Lea & Mike's big laid-back Jewish/Lutheran budget wedding

The offbeat bride: Lea, Artist

Her offbeat partner: Mike, Structural Engineer

Location & date of wedding: Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in Chicago, IL on May 23rd, 2008

What made our wedding offbeat: A friend of ours, a wonderful fantasy writer, officiated with an incredible speech (which can be found here). Mike's family is very Lutheran, and mine is very Jewish, so we managed to put a ceremony together that summed up both of our beliefs without actually offending anybody.

The best part was that we had Mike's grandfather, a Lutheran minister, do a Jewish part of the ceremony. So his participation in the Sheva B'rachot was really the only religious aspect of the whole thing.

We did the whole thing on a shoestring budget. We chose the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame because, on top of the spectacular view from the roof, they're a not-for-profit, so technically their fees are donations, and thusly tax-deductible.

We did an amazing amount of it ourselves. My little sister made ALL OF THE CAKE, inventing the recipe herself. She did all the decorating and everything, making the little gum paste flowers and all. She even made chocolate-covered strawberries double dipped as Bride and Groom to top the cake off with!

My mother made most of the bridesmaids' dresses. Mike's mother, who works at a chocolate shop, made all the candies that we gave out on the tables as favors. Our dear friend Phil Forsyth, a brilliant musician, composed original music that he performed as our processional and recessional.

Mike's uncles, choir singers, performed a prelude for us. Several friends of ours who are starting their own photography studios took pictures- AMAZING pictures. To keep our guests entertained while we were doing those everybody-stand-still-and-smile pictures, we made trivia cards to set on all the tables, so people could get to know each other while getting to know whichever of us was new to them a little better.

I had always wanted to have a small wedding, and Mike has an ENORMOUS family, so we made the most intimate wedding we could in such a large scenario.

Our biggest challenge: Our biggest challenge was definitely the budget. We don't have a lot of money, especially as Mike has a medical condition that saps a lot of our time and extra cash. He was diagnosed with brain cancer the day after we got engaged. Inventing a ceremony that wouldn't offend anyone in either of our fairly religious and entirely different family was a crazy challenge on its own.

As it turned out, the internet was our best friend. Instead of getting pretty much anything from bridal shops or retailers, we got them piecemeal online. For decorations we used living bamboo plants and Chinese paper lanterns held up with 36" helium balloons. It looked SO COOL, and it was only about $18 a centerpiece.

We rented our linens online, which saved us a fortune. My sister made the cake, which was amazing. As a friend officiated, we didn't have to pay any fees. And since we were at a non-profit, all of those fees were tax deductible. When it came down to it, our wedding only ended up costing a little more than the food.

My favorite moment: Mike had never BEEN to a Jewish wedding and little bits of the ritual were invented. So when my father gave me away, Mike didn't know what to do with me. As soon as he saw me he tried to kiss me, and I had to tell him what to do with me until the ceremony was over and the kissing part started.

My offbeat advice: "Do what you want" is, without a doubt, the worst advice you will EVER get. I think that the trick to a good wedding is that you DON'T do what you want. After all, being a totalitarian bitch is the last way you'd want to start off your marriage.

My advice is to keep yourself in check. After all, the wedding really isn't about YOU, it's about your families, coming together to celebrate you. They've gone out of their way a ton, it's the least you can do to make sure that end the day being happy for you. And seeing you miserable because your vision of your "special day" didn't work out will just make them wonder why in the hell you married that guy.

"After all, being a totalitarian bitch is the last way you'd want to start off your marriage. My advice is to keep yourself in check."

If I'd had the wedding I'd dreamed of, we would have been in the woods, with less than 50 people. My husband's family wouldn't have been able to come, most of our friends wouldn't have been invited, and aside from the fact that Mike's family would have resented that until the end of time, it would always have made him unhappy to think of that part of it.

Your dream wedding? Chances are it's only a dream. The man you're marrying is a real person and his needs are equally as important as yours.

Mike and I, we stayed calm and laid back. We didn't make our groomsmen rent tuxes, or make our bridesmaids get into silly dresses. We let everyone be themselves, we tried to accommodate them in every way, to make them as happy as possible. Because when they were happy, it was so easy for them to see how happy we were.

It's your wedding day. No sense in making it a nightmare for anyone else. ESPECIALLY your groom. I may have bent over backwards to find a way to throw the wedding I wanted for five times as many guests, but it just made it more special. It made every element of the wedding reflect both of us, and everyone could see how well we worked together. Their faith in us was the best gift we could have received to start our new life together.

