This week we're celebrating simple weddings, featuring couples who opted to go a bit more minimal with their wedding details.
The offbeat bride: Megan, High School Teacher
Her offbeat partner: Jay, Industrial Mechanic
Date and location of wedding: Windpoint Lighthouse Beach and our backyard, Racine, WI — June 21, 2011
What made our wedding offbeat: From the start, Jay and I decided the wedding would be about us or not at all, but we were on a pretty tight budget. The last thing we wanted was to be part of a three-ring circus and lose sight of the point of the day. We decided that we didn't want people to feel obligated to attend, send gifts, or spend money on our day. We opted for no wedding party, no formal invitations, no guest list, no gift registry, no flowers (other than corsages for the mothers), no favors, no centerpieces, and no formal venue. We wanted our wedding day to be stress-free and just another day in the many days ahead of us in our life together.
Most offbeat of all was that we were married on a Tuesday morning! From the beginning of the planning process we knew we wanted to be married on the summer solstice because there seemed to be no greater symbol for a lifetime of love to come than celebrating the beginning of that commitment on the longest day of the year.
Our ceremony was far more important to us than the reception and we spent most of what little time we had planning those details. The one detail I really insisted upon was having a brooch bouquet. Because the custom-made brooch bouquets that are available online are so expensive, I decided to make my own with help from family and friends gathering brooches and earrings.
For the reception, we went as casual as possible and planned a backyard BBQ. My mom, aunt, and I made all the side dishes the day before, which was great because the three of us cooking together has been a tradition as long as I can remember. I ordered a couple of cakes from an amazing local bakery and the meat for our BBQ from another local restaurant.
Tell us about the ceremony: Jay and I wanted a wedding that was "us" in every sense of the word, and it was very important that we have the right person to incorporate the right amount of tradition, personality, humor, and joy into our ceremony. We found those abilities in Rev. Paul Costanzo of Muskego, WI. He sat down with us, got to know us, our families, and what we envisioned for our wedding day. He was so accommodating he even took a half-day off from his day job to officiate our wedding. Neither of us considers ourselves to be very religious — more spiritual.
We also had a limited window of time to work with. Because of the restrictions at the beach where the ceremony took place, we could not bring chairs for our guests and a couple of our family members have health issues that limit their capacities to stand for long periods of time. Because of this, we kept the ceremony short and simple. The standout feature of our ceremony were our vows which Jay and I wrote together:
I invite you to share my past and envision our future together with these vows.
I promise to affirm my love and admiration for you daily.
I promise to walk with you through life, to support and encourage your creativity, and sense of adventure.
I promise to always see you as you are, respect you as an individual and to be conscious of your needs.
I promise to start each and every day new, without the wrongs that may have come the day before.
I promise to share in your trials and celebrations as your partner, lover and friend.
I promise to remember the sacredness of this day and to love you my entire life as I do now.
The ceremony itself was very brief and informal. We all met at the lighthouse and when everyone had arrived, we all walked down to the beach together. Paul asked that those in attendance form a semi-circle around Jay and I, and he began the ceremony by acknowledging the significance of the solstice and the occasion of marriage. Our mothers shared the readings we picked out. We exchanged vows and then rings. Rev. Paul shared a few words of wisdom about love and marriage before closing with this poem:
"These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of love for you, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow, and forever. These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future. These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, and with the slightest touch, will comfort you like no other. These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief fills your mind. These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes; tears of sorrow, and as in today, tears of joy. These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children, the hands that will help you to hold your family as one. These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it. And lastly, these are the hands that even when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just a touch."
Our biggest challenge: We originally planned a destination wedding in New Orleans and dreamed about our laid back outdoor elopement in the French Quarter. It was going to be romantic and playful and suited both of our personalities to near perfection. With only a few details left to iron out, a mere three weeks before the wedding, we had a wedding budget disaster. Two of our major household appliances and one of our vehicles went out of commission within days of each other.
With some quick thinking and complete re-organization, we scrapped our original plans and made a round of phone calls to our friends and family to let them know we were no longer eloping, but having a small ceremony and BBQ to celebrate our marriage right where we lived. Our families, who would have not all been able to attend our wedding down south, were ecstatic to hear of our change of plans.
