Kendra & Tom's mountain ranch karaoke self-married wedding

February 4 |
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Photos by Penny O Photography

The Offbeat Bride: Kendra, journalist (and Tribesmaid)

Her offbeat partner: Tom, teacher

Date and location of wedding: Beaver Meadows Resort Ranch, Red Feather Lakes, CO — July 14, 2012

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We have lived together for close to seven years, and we have always felt that we have been completely committed to each other for that entire time, so we wanted to make sure people knew that at our wedding. This wasn't a next step in our relationship, it was a time to celebrate and acknowledge what we already have. We didn't want to adhere to any traditions that didn't really mean something to us, so we didn't do the whole "not seeing each other until the ceremony," or toss the bouquet or garter. We married ourselves, with no officiant, though a friend performed the "Mawwiage" scene from The Princess Bride.

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We offered jars as a favor. We put chalkboard decals on them for people to write their name on, and my sister, who works as a graphic artist, had vinyl decals with our names and date put on the back.

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We were never without our giant goblets of booze (though we were careful to drink slowly. We wanted to actually remember our wedding). We cheers-ed each other at each point in the ceremony. We had karaoke in addition to dancing at the reception. This was a real crowd-pleaser. One of my shining moments was singing "99 Luftballons" (German version).

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Tom, the groom's, outfit was amazing. We got the entire thing at an adorable little men's consignment shop run by a little Italian guy and his son. Tom wore a navy blue velvet jacket, a swanky light blue shirt, and an orange paisley Ascot. Oh, and white polyester pants. Pimpin'.

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Tell us about the ceremony: The ceremony was probably the most difficult part to plan, and the thing that we put off the longest (we literally wrote the entire ceremony in bed when we woke up the morning of the wedding).

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My dad drove the two of us up in his 1930 Model A, to the "Rocky" theme music. Instead of having a traditional wedding party processional, we settled on having our families walk down the aisle. His sister (Best "Man") walked him down the aisle just ahead of me with both my parents.

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We had a cocktail hour before the ceremony, and encouraged everyone to bring their drinks with them on the short walk to the ceremony site. The ceremony was full of "cheers-ing" and laughter, especially when our "pope" said his piece. The "wedding party" lounged on a couch next to us while we said our vows, and it all felt very relaxed and real, with nothing forced.

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We asked each set of parents to read something we had chosen. His mother and step-dad read "Letters," by Rainer Maria Rilke. My parents read an excerpt from Plato's Symposium. His dad and step-mom read "i carry your heart with me" by e.e. cummings and a poem from "The Possibility of an Island" (translated from French by hubby).

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Our guests walked in to Stephane Wrembel's "Big Brother" and we walked up the aisle to The Quintet of the Hot Club of San Francisco's version of "Round Midnight."

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Our biggest challenge: We were planning our wedding from afar (we live in San Diego, California, while the wedding was in Colorado, where I grew up). Luckily, my family in Colorado helped us out a ton, doing all the little things we couldn't do from another state. The only thing that stressed me out were the programs. I had decided I would design them myself, and just have them printed out at Kinko's to save money. Turns out that wasn't very cost-effective, and a huge stress. I have a hard time asking people to do things for me, but I finally gave in and asked for help, and we got them done. They turned out great, but given the chance to do it over again, I would have gone for something much simpler, and probably would have paid someone to do it.

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My favorite moment: Our ceremony was really fun for both of us, and probably all the more meaningful because we really didn't know what to expect. We married ourselves (you can do that in Colorado), so we had no emcee or anyone to move things along — which I was nervous about — but it worked out great. We made people laugh, cry and probably cringe a few times, and we really felt that it represented our personalities and values.

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We wrote letters to each other for our vows, which were really sweet. We also acknowledged our family members and friends that have contributed to our emotional development, which I felt was really important to include and it was very heartfelt.

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My funniest moment: Our wedding was a laugh-fest from start to finish, so it's hard to pick one moment that was funnier than any other, but there are a few standouts. We didn't have an officiant, but we both love the movie "The Princess Bride," and in particular the wedding scene with the priest (you know the one: "Mawwiage. Mawwiage is what bwings us together today…"). One of our friends does an amazing impression of said priest, so we asked him to create a DIY pope hat and perform that scene at the end of the ceremony.

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We also didn't want to do a first dance because we knew how awkward we would feel. Our DJ offered karaoke, so we decided to do a first karaoke instead of a dance (knowing full well that I come from a long line of tone-deaf singers). We sang two duets by Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn: "Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man" and "You're The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly." It was just as hilarious as we had imagined it would be.

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Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I don't think we knew what to expect with anything. We had never been to a wedding like ours, so we didn't have much of a template to go off of. Marrying ourselves was a bit daunting, because I wasn't even sure how that would work, but it went so well and felt so natural. I wouldn't have done it any differently.

