'Stina & Graham's DIY country ranch wedding

October 19 |

We got a look at this pair's fun invitation photo booth backdrop. Now we've got the whole story!

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Photos by Jenny Jenkins

The offbeat bride: 'stina, health care lawyer, wannabe writer (and Tribesmaid)

Her offbeat partner: Graham, event producer and DJ

Date and location of wedding: My family's ranch outside of Ledbetter, Texas — April 14, 2012

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We knew the venue three years before we got engaged, because my family's ranch is so magical to both of us. We also knew the season, because Central Texas in mid-spring is simply beautiful. The challenge, of course, was to put on a wedding without having any of the wedding infrastructure.

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The ranch has hosted many a party, but this one had to be a little different than the others. On the other hand, we had no real desire for too much formality and we had absolutely no family tradition to worry about. We're also a bit older for first-time married folk, which meant that we had collected a ton of friends over the years. Even with a fairly large amount of people we could invite, we still had to make some hard choices with the guest list.

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We asked a dear friend to officiate the wedding. We asked our siblings to stand with us, not giving anyone a title, much responsibility, or even a guideline of what to wear. We asked our dog to hold on to our rings. We asked our parents to support us. We asked our friends and family to gather around a grove of trees next to a pond on chairs and blankets. Almost everything from our wedding was handmade. Graham is a DJ, and he spent months putting together music for the ceremony.

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Our ceremony was non-denominational and took about 20 minutes. Afterwards, a reception was held on the east side of the house with beer and wine, kites, a photo booth, lawn games, and lots of hugging. After dinner, I changed into another dress for dancing, cupcakes, fire spinning, and tequila! The party was still going strong when we left, about eight hours after we got married.

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Tell us about the ceremony: When I was a kid, my sister Claudia got to be in a wedding as the flower girl. I was so jealous. She was maybe four or five years old and got to wear a special dress and looked like a little angel. I was maybe seven or eight and looked pretty much like an ordinary kid in nice clothes that I already owned. I knew at my wedding that I wouldn't single out any one child to be more special than the others.

I ordered a ton of rose petals, put them in a basket, and got someone to organize the children downstairs to throw petals down the aisle. Any kid that wanted to could participate, but no kid was made to participate. I think that there were probably a dozen kids of flower petal throwing age downstairs, so I was certain that at least some of them would do it. And apparently my dad roped in my friend Vivian (age six and a half) to be in charge of the flower children.

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Graham and his siblings went first. We sort of felt that it was unfair that the bride usually gets a procession and the groom sort of just slides on in as if he were unimportant in this whole wedding thing. We didn't coordinate on how we were going to do this, so he and his siblings had their way of coming in, which was in age order single file to "Call Me Irresponsible" by Frank Sinatra.

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My siblings and I processed to "Just Breathe" by Pearl Jam.

After we got organized under the arch, there was a small audio hitch that lightened the mood, and then the dogs barked at each other, which also helped. I'm so glad that our officiant later emailed the ceremony to us, because I totally missed the first few words. I just kept staring at the crowd, smiling like a fool. All of these happy faces were smiling back at us. And I could tell that this was an amazing moment that I'd savor forever.

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After an introduction where our officiant asked the community to support us, she talked about how she was there when we met on an art car at Burning Man. She then talked about marriage and what it was that we were getting ourselves into. She had our mothers give us some white roses, and I was able to hug and kiss my mom. Graham and I exchanged the roses to say that "No matter what, I love you."

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And then we called our pretty little puppy to give us the rings. They were attached to her collar with a carabiner, and she was such a good girl to come when she was called. It took us a second to get the rings off, because her leash was in the way, but after that, she didn't need to be leashed anymore.

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After our vows, the Lick the Tins version of "Can't Help Falling in Love" started up, and we kissed.

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Our biggest challenge: Our engagement started with a pretty awful automobile accident, so it took awhile to get going in the planning. We also knew going in that with all the other responsibilities and the number of people we were expecting, we couldn't self-cater like we do other parties at the ranch, but we were 100 miles from Houston and 70 miles from Austin. At first, we had an idea of roasting a whole pig and getting a caterer from Houston to put together an assortment of sides. But staffing the catering was a challenge.

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Then, my parents had the brilliant idea of asking our ranch manager what his favorite restaurant in the area was. He mentioned Los Patrones in Giddings, and we checked it out. Manuel, the owner, was awesome. The food was delicious, and he had no problem whatsoever with bringing enough food (including appetizers) for 225 people to the middle of the country, plus staffing it all and bringing tableware. And he had a friend who'd bought tables and chairs for his daughter's quinceañera and was now renting them out. The only food item we brought in from somewhere else were the cupcakes that we ordered from Houston.

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My favorite moment: I asked my siblings to walk me down the aisle. I was troubled by the patriarchal idea of my father (with whom I am extremely close) giving me away. But my three younger siblings were a different story. I couldn't imagine doing something this important without them. We were all nervous and giggly and clutched onto one another, with our dog taking the lead and my sister's dog bringing up the rear.

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Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? We got engaged at the beginning of the biggest drought in Texas history. As the months wore on, it got worse. In the fall, when we started getting a little rain, and the weather forecasters started warning that La Niña, which had caused the drought of 2011, was likely to persist into a second year, and the drought could go on. To say we were nervous about the weather was an understatement.

But then December through February had so much rain, that it flooded the lake. The day of the rehearsal was beautiful. But some sort of weather rolled in the night before the wedding, and it got incredibly windy and cloudy. A radar showed a system headed towards us, due to hit right around the ceremony, and we had no rain plan. But the good weather held until about 20 hours after the ceremony.

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My advice for Offbeat Brides: Split your wedding duties up and trust your partner to do their part. If something is important to one party, but not the other, articulate why it's important and take ownership if you decide to go forward with it. If it's not your thing, let it go.

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I tackled quite a few DIY projects: 1130 pieces of origami paper to make 226 Kusudama flowers for 38 arrangements, 700 paper roses, 200 feather sprays, two light boxes and two signs, a brooch bouquet, 20 paper pompoms, the arch that we got married under, 53 yards of pennant banners, two necklaces for my sisters to wear, the backdrop for our photo booth, and my ribbon veil.

Gaskill 399Graham is an event producer, so arranged three different playlists (wedding ceremony, reception and dinner, and dancing). He was going to DJ for part of the dancing, but was having too much fun and turned the system back over to his pre-designed playlist. He also put lighting together for the dance floor and up-lighting for the trees, and changed out spots for colored lights to soften the area.

I used Evernote to keep track of all of my wedding-related projects. I think I had something like 15 different notes that I synced among all devices. I set up timelines and to-do lists and made sure that we were on top of things well before we had to. It was quite possibly the most organized project I've ever done. I carried this over to my kitchen renovation.

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Happy bride and groom

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Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. Stina, it is beautiful. Just beautiful and perfect and obviously everything that you wanted.

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    • Thank you so much!

      It was really amazing. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect wedding.

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  2. I love what you did with the kids instead of having a flower girl!!! Such a great idea.

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  3. Everything looks great, I think I remember reading about the dogs on tribe

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    • Oh thank you! I talked about the dogs a lot on tribe, so I imagine that you did see that!

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  4. What an awesome wedding!!! I love, love, LOVE all of your DIY things, especially the paper flowers. The siblings and the whole community feeling I got from the story and photos just really make it. Congrats!!!

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