My favorite moment: A really special part of our ceremony was having a vase of stones from the beach where we were married passed around so that each of our guests (all 12 of them) could hold on to one during the ceremony and make a wish for us on our wedding day. This way, even if we don't live here forever, we'll be able to carry that day and place with us where ever we go. We picked out the stones from the beach the day before the wedding and it was a nice way to take a little while to be together in the middle of the flurry of wedding activities.
Given that we had originally planned our wedding day with the idea that few, if any guests, would be part of our day, when we changed our plans, it meant we got to have our families be an integral part of our day. Jay's mother read an excerpt from Plato's dialogue "Symposium" and my mom read a poem Jay found called "Fidelity" by Dorothy Colgan. Our moms each held on to the ring of their future son/daughter-in-law to pass to their son/daughter during the ceremony. It was heartwarming to have them both be a part of our ceremony in this way.
FIDELITY by Dorothy Colgan
Man and woman are like the earth, that brings forth flowers
in summer, and love, but underneath is rock.
Older than flowers, older than ferns, older than foraminiferae,
older than plasm altogether is the soul underneath.
And when, throughout all the wild chaos of love
slowly a gem forms, in the ancient, once-more-molten rocks
of two human hearts, two ancient rocks,
a man's heart and a woman's,
that is the crystal of peace, the slow hard jewel of trust,
the sapphire of fidelity.
The gem of mutual peace emerging from the wild chaos of love.
"Symposium" From Plato's Dialogue
It's obvious that the soul of every lover longs for something else; his soul cannot say what it is, but like an oracle it has a sense of what it wants […] Suppose two lovers are lying together and Hephaestus stands over them with his mending tools, asking […] "Is this your heart's desire, then– for the two of you to be come part of the same whole[?] Then the two of you would share one life, as long as you lived, because you be one being, and by the same token, when you died, you would be one and not two[.] Surely you can see that no one who received such an offer would turn it down; no one would find anything else he wanted. […] Why should this be so? It's because, as I said, we used to be complete wholes in our original nature, and now "love: is the name for our pursuit of wholeness, for our desire to be complete. […] There is just one way for the human race to flourish: we must bring love to its perfect conclusion [to] recover his original nature.
My funniest moment: We had a couple of funny moments that stand out. After the ceremony, we left the beach and took our photographers downtown. Not long after arriving, my husband, who possesses a wonderful sense of humor and a love of historical weaponry, spotted some old cannons on the steps of Memorial Hall. He insisted that we not only have some pictures with them but that he sit astride as well. While our photographer was skeptical of the propriety of the shots, he was understanding enough to comply with our odd request.
Having spent the morning outdoors for the ceremony and about two and a half hours for portraits, by the time we made it back to our house to change clothes and relax before the BBQ, we were pretty sunburned. Which, while uncomfortable, was pretty funny. Looking back at the photos, you could see a perfect outline of my wedding dress on my skin while I was wearing my reception dress.
Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? While it wouldn't have been a complete disaster if it had happened, the news had been predicting gross and rainy weather all week for the day of our wedding. We lucked out and the rain held until our last guest was leaving the reception. In the morning for the ceremony, there was a beautiful layer of fog off the lake, and by the time we were ready to take portraits, the sun had burned off all the fog and we had blue skies and beautiful sunlight for our pictures. We couldn't have asked for a better day.
My advice for offbeat brides: Make sure that you plan your day in such a way that you (not just your guests) have a good time. We don't think it was luck that we got the stress-free, fun, laid-back wedding day we wanted. We delegated a lot to our friends and family who all wanted to help.
You should also make sure you find at least 10-15 minutes of quiet time at some point in the middle of the day for just you and your new spouse. We took this time to sit and reflect on the importance of the moments we'd shared so far as a married couple, and were touched by each other's perspectives from the day so far.
Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?
- Photography: Chris Hoffmann
- GREAT ribs/chicken: Charcoal Grill
- Cake: Oh Danish Bakery
- Dress: JLM Couture bridesmaid dress in ivory
- Tables and chairs: Gen Rental
Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!