On August 7th 2004, 10 years ago today, I married my husband Andreas. It was the wedding that ultimately kicked off the whole weird world that is Offbeat Bride. I wrote a book about the wedding. I launched a website about the book, and now here we are. To celebrate, I figured I'd fill out a wedding profile myself. If these pics make you curious, you can get the Offbeat Bride book on Amazon for like 50 cents.
The Offbeat Bride: Ariel, then-copywriter (now publisher)
Her offbeat partner: Andreas, then-audio engineer (now yoga teacher)
Date and location of wedding: Bainbridge Island, WA — 08/07/2004
Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Neither of us had really attended that many weddings before we started planning our own, and so mostly we crafted it around the kinds of events we most enjoyed attending… music festivals, dance parties, and camp-outs.
We were lucky enough to have access to my mom's 10 acres of wooded property on Bainbridge Island (which is a half-hour ferry ride from Seattle) so we had the perfect weekend camp-out venue and place to host an all-night reception. My mom calls the property Sacred Groves, and uses it as a sort of eco-retreat/hippie event space anyway, so it was a pretty easy fit for our wedding.
While Sacred Groves was great for the weekend and the reception, we knew we wanted something a little bit more fancy for the ceremony itself… again, we lucked out! Just up the one-lane dirt road from Sacred Groves there's a lovely B&B called Holly Lane Gardens. It has more standard amenities like flush toilets (instead of humanure at my mom's) and rooms for extended family who didn't want to camp. It was the perfect spot for our ceremony and dinner.
These two spaces in order, we essentially organized a weekend-long camp-out reunion with all our weirdo friends from across the country. Sure, there was a wedding Saturday afternoon… but really the event was about a weekend-long camp-out.
Tell us about the ceremony:
I grew up being forced to attend a lot of hippie ceremonies, and am generally allergic to any sort of religious practice, so we kept the ceremony short, sweet, and straightforward. Our goal was to involve family members as much as possible: My godmother officiated, my father-in-law rang in the ceremony, my father did a reading, my mother-in-law was our ring bearer, and my mother sang our recessional.
If you want, you can read the full script here.
Since the ceremony was so short, we felt comfortable doing picnic seating on blankets for most guests, with a line of mismatched plastic chairs for older family members.
Our biggest challenge:
Since our reception was essentially an all-night forest rave, we had a LOT of concerns about making sure the neighbors were well-informed and on-board with the noise and disruption. The "neighborhood" I grew up is a one-lane dirt road… a road that was going to be clogged with traffic all weekend, and filled with the sounds of music and guests all Saturday night.
I sent letters to every single neighbor on the lane, introducing myself to those who'd moved in after I left for college, sharing the schedule for the weekend, explaining we'd do our best to minimize the traffic impact, and apologizing in advance for the loud music Saturday night. I tried to anticipate every way in which the event would be a hassle for neighbors, and begged them for their patience with us.
The neighbors immediately south of my mom were totally on-board, and even volunteered their field as a parking lot! But my mom's neighbor to the north was notoriously prickly. (Let's be honest: it's not always easy to live next to a pair of weird hippie lesbians who run an eco-retreat.) The neighbor had reported my mother to the city numerous times for building code violations, and I was terrified he was going to call the cops on our wedding night.
The day before our wedding, Andreas walked over to personally introduce himself and check in with the neighbor. I don't know what Andreas did, but somehow he completely charmed the guy. No cops were called, despite loud thumpy music going until 5am!
My favorite moment:
I'm not an especially sentimental person, so there were no flowing tears or OMG THIS IS IT moments. Honestly, the anxiety of coordinating a weekend-long camp-out for about 100 people was pretty overwhelming. That said, Andreas and I shared some quiet time before the ceremony, sitting hidden in a little grove of trees behind the altar space we'd created in the B&B's garden.
We sat together freaking out whispering, amped and excited out of our minds, listening to the burble of our guests talking, taking selfies and just being stoked.
Then we heard the phenomenal voice of our friend Tania, who started the ceremony with an a capella rendition of "At Last" that you could literally hear echoing off the hillsides around the space, and we were like OH SHIT HERE WE GO!
After our ceremony, we took some more quiet time. Inspired by the Jewish tradition of Yichud, we exited the ceremony and just the two of us walked down the lane and through the woods toward the property where I'd grown up.
Our friend who photographed the wedding snuck behind us sniffling to herself, but mostly it was just me and Dre being like "HOLY FUCK WE DID IT" and holding hands and giggling to ourselves. We'd been very intentional about carving out some quiet time during the excitement of the afternoon, and I'm so glad we did because those are some of my keenest memories of the day.
My funniest moment:
Oh, Jesus. The statute of limitations has probably run out at this point, so I think it's safe to say that a large number of our guests got very amusingly inebriated.
Hits of MDMA may have distributed by members of my immediate family. People may have been having sex loudly in their tents. One corporate marketing manager friend may have turned to me on the dance floor bug-eyed and black-pupiled and exclaimed, "MY WATCH IS BROKEN. TIME HAS STOPPED." Later, she might have been making out with someone in the ferns. One of my cousins-in-law may have had a really weird psychedelic experience on the ferry back to Seattle. Dancing may have gone on until sunrise. Strange things may have happened in geodesic domes. It really was a party of epic proportions.
What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
This question is really weird to answer, because of course I can go all meta with it and point to the ways in which my wedding ultimately led to me developing the experiences and skills that led to me supporting my family and a small staff via the Offbeat Empire… but to keep it focused, I think the most important lesson was about the value of community and really deepened understanding of what family means.
Our wedding was only possible because there was a huge outpouring of help and support and love and investment from our community of friends and family… we didn't have attendants, because in some ways almost every single guest chose to play some sort of a role.
Sure, some of them were people we'd asked to help… but most folks just offered themselves up. My aunt brought flowers from her garden to put on tables. My best friend from high school baked the cake. Our LA event designer friend took on decor and day-of coordination. My old college pal decided that the basket of programs sitting on a table really needed to be carried around and distributed.
I love that some weddings are about the couple treating their guests to a very special experience that's been prepared for everyone to indulge in… but that definitely was not our wedding. Our wedding was all about the collaborative community experience of creating something magical together over the course of the weekend. In fact, we all created something so magical that we continued to host an annual anniversary camp-out ever since! (Although we're taking our 10th anniversary off… it's hard work throwing a weekend-long party every year!)
Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?
- Venues: Sacred Groves & Holly Lane Gardens
- Photography: Amrita Huja
- Corset & ribbon falls: Red Ant Fashion
- Skirt & Groom's outfit: Chaya Jones
- Necklace: Faerwear
- Headpiece: Catina Jane Gray
- Bride's shoes: Camper shoes
- Food: Erin Swendenmen
- Cake: Susannah Ribeiro
- Event design & decor: Sarah Kelly & Sarah Rinzler
- DJs: Megan Hill, Scott Haapala, Brian Golub
Where are they now?
10 years later, here we are. Lots has changed, lots has stayed exactly the same. Appropriately, Andreas and I will celebrating our 10th anniversary today by packing up our van and heading out for a music festival called Beloved, same as old days.
…Or rather, same as the old days except for now we share the dance floor with our pre-schooler. And maybe we dance a little slower, and a little closer together.