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn: Click the photo below for more big wedding, but low budget, wedding pics from Lea & Mike's multi-religion wedding!

Get your daily dose of Offbeat AWESOME

  1. Wow, I LOVE that gorgeous cake. Your sister did an awesome job.
    I think I remember reading about Mike's diagnosis (unless someone else on OBT also had a fiance struggling with a brain cancer diagnosis while planning a wedding. I guess that's a possibility considering what a big network it is)and I think it's really beautiful that you focused on love and family and making this a celebration instead of focusing on his health issues and making it negative.

    I agree that it can't always be about the bride's dream wedding. Whenever I've made it about my vision and what I want, then I've found myself being bratty and miserable and it all starts falling apart.
    It's when I'm flexible, open minded and listening to my amazing creative partner's ideas that things start falling into place. He is supportive about the stuff that matters to me in this wedding and so I am also bending backward to accommodate his HUGE family. It means making people I've never met comfortable on "my" special day-(whatever), but that will also mean making him happy and I love him so much it will all be worth it!

    I think your wedding looks really cool, and those centerpieces are super creative!!

  2. Woah! My fiance and I have looked at a few museums but I hadn't considered the tax deduction. Is this something that they mentioned to you? I'm not sure all of the places we have looked are registered non-profits.

  3. I really think you hit on something here about the wedding. Yes, I want my wedding to represent my to-be husband and I, but really – the wedding itself is an event to bring together two families. I don't want a wedding to be happily married – my marriage is not about that. I want a wedding so my family can share in my day. It's a ritual, a celebration, like a festival or holiday. We have these things to commemorate a moment, and it is always about the larger picture of the community rather than about one person. Why should weddings be any different?

  4. "…when my father gave me away, Mike didn't know what to do with me."

    Made me smile =] Sounds like a fantastic day and wedding! The bride's dress was especially lovely.

  5. I pretty much agree. You hear a lot of "it's your wedding do it your way" in the indie world… and it's true, up to a point. Your wedding should be an honest reflection of who you are, but, it should also reflect your communities needs (family or other community). After all, you are choosing to celebrate WITH them.

    Unless you are eloping. And we all have days we wish we were 😉

  6. "I think that the trick to a good wedding is that you DON'T do what you want. After all, being a totalitarian bitch is the last way you'd want to start off your marriage."

    Damn straight. Good on you, Lea, for having such a positive and realistic view of your wedding. I hope you and Mike have a long and happy life together.

  7. your wedding warmed me to my toes! i love how you had no strangers in involved, and the whole thing was gorgeous. congratulations!

  8. "After all, the wedding really isn't about YOU, it's about your families, coming together to celebrate you."

    YES. And that is the most offbeat thing I've heard in awhile.

  9. Gorgeous! And excellent advice about including everyone's wishes for the day.

    One question: How did you attach the tallis to the chuppah? We're going to have to do that without causing harm to my FIL's tallis. Any advice is appreciated!

  10. "I think that the trick to a good wedding is that you DON'T do what you want. After all, being a totalitarian bitch is the last way you'd want to start off your marriage."

    do you have to be a totalitarian bitch to do what you want?
    after all, Lea did do what she wanted – she wanted to bring the families together and make everyone happy. success! looks like a great day!

  11. I've been lurking around OBB for a while, and at this point I've read every blog entry Ariel/Shrie have posted (what? I have a lot of time on my hands). This is the only one (so far) that has brought tears to my eyes.

    Lea–your selflessness, and your (and Mike's) ability to plan a lovely wedding amidst dealing with his illness is heart-melting and amazing. My thoughts & prayers are with both of you. I hope Mike makes a complete and speedy recovery.

  12. Great wedding & philosophy! Totally agree that it's for the families.

    The biggest regret I had about my wedding was being a tyrant on the music selection. No one really started moving until my DJs (against my wishes) played the electric slide. But hey, we should have played it earlier, cause apparently that's when everyone started having a good time! Making everyone try to conform to your own standards is just bad party host behavior.

  13. All I have to say is the balloons and lanterns are an inspiration and the dress is so beautiful.

  14. That last picture is precious, and I'm so sad about your husband. I hope his cancer was caught early so that he has a higher chance of a full recovery!

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.

Biz owners & wedding bloggers

Please just use your real name in your comment, not your business name or blog title. Our comments are not the place to pimp your website. If you want to promote your stuff on Offbeat Bride, join us as an advertiser instead.