Devon & Michelle's lesbian pirate bowling wedding

March 22 |
Ahoy!
Photos by Meghan Miller

The offbeat bride: Devon, English Professor

Her offbeat partner: Michelle, Librarian

Date and location of wedding: Arrowhead Lanes Bowling Alley, Champaign, Illinois — October 15, 2011

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Technically, and I suppose legally, our wedding was a civil union ceremony, but everyone referred to it as a wedding. We decided to dress like pirates and everything was pirate-themed. I'm not sure when Michelle's affinity for pirates began, but as long as I've known her she's talked about both renting out an entire bowling alley and having a pirate wedding. What better way to make those dreams come true but have a pirate-themed wedding AT a bowling alley.

Playing Arcade Games

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We made favor bags with eye-patches in all different colors, and wristbands with pirate sayings on them. I attached tags Michelle printed with our names and the date on them.

Thank you!

Because our venue is not normally set up for weddings, and because we had a budget in mind, we ended up doing a lot ourselves. My brother's wife is a graphic designer, so she helped design the map background and heart and crossbones logo. I hand-burned the edges with a wood-burner for effect. The dye in the paper stained my fingers for days, but in the end, I felt like it was worth it!

Rings and Shells

I shopped for months for vintage and contemporary lanterns and shells to use for decorations. We did not have flowers at all unless you count the fake palm trees.

We set up everything ourselves with the help of our friends a few hours before the ceremony. Because we put so much of our own work into it, the wedding ended up feeling very intimate.

The Ceremony

Tell us about the ceremony: We created the ceremony with our friend and officiant Janice, combining traditional and whimsical elements. We had her mention responsibility and devotion throughout the ceremony as a way to balance the two. Our friend, Kate read e.e. cummings' "i carry your heart," one of my favorite poems:

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Then we exchanged vows where we spoke of each other as treasure and included personal details like how Michelle is my compass and true north and how I have no sense of direction.

Exchanging Rings

Our biggest challenge: Our biggest challenge happened a month before the wedding when some family members began to voice objections to our ceremony and decided not to attend after all. It was disappointing, and unfortunately, we're used to dealing with these views on a political level but not a personal one. Remaining focused on the people who were helping us became significant throughout the last few weeks of planning. Ultimately, every single person who attended was warm, congratulatory, and positive, and most of them really got into the spirit of dressing like a pirate.

Map as wrapping paper

Another challenge was balancing the sincerity of committing our lives publicly with the whimsy of the pirate-theme. Michelle and I must have had a hundred conversations about how to do this. I kept saying, "It's a wedding, not a birthday party or a skit." What helped was embracing the spirit of a wedding while remembering that the day was for and about us. In the end, I just wanted to be able to express how we felt about one another.

Pledging on the Sword

My favorite moment: We ended up loving the ceremony. The vows were very personal, vowing protection from spiders and creepy crawlies, but also pirate-themed as we vowed to love in scurvy and through fire. During the exchange of rings, our officiant joked about the rings being part of a plunder. We swore on a sword, which Michelle's mother brought forth, so she stood with us for a portion of the ceremony. This was important to us because Michelle's father is no longer with us.

Jumping the sword

We also jumped over the sword at the end, which symbolized us moving forward together.

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We cut the cake with a real sword!

My funniest moment: We made part of the cake to look like a pirate ship and placed it on a huge sheet cake from a local grocery store. Michelle cut the cake with the pirate sword! When we first purchased it, we were going to use it as the cake cutter, but then we got the idea to use it in the ceremony and planned to get a knife for the cake cutting. However, in all of the running around and getting ready we forgot to get the knife. So Michelle swung it above her head and came down on the cake! This was fitting because the night before, the part of the cake we made to look like a pirate ship gave us a lot of problems and wouldn't stay together in ship form. So cutting it with the sword was its just desserts (oh, puns!).

Arriving Guests

Family of Pirates!

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I was a bit anxious about whether people would be into the pirate theme. I was surprised by how many people dressed up in elaborate, or even homemade costumes.

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I particularly enjoyed Michelle's grandparents as pirates, and they seemed to be having a lot of fun with it, especially her grandfather with his fake moustache. We found out later that he has worn fake moustaches at other family weddings too! We're proud to be part of the tradition.

Program

My advice for offbeat brides: Don't get so focused on the details that you forget to have fun, especially if you're doing a lot yourself. Also, get used to raised eyebrows if you choose to really go wild with your theme. Every vendor remembered us as "the pirate wedding," and it was kind of fun to be known for doing something non-traditional.

Jenga Guest book
Jenga guest book!

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? I learned to not use the word "should" so much, and to listen to my partner's voice. Early in the process, I dismissed some of the things Michelle suggested because they didn't fit with what weddings "should be." And while it was challenging to balance some of the traditions I didn't even know I wanted until we started planning a wedding with the offbeat nature of a pirate-theme, doing so really made the wedding about Michelle and I, perfect in ways I hadn't expected.

Let's Bowl!

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. BEST WEDDING EVER!!!!!!!!!!!! I don't think you could have picked more of my favorite things! Best of luck in a happy marriage to you both!

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  2. This wedding is amazing! I love e.e. cummings "I carry your heart" and am using it in my wedding too. I really love the Jenga guest book I have never seen that before. Also, the picture of Michelle's grandfather as a pirate just made my day!

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  3. love your wedding and your writing – the ceremony sounds amazing, especially the inclusion of the sword.
    definitely have to appropriate the jenga guestbook – what a great way to remember your guests! not that anyone would forget a wonderful wedding like this!
    ps: REALLY love the fact that you were able to put the non-supportive people behind you AND your grandpa photo

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  4. I was so excited to be a part of your special day! My family has nothing but love for the two of you. I'm double excited that the first wedding my son attended was so untraditional. I hope he will learn from you that love comes in many forms.

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  5. Oh my god! Jenga guestbook! Best guestbook idea EVER!!! I was already planning on having Jenga set up at a table to play…but this is even better!

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  6. Awwww–seeing your friends and family dressed up as pirates almost made me cry! What a fun wedding. Congratulations you two! :)

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  7. Yay bowling wedding! I love the bit about Grandpa, so effing sweet. Too often we (just me?) forget that not all old folks are close-minded traditionalists.

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  8. Fabulous! I love the story of taking out your cake frustrations on the cake with a sword – how cool is that? It looks like you had a very meaningful, very fun day – congratulations!

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  9. I have been reading this blog forever and this is by far the most adorable wedding ever posted. I almost teared up a little at how happy everyone is!!!!

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  10. Pure fabulousness!!! Also, I love Cummings. Cheers!

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  11. I wish all weddings were like this, everyone looks so happy!

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  12. You rock my world. End of story.

    PS- I want to adopt Michelle's granddad! :D

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  13. Love the Jenga…I hope you don't mind, but I am sooo stealing it!! Wonderful wedding!

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  14. This wedding is seriously awesome on a stick, dipped in chocolate, and covered in sprinkles of amazing. I love seeing people making their dreams a reality on this very important day. Best of luck, ladies!

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