Anna & Joe's circus carnival and costume ball wedding

January 11 |
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Photos by Michael Saba

The Offbeat Bride: Anna, litigation data analyst

Her offbeat partner: Joe, motorcycle mechanic, martial arts instructor

Date and location of wedding: Uncle's house and grounds in Decatur, GA — October 9, 2010

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We went for a carnie/circus freak theme, which was was fun. I don't think the guests were totally prepared for the decor. My uncle is a huge Halloween fan and the grounds and inside of his house were already heavily decorated with ghosts, corpses, etc. We just plopped the wedding tent down in the midst of what was already going on. Our "dream" theme ideas were different but not practicable: I wanted an 18th-Century French costume wedding. Joe wanted a zombie wedding, replete with corpse makeup and fake blood! In the end, our compromise worked beautifully.

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The one "dream wedding" idea I insisted on was to wear blood-red — not just as an accent, but the whole dress. We built our bride and groom ensemble around this look. We ended up with red and black Victorian outfits. Our goals in the planning and design were that everybody has fun and is glad they came, and that the bride and groom aren't the constant focus of everyone's attention.

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Things we did ourselves or with family help include the ceremony platform, sideshow banners, curtain "doorway" between the ceremony and reception spaces, playlists and audio, and general decoration. Our circus performances (fire breather and juggler) were friends who donated their talents, and our venue was a family home. We had buffet style pork BBQ with just a couple of side items to choose from. We also had two delicious cakes and served a quality beer in kegs into red plastic cups.

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Tell us about the ceremony: The vows were pieced together from several different ceremonies we found online. I wanted a few of the classic phrases like "'til death do us part," but have it be totally non-denominational. Neither of is religious, but quite a few of the guests were. We didn't go goofy with it or put jokes in — and we were glad we didn't. I think a lot of the guests were sort of relieved we didn't mess with the vows.

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Our officiant, the groom's Tai Chi instructor, had a surprise costume. I didn't want to know ahead of time. She snuck in and got ready in the house just before the start. I didn't see her until it was time to walk out and begin — she dressed as Medusa! Some guests said later they were worried that the vows wouldn't be legally binding because they were performed by Medusa instead of a priest. (What they didn't know was that we'd gone to the courthouse and had a civil ceremony six months in advance, so we were already legally married.) It was great because there was no paperwork on the wedding day.

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The only other people involved with the ceremony were our parents. They served as ring-bearers. We managed not to drop the rings or step through the smoke-vent holes on the platform. Awesome! But we totally forgot the bouquet (it was a last-minute add-on to the plan. We left it in the fridge!)

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My favorite moment: The ceremony, of course. Getting a chance to greet each person in the receiving line — we're so glad we did that. My aunt Betsy tried to make a toast at dinner but cried too hard. Joe and I stole away for a few minutes alone every hour or so. At the end of the night, we got into the indoor pool and relaxed in the hot tub with a few friends.

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Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I tried to keep my expectations realistic — for better or worse. I steeled myself that something, somewhere would go awry, and someone would jump to help fix it — but nothing really did. In fact the whole show came off with nary a hitch! We managed to do everything we planned on — including getting in the pool!

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My advice for Offbeat Brides: My first goal was "make it interesting for the guests." By interesting I meant that there should be stuff going on, fun things to see and do, and to give total strangers plenty of things to strike up a conversation about! Remember, they all know you or your partner, but they're total strangers to each other! That way everybody has an awesome time, even if they came stag and don't know anybody else there. I think that's key to having a wedding people remember fondly.

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The other thing is, do everything you can to minimize your stress and your hands-on involvement at the last minute. Overcommunicate. It sounds like being a control freak, but remember your helpers WANT your direction. Too many people go to great trouble and expense to stage a wedding they were too busy supervising to enjoy. Your "job" on the wedding day should be, talk to everyone who came, enjoy it, and sneak away with your beau for a kiss in the corner.

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Putting up a wedding website allows you to post the technical details like hotels and driving directions online at little to no cost, freeing up your printed invitation to be more creative in the same space. We were kind of late sending out the paper invitations so the majority of our RSVP process was also handled via the website. The anticipation was built up via website updates sent to the guest list in an email blast. It was a great asset!

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Have you been married before and if so, what did you do differently? The groom was married once before — he described it as a very traditional, by-the-book affair. He was "along for the ride" and not part of the planning process. For this wedding, we were partners in our wedding planning.

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. This wedding looks like so much fun! The red gown is lovely, and you can see all the well thought-out details all through the wedding photos. Wonderful!

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  2. DIY platform with smoke vent holes = genius!
    I'm totally stealing this idea for my wedding.

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    • Yes, unfortunately the jeweler we got the rings from seems to have disappeared about a year ago. There are a couple of similar artisans on Etsy though.

  3. That Dress is spectacular, but THOSE SHOES. Oh dear lord, if I hadn't already picked mine out I'd be ALL OVER those shoes! All in all, Lovely.

  4. AMAZING!!! I wish I could have been a fly on the wall at this wedding, it looks like so much fun!

  5. Yay! Big props to a fellow BLUE haired Bride!! You looked gorgeous!

  6. I love the dress! Where in Decatur was this? I live in Decatur too!

  7. Fabulous, wonderful and Far-out : the whole thing. The rings, the theme, the dress, your button-up shoes your HAIR. I LOVE IT ALL!!!! It is so anti-wedding traditional but at the same you and your guests had FUN……Thanks for sharing with us.

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