Lenna & Matt's big fat traditional Armenian and Japanese wedding

February 23 |
Us!
Photos by PhotoBox Photography

The offbeat bride: Lenna, marketing coordinator, freelance designer, tap dancer, and choreographer

Her offbeat partner: Matt, writer and aspiring comic book colorist

Date and location of wedding: St. Cuthbert's Anglican Church and Le Dome Banquet Hall, Oakville, Ontario, Canada — August 19, 2011

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: I knew that by agreeing to follow my parents' wishes for us to be married in the church with a fairly traditional wedding that I would be giving up the ability to do some of the more offbeat things I would have liked such as a library or museum venue, robots or monsters (two of my favourite things), superhero-named table settings, etc. That said, my parents knew I'm an offbeat kinda kid, and quite graciously and patiently listened to all of my wacky ideas. In the end, they let me do my own thing within an unspoken set of boundaries. I could push tradition, but not too much.

Hairs

The first thing I was adamant about was not wearing a totally white dress. I hate white, I never wear it since I'm super pale, and I don't feel comfortable in it. The compromise was doing black and white, so my mom hand-sewed black beads onto my otherwise white dress, and I accessorized with black lace gloves and black nails. I went with a black chenille dot birdcage veil and white feather fascinator.

Walking down the aisle.

I DIYed almost everything. As a designer, it was a no-brainer to do all my own printed materials. I made all the bouquets myself, which were fabric flowers with rhinestone beads and ostrich feathers for embellishment. My centrepieces were vases lined with fine handmade Japanese papers, filled with tiny Ikea battery-pack LED lights, and sparkly white sticks that had tiny black flowers and tiny black paper cranes tied on. I set them on top of square mirrors, which were a dollar store find.

Paper Cranes

I folded 1,000 paper cranes since we suspect Matt is part-Japanese, he likes Japanese culture, and I've been obsessed with folding cranes since I read "Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes" in elementary school.

Centrepiece Detail

The cranes were on the centrepieces, but also lined the receiving table, the cake table, and strung from the wall behind the head table. Each table was also named after an origami creation, and I had instructions and paper at the table for guests to fold their table's piece.

Our wedding party came from all over: locally in Ontario, but also from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Seattle, and LA. To make things easier and to allow for personalization, I just told them all to stick within the colour "Apple" at David's Bridal and Men's Warehouse, and they were all able to take care of their own clothing choices.

DIY Scott Pilgrim Engagement Photoshoot Guest Book

There were a few other small things that alluded to our concert-going, comics-loving personalities. There was a crossword puzzle in the program with some personal trivia, and board games for the people who don't like to dance (like Matt). Our hand-bound guest book was filled with our engagement photos, as well as stills and characters from the movie Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, since it was the theme of our engagement photos.

Another important aspect for us was to make sure that our wedding was as sustainable as possible. That was a tough feat after agreeing to a "Big Fat Culturally-infused" wedding, but we still managed to make it happen. We were very conscious of the environmental impact of everything we bought, how much travel was involved, our food choices, etc. I purchased sustainable energy for our event through Bullfrog Power.

Armenian Wedding Ceremony - Exchange of Rings

Tell us about the ceremony: Despite neither of us being overly religous, we had a fairly traditional Armenian ceremony. My father is the president of the church committee, and the church has always played a well-defined role in our lives, so it was important to my family that we be married in the church.

Armenian Wedding CeremonyArmenian wedding ceremonies can be long and confusing (especially if nothing is in English, as has been the case with the majority of weddings I've attended), so I made sure to include an explanation of the Armenian Rite in my program, so non-Armenian guests could follow along. I was hoping we could write our own vows, but it wasn't allowed by the church. What we did get to do was have readers (albeit reading religious passages), and secular music for the processional and recessional. We used Vitamin String Quartet covers of "Just Like Heaven" and "Everlong." We also chose to do the majority of the service in English, with only the hymns and certain parts being spoken in Armenian.

Where I grew up in Ontario, we attended a Western Orthodox church, but when I lived in Wisconsin with Matt, I joined the Eastern Orthodox church and befriended the priest there. We were able to have him come up from the U.S. to co-officiate, which meant that our wedding required the permission and blessing of the head of both Western and Eastern Orthodoxies, from both Canada and the U.S.!

Armenian Wedding Ceremony - Crowning

One of the neat parts of the traditional Armenian ceremony is a unity ritual called the "crowning." Sometimes it's done with actual crowns, but the traditional version uses ropes called "narods." They are braided strings of red, white, and green, and our Wisconsin priest actually sent us the ropes and had us braid them ourselves. The red and white ropes are supposed to symbolize the sacrifice of Christ, to remind us that marriage is a sacrifice, and also that Christ must be involved in our marriage. The green symbolizes the hope that there will be growth in the marriage. There's a cross in the middle of the narod, and there's a special "Blessing Prayer" that's said during this portion of the service.

