Jenna & Brendan's party to celebrate a marriage

IMG_3743
Photos by Keira Lemonis

The offbeat bride: Jenna, corporate trainer (and Tribe member)

Her offbeat partner:Brendan, corporate trainer

Location & date of wedding: Locust Grove (the home of Samuel Morse), Poughkeepsie NY — September 4, 2010

What made our wedding offbeat: So often I hear from friends who are in relationships that are heading to marriage that they feel like they have two choices: elope and do it the way they want, or go all out and have a Big White Wedding. We took "do it the way we want" and applied it to … a big fuchsia and purple and red and blue wedding!

shoes and crinolineI am from a huge, close-knit family of a million extractions: Armenian, Polish, Old New Englander, and Swiss just to name a few, so having family (and lots of them!) present was important to us.

We had no theme or set colors. We threw in lots of things that reflected us, without worrying about how they all fit together. We figured that if they fit together in our personalities, then they should be fine in a celebration that reflects our personalities. Specifically, there were a lot of Asian elements as we've both lived in several countries in Asia. We had a tea bar and vintage postcards from India and Taiwan (which complemented the look of the historic site). We had a poem read in Chinese and English as I speak Mandarin and we currently live in Taiwan. Our processional was played by a good friend on solo flute: The Butterfly Lovers concerto, from a Chinese opera.

bridesninjasresize

elephantsresizeI studied abroad in India, so we had the Tamil poem "Red Earth and Pouring Rain" read. We kicked Wedding Chicken squarely out of the party and served tandoori chicken, pierogies and kielbasa, lamb kebab and an array of Middle Eastern, Chinese and Indian appetizers.

A friend created a specific font for us in decorative Morse Code, to cheekily nod to the fact that we were getting married at the home of Samuel Morse, and we decorated our paper products with it.

IMG_3858I designed my own dress, top to bottom.

In the end, though, all of that was great and lovely, but honestly, a few bright colors and some decorative flourishes don't represent "us" — WE represent us, and so while we spent time making everything look lovely, we always kept in mind that the focus was the start of our marriage. We never focused on "Having a Wedding."

Neither of us is particularly religious, and regarding government institutions, well, "we don't need a piece of paper from City Hall keepin' us tied and true." In our hearts, we were already married long before we signed the paperwork and said "I do." Our wedding was merely a public celebration of that fact.

kissresizeTell us about the ceremony: We had no particular ceremonies within the ceremony (no candles, no sand, no salt, no wine), but we did feature three readings that meant a lot to us. The first was Robert Frost's "The Master Speed." The second was a Chinese and English reading of "Married Love," a 13th century Chinese poem by a female poet (quite rare in those times). Our benediction was by Rumi.

We stood together at the front, no altar, just the garden in the background and swaying trees beyond. We let our attendants sit during the ceremony, which they appreciated (and which I recommend). We said our own vows but otherwise kept it rather simple.

by the Hudson River II

cake topperOur biggest challenge: We planned our wedding from abroad — ten thousand miles to be exact — from Taipei to Poughkeepsie, New York. The challenges we faced in figuring out even basic decor items, finding vendors, getting him a suit, and finding me shoes (in a country that does NOT sell my shoe size) were massive. We spent more money than I'd like to remember on shipping items from Taiwan that wouldn't fit in our suitcases and ordering items online. We had midnight Skype calls with vendors because of the time difference. We signed a venue contract without seeing the actual venue.

white knotsIt was also hard having to appoint someone else — my mother — as our eyes and ears in the wedding locale. Not because my mother was untrustworthy: quite the opposite. I'm just a natural planner and take-charge-gal, and I didn't like handing over power.

Finally, we are not religious, but I wanted an officiant who knew at least one of us. I was raised Christian and so asked my pastor from childhood to do it: I respect him greatly as a person, and was proud to be married by someone who had a progressive, liberal life outlook while still being a clergyman. It raised a lot of thorny issues of faith — there were more religious references in the ceremony than we wanted, but we wanted Howard to officiate more than we wanted a totally secular ceremony, so we