanged the wording with our officiant via email. The officiant of our ceremony was a punk-rocker back in the day and long-time friend to my husband and brother-in-law. Our ceremony was non-traditional and nonreligious and we wrote our own vows. Mine had a distinctly feminist undertone.

Pin-up bridesmaids, bride, and mama


Our ceremony took place outside, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. My mom walked me down the aisle, between naturally occurring drought-tolerant foliage. The ceremony was only ten minutes long. After the kiss, everyone looked at us for what to do next, and not knowing what to do, I yelled, "Let's party!"

Rock n' Roll bride n' groom

Our biggest challenge: My husband's parents are devout in their religion, which dictates that they shouldn't interact with people outside of their religion. Leading up to the wedding, my husband was really worried that they would not be present. After some negotiations, they agreed to come a day early to meet my family, and decided to stay for part of the reception. Having them come to the wedding despite everything really showed us how much they care and made the day even more special.

My favorite moment: My mom raised me pretty much by herself, so having my mom walk me down the aisle was definitely meaningful to me. My grandfather offered, but it was really important that my mom had the honor.

Crying during Papa's Songs

Also really meaningful was when my husband's father, a trained singer, dressed up in full Mariachi and sung several songs in Spanish for us once the sun set. His voice is incredible and everyone totally freaked out. My husband couldn't keep his tears back. Unfortunately, because of his religious beliefs, we were asked not to photograph him, but I can tell you the image will always remain in the minds of those in attendance!

Ukulele sisters!

During Papa's song

If that wasn't enough, my 15- and 10-year-old sisters busted out their ukuleles and sang the most heart-warming rendition of "You and I" by Ingrid Michaelson.

Hot Bridesmaid Toasts

My funniest moment: The toasts by our friends and family were hilarious. My brother-in-law had us rolling by comparing the merging of our families to a Puerto Rican dish called, "mofongo." The word alone is funny, but this turned out to be the word of the weekend, and the fact that he referenced it in his toast had my husband and I cracking up. My bridesmaids also told embarrassing Burning Man and Vegas stories during their toasts which made the other guests giggle.


Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? We were unable to rehearse the ceremony, so I was worried about how it would play out. We totally "winged it" and nobody could tell the difference. Even the music that had been cued for the bridal processional ("Poison Cup" by M. Ward and "In a Manner of Speaking" by Nouvelle Vague) came on at the exact right moment.

Also the Seymour Center doesn't provide help with set-up or clean-up and I wasn't sure who to ask, knowing that everyone I knew would be in attendance. Luckily, my mother's and my friends came through to help set up and decorate. I also found a local events coordinator who came to the rescue. Four servers assisted during the reception, and were amazing during the break-down and clean up process. We ended up splurging on this, but it was totally worth the money spent.

Jameson Bride!

My advice for offbeat brides: The Virgo in me always advises to make lists and cross things off when you accomplish them. I would say start early, but I know people have pulled off amazing weddings in very little time. At least make decisions early if you can. Come up with a plan and make decisions about what you want the wedding to look like, even if you aren't able to execute it until a few months before the actual day.

Spend the time to seek out creative and inexpensive alternatives. Start local! I went to my local boutique wedding dress shop and was surprised to find amazing deals, as well as unique dresses, while supporting the local economy. Also, if you are DIYing your wedding, delegate responsibility the day before and day of to someone else; you really don't want to be asked where the extra plates are, or who's in charge of the gifts while you're dressed up in your wedding clothes.

Jump before wedding

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? Even if you think you have everything covered, you probably forgot something. Let the small stuff go. Do everything you can before the wedding day and delegate what you can't.



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