Elizabeth & Jeff's vintage whimsical handmade flower wedding

By on Jan 30th
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Photos by Christopher 'Ping' Sullivan and Nicole Michele

The offbeat bride: Elizabeth, Artist

Her offbeat partner: Jeff, Video Game Programmer

Date and location of wedding: Clifton Inn, Charlottesville, VA — July 31, 2011

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: I got married about 10 months after my sister-in-law, who is awesome and did a fantastic job on her offbeat wedding. But I saw how much stress weddings can cause, so we planned our wedding with the goal of being as stress-free and personality-rich as possible. I had a feeling in mind for the event, but we actively edited things out along the way or decided to do things differently if they looked to be too much stress/work. It was a lot of work anyway, but I still had some emotional energy left, and I could feel proud of what we had created.

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I wanted a feeling of vintage whimsical. I dedicated most of my 10 months to making fabric flowers with colorful button centers for all the guests to wear. The fabric was mostly from Goodwill and eBay, so it was budget-friendly. Jeff's suit was also a Goodwill find, and I spent very little on my dress, so we were able to put our money towards what we really care about: the FOOD!

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We love food! We chose our venue almost entirely based on their in-house catering (and the fact that they handle all the set-up). We nixed the cake and instead put our Sculpy cake topper on a giant creme brulee. The guests all got little mini creme brulees to enjoy after the main dessert: warm toffee pudding cake.

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I'm an artist so I couldn't resist DIYing. I hand-painted silk ties for the men in the wedding party, made beaded bouquets, hairpieces and earrings for the gals, and painted my own fingerprint tree for guests to sign. We also made two books for guests to write advice for the us, and we harvested our own honey which we used for table reservations and as guest gifts.

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Tell us about the ceremony: Our processional was a piano version of "Moon River" by The Daydream and we skipped through our recessional to "Oh It Is Love" by Hellogoodbye. Our four brothers officiated and my brother Christopher made the altar from wood on the family farm (which I now have sitting in our dining room as a buffet).

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We wrote our own vows, which included such things as "I promise to tell you what an extraordinarily awesome human being you are when you make me coffee ice cream." We had readings from Dr. Seuss' Oh! The Places You'll Go and a poem by Neil Gaiman ("This is for you, for both of you"). We also planted a pear tree as a symbol of our commitment.

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The ceremony was on a croquet lawn at the venue with flowering trees around it, so there wasn't much decorating we had to do. Plus, our guests picked up handmade fabric flower boutonnieres and wristlets as they walked in and became part of our garden.

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Our biggest challenge: I don't wear makeup or use hair products. And maybe I was going about it the wrong way, but three different hair salons never got back to me when I tried to set up a bridal hair consultation. So three days before the wedding I went out and bought my first curling iron, some hair spray, and a lot of bobby pins (yes, a total disaster in the making).

Luckily, I have amazing cousins who saved the day. They found out I didn't know what I was doing, swooped in, did a practice hair and makeup run, and steered me through my wedding day masterfully.

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My favorite moment: Family is really important to us, so instead of an officiant, we had our four brothers preside over the ceremony, and we got legally hitched a few days before. Having our brothers stand with us during our ceremony and wax poetic on our behalf really meant the world to us.

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My funniest moment: Before the wedding I threw caution to the wind and told my notoriously quirky brother that he had free rein to say whatever he liked during the ceremony. What he came up was Tetris-tastic and Zombie-riffic, and had the added bonus of Sesame Street, Willow, and The Princess Bride references. It was a long speech so I'll post just my favorite parts:

"Bitz and Jeff are a unique and stunning binary star system,
Which, as astronauts pass,
Should they happen to glimpse
Through the port-hole shaped windows
In the sides of their ships
Would cause them to gasp
and the more sensitive ones to shed a tear of joy.
Because they go together like a bee and a flower,
like Princess Buttercup and Wesley,
like zombies and malls,
like shark attacks and Fox News
like mutant turtles and teenage ninjas
like Kermit and Miss Piggy,
like Madmartigan and Sorsha.

45What I am saying is that the union of Bitz and Jeff was cosmically unavoidable.
And now we would like to bless you… (not like as if you were sneezing, but in a much more momentous and significant way)
We believe in you, and your newly formed unit.
We wish you to live long and prosper.

Your commitment is beautiful, and it is amazing to watch your individualities fit together like two L-shaped Tetris pieces to make one, bright, colorful whole.

And sometimes perhaps Jeff will spend hours and hours slaving in the kitchen beating egg whites, and producing the most wonderful golden buttery souffle's, only to have them slip from his oven mitt and land face down on a dog-hair-covered kitchen floor.

And sometimes, perhaps, Bitz will get a long string of those little "z" shaped pieces, right after she finishes preparing a little slot along the edge, where if she could only get a long block she could destroy four rows in one fell swoop and get oodles of bonus points, but the evil Tetris gods just keep sending those little "z" shaped pieces, which she can only keep stacking on top of each other — getting closer and closer to the top edge and an aggravating "game over."

But it is in these times you will be for each other, like bridges over troubled waters. As the wise Grover has declared on Sesame Street, marriage is about kissing and hugging and friendship and helping each other.

As long as you have each other, there will be no soufflé too squashed, or Tetris game too unfair, or velociraptor too angry and cunning and intent on eating you, that you won't be able to kiss and hug and make everything better.

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Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? It was HOT! I mean really hot and humid. At the last minute, we decided to have a pool party at the venue after the reception to cool everyone down, so we emailed all our friends to make sure they brought their suits and asked the staff leave a cooler of Original Sin hard pear cider and some local beers by the pool. It was so thrown together that we thought no one would show, but it ended up being awesome. I actually got to hang out with people who had traveled massive distances to come to our wedding and it reminded me why I like them so much.

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My advice for offbeat brides: Look for deals! If you're on a budget, or even if you are not, there are ALWAYS deals out there if you search for them. We did some hunting and found that the venue that we fell in love with was way less money if we scheduled our wedding on a Sunday and during late summer.

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Make lots of signs and arrows. Guests are often unsure of where to go, what to do, or if they are in the right place, etc. So having signs is incredibly reassuring.

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? Schedules are amazing, for any event. We made a rough schedule of the whole weekend and printed it out for everyone in the wedding. It kept everyone on the same page and relieved a lot of stress. We also gave a detailed schedule to the venue staff, who followed it perfectly, kept everything flowing nicely, and were basically Awesome.

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Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!