Amber & Matt's irreverent and elegantly gothy wedding

Photos by Stephen Melvin

The Offbeat Bride: Amber, chef (and cookbook author)

Her offbeat partner: Matt, sales engineer for a technology company

Date and location of wedding: A swanky penthouse loft atop a historic building in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. — September 8, 2012

What made our wedding offbeat: Our ceremony and reception were both held on the penthouse floor of a historic building in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. I wore a custom-designed eco-friendly hemp-silk corset dress with black lace sleeves and skirt panels. We had no bridesmaids, groomsmen, or flowers (my bouquet was made of kale). Our theme was bats; I wore a bat necklace, my friend Emily made us a pair of beautiful his-and-hers framed bat prints, and bats decorated our invitations and RSVP card, seating chart, venue walls, and more.


For dinner, we had an entirely gluten-free vegan buffet, and for dessert, two types of gluten-free vegan cupcakes. (Since I'm a chef, I co-created the dinner menu and the cakes with our caterer and cake baker.) We even had vegan wine, and gave superfood chocolate truffles to our guests as favors. We hand-picked every single song played that night, and we didn't hold back from playing exactly what we wanted (a mix of rock, metal, goth, industrial, electronic, '80s, and more). For instance, we played Nine Inch Nails, Type O Negative, and H.I.M. songs to highlight strategic moments of the ceremony (entrance and exit) and reception (entrance, first dance, cake cutting, etc.).


Black and white were our colors; the reception hall was decked out in black tablecloths and black candelabras with melty white candles on every table (and each table name was the name of a Nine Inch Nails song: Sin, Please, Only, et al.), and even our rings are black.


Tell us about the ceremony: We wrote our entire ceremony from scratch, including quotes by Steven Pinker, Ayn Rand, Vladimir Nabokov, and Trent Reznor. We read poems by Pablo Neruda ("Sonnet XVII") and e.e. cummings ("somewhere i have never travelled"). For our unity ceremony, we made (and took a bite of) a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! We had a friend officiate, since we had secretly already "done the deed" legally at the courthouse a couple weeks prior.


Our biggest challenge: Some family members were upset at our decision to have a child-free event and our choice to have such a secular and nontraditional wedding; much of my family chose not to attend. I had to resolve to accept the situation for what it was and make a choice to enjoy the day no matter what — and I did.


My favorite moment: When we exchanged rings, Matt said "You're the queen and I'm the king," and I replied with "Nothing else means anything." (It's a lyric from the Nine Inch Nails song "We're In This Together.")


My funniest moment: We surprised everyone by whipping out a meat/coconut cleaver and using it to cut the cake. After making the cut, I licked the cleaver clean!


Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? After our original cake baker bailed, we spent the two weeks leading up to the wedding madly searching for anyone who could make us a gluten-free vegan cake (which is a tall order here in the Midwest), let alone in the flavors I had in mind. We ended up opting for cupcakes, which I wasn't thrilled about, but as soon as I saw the gorgeous cupcake tower that Be Free Bakers created, I knew everything worked out for the best. And after tasting the incredible cupcakes themselves (chocolate cake with raspberry jam filling and mocha frosting; chocolate chip-vanilla cupcakes with peanut butter filling and cookie dough frosting), I know for a fact we ended up with the most delicious cakes possible!


My advice for offbeat brides: Leading up to the wedding, if you're stressing at all about details or planning, everyone will tell you that "All that matters is that you love each other." Well, yeah, but if that really were ALL that matters, we wouldn't have had a wedding to begin with! For us, the point of having a wedding at all was to throw a big party and celebrate with our favorite people. The point being: don't let anyone else tell you what does or doesn't matter when it comes to planning YOUR wedding day.


Have you been married before and if so, what did you do differently? Matt was married once before, but he had played almost no part in the planning process for his first wedding. This time, we worked on almost everything as a team.


What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? You can't please everyone, and you MUST let go of the details sometimes and look at the bigger picture. I'm the type of person that gets obsessed with minutiae, and planning a wedding challenged me to not get hung up on the little things.


Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

I also have been blogging about all the details of our wedding on my site; you can view all those posts, see more photos, and find a complete list of my vendors here.

