Lara & Mark's fiery medieval-inspired handfast wedding

By on Dec 29th

The offbeat bride: Lara, photographic editor (and Tribe member)

Her offbeat partner: Mark, senior systems administrator

Date and location of wedding: Lions Park in Tallebudgera Valley, Gold Coast, Australia with reception at the bride's aunt's house, Tallai, QLD, Australia — October 9, 2011

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: I wore a black dress and Mark wore leather armour. Our ceremony was a Pagan-influenced handfasting with six cords. We had an uneven bridal party and the bridesmaids wore capes! There were no flowers, so my bridesmaids carried censers with smoking incense, while I carried a lantern I bought in a market in Turkey. We tied the knot at sunset in a natural park surrounded by tall trees, handmade paper lanterns, and LED lights scattered to form the aisle.

walking down the long aisle (across the park)

We followed that with a reception in my aunt's back garden, which we had decked out Turkish Bedouin-style. Rugs on the ground, floor cushions, Moroccan lanterns, and hay bales covered in Turkish tablecloths.

our fire dancers light the way in through the garden

Guests were led in through the garden path by fire dancers, who later performed a feature show. With help from family and friends, we made all of the decorations, seating, and tables.

cake toppers revealed!

I sculpted our cake toppers, which we revealed only just before cutting the cake. Our food was wok catering made fresh in front of everyone, served in noodle boxes. We had a belly dancer and a photo booth, and had guests throw streamers over us during our first dance.

best man with cords

Tell us about the ceremony: We put the ceremony together using variations of several different handfasting ceremonies that we had found. We used six cords and made a promise to each other with each binding. We had a circle marked in rose petals that we asked guests to step into, and we marked the beginning with a candle lighting ceremony. The bridesmaids were each assigned a direction (marked by a burning torch) where they stood and offered their blessings.

tying the knot!

our friends and family with their candles

We also included the following lines:

Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life [this part is the legal requirement for marriage in Australia]. Lara and Mark hope that one day this is a right that will be allowed for all couples, regardless of gender.
Others would ask at this time "who gives this bride in marriage," but as a woman is not property to be bought or sold, given or taken, I ask simply if you come of your own will and accord.

our casual reception

Our biggest challenge: The first was coming to terms with sticker shock. I had thought that since we wanted to do things so differently, we wouldn't be going through regular wedding vendors and wouldn't get as much of a mark-up. However, it can cost even more if you want to be different. [This is a good reminder for anyone who thinks "offbeat" is synonymous with "low-budget." -Editors]

lots of rugs and floor pillows

After the shock wore off, we did some calculations and decided that with clever buying, borrowing, and making, we could do the whole lot much cheaper ourselves. We made the coffee tables and tablecloths, we brought back lots of lanterns, rugs, and cushion covers from our trip overseas, and used hay bales as some of the seating. We collected furniture and cushions from secondhand stores, eBay, and op shops.

we did it!

My favorite moment: Our vows and ceremony wording were carefully put together to ensure that we meant every word we said. I don't believe in making grandiose promises about "'til death do us part." Instead we spoke of our hope for our love to last forever, and made personal promises we will endeavour to keep whilst recognising that happy marriages require hard work and compromise.

our LED throwies lit the path

For me personally, walking down the aisle and seeing, at last, all our ideas put together: the aisle lit with scattered LED throwies, the sun setting with pink clouds, all our friends and family holding their candles, Mark waiting for me at the edge of the circle, and the lanterns that my wonderful bridesmaid made. It looked amazing.

with the fabulous caped bridesmaids

My funniest moment: As part of our ceremony, we had each of the four bridesmaids (standing as the Cardinals of North, South, East, and West) issue a challenge. This meant when the celebrant announced, "If any would ask why these two should not be joined, let them stand before those assembled here and speak now," the bridesmaids stepped forward and each asked their questions.

Only the bridal party knew that this was part of the ceremony, so our guests got quite a shock when the first bridesmaid spoke up. She was referred to as the "troublemaker" for the rest of the evening!

first dance with streamers

We also got lost on the way, which was not so funny at the time since we couldn't be late due to the ceremony being right at dusk. My bridesmaid used her phone to work out where to go without realising she had it set to "walking directions." The GPS tried to get us to drive through a park! We then ended up going a back way with lots of windy roads and arrived feeling carsick, but at least right on time. As soon as I stepped out of the car and saw everyone waiting, I felt instantly better.

our cake toppers ready to be unveiled

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? About two weeks before the wedding, we found out that the lady who had been paid to make our cake had closed shop and done a runner with everyone's money. We had no money left in the budget to replace it. Since I had spent weeks working on sculpting our own cake toppers, we went to a small cake wholesaler and ordered three small cakes, just so the toppers would have something to sit on. The cakes didn't look fancy but they were delicious.

We were also very worried about the weather. It stormed the day before, and whilst we had a back-up plan, I really didn't want to have to use it. We got lucky though because the weather was perfect.

belly dancer

My advice for offbeat brides: If your wedding involves lots of DIY, be organised early on. If you're relying on other people to do things, make lots of schedules and lists, but don't be surprised if they don't actually read them.

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? They say that marriage doesn't change anything, and I expected that. But there actually has been a subtle change. Because the vows and promises we made were sincere, we think about them often and our relationship is stronger as a result. I'm glad we worked so hard to make the day about us and our specific strengths.

our entry escorted by fire dancers

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!