Sarah & Mat's offbeat lite Unitarian art museum wedding

By on Mar. 4th
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Photos by Jane Zarzynski

The Offbeat Bride: Sarah, Research Advancement Administrator

Her offbeat partner: Mat, Chief Technical Officer

Date and location of wedding: Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ — February 11, 2012

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We decided to set up the tables for the reception Hogwarts-style, with a head table and four long feasting tables. Rather than sorting all of our guests by house, we named the tables after places from books, movies, and TV shows that are important to us. Mat designed the signs in a black, white, and red color scheme for a cohesive look. We chose Sterling Cooper, King's Landing, Serenity, West Wing, Downton Abbey, The Cosmos, Brakebills, and the Ministry of Magic. Figuring out the origin of all the table names was a fun challenge as well as a conversation starter for the guests.

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One of our big collaborations was our cake. Mat came up with the design: three white cubes ascending a glass spiral staircase. We both love bunnies, and I found some vintage figurines on eBay for $10 and accessorized them with $7 worth of supplies from Michael's.

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Tell us about the ceremony: I'm a lifelong Unitarian Universalist (a very liberal, progressive faith), and Mat's a devout agnostic. There was no mention of God or Jesus in our ceremony, and thankfully none of our family objected. Reverend Susan Frederick-Gray, our minister, focused on the choice that we were making together, and the friends and family who bore witness to our love and commitment. My sister Abby sang "I Will" by the Beatles, which my aunt Ellen had sung at her sister's wedding, and Dad accompanied her on the guitar.

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The gallery where we held the ceremony had a huge staircase, so my Dad walked me down the stairs for a dramatic entrance rather than coming up the aisle.

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Mat and I wrote our own vows, and we decided to make them specific and heartfelt rather than funny or generic. Not that it was a competition, but Mat's vows totally won. Here is a snippet of mine:

Mat. Bibblekins. I choose you.
You are kind, and understanding, and stronger than you know. When I've had an awful day and the world is against me, no matter what's wrong, I get to come home to you. You pour me a glass of wine and cuddle with me on the couch and listen to my sorrows, and you make it all okay. I get to be with you and love you, and that's all that matters.

And part of his:

I promise to be there when everything breaks apart and when it doesn't I promise to save you from the boring and mundane.
I promise to have adventures with you, and not only in a metaphorical way where you're the journey all along, but in a very real physical way. We are going to
travel the world and live happy and conquer.
I promise never to fear age or death, because I have you here with me now.
I love you, Sarah.

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Our biggest challenge: Before we even got engaged, Mat and I knew we wanted to be married at the Orpheum Penthouse. It's on the top floor of the Orpheum Towers, a gorgeous Art Deco building downtown. We'd get married on the rooftop with the Phoenix skyline at sunset as our backdrop, then have the reception in the penthouse suite. Unfortunately, the venue went bankrupt a month after we got engaged.

Neither of us is into the Southwest/adobe/Kokopelli look, so we searched for months to find the right location in Phoenix. We couldn't pick out our caterer, or my dress, or a date until we had the location. Finally we chose the Phoenix Art Museum, and it was perfect for us: classic and minimalist, with beautiful spaces both indoors and out.

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My favorite moment: Seeing everyone gathered together during the ceremony. I kept sneaking a peek out at the audience and tearing up at the sight of all our friends and relatives who came together to support us and our union.

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I'm also glad we chose to have a first look. It was overwhelming and emotional seeing him in his white tux, ready to devote his life to mine. That's when the bigness of the day hit me.

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My funniest moment: Our bridesmaids started playing a game where they drank wine from glasses perched on each other's boobies.

My dad came over to talk to Mat and me during dinner, and the guests started clinking their glasses for a kiss. I asked, "What, do you want me to kiss my dad?" but before I could give him a peck, Dad leaned over and gave Mat a full-on kiss. Afterwards Mat said he understood why I prefer him without facial hair.

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Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? Instead of hiring a DJ, we set up two of our groomsmen as our "music bouncers." One of them is experienced in improv comedy and the other is a musician, so they were suited to the task, but I was still worried about it. When would they set up the sound system, and how would they transport it from the cocktail hour to the reception? Would they get a chance to hang out with their friends and dance with their significant others?

But in the end it all worked out fine. Mat had set up Spotify playlists labeled Cocktail Hour, Dinner, First Dance, etc. Our music bouncers hooked his iPad up to the sound system, and they did a great job with making announcements and keeping the music going.

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Mat wanted to wear an all-white tux for the wedding. I tried to steer him toward a white jacket with black pants and tie, a la James Bond or Humphrey Bogart. In my mind an all-white tux looks more ring bearer than groom. But he insisted, and I realized that it's one of the biggest days of his life, so he gets to decide what he wears. And you know what? He looked fabulous, confident, and every inch the man I wanted to marry.

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My advice for Offbeat Brides: Get a day-of coordinator. You don't have to pay a professional to do it; it can be your aunt, a cousin, or an organized friend. My aunt runs shows and concerts for a living, and she did a fantabulous job of keeping everything on track without making our guests feel like sheep.

If at all possible, don't carry a phone or a watch or a schedule on your wedding day. Hand that over to someone you trust so that you can truly be mentally present for your wedding, focusing on how you and your partner feel rather than whether the cake has arrived.

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Ooh, this one feels intrusively sexy!

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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