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. Hi Amber,
    Your wedding looks amazing! Congratulations to the both of you.
    If you don't mind my asking, how did you go about announcing the child-free part? I really want to have a childfree wedding as well, but I already know several members of my family and friends are going to be cross about it. So I'd love to hear another woman's experience and tips.

    8 agree
    • Hi! So I'm not Amber, but I also had a child-free wedding. I admit, we don't have a lot of friends or family with kids, but we included a line on our save the dates that said "invitations to follow for this adults only affair". Fortunately, we didn't get any pushback.

      I did have one girlfriend who got pushback from a cousin when she found out no children were invited and she really had to stick to her guns. Be sure to let some family and mutual friends know ahead of time so they can back you up, too. Chances are the person will go to someone else to see if they can "break" you or to complain, so you'll need someone in your corner. And don't make any exceptions- if you make even one exception, everyone else with children will be extra cross that they were not the exception. good luck!

      8 agree
      • Hi Cmathos,
        I don't mind you're not Amber πŸ˜‰
        Thanks for the advice. I was also thinking about taking a bit out of my budget to pay for on-site nanny service, but I hope it won't be necessary.
        I'm glad nobody gave you a hard time about it ^_^

        3 agree
      • Totally agree about not making any exceptions! We got pressured hard to make an exception for some young cousins, but it was definitely for the best that we didn't. It would have been opening a can of worms, and would've just changed the nature and atmosphere of our whole event.

        5 agree
    • Hi Kim!
      Sorry for the delay in my reply. The child-free thing was a delicate situation. We did two things:
      – On our RSVP/reply cards, we put "__ of 1 (or 2) guests will attend," and that way people could only fill in 1 or 2, rather than thinking their whole family could come.
      – We also enclosed a FAQ sheet with all the invites, telling guests about our (lack of) gift registries and dress code, and mentioning the no-kids thing. Here's exactly what we wrote:
      "Q: Why aren't children allowed at your wedding?
      A: Although we adore kids and we each have numerous children in our lives that we love, we have planned our wedding as an adults-only event. It's important to us for all of our guests to feel relaxed and at liberty to cut loose, imbibe, and party the night away! In addition, the night will include language, music, and humor that may not be deemed kid-friendly. If you have children, please plan ahead to secure a babysitter for the night, and expect for the fun to carry on late into the evening. If you have a question about this, please feel free to call or email us. We thank you for understanding."
      Hope that helps, and good luck!

      13 agree
      • Hi Amber,
        Thanks for taking the time to reply! That FAQ-answer seems like a harmless enough way of explaining. I might use it when sending out the invites (if you don't mind). Thank you!

        3 agree
  2. Gorgeous!! Janay is making my wedding dress, too, and I am soooo excited about it. It is great to see how the hemp-silk photographs. I think it looks great. Your dress (and you!) looked absolutely beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing and many congratulations.

  3. The bride's eye make-up is amazing! πŸ™‚ And I love that the boob-grabbing photo has the word 'CAUTION' in the background.

    9 agree
    • Thanks Hare! And haha, we didn't even plan that, but we love that that photo turned out that way! ;P

      1 agrees
  4. Very cool wedding and nice black and white combo wedding color theme. I can understand some people wanting no child in the wedding because the little ones can steal the show from the bride and groom. Beautiful photos and congratulations!!

    • Yikes, I'm not sure it's about "stealing the show". Reasons to not have little ones at the wedding/reception include: not wanting your vows interrupted by a scream/crying, the venue isn't kid-friendly, wanting to spend some adult time with friends, the presence of alcohol and other maybe not so kid-friendly activities, etc.

      8 agree
      • Agreed – our main reasons were
        1. Alcohol (open bar, and we wanted people to really let loose, including parents!)
        2. Language/music/humor included throughout the night
        3. Simply wanting a very elegant and "adult" atmosphere all evening. πŸ™‚

        8 agree
  5. "Elegothy"… I'm going to have to make this word a part of my everyday vernacular now! πŸ™‚
    Finding peace with things when much of your family boycotts your wedding can be really difficult. Props to you for weathering that particular storm and enjoying your own damn wedding!
    The pic of you licking off the giant f@$%&*g cleaver is gloriously funny, by the way.