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Also, we made our own photo booth to save money. It looked like it was going to be a total disaster because although the software loaded just fine on my parents' desktop, it wasn't working on the laptop. One of our friends came through and was able to put it on his laptop, but when we traveled up to the mountains to the venue, the cable for the printer got left behind. We still set it up, and we promised the guests we'd provide a link to them for their photos afterward. In the end, we just didn't care about details like that. We were having too much fun.

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It's also worth noting that we got married just weeks after one of the worst wildfires in Colorado history. It would be a lie to say we weren't a bit on edge wondering if we would have a venue to go to when we got there, but we decided that anything that was out of our control was certainly not worth stressing over. Everything turned out great, but even if our venue had burned down, I'm certain we would have made do and had just as much fun.

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My advice for offbeat brides: Ask for help. I know everyone says it, but it can't be stressed enough. You'll find that people are generally pleased to be asked to have some part in your wedding by helping you get things done, so take advantage of that. Unless you're paying someone to do every single thing for you, delegate tasks and learn to be okay if they don't turn out exactly how you imagined them. It won't ruin anything if those flowers you imagined arranged a certain way get arranged in a different certain way.

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Have faith in your family and friends. I didn't want the girls in the wedding party to spend a fortune on a dress they'd wear once, so I just asked them each to buy a brown dress. They all ended up finding dresses that looked really great together (and none of them coordinated with each other). It almost looked like I'd planned it that way. Once I let go of making sure everything was perfect, it actually turned out that way.

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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 is so awesome! and who knew you could marry yourself in colorado? i sure didnt- and i lived there from 5th grade to senior in high school, and two years after college! haha

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  2. How cool that you can marry yourselves in Colorado! This looks like a fun, fun wedding. The bridesmaids all in brown with the pop of color from the bouqets- so pretty! The floral arrangements were awesome as well. Great job.

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  3. What an amazing, comfortable looking wedding. I love that some of the men wore suite shirts, and one of your bridesmaids wore a tie. What! I love it. Looks like you had a blast.

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  4. WherE is that lovely Pearl ring from??? Beautiful all around. Looks like your guests and you had a TON of fun!

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  5. Adorable!
    SO.. does anyone know if any other states allow self marriage??

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    • Thanks to their Quaker heritage, it's legal in some counties in PA. My fiancé and I will be marrying ourselves with a "self-uniting marriage license."

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    • You can *sort* of marry yourselves in Wisconsin, if you have a community or tradition that acknowledges it. There's a bit of wiggle room in the statutes to allow for multiple cultures and ceremony types.

      My fiance and I thought about going for it since we aren't religious and therefore haven't a community that insists on an officiant. In the end, we decided it was too complicated. Instead we found a judge who believes people are, in reality, marrying themselves— but we still will have a fantastic/experienced MC who can kick it with some gravitas. :)

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  6. This is great! I love the relaxed vibe and the self marriage. My fiancee and I live in Pittsburgh and are planning to do the same. <3

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  7. My husband and I took advantage of Colorado law last summer to self officiate our wedding. We had my uncle emcee, three great readings, and our own vows. Then, we made a big deal of signing the marriage license as a part of the ceremony. It turned into a lot of work, but were I to do it over, I wouldn't do it any other way.

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  8. Which passage from Symposium? That sounds awesome!

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  9. This make me believe that low key fun wedding do exist! I've been to so many stuffy, traditional, every detail planned to the second weddings this past year that I was feeling hopeless! I want to just have a fun day/night drinking with my friends and family. And especially don't want a first dance! Thanks for sharing and giving me the inspiration to tell all the traditionalists in my family to screw off and let me plan fun!

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  10. Thanks for all the kudos! It WAS a blast, from start to finish (it just went too fast, of course). We, too, have been to our fair share of stuffy weddings, and were adamant that ours would be nothing of the sort.
    The ring is from Etsy seller Silvercrush, who has TONS of gorgeous jewelry. I was not going to let my husband spend a bunch of money on a ring, and I'm not a huge fan of diamonds, so this fit perfectly with our budget and style.
    The passage from Symposium was the one that starts "Humans have never understood the power of love, for if they had they would surely have built noble temples and altars and offered solemn sacrifices; but this is not done, and most certainly ought to be done, since love is our best friend, our helper, and the healer of the ills which prevent us from being happy…"
    And yes, Jaime — fun, low-key weddings DO exist! Don't let anyone try to control what you do. My grandmother tried to convince me to have a minister — when I'm not religious. And my uncle thought it was basically a non-wedding because it was outside and not in a church. But I just kept saying, "You had your wedding. This one's mine." (To myself, at least. To them, I would just smile and nod and go ahead with my own plans.) It's important to feel like your wedding is yours, not a compilation of the concessions you've made to please anyone else. Stay strong!
    Again, thanks everyone for the kind comments!

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