Angi & Bret's polyamorous backyard wedding

You may remember this bride from her post about choosing to marry her boyfriend while legally married to her husband. Now we've got the full story on how it all went down.

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Photos by friend of the couple, Josh Barnhart

The Offbeat Bride: Angi, Freelance Writer (and Tribesmaid)

Her offbeat partner: Bret, RN

Date and location of wedding: Amphitheater in Frog Island Park, Ypsilanti, MI (Reception in our backyard in Westland, MI) — June 28, 2014

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: As a polyamorous couple having a non-legal ceremony, our wedding was inherently pretty offbeat. We had a very small budget, and a primary goal of having a celebration that really felt like a reflection of our personalities and our relationship. We DIYed practically everything, from the invitations to the 400 paper flowers for the bouquets and the centerpieces to the iTunes reception playlist to the ceremony itself. My other partner, Kory (who I've been legally married to for 12 years), cooked the amazing food (a vegetarian burrito bar!) for our reception. The things that we didn't DIY, we mostly purchased from other hand crafters on Etsy, or from small independent companies.

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Our ceremony took place in an amphitheater in a gorgeous park that has a lot of personal significance for us. There were a lot of little details that held a lot of personal meaning, as well. Our officiant (my ex-boyfriend and one of our closest friends) home-brewed two different beers for our reception, and I designed custom labels for them: one beer was called "Infinite Love" and had an infinity heart (a common polyamory symbol) on the label, the other was called "Long Dog" and featured an image of a long-haired dachshund as a nod to our dogs (who weren't home for the party).

DIY Invitations

Our invitations included a drawing of trees in the design, and I used the same drawing I painted on our bedroom wall when we moved into our house almost two years ago. Bret loves tree forts and we share a love of camping and just being in the woods, so the tree motif was subtly present in a lot of the details. Our rings are a tree-branch design, the centerpieces were in tree-bark vases, Bret and our best man, Dave, made the ceremony arch from natural wood found in the park, and Bret and Dave's ties had a screen printed tree design.

Centerpiece

As a writer, one of the first details I wanted to incorporate was some pages taken from books in our paper flower bouquets and centerpieces. I really love both graphic and interior design, and I felt like I got to use both of those skills a great deal in planning the wedding, and really worked to create a sort of funky, colorful, retro-leaning aesthetic that I tend to favor in the style of both my clothes and our home. Though the significance of the wedding day is obviously much deeper than the outward appearance, it still gave me great satisfaction to see all the little details come together and look exactly as I had planned. It was also really meaningful to us to have the reception at our home, the real center of our family life.

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Tell us about the ceremony:
We created the ceremony from scratch, with the help of Offbeat Bride's tremendously helpful Ceremony 101 article. It was wonderful having an officiant who knows us very well, and has seen our relationship grow literally from the moment we met. In his marriage address, our officiant, Alex, talked about the evolution of our relationship. He discussed the shared commitment to social justice that first brought us together, and said that one of the first things that attracted me to Bret was when he asked me for feminist reading suggestions. He talked about our entire family, too, including Bret and my daughter Celia (my maid of honor)'s shared love of video games and fart jokes, as well as the camping trip when the four of us first really started to feel like a family.

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We had two readings, from Emma Goldman and bell hooks, both centered around love and freedom. The readings were done by two dear friends of ours who we really wanted to honor in some way.

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We wrote our own vows together, and it was important to us that they reflected both our feminist and polyamorous values, and the dynamics of our relationship, especially our playfulness. We both read one another the following:

Today, before our family and friends, I affirm you as my partner.
I promise to share my thoughts and feelings with you, and to listen with love and compassion when you do the same. I promise to always speak to you with openness and honesty, and to trust that you will always be open and honest with me.
I promise to honor your individuality and your independence, to support and encourage you as you grow and change. I will strive always to love you in a way that makes you more fully yourself, never less.
I promise to always stay playful and silly with you, to build blanket forts and play games and laugh uncontrollably together, to never completely grow up even when we grow old.
I promise to always make time to take long walks and stay up all night talking with you, to tell you my hopes and dreams and fears, and to support you when you tell me yours.
I promise to stand by your side and to share in your victories and your frustrations as we struggle to create a more just world, a world that we both believe is possible.
I promise to commit myself not only to you, but to our family, to recognize that our love is one part of a larger whole. I promise to do my part in making our home a happy one, filled with fun and laughter and love.
I promise to respect you as my equal, to accept you completely for who you are. I promise to do my best to make sure that you always feel loved and valued, to cuddle with you as often as possible, and to never forget how lucky we are to be sharing our lives with each other.
Without doubt or reservation, I promise to love you as my partner and my best friend, for all the days of my life.

Ceremony

The Guests

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One theme it was important to us to include in our ceremony was the idea that we were not creating something new on the wedding day, but reaffirming a love and commitment which already exists. In that spirit, we re-exchanged rings that we had already given one another two years earlier, in the same park where the ceremony took place.

Our Family
The whole family!

Our biggest challenge:
We knew going in to planning our wedding that a lot of people weren't going to approve or see it as a real wedding, and we tried to be prepared for that. But in the week before the wedding, we found ourselves dealing with some unexpected and really devastating family disapproval. It was incredibly difficult to maintain excitement and enthusiasm for all the last-minute preparations while we were really feeling heartbroken. But the love of our friends was so overwhelming — they really made us feel so incredibly supported right when we needed it most. Nothing can completely take away the hurt of certain important people not being present for our celebration, but it was hard to dwell too much on people who don't support us while we had friends working so hard practically around the clock just to make sure our day was as perfect as possible.