    2 agree
  6. I just wanted to say that your dress is one my favorites i have ever seen, and it looks perfect on you! Congrats on a successful big day!

    5 agree
    • Matt's ring is made of sustainably collected wood, and mine is white gold with a rhodium alloy coating. πŸ™‚

      1 agrees
  7. Stunning! I am intrigued by which quote of Pinker's was included in your ceremony πŸ™‚ I'm a huge fan

    • Hey Carmen! I'm a linguist, so Pinker is a bit of a god to me. πŸ˜‰ Here was the quote we included:
      "The thought of a loved one can turn our wits upside down, ratchet up our heart rate, impel us to slay dragons and write corny songs. We may become morose, obsessive, even violent. Lovesickness has been blamed on the moon, on the devil, but whatever is behind it, it doesn't look like the behavior of a rational animal trying to survive and reproduce. But…nothing so primal could have been created out of thin air as a mere custom or product. To the contrary, romantic love is a human universal.
      …Don't accept a partner who wanted you for rational reasons to begin with; look for a partner who is committed to staying with you because you are you. Committed by what? Committed by an emotion. An emotion that the person did not decide to have, and so cannot decide not to have. An emotion like romantic love."

      1 agrees
    • Many conventional wines are filtered or purified using animal products, like gelatin, albumin (egg whites), caseins (milk proteins), or isinglass (from fish bladders). Vegan wines employ non-animal filtering methods. πŸ™‚

      2 agree
  8. Beautiful dress, beautiful wedding! It's unfortunate that some of your family chose not to attend just because of your personal choices. I had an entire branch not come to my first wedding because of a messy divorce…which happened back in 1962!! Family are weird sometimes. Anyway, great job with yours!

    1 agrees
    • Family are very weird πŸ™‚ It all turned out for the best, though; our wedding was fantasmic!
      Thanks Grace!

      1 agrees
    • Yep, super disappointed by that article. They'll get a lot of pageviews, but where's the support for other women redefining what it means to have a wedding or be married? Sometimes Jezebel only supports women making the decisions THEY would make.

      20 agree
    • I saw the Jezebel article and while the article was obnoxious, it made me curious about Amber and Matt's wedding which actually sounded pretty cool to me. It was the Jezebel link that brought me to this site – a site I wish I had known about when I was planning my non-traditional wedding.

      7 agree
      • Welcome to the Offbeat Empire! If you're already married, you may enjoy Offbeat Bride's sister site, Offbeat Home — where the delicious weirdness just keeps on keepin' on. πŸ™‚

        3 agree
        • Offbeat Bride rocks!! There is no way in hell that I would have been able to pull off my awesome wedding had it not been for this site and the awesome community that is attracted to it.

          4 agree
    • If nothing else, most of the comments on that article are taking the Jezebel author to task for writing it at all. This wedding looks incredible to me and the food sounds amazing!

      12 agree
    • I'm one of the people that commented on that terrible article, both to the author and in response to a couple of the negative comments. I like Jezebel but sometimes the bitchiness is too extreme and just dumb. Be assured that most of the commenters agreed and thought that the article went way overboard.

      And I LOVE the dress, the hair, the whole look! Congrats on your beautiful day!

      8 agree
    • Very disappointed in Jez, I probably split my time on the Internet equally between there and OBB so am sad to see them not being supportive of their Offbeat (particularly vegan!) sisters. I would imagine they share much of the same readership because the feminist message is strong in both. OBB will rise above I'm sure. πŸ™‚

      6 agree
    • I found this site entirely through that awful article, so I guess it did some good.

      Beautiful wedding, great site!

      7 agree
  9. The bride is stunning…as in perfect little doll doesn't even look real perfection stunning…I'm going to sit here and stare for a while…

    That came out creepier than I meant but she is so pretty!

    4 agree
  10. As a vegan with a somewhat gothy background, I can't even tell you how much I appreciate every aspect of your wedding and the photos are beautiful. I am saddened by the tone in that awful jezebel post, but it's how I found out about your wedding. I say kudos and much happiness to you!

