Erin & Jay's queer Jewish Dominican wedding

By on Jan. 29th
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Photos by Syd London

The Offbeat Bride: Erin, Experiential Educator

Her offbeat partner: Jay, Wellness Guru

Date and location of wedding: The Bell House, Brooklyn, New York — July 31, 2011

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: I am a Jewish cisgender woman, and Jay is a Dominican transgender man. Our friends' genders and sexualities run the gamut. But most of the family attending assumed we were a straight couple, so we worried they might be pretty shocked by the queer crowd. There were also pretty significant race and class differences in the mix. It was important to us that everyone mingled and really celebrated together.

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Our invitations were bilingual. We had the cocktail hour first, so by the time the ceremony started everyone was in a communal celebratory mood (read: drunk!). There was no cake cutting, bouquet tossing, or garter grabbing, and minimal toasting. We wanted as much time as possible for eating and dancing.

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We are lucky to have a talented community of friends who basically created the entire wedding. The DJ, caterers, photographer, officiant, and coordinator were all friends of ours. Friends and family also gave us the cheese platters, flowers, centerpieces, favors, invitations, and guest book as wedding gifts.

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A friend made my dress out of a single green sari. It wasn't finished until 10 days before the wedding, but the year-long process of dress designing and fitting with my buddy was one of my favorite parts of the planning process. Because we completely trusted everyone understanding our vision for the wedding, we had virtually no anxieties about things turning out wrong.

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Tell us about the ceremony: Our wedding parties were not separated by gender. I wanted my best guy friends standing by me, and Jay had some gals on his side. We danced in to Timbaland's "The Way I Are" and danced out to "Love You Madly" by Cake.

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Editor's note: we have to mention the upside-down Harry Potter book!

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Everyone held flowers: sunflowers for Jay's side, and spray rose bouquets for my side. Once everyone made it on stage we did the wave. Then the minister welcomed the crowd as "Gentleladies and laymen." At the very end, the minister jumped off the stage like a rock star. The whole thing took less than 15 minutes.

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Ceremonies are better with group hugs, amiright?

Our biggest challenge: The only tears I shed over the planning process were when forming the guest list. Jay and I both have pretty large extended families, so the guest list could have easily ballooned to over 300. At one point we cut over 100 people out. Eventually we decided that we didn't want the wedding to be only for us, but to be for our families as well, so we opened the list back up. In the end a lot of people couldn't come, so there were fewer than 200 people at the actual wedding, just like we had hoped. We also ended up reconnecting with some family that we had originally cut, so the wedding turned into a real reunion and rebirth of many friendships.

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My favorite moment: My dad and brother's folk band, Ocean Valley Boys, played our first dance as well as a cover of the traditional Jewish dance "Hava Negila." My two best friends also gave a surprise ukulele duet toast.

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My funniest moment: The best woman had been keeping her reading in one the officiant's pockets, and when she asked for it onstage he accidentally reached into the wrong pocket and pulled out a neon green flask!

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Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I was afraid that some of our family would feel out-of-place or refrain from mingling with others because of their unfamiliar gender presentations or otherwise flamboyant fabulousness. This did not seem to be a major problem at all. For me, it felt like a subtle "coming-out" to some of my family who didn't know I was in a queer relationship or community.

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My advice for Offbeat Brides: Take charge over the aspects you find most important and delegate everything else. We put most of our energy and cash into the food and music and left most of the rest to our amazing friends and family. This made the planning process more fun and communal, and cut a lot of line items off of the budget.

Early on in planning, ask a responsible friend to serve as day-of coordinator and keep them in the loop. We asked a friend months in advance if he would do this, and he was at meetings with the caterer, DJ, and at the venue walk-through. The day-of we didn't have to do anything because he knew exactly what had to happen.

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Have you been married before and if so, what did you do differently? This was my first wedding, but Jay's second. His first was a really small and much more traditional affair, and he then identified as a woman. In this wedding, he was able to present his truer self and have a big party to celebrate with all the supportive friends he's been blessed with since then.

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? Our immediate family was incredibly accepting of all of the offbeat elements and even defended our choices to other friends and relatives. All of the support reminded me of how much unconditional love flows around us; it was a smiling ear-to-ear feeling.

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!