Lenny & Mark's handfasting and dancing castle wedding

By on Nov. 22nd

Both Lenny's fantabulous bridespaint AND their cat invites were featured previously, and with good reason. Read on for the rest of their lovely story.

Bride and groom 3

Photos by Ork de Rooij

The offbeat bride: Lenny, online marketing specialist (and Tribe member)

Her offbeat partner: Mark, spokesman for an insurance company

Date and location of wedding: Wijenburg Castle, Echteld, the Netherlands — August 5, 2011

What made our wedding offbeat: We didn't do anything for the sake of tradition. We left out all things that we didn't care about, kept the ones that were meaningful to us, and wherever possible, gave things a personal touch. We also asked the help of many skilled friends instead of hiring vendors. This not only saved costs, but also contributed to us being surrounded by mostly friends on our special day instead of a lot of strangers.

Our venue: a castle!

The happy couple exiting the venue

I insisted on not marrying in white. White is not my color and it had no meaning to me. As a LARPer, I am somewhat spoiled when it comes to wearing pretty dresses, so I wanted something special. But it had to look "bridal," not like an evening dress. Eventually I found this beautiful green taffeta dress, which was the perfect color for me, while it still was very obviously a wedding dress.

Applying the bridespaint

Instead of jewelry, I opted to get a "bridespaint." It is like a body paint, just not covering all of your body. I had seen it in a picture years ago, and decided that this was what I wanted if I ever got married. I had to drive across the country to find someone who could paint it on me, but it was worth it!

Originally, I did not want a bouquet, because flowers are expensive and I didn't really see the point of having one. But when a friend, who is a florist, heard I was getting married, he immediately offered to make me my bouquet as a wedding gift. Having a bouquet made especially for me with love by a very dear old friend made the thing special, so I accepted it gratefully!

I also wanted to skip corsages. But then I came across a site that sells "wuppies" (furry balls with eyes and sticky feet, originally meant for marketing purposes) shaped like a bride and groom. I thought they would be perfect alternatives for floral corsages. Even grandma wore one! By the end of the day they had ended up everywhere, even on people's faces.

'Wuppie' corsages 2

Our photographer was a friend of ours who is working on his wedding portfolio. He offered us a discount if we allowed him to use some pictures for his portfolio. And as we invited him to stay when his "shift" was over, he took several pictures for us during the evening as well, just because he couldn't put his camera away.

Ceremony table

We also asked him to do a photo shoot with our cat to make pictures for our invitations, which he did for free. We love our cat and couldn't imagine getting married without her. But because she wouldn't have liked being dragged along, we chose to put her on our invites. We framed one of the pictures of her and put it on the table during the ceremony, so it would feel as if she was there, watching us as got married.

My sister, who is a graphic designer, took care of the design of our invitations. My bagpipe teacher, who is a graphic designer as well, had them printed, cut, and folded at his office in exchange for sewing him a bagpipe cover. The invites ended up costing us less than the stamps needed to send them out!

Madlot 1

Because I play the bagpipes, I know several people who play in a folk band with medieval instruments, like bagpipes, the squeezebox, and the hurdy-gurdy. I asked them to liven up our afternoon and to teach our day guests a Balfolk dance (a medieval European dance).

Balfolk dancing workshop 1

We did not want to dance an ordinary Foxtrot for our opening dance in the evening, so we opted for a "Cercle," which is a circle dance in which the participants keep changing partners. We found a beautiful song called "Richard Parker's Fancy" from Omnia, which starts out in Scottish (which my husband and I danced together, while everyone else formed a circle around us) and half way evolves into a Cercle (where we joined the circle and started dancing with the day guests).

I was slightly afraid that not all guests would appreciate this kind of music or dancing, but everyone who was able joined in. They learned the steps in no time and we had a lot of fun! I was also amazed that they all (and some evening guests who also knew the dance) actually had the nerves to show up to dance it with us at the beginning of the party, and even remembered the steps.

Opening dance 2

For taking care of the music during the party, we asked another friend, who regularly works as a DJ. He usually plays industrial music, so we compiled our own playlist, which consisted of mostly '80s and '90s music, and some '70s as well, and burnt the music on CDs for him. It was a lovely trip down memory lane for us and our guests.

Centerpieces

I collected glass jars, decorated them with colored stones and ribbons, and put candles in them as centerpieces. I had saved up about 75 jars, but unfortunately the tables were not very big and room had to be left for the side dishes, so we weren't able to exhibit them all.

