Courtney & Rhys' Alaskan steampunk octopus-spattered beach wedding

By on Mar. 15th
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Photos by Joe Connolly

The Offbeat Bride: Courtney, PhD student (and Tribesmaid)

Her offbeat partner: Rhys, Substitute teacher

Date and location of wedding: Eagle Beach and the Methodist Camp in Juneau, Alaska — May 27, 2012

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We're both independent-thinking, fiercely stubborn, slightly artistic science nerds and our wedding highlighted that. We had a potluck reception at a private church camp across from a beautiful state park where we held the ceremony (total facilities cost for the event: $135 = WIN!). To further reduce costs we did a lot of crafting — including creating a giant golden papier-mache octopus sculpture, folding and stringing 1,000 origami cranes, constructing 100 paper roses, planting marigolds in 80 gold cans that we stenciled our initials onto, fashioning a piñata, and the list goes on.

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We also decided that if we were going to throw a big party, it might as well be a costume party. All our guests were therefore encouraged to wear steampunk or Victorian attire. People grumbled a bit, but ended up really getting into it. We incorporated a lot of octopus imagery into our wedding (my hair and tights, invitations, wall decorations) because I did my master's research on the Giant Pacific Octopus and people often associate me with octopuses. (Yes, that's the correct plural. Snicker if you must.) Finally, the reception was all about games — Rockband and hula hooping.

[Editorial note: if we know one thing about Offbeat Empire readers, it's that they have very strong opinions about octopuses/octopodes/octopi.]

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Tell us about the ceremony: Our ceremony was based on Buddhist philosophy and included language that stressed our autonomy and equality. To symbolize the joining of our two families, our mothers combined two rose bouquets into a single vase. We then answered the following questions before reading our personal vows:

Do you pledge to help each other develop your hearts and minds, cultivating compassion, generosity, trust, patience, ethics, and wisdom as you age together and undergo the ups and downs of life? We do.

Recognizing that external conditions will not always be smooth, and that, internally, minds and emotions can sometimes get stuck in negativity, do you pledge to see all circumstances, inner and outer, as challenges to help you grow, to accept yourselves, and to generate compassion for others? We do.

Do you pledge to avoid becoming narrow, closed, or opinionated, and to help each other to see various sides of situations? We do.

Finally, Rhys and Courtney, do you choose each other as life partners in a relationship built on respect, friendship, and love? We do.

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Our biggest challenge: Our biggest challenge was just executing the event. We had so many moving pieces! The rehearsal dinner, assembling the decorations, the potluck, the games, and the clean up! We were very lucky to have a friend agree to be our day-of coordinator and she and her husband helped us to manage the chaos. We owe a deep debt of gratitude to them and to the numerous friends, family, and wedding party members who helped us put everything together and take it all down in a timely fashion.

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My favorite moment: While our vows were tender and sweet (involving welding metaphors, river confluences, and discussions on partnership), I was most touched by the feeling of all our guests coming together to make a new family. It was amazing, experiencing the love and support of our community and seeing these disparate people form friendships of their own.

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Walking through the reception hall I heard stories of how people helped each other put together costumes or how they incorporated family heirlooms from departed relatives into outfits. I heard newly introduced people making plans to go sightseeing together. And I watched our relatives on both sides look at us with pride and approval of the new family we had just created.

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My funniest moment: The funniest moment was at the reception. Instead of a bouquet and garter toss, we created a piñata and filled it with toys and candy, as well as a "bouquet" and garter. Two young cousins had the first go, blatantly cheating with their heads all the way back so they could see under the blindfold.

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While they didn't break the piñata, they were the first ones up to scoop up prizes. Thus, when the dust settled, the flower girl was proudly clutching several plastic dinosaurs and the two young boys had the garter and bouquet! (Yay for breaking gender stereotypes!)

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Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I am a worrier, I will admit this. The week of the wedding, I was worried that EVERYTHING would be a disaster. I worried that people wouldn't bring potluck dishes, that it would rain, that no one would be interested in the games, that the decorations would all fall apart, that our clothes wouldn't fit, that out-of-town guests would get lost and miss the wedding, that the venue would get trashed and no one would help clean up.

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It turns out the only thing that I needed to worry about was the possibility of rain. May is usually the sunniest month in Juneau, but not this year. In the five weeks before the wedding we had approximately three days of sunshine. While it did rain on our wedding day, our ceremony remained blessedly rain free and the clouds just made for more dramatic photos!

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My advice for Offbeat Brides: Delegate. And do it early. We had lots of willing helpers, but things all sort of came together at the last minute. This caused me a lot of stress and I wish that we'd taken the time to write up and delegate tasks to people farther in advance. And one final piece of advice for my fellow stressballs out there (you know who you are). If you can, take a moment before the ceremony and have a glass of wine. Do it somewhere quiet if you can and just allow yourself room to relax.

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Check out the bride's reflection in the groomsman's monocle. Steamazing.

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? A few days before the wedding, when stress levels were at maximum and I was lamenting my failure to elope, my aunt summarized the wedding experience for me. "Eloping doesn't count," she said, "you're not officially married unless you have a big family wedding and all the compromise and stress that goes along with it!" She in no way meant to belittle elopements, but wanted to highlight the fact that struggle can lead to growth in relationships, and that it did for ours. What she meant was that a wedding is a trial. It's a big fat emotional mess with all sorts of people's expectations and desires and needs colliding into one big kerfuffle.

It's stressful and draining and exciting and amazing. If you survive, if you and your intended successfully navigate through this logistical, financial, and emotional land-field, then you've got a pretty good chance at weathering the storms that lie ahead of you in married life. And that's definitely what wedding planning taught me.

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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