    11 agree
  11. That horrid Jezebel post led me here, and I am so happy it did. This website is awesome, and Amber, your wedding looked stunning! I am in awe of your dress! πŸ™‚

    10 agree
    • Hi Anna! Welcome! I read Jezebel a bit because I like a woman centered community that (most of the time) is progressive and open minded.

      I stumbled upon OffbeatBride when I started my wedding planning and let me tell you OffBeat Bride, Home, Families and Empire is the true definition of so much open mindedness and accepting attitudes. I really feel like I can be myself here. Plus no catty comments like you find on other sites!

      4 agree
      • I get disappointed when I venture into the internet and realize people aren't as awesome as they are on Offbeat everything (tribe, bride, home, families, and empire!). It's such a welcoming (and not catty/rude) community here. I came as an Offbeat Bride (to be), and they'll keep me with home and families!

        4 agree
  12. I too was led here by a snark link to this site, and I'm so glad it did! I applaud them for doing what worked for THEM. It sounds like they already had enough stress with family disagreements, and I can 100% sympathize. You do what works for you. You both look happy and glowing. Congratulations and may you both have many happy years together.

    2 agree
  13. Sincere congratulations on your marriage! Your wedding sounds perfect. Way to go standing up for what you want! Totally agree with a childfree wedding. It's supposed to be about you, and I'm glad it was. Wish you a lifetime of making each other happy!

    3 agree
  14. I just love how beautiful and happy you two look! You know that wonderful, internal happiness eye people have when they feel very comfortable, relaxed, accepted and in love? You two have it!

    I'm sorry that certain blogs decided not to focus on how happy you look and how much work you obviously took in making sure the food tastes delicious!

  15. I agree with previous posters – it was Jezebel's unpleasant article (I was quite surprised and disappointed with them for it) that alerted me to the existence of OBB – and I'm really glad I found it. This was a beautiful wedding – I loved the idea of the kale bouquet. And the dress looks stunning.

    2 agree
  16. EFFING BEAUTIFUL!!! Need to wipe the drool off my keyboard before it shorts out. That dress is freaking gorgeous! I love the whole creepy/elegant shebang!!! Gaaaaaaaah! <3

  17. I also saw the awful Jez article and came here to send you some love. And then I saw the photos – congrats on the wedding, and on the gorgeousness, too!

    1 agrees
  18. I was disappointed to read that some of your family chose not to attend. Even if they didn't agree with your choice,it's your day and their love for you should be more important than their traditionalist views. Your idea is not for everybody, but it is very brave, memorable and beautiful; what else matters?

    3 agree
  19. LOVE your dress – especially the black lace sleeves! And I'm sure I'd be rocking the dance floor at your wedding with the soundtrack you created πŸ™‚

    1 agrees
  20. Love:
    –absolutely everything

    Haters gonna hate, but this is a gorgeous wedding and I hope you had a wonderful time!

  21. You guys look gorgeous! I love the dress and the bat necklace. The boob-grabbing picture reminds me of one of our pics from our first look where he's just staring at my wedding-dress-cleavage with this "WHOA!" look on his face! haha. Yay for another vegan wedding! And the kale bouquet is an awesome idea.

    1 agrees
  22. Never read the icky article on site-who-shall-not-be-named. From an offbeat lite bride, I think your wedding is beautiful and elegant and even better for being the happy expression of yourselves and your love! Congrats on your marriage and the gorgeous party you had celebrating it!

    1 agrees
  23. "Leading up to the wedding, if you're stressing at all about details or planning, everyone will tell you that "All that matters is that you love each other." Well, yeah, but if that really were ALL that matters, we wouldn't have had a wedding to begin with! For us, the point of having a wedding at all was to throw a big party and celebrate with our favorite people. The point being: don't let anyone else tell you what does or doesn't matter when it comes to planning YOUR wedding day."

    Yes, this exactly what I needed to hear!! The love is the most important thing at the top of the important things list, but it is not the only item there. Thank you for putting my muddled thoughts into clear sentences!

    1 agrees
  24. Gorgeous pictures! Wonderful couple! Best wishes for a happily married life to you.

  25. I was wondering what exact venue this was at? πŸ™‚ I am planning my wedding (and live in kc area) I have a couple places in mind, but after seeing your pictures its making me reconsider!

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