Traditional Armenian Line Dancing

Traditional Armenian Line Dancing

My favorite moment: One thing I really wanted to have happen at the reception was to start off the night with a traditional Armenian line dance — but not just any dance, one that was specifically from the small town where my father was born overseas. One of my best memories of my grandfather is of him teaching me this dance, and he used to always lead it at every family function. I had my cousin lead the line, and then halfway through I took over the lead. Seeing hundreds of my family, plus my new (very non-Armenian!) husband and in-laws trying to follow along is one of my best memories of the whole day.

Bridal Party

Cake Table

My advice for offbeat brides: I've always believed that your wedding isn't just about doing what you want, no matter what anyone else says. I spent most of my planning thinking about everyone else and doing things to make sure the guests had a great time. That being said, you have to know what your top couple of must-be-this-way items are and stick to them. Because in wanting to please everyone else, I didn't stick to mine, and it's my only wedding planning regret.

I knew my top four were: my outfit not all white, having awesome photographers, environmental sustainability, and the music playlist. I stayed on top of the first three, but the last one gave me problems. I spent months writing down songs and daydreaming about it when a song would come on the radio that I love. But the speakers in the hall were owned by a DJ company, so you could hire them, or rent the speakers from them. I wanted to rent the speakers and set up a computer with a set playlist, but we ended up hiring the DJs. They ended up being a disaster by not playing all the music I had on the list, but also making an audio mistake that caused me to sustain an injury and take me off the dance floor for most of the night. I still regret that choice. The point: know what you want and stick to it.

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. It's so interesting to see the different crowning traditions. Greeks are Eastern Orthodox too and their tradition is to use white circlets made of flowers or beads and tied together by a ribbon. I had never seen the Armenian version, thanks for sharing!

    • You're welcome! It's funny, because I'd seen it done a million times, but since none of the ceremonies I'd ever been to were in English, I never knew the significance. Once I was doing it for myself, and learned the English translations, and had it all explained, I realized it was actually pretty cool!

  2. "I've always believed that your wedding isn't just about doing what you want, no matter what anyone else says. I spent most of my planning thinking about everyone else and doing things to make sure the guests had a great time. That being said, you have to know what your top couple of must-be-this-way items are and stick to them."

    THIS! Your day is also about the family and friends that raised you and supported you as a couple. I wish more people would realize that. I had a friend say to me when I expressed this thought, 'I agree – the weding celebration is about the community, its about family and firends. The marriage is about the 2 of you – thats your responsibility, but the wedding is really something you do for everyone else. Personalize it, make it yours, make it special, but remember to be a good host.'

    4 agree
  3. Between two of the Etsys, I have now just blown an hour shopping, drooling, and imagining.

    3 agree
  4. Thank you so much for sharing your day – I just got engaged, my fiancé and I are not religious, but my family is Greek Orthodox, and like you we've agreed to do an Orthodox ceremony for my family's sake. I really have had no idea how to make the rest of the function 'ours,' as you note here, the Orthodox ceremony doesn't allow for much/any customization!

    From one cradle Orthodox to another, thank you so much for sharing this.

    I'm wondering if your photographer knew about the crowning – is this something you had to explain beforehand? I've seen some Orthodox ceremony photos where the photographer doesn't seem to understand how big a deal that moment is. Would love to hear any thoughts you have on this…

    (And any tips on explaining the ceremony in your program would be awesome – aside from my immediate family, NOBODY at our wedding will know what's going on.)

    2 agree
    • Hi! Sorry for the late reply :) I'm glad the sharing helps!

      For the ceremony explanation, our priest from Wisconsin actually had it all in a Word doc, that I edited down and preprinted in our program. In addition to mentioning to our photographers that the crowning was a big deal, I also sent the entire Word doc to them ahead of time, so they could read over the ceremony description and get a sense of what would be happening when. Here's the ceremony description as it was printed in our program: http://www.flickr.com/photos/frainteso/6851719485/

      If you're on the tribe, I'm AniStar818 if you have any further questions :)

  5. I am also Armenian !!!Planning an Off Beat wedding was a bit of a challenge (mine is in 23 days) and I love how you incorporated your personalities !

    Congrats !

  6. Congratulations on a beautiful wedding and a well written and thought out profile. I don't have religious family but they are quite traditional. It's nice to see another couple who successfully including tradition, family expectations and their own individual interests. :)

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