The Backyard

My favorite moment:
Some of the things that were most meaningful to me actually happened in the days leading up to the wedding. We have an amazing group of friends who are really family to us, and we had people at our house non-stop for the last two days before the wedding. They helped us decorate, they cleaned our house, they helped Kory cook the food, and a million other things I could never possibly list. There were several times I found myself tearing up just thinking about how lucky we are to be surrounded by so much love and support.

The entire ceremony was the most meaningful part of the wedding day. Being in a non-traditional relationship that's often not validated by people around us, it felt incredibly affirming to stand up before our family and friends and exchange vows. I had really hoped that our ceremony would help to demonstrate to others how real our love and relationship are, but in the moment, I found that I wasn't really thinking at all about the opinions of others. It felt validating to us to have a wedding, in a way that wasn't at all dependent on what other people think of us.

Sometime during the reception when we were drinking and dancing, my other partner, Kory, said excitedly to me, "We did it! We made a wedding!" He was really happy with how smoothly the catering went and felt very satisfied after the immense amounts of work he had put into it. And his statement that we made a wedding really solidified, for me, that this day had been about our whole family creating something together.

Sundae Bar

Burrito Bar

Have you been married before and if so, what did you do differently?
My first wedding was much more "offbeat lite." It was still an excellent reflection of our personalities and who we were at the time, and I wouldn't change a thing about it. But the contrast of having planned a much more traditional wedding was very clear while planning one that was entirely made from scratch. Mostly, I found myself with a lot more anxiety about the logistics of the day, things I simply hadn't had to worry about when we had hired professionals.

Rings and the Bouquet

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
I have often said that both the most challenging and most rewarding thing about a polyamorous relationship is that there are no easy social scripts to follow — you have to define everything yourselves. It wasn't until about a week before the wedding that I realized how fitting that description is for a DIY wedding, as well, and that realization brought a whole new level of significance to the wedding we'd crafted from scratch as a symbol for the relationship we've crafted from scratch. Doing everything ourselves was such hard work, and at times very overwhelming and scary, but it was also so incredibly rewarding.

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I think the most important lesson we learned, though, was what an amazing community of support we have. Our friends and many of our family members made us feel so validated and affirmed, both with all of the work they did to help us prepare, and simply by treating our wedding like a real wedding (and it was real, legal or not!).

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. Loving those vows-heartfelt and grounded but also lighthearted. Thanks for sharing your story

    3 agree
  2. Such a lot of lovely photographs! I love your coloured underskirt too ๐Ÿ™‚

    Please may I ask a relationship question, but please do ignore if this is too personal! You are now married to both of these charming men, and initially thought that polyamorous relationship was used for the three of you together, so this wedding would be the three of you marrying each other. On the other post your first husband mentioned this wedding is to celebrate you and your second husband, and I wondered, are you married to both of your husbands, but they are not married together, and you're in fact the linchpin rather than being one point of a triangle?

    As I say, I apologise if this is too personal and I will stick to cooing at your wedding and the display of love everywhere ๐Ÿ™‚

    16 agree
    • I don't mind at all!

      Some polyamorous relationships have a configuration where all people in the relationship are romantically involved with one another. But I'd say it's probably a bit more common for them to be configured like mine, where each individual is able to form relationships of their own. In poly-lingo, a relationship like mine is called a "V," and I would be the "hinge" or the vertex of the V.

      My partners consider one another to be family, but they aren't romantically involved with each other.

      6 agree
      • I am in a similar relationship to you. Except my husband and I live with another woman. Although my husband thinks of her as a wife, she is more like a sister and best friend to me. Us ladies are not romantically involved, but I consider us in a polyamorous relationship.

        We also want to have a wedding ceremony, but we will be doing it with the 3 of us rather than just her and him. And we are looking at getting a legal contract drawn up by a family lawyer that will supersede the first marriage, so that we are all looked after properly should something happen to one (or more) of us.

        It is such a fulfilling relationship to have, and it is hard to describe to those that haven't experienced it. All the best to the 3 of you ๐Ÿ™‚

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      • Thanks for replying (both you and the commenter below!) and the new terminology, I appreciate it. This certainly makes a lot of sense about forming a family of different relationships ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. What a great wedding! Congratulations to the whole family!

    May I ask which Malco Modes model your petticoat is? It's the exact style I'm looking for!

  4. Congratulations on your nuptials for the both of you and Kory as well. I'm glad you have such an amazing group of friends. May the three of you have a fulfilling relationship.

    I am curious about the legal aspects though. It's a professional fault of mine ;-). Since polygamy is not legal, how have you, Kory and Bret taken care of such things as insurances, inheritances and medical proxies? If you are not currently in the mood to answer those questions or if the anwer is "Google!", that's cool ^_^

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  5. I love everything about this wedding, from premise down to the decorations! All marriages are real marriages, whether you make it to the courthouse or not. Congratulations!

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  6. Depot Town! I live there! I didn't even notice it said Michigan Wedding and then I flipped out when I noticed it's in Frog Island park. I've lived here my whole life; I'm surprised I don't recognize anyone. My wedding colors include mint as well, and those center pieces are beautiful, so thanks for the inspiration! And congrats!

  7. I LOVE the bouquets and your gorgeous dress – the petticoat really makes it. Absolutely nomming this whole thing <3

  8. Angi I loved reading about your prep on the Tribe. It's so awesome to see this wedding pop up again. Congratulations! And, for what it's worth, well done on sticking to your guns and doing what was so perfectly right for you and your family.

  9. Yay for the polys out there. I'm one too. But my question is, do you have directions for those amazing paper flower arrangements available somewhere online? They look so amazing! Congrats to the whole family.

    2 agree
  10. Omg your petticoat is to die for and you are so lucky to have these two men who sound so loving. Petticoats and love, what more can we ask for?! Lol Good luck in your future together<3

    1 agrees

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