Beth & Matt's interfaith garden wedding in the trees

By on Aug 20th

Offbeat Brides have been submitting lots of gorgeous woodsy weddings, so we've compiled a few of our favorites in a forest theme week including this offbeat lite wedding in the round.

The offbeat bride: Beth, educator-at-large

Her offbeat partner: Matt, actually employed teacher

Date and location of wedding: UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens Redwood Grove and Pyramid Alehouse, Berkeley, CA — June 26, 2011

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: I am Catholic and Matt is Episcopalian, so we were able to have the best of both worlds with two Episcopal priests concelebrating and a Dispensation from the Catholic Church to keep things officially Catholic.

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Also, I'm not a very detail-oriented person, so we kind of just let things happen the way they happened in many cases. The bridesmaids each chose their own green, knee-length dresses, and they ended up coordinating perfectly. We had minimal flowers, since we were in a botanical garden, and the bridesmaids carried parasols instead of bouquets. We had a "Gal Friday" instead of a best man. With three little-girl cousins and no boys, we had two "flower fairies" and a Ring Fairy (who carried our rings, made of gold from my grandmother and his great-grandmother, in a tiny pirate chest).

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We had some fun DIY projects, including our wine cork place cards and table numbers, simple marble-and-votive centerpieces, and the tiny ring pillow tucked in a treasure box. We opted to go paperless or use recycled paper as much as possible, sending e-invitatons to all but about 30 tech-resistant relatives, and writing out our wedding "program" on a chalkboard borrowed from a colleague.

The reception was held at a brewery because we loved the architecture and the beer. The groom and his mother danced to Johnny Cash, and we nodded to my Sicilian heritage by scrapping the wedding cake and enjoying cannoli for dessert.

We ended the night with a bar crawl with the friends and family willing to stick around late, which was an amazing chance to really kick back and reflect on the day and night.

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Tell us about the ceremony: We wanted an outdoor ceremony, and we were so lucky to find the Redwood Grove. Matt's great-grandma was a Cal alum and the first woman in their family to go to college, so the location had special meaning for us.

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We had two Episcopal priests concelebrate, both of whom have known Matt since he was two. One of them was also our musician. We selected "Hey, Soul Sister" by local band Train for the entrance, but allowed him to play whatever else during the recessional and the wine ceremony. This was a tradition borrowed from his own wedding and Jewish tradition, which we liked because of its analogue to Christian Eucharistic tradition.

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We had four readings: one from the Bible, one a Shakespeare sonnet, one from Antoine de Saint-Exupery's Wind, Sand, and Stars, and one from slam poet Taylor Mali, "Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog," each one perfectly matched to the friends we had chosen as readers.

Matt ended his vows with a rousing Battlestar-Galactica-esque "So Say We All" from the groomsman (and some guests), and I ended mine with a New Orleans "Hallelu-YA," a nod to our many trips leading youth volunteers to rebuild homes in the Crescent City.

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Our biggest challenge: We were lucky enough to have one set of parents who were all about us doing things our way, but we also had parents who were very concerned with the comfort of the older and more distant family members, as well as doing things the "proper" way. We spent lots of time attempting to reassure them that everyone would be comfortable and have fun. We mixed this with a healthy dose of avoiding divulging concrete details (like the seating chart) until the last possible moment. Also, my mom was hung up on the possibility of rain, so we left everyone rain ponchos on their ceremony seat cushions, just in case!

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My favorite moment: The most special and amazing moment of our ceremony was when Matt sang to me. He took the song we had planned as our first dance, re-worded it a bit to fit us even more perfectly, and surprised me, accompanied by our good friend Dan on the guitar. It really added to the celebration everything we could have wanted: surprise, slight embarrassment, music, love, and a little help from our friends.

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Just before we were presented at the reception, our ring fairy spotted Matt and ran upstairs to find him. Matt picked her up, but quickly realized that he could not walk down the stairs holding my hand and a four-year-old, so he put her down and she carried my train as Matt and I made our grand entrance. It was another great (and this time impromptu) way to honor her special place in our lives (and for weeks afterward she insisted on following me around holding the back hem of my shirt).

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Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? We were so excited to reserve a suite for my bridesmaids and me the night before the wedding, and a room for us and one for Matt's parents on the wedding night with Groupons. About a week before the wedding, we found out that the hotel we had booked had changed owners, and there were about four days during which Matt and his parents were freaking out because they weren't sure the new owners would honor our Groupons. Fortunately, Matt didn't tell me until it looked like things would turn out okay, which they did. I had a fantastic bridesmaid sleepover and morning prep session with my girls, and we had a great place to crash out on our first night as a married couple after the bar-crawl.

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? I realized that it takes a lot for me to ask for help, even when I'm completely overwhelmed. I finally learned how to ask for help and that it's okay to delegate. Mostly we got to see a tremendous outpouring of love and support from our friends and family throughout the process, and particularly on our wedding day.

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Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!



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