Oscar, the card box monster

I made Oscar, our card box monster, out of a waste bin and had our guests feed him their envelopes.

Guest book alternative 1

Because I sew my own clothes and costumes, I decided that we would have a creative guest book. I cut squares from fabric in four different colors and provided lots of decorating material, like paint, ribbon, glue, and beads, and asked the guests to make their own creation on the fabric. The less creative guests could just write their names on it with textile markers. We had them hang all the pieces on a rack once they were done, but in the next weeks I will sew them together to create a wedding quilt.

Favors

Favors were a tradition I wanted to leave out, because there's no way I'm spending money on something most guests will just throw away. But then I got an idea of how to parody wedding favors, and hand out something funny without spending money. I love popping bubble wrap (admit it, you secretly like it too!), so I cut up a big roll of bubble wrap into small pieces and packed them in wrapping paper. I'm not sure whether all guests "got it," but if they have thrown it away, I don't care.

At the end of the party, we surprised our guests with a paper cone filled with French fries so they wouldn't have to drive all the way home with an empty stomach. My aunts and uncles are still talking about that one. It's so easy to please foodies.

Father gives away the bride

Tell us about the ceremony: We only invited 25 people to attend the ceremony. We have a lot of friends, but we did not want to send them away to amuse themselves after the ceremony until it was time for the party, while we were having dinner. Paying for dinner for all of them wasn't a budget option, so we decided to have a small ceremony and afternoon with only our dearest friends and family members, and throw a big party after dinner where everyone was invited.

The ceremony

The music I chose for walking down the aisle was very special to me. When I was young, my mother played in a band that performed at weddings. They always practiced in our kitchen and I knew many of their songs by heart. The band split up years ago, but for old time's sake I wanted them to play at my wedding anyway. So I contacted my uncle, who also used to be a band member, and asked him whether he still had some old music cassettes with their songs. He did, and was even willing to polish the recordings and transfer them to CD! I kept it a secret for my mum, so it was a big surprise when she heard herself play and sing when I entered with my dad.

Thumbs up!

My husband did not want to wear a ring, so we thought handfasting would be a lovely and very meaningful alternative to the symbolism of exchanging rings. We are not Pagans, and therefore did a Celtic handfasting. I made our handfasting cord, which represented us by the charms on each end, and how we got together by the things that were used for the strands of the braid. After my husband said "I do," he made the first knot in the cord. I made the second one after my own "I do." Our officiant then declared us husband and wife, and tied the final knots. We asked our two witnesses to come forward and attach a charm that represented them, to our cord, to indicate that they had been present.

Handfasting by officiant

Having our hands still tied together, we sang a duet: "Islands in the Stream" by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. We took singing lessons together and practiced this song for months. We loved the idea of singing together at the wedding! Unfortunately, I was ill during our wedding day and was very, very hoarse. But we did not want to skip the duet and I sang anyway. It sounded terrible, but I didn't care.

Bride and groom handfasted

My favorite moment: My husband's most meaningful moment was the moment he saw me walking down the aisle with my dad. Mine was when I saw the pride in my father's eyes when he told me this was a wedding dress he could have picked out for me himself.

Additionally, my bachelorette party was also very meaningful to me. My friends went out of their way to throw me an amazing Alice in Wonderland party, which made me realize how blessed I am to have such great friends and family.

Wine tasting

My funniest moment: During the party, we had put disposable cameras on the tables and had a good laugh when we received the photographs afterwards. There were pictures of the ceiling, my husband's soccer team scratching their armpits, three(!) pictures of one of our lady friends' butt, a picture of my aunts hugging a suit of armour and grabbing its crotch… you get the idea. Apparently our guests had a good time as well.

Licking the sword

Also, cutting the cake with a sword that was way too thick and blunt to cut anything delicate (and licking it afterwards), was quite funny. We were glad that the people from the venue took over after our first cut, or we would have ruined the whole cake.

Dad dancing with the bride

My advice for offbeat brides: If you stress easily like me, don't travel too much on your wedding day. We did everything at one venue: getting ready, the ceremony, the afternoon activities, the dinner, the party, and we even had a bridal suite in which we could stay the night. No worrying about arriving in time.

Assign someone to coordinate everything during the day. In the Netherlands, it is very common to ask a friend (or two) to take care of everything, so you don't have to worry about setting things up or handling disasters.

If you want to make sure all guests arrive in time for the ceremony, put a half hour time frame on the invitation instead of a specific hour. It will help people understand when to arrive.

Bride and groom walking towards the venue

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!