Katy & Aaron's forest handfasting and dance party wedding

By
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Photos by Des Haigh

The offbeat bride: Katy, Graphic Designer

Her offbeat partner: Aaron, Museum Collections Assistant

Date and location of wedding: Pacific Connections Garden and Graham Visitors Center, Washington Park Arboretum, Seattle, WA — September 24, 2011

What made our wedding offbeat: It was very important for both Aaron and I to put together a wedding that truly spoke to who we are as individuals as well as a couple. Neither of us are religious, so we really had a blank slate and were able to pull from many ideas/traditions. We knew that we wanted a small and intimate wedding with only our closest friends and family present. Our guest list ended up being about 80 people (quite a feat considering the huge family I have), and it was just a perfect size for us.

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So many things made our wedding special just to us. We drew our inspiration for the overall event from our love of the forest and Renaissance fairs. To this end we had pot roast for dinner, pumpkin pie for dessert (made by my Aunt), and instead of table numbers, we made different crests to mark the different tables. We also got a large cardboard deer head to hang behind our head table Renaissance-style, and used terrariums that we made as the table centerpieces (each with its own plastic knight in shining armor and dragon/other mythical beast inside).

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I also handmade 80 accordion-style books for our guest gifts. I love to make books, so I made as many elements of the wedding as I could: officiant folder, guestbook, guest gifts, table numbers, etc. Our maid of honor's dad cut tree rounds from a felled tree in his yard for us to put our terrariums on each table, and my dad finished them with eco-friendly varnish to make them look fancy. These really added to the forest theme of the reception.

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Tell us about the ceremony: The ceremony was performed by my uncle, who was ordained online, and we chose to incorporate a handfasting. We made our own handfasting cord out of ribbon (three ribbons total: one for him, one for me, and one to symbolize our vows). We wrote our own vows but we broke it down into two parts. First we exchanged personal statements, which were more of a free-form opportunity, and then we repeated identical vows to each other, while bound by the handfasting chord. After saying these vows, we removed the cord without untying the knot and placed it in a special box we had found for the purpose, and there it will stay. We liked the idea that the knot will remain forever from the moment we were wed.

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We were worried about the venue because we were not allowed to have chairs (except for the elderly and handicapped) and didn't want our guests to be standing for too long. We tried to keep the ceremony short and sweet but still long enough to give the proper reverence for what was taking place. We tried to make it memorable, personal, fun and also sentimental. We both cried.

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Our biggest challenge: It was very hard to please all parties involved with the formation of the guest list. We were still making final decisions way after the original invitations had gone out. In the end, Aaron and I had to stick with one rule to determine if someone made the cut or not: do they know us as a couple? We had a lot of extended family members and friends who only knew one or the other of us and due to our venue's limitations and personal wishes, we could not invite everyone.

So, we limited it only to people who knew us both, together. These are the people who would take the greatest joy out of being at our wedding, and who we felt the most comfortable inviting to be with us for our private moments that day.

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My favorite moment: The handfasting ceremony was very symbolic to us as a visual representation of not only our coming together as two people linked as one, but also the formation of one cord forged from both of our lives to create a single stronger cord bound by love. We both cried while we read our personal statements to each other. Additionally, our friends and family made some wonderful speeches at the reception that did not leave a dry eye in the house.

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Come at me, bro.

My funniest moment: The crazy dance party! We have never really been big on dancing and usually pass it up at weddings, and assumed our friends and family would be the same way. We made an "after dinner mix" anyway with our favorite music that was too fast to play during dinner, and lo and behold — the dance floor filled up. It was crazy. One of my aunts danced so hard that night that she stressed her ankle and had to wear a boot for a month afterwards. It was so crazy, unexpected, and WONDERFUL.

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Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? There just was so much to do on the actual day of the wedding. I am a very organized and detail-oriented person so I had a three page Excel document detailing the entire run-down of the wedding and delegating jobs to people. It still felt like there would never possibly be time to get everything done.

After myself and my bridesmaids had our hair and makeup done, we were supposed to go to the venue and help for a few hours, but we were delayed and ended up only being able to stop by briefly before it was time to leave to finish getting ready. I thought for sure that the hall would be nowhere near completion and that there wasn't enough people to help. Turns out, our friends and family are awesome and it was coming together very quickly. Sometimes its hard to let go and trust that other people will do what you ask of them, but everyone that was involved (and even some people who I didn't know) came through with flying colors.

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My advice for offbeat brides: Most likely this experience is not going to be like all of the movies and magazines tell you, or even what you read about in some blogs, but if you stick to your guns and fight for what is important to you as a couple, you will have the best day of your life and it will all be worth it. Don't be afraid to express your wishes to your family, even if it means repeating yourself politely but firmly several times.

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? I learned a lot about communicating with my husband and that finding a compromise does not mean necessarily that you won't get 100% of what you want out of the situation. I am a "big picture" person and Aaron likes to get all of the details ironed out before he moves on to the next task, so at times it was a tug and pull to get things organized.

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!