Stephanie & Joe's books and rock 'n' roll castle wedding

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Photos by Maggie Winters Photography

The Offbeat Bride: Stephanie, media manager at National Geographic

Her offbeat partner: Joe, audio engineer at Discovery Communications

Date and location of wedding: The Castle at Maryvale, Lutherville, MD — January 11, 2014

Our offbeat wedding at a glance:
"Question all the rules" was our motto, and that's exactly what we did! We tried to make every aspect our own (not the easiest endeavor when having a Catholic ceremony), by drawing from my graphic skills and DIY side, and from his musical and technical talents. Ultimately, I'd say we had a book-themed wedding, set to our music, in a gorgeous castle.

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We used cut-out book table numbers/book centerpieces, paper bouquets, large atlases as a cake base, a "dark & stormy night" custom cocktail, and a custom-designed book logo.

My Blue Boots

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For the rock theme, we used bass guitars as a guest book, custom music arrangements, Joe performing a little "Humpty Dance," using the "Power of Love" to exit it all (and play off our new last name), and matching Joe's "infamous" blue Doc Martin boots with my own new blue boots. The coolest aspect of our Catholic ceremony was the instrumental secular music. We had a string trio and clarinet playing custom compositions of our favorite songs.

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For our centerpieces, I spent months collecting just the right books. I quickly opted for free book options, but for a "Harry Potter table" or an "Agatha Christie table," I realized I'd have to purchase more books. Instead, my goal was to find books with beautiful/old hard covers and interesting titles ("The Case of the Curious Bride!" or "Your Move, JP" [Joe's initials]). This gave me a lot of spare books, but plenty from which to choose.

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I LOVE desserts, so I couldn't have just one. So on top of our delicious, no-fondant cake, we decided to have cotton candy. And the holy grail of cotton candy for me (whenever we go to the fair or a ballgame) is purple cotton candy. I think most flavors just taste like sugar, but when they switch batches between pink and blue, you get a little bit of purple cones coming out of the mix. Our caterer nailed it with what they made for us. Some friends started putting it in with cotton candy vodka at the bar, and so there was even a spontaneous cotton candy drink at the wedding (it kind of tasted like a grape Jolly Rancher). Using square marshmallows for easy packing and Ghirardelli chocolate squares, we made "gourmet" s'more packages as our favors, too!

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I designed and made the wedding invitations. The logo from it was in all print materials (programs, tags on table favors, etc.), and on the GOBO projection light on our dance floor.

Epic Sister Battle

My sisters came up with a fun picture, and I truly think it is an epic Sister picture. We were acting like the sisters from Cinderella. Them tearing at my dress and jewelry. Kudos to my sisters for such a fun idea!

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Tell us about the ceremony:
We decided to have a Catholic ceremony as we're both Catholic and our parents would be ecstatic. Plus, I liked the longer service as 15-minutes-and-done ceremonies always felt a little quick to me, especially after all the planning. But to say we are in perfect harmony with everything in the church would be a stretch, so we struggled to keep the traditions of the ceremony we liked while finding our own voice within it. I think the key was finding a priest that really spoke to us in ways that related directly to the church and to what we feel are the core facets of a marriage. Luckily Fr. Enzler is someone Joe's family has known for ages (he was at Joe's confirmation), and as the head of Catholic Charities in DC, he was available and one of the easiest priests with whom I've ever had the pleasure of talking! I was glad he was willing to say "rainbows and unicorns" as he read my statement about how I fell in love with Joe.

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Our biggest challenge:
I think by far it was the guest list. Due to one of Joe's jobs, we needed to get married in the off-season, making it a winter wedding near Baltimore. This meant picking an indoor location, so we used that to help keep costs down, as indoor locations have a firm guest limit. The Castle at Maryvale has an indoor guest count of 125. I have a large family, and we are both blessed with a large number of friends, so it was hard to exclude anyone.

Our fail-safe plan for all of those who couldn't make it was a live feed of the ceremony! Neither of us had ever streamed anything live before, so there was a large learning curve along with special equipment needs. We ended up having two iPads and one behind-the-altar camera record the wedding. We used a streaming service called Looxcie which was an app added to the iPads.

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My favorite moment:
There were so many! While the gals and I were waiting at the top of the stairs to be told to walk down and enter, our music started. The string trio with clarinet played the arrangement of "Ho Hey" by the Lumineers, and standing in front of me, my three gorgeous ladies started bopping to the music!

Joe's vows and mine were meaningful because they were kind of expected. They were things he says to me on a regular basis and things we constantly say to each other. While we kept our personal vows a secret, it was really touching that we both ended ours with words from one of our favorite love songs by the Avett Brothers, "The Ballad of Love and Hate." We both ended with "I love you. That's it. Forever."

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Having my father walk me down the aisle and do the father/daughter dance was really special. I wasn't big on these traditions, but he is like some fathers… reserved and not one to talk about his feelings much. So I wanted to ask him what HE wanted to do for my wedding. I could barely finish asking when he said he absolutely wanted to walk me down the aisle and he wanted to pick out a song to dance to. He doesn't dance… I figured he'd want to skip that! I think the best part was seeing him light up when we actually started to walk.

