My circus, my monkeys: our wedding put the "fun" in dysfunctional

September 13 | Guest post by W.M. Chandler
My circus, my monkeys: our "fun" in dysfunctional wedding
"We Put the Fun in Dysfunctional" Cross Stitch Chart

Both our families are slightly unconventional. My husband's father was raised Mennonite on an apple orchard. To keep with tradition and satisfy his parents, my husband got married, had children, and tried to raise his own family like he had been brought up. After questioning his faith, he decided to leave the Mennonite community, which also meant leaving his family behind.

My husband's mother suffers from mental illness, and he chooses to not have her be a part of his life. He was never close with her side of the family and they do not make an effort to reach out to him. As a result, my husband's family is very small. It is just his dad and brother who will be joining us for our wedding day.

My father was a deadbeat who was in and out of the recovery community for most of my life. We were estranged from his entire side of his family as a result. His sister has stayed close over the years and is the only family member from his side who still keeps in contact with us. My mother was adopted. She and her younger sister were the youngest of 12 siblings and were put up for adoption together to the same home when they were children. Her sister is the only family my mother has ever had.

We decided that our families put the "fun" in dysfunctional

… and that should be celebrated, rather than viewed as a negative. We are proud of the little family that we have, so we decided to put on a carnival-themed wedding to honor our dysfunction.

We researched the many ways to save money to not put stress on our families', or our own, bank accounts. We borrowed our friends' circus tent that they had purchased for their children's birthday years before and made our own games. We wanted to create a wedding day that was full of festivities to match our family's strange dynamics.

Rather than sit around a stuffy dinner table making conversation with strangers, we wanted our loved ones to have a good time and celebrate joining our families into one. It didn't matter how few of us there were. We prided ourselves on the quality, rather than the quantity of our wedding guests.

Our smaller wedding made everyone in our family more comfortable

They weren't expected to remember a bunch of distant relatives names or make small talk with strangers. Our families were able to engage with each other, play games together, and create lasting memories from the first day that they were able to call each other in-laws.

The idea sounded a bit tacky at first and we had to convince our parents that it was a good idea. They loved the concept but wanted to make sure it was tasteful. I always planned on looking classic and wearing white, but of course my silly fiance stuck a red clown nose in his pocket to bring out at opportune times. He wanted to hold true to our theme for the wedding, putting the "fun" in dysfunctional.

It filled my heart with so much joy to see our families enjoy our wacky idea for our wedding. My mother loved watching the juggler that we hired, and my husband's father was a big fan of having all-you-can-eat funnel cakes. I feel that we did a pretty great job combining classy and comical.

  1. I don't see what is tacky about having a small wedding. This wedding sounded like my idea of a great wedding (granted I am not into carnivals as much as I used to. At County Fair's I'd rather look at the Animals. But I do like to watch other people have fun on the rides at the carnival part of a County Fair). I only had about 30/35 people at my wedding and people liked having a smaller wedding. I think people do get lost at wedding if it is really big (like at even 50 + weddings).

    I think sometimes people get pressured either by co-workers, friends, other family members into thinking big wedding = real wedding.

    I know when I got married my mom wanted me to invite a great-aunt as really dislike. Thankfully she turned the invite down. But I don't see the need to invite someone to a wedding because they are "blood" and it might offend them if I did not invite them. I have a feeling that my great-aunt knew I did not like her (for many different reasons). I just did not want a toxic person to interfere with the fun. I am sure other people have been in a situation where they invited someone because their parents said they had to invite someone because they are "family."

  2. I'm reading this extremely emotionally, because your lovely wedding is giving my boyfriend and I permission to in the future have the wedding we want.

    Both of us have left organized religion, and lost many friends from our respective religious communities because of that. I come from an extended family that has suffered through substance abuse, and as a sober person there are many family members I do not actively engage with.

    To top it off, we are two different races, and his family has pretty much disowned him because of our relationship. I have very strong "family" through friends, and my mother, godfather, and sister. He finds his "family" through his circle of friends, as well as a distant cousin.

    I had been getting emotional, because both of us are planning and moving towards and engagement, and it's hard to explain to outsiders why we plan to have an elopement ceremony, and then a small, intimate party afterwards. A lot of the milestones and family-based rituals are gone from our life.

    I am grateful for a partner that lets me grieve that, but reminds me it's better to be with a few people who love and care for us, and we can create our own rituals.

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