Allison & Christopher's simple sunflowery garden wedding

By on Oct 10th
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Photos by Mitchell Maher

The offbeat bride: Allison, English grad student (and Tribe member)

Her offbeat partner: Christopher, Actor/Magician

Date and location of wedding: The Crepe Place, Santa Cruz, CA — July 16, 2011

What made our wedding offbeat: First of all, we live in New York City, and we had the wedding in Santa Cruz, California. Planning an event so far away had its disadvantages, but it was important to us that the place hold special meaning. Along the same lines, our top priority in planning was to scrutinize intensely any tradition that was presented to figure out if it held any meaning for us. If it did, then we thought carefully about how we wanted that tradition to be included. If it didn't, then we tossed it.

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What resulted was a very simple, outdoor ceremony, held in the morning at one of our favorite restaurants, followed by a casual brunch. We had about 60 guests made up of close friends and family. We refused to make seating arrangements, figuring that all our like-minded people would find each other, which they ended up doing amazingly well. We wrote the entire ceremony, a family friend was our officiant, and our siblings were our wedding party, even though it made things a little lopsided.

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We kept costs low in few different ways: first, by having the ceremony and reception in the same place, with no transitions for photos or travel. Instead, we had photos after the wedding when everyone was more relaxed. We made a lot of our own decorations, such as jar lanterns, burlap banners, and seed packets for favors. An incredibly talented family friend did the flowers, arch, centerpieces, boutonnieres, and my headpiece. Christopher created our wedsite and I drew all the pictures for it. I also typed out all our invitations on a real typewriter, since I really wanted the letterpress look but couldn't afford it.

Invitation

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Tell us about the ceremony: Our ceremony was short, sweet, and very carefully written. We read a lot of sample ceremonies and vows beforehand and adapted at will. The only reading we included was the Apache Wedding Blessing, which is not really Apache and comes from a novel, but has a beautiful sentiment nonetheless.

ceremony

We are both atheists and the most important part was that there was no mention of anything spiritual. Our officiant was an invaluable family friend who really listened to us and agreed to stick completely to the script. We also wanted the ceremony to reflect the fact that our two families were merging, so we mentioned family quite a bit.

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In addition, we included a very brief nod to Christopher's grandfather and my uncle, both of whom had passed away in the time between our engagement and our wedding. We did not want to get people depressed, but it was important to us that they were included in the event.

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Our biggest challenge: I would say the biggest challenge was convincing everyone involved to keep things simple. We are simple people who don't like a lot of fuss. Many people had worried looks and a lot of concern that things weren't "wedding-y" enough. Whenever I made a decision, I ended up hearing, "Oh, that's nice, but remember it's your wedding!" Luckily, because Christopher and I were so careful to hone our vision together right from the start, people ended up really respecting that vision and doing everything they could to make it happen.

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My favorite moment: Before the wedding, a coworker asked me what I was looking forward to the most and I said, "Getting up there, saying my vows, and getting married!" For some reason this was not what she was expecting, and she cracked up. But I was not disappointed. My absolute favorite moments were walking down the aisle toward my future husband, holding his hand, listening to his vows, saying mine, and then smooching. It was too short, just like everyone said it would be, but it was still the best thing ever.

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I was also very moved by how many of our friends and family came from out of town, and from quite a long way. I knew they were coming, but seeing them there that day really solidified how much they cared about us.

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Oh yeah, tiny bubbles. I love you.

My funniest moment: The first funny moment was right after the ceremony. At the early stages of planning, I had wanted the guests to have bubbles to blow at us during the recessional, but I completely forgot and moved on. Not even knowing I had wanted it, my mom decided to give everyone bubbles in secret and surprise us with them! It was surreal and fabulous.

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Another was actually an amazingly touching moment turned funny. My dad is a very quiet, reserved man. He surprised us all by beginning his toast with a sincere, heartfelt shout-out to my mother for making him so happy for so long, and starting to cry. My mother, looking shocked and mortified, whipped her head around to me and whispered almost angrily, "He's making me cry! I was not expecting this!" It was hilarious and beautiful at the same time.

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Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? There was supposed to be a DIY photobooth, but we had printer trouble the night before and we scrapped it. We ended up not missing it at all. We also planned on having cupcakes, but because of communication problems we got a huge cake that actually turned out really well.

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My advice for offbeat brides: I can't express enough how vital it was that my fiance and I sat down and had a semi-complete, detailed vision that we agreed on and felt excited about before involving anyone else. I felt so much better when I had to stray from that vision for one reason or another when I was sure in my mind what everything meant to me.

Also, once you decide on your ceremony, it is so incredibly grounding amid all the nitty-gritty things that can potentially drive you crazy. You don't have to write it, but having my ceremony and vows to read over in times of stress was one of the most calming, lovely things, and helped remind me what the heck we were doing.

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? Direct communication with people is imperative. It is too easy for ideas to be lost in translation when there is a grapevine involved. I also found that the family and friends who came through for us the most were not the ones I expected, and I now know more than ever not to take anyone for granted.

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!