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I love greeting cards, and sometimes buy them before I know what to do with them. I bought one at a local shop while living in Vancouver that was a picture of a cat jumping on a trampoline. It was simple line drawing kind of art, but I thought it was the epitome of happiness. I always thought I would frame it and not give it to anyone. I never expected that it would be the card I'd use to write a note of happiness and love to Joe before the ceremony. I wrote it out in the bride's ready-room and had his sister deliver it to him before the ceremony.

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My mom is actually a really talented seamstress, but living far away from her wasn't going to make it conducive to making something complicated with lots of fittings. I decided that a cape would be perfect for a wedding in winter! My mom really outdid herself with the gorgeous cape, and I will always cherish hearing all of the compliments for it and bragging that my mom made it!

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My funniest moment:
We had a "Hair Bar" with stick-on mustaches and clip-in hair extensions that turned out to be a hit! I love Joe's mustache and was happy to play off of that, so I thought we'd buy some stick-on mustaches to just have available for people to grab at the wedding. I planned to get them on clearance after Halloween and have more than enough for everyone since people love his mustache so much. But it wasn't fair for the mustaches to get all of the love. I buy some colorful extensions to wear from time to time…so it hit me: colorful hair extensions! People went NUTS for it.

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
We desperately didn't want to make our friends and family work on the day. We wanted to be respectful and most importantly, we wanted them to come and enjoy a great party in thanks for the love and support they've given us over the years. If we spent money on anything, it would be to alleviate work that could fall on them.

However, due to the unforeseeable twists and turns in the last week before the wedding, namely the polar vortex hitting the Midwest forcing my family to arrive an entire week early, I learned that accepting help can be another beautiful expression of that love and support. It was a stressful change of plans, and I worried about us getting on each other's nerves, or them being bored, but it turns out they had plenty of things to do. I think they had some fun, and I was so thankful for their help.

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  1. I just love everything about this wedding!! The castle is beautiful, the wedding dress is pretty with the blue showing at the bottom, the groom's vest is handsome, the cake is to die for, and your book theme is unique!! I see that everyone had a blast with the hair extension and had a good time through it all. I think my two favorite thing in this wedding is the sister picture, and that cape is so beautiful!!

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  2. Where on earth did you get your dress dyed? I have been searching all over the DC area and I can't find anywhere closer than New York. It looks amazing!

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    • I'm not sure if its dyed. In the picture where she is showing off her boots, and in the one where they are having a moment outside (with cape), i think i see bright blue underneath. I think it might just be a blue layer under the white one. but! I could be wrong.

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      • Sheryl Kelm! She is an AMAZING seamstress who works out of her home. I was originally considering a custom dress and had been given her name (she does all kinds of amazing designs), but then I found a sample sale and fell in love. However I still knew I needed a corset back and color in the dress somehow (Gwen Stefani was always my inspiration). Sheryl was terrific! We walked through all kinds of options (talking me out of more tacky ideas) that worked with the dress I'd bought. She ended up buying organza and experimented with doing her own ombre dye until she was happy. Then she pinned triangle shaped layers under the dress's own organza layer of fabric to give it a subtle ombre effect. I couldn't have been happier! She's in Pasadena, MD, wonderful to work with, and very reasonable in price. If you want to reach out to her, email me and I can send her email to you. https://www.weddingwire.com/re…9f1dd.html

  3. I got married there!! Way back in June of '05 🙂

    Beautiful event! The Maryvale people do a great job!! And this looks so cozy and fun!

  4. Aww yeah The Book Thing! \o/

    (for you Baltimore-or-less area folks, The Book Thing is a warehouse that has FREE BOOKS. Show up and take home all the books you want/can carry/can fit in your car/BOOKS.)

    Congrats to you for such an awesome idea, Stephanie – I bet they had some amazing finds there for your big day!

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  5. Just wanted to jump in and say that the groom is ridiculously good looking and dapper – lookit' the little guitar boutonier! And the blue! And the vest! Dat 'Stash.
    And, OMG, did he switch to pince nez during the ceremony?? That is some serious awesome!

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  6. This is a gorgeous wedding! I love all the books and the clothes. As soon as I saw "free books" I thought "The Book Thing!" And your boots are gorgeous. I am tempted to ask where you got them but I can be fairly certain they are leather and as such not for me. Sigh.

    But the most important thing… HOLY CRAP, THERE IS A CASTLE IN MARYLAND THAT IS A WEDDING VENUE. WHY DID IT TAKE ME SO LONG TO DISCOVER THIS. We may have finally found a wedding venue that suits us!

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    • The boots actually list vegan materials, so maybe they could work for you! I bought them on ModCloth last summer in anticipation of the wedding: http://www.modcloth.com/shop/shoes-boots/follow-the-cedar-boot-in-stream They come in a few colors. I'll see if I still have the box and if it lists the brand/materials. They are incredibly comfy and actually very warm. Good luck! And yes, a castle in Maryland!…it's outdoor patio and gardens are gorgeous too!

      • Ahhhh why did I not know these boots existed?! I am obsessed with Modcloth! I need them! Thank you so much!

        That's it… I'm just stealing your entire wedding XD

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        • Hahaha! Awesome, I love it! Please post after your wedding! And if you need the cut out book table numbers I made, I am selling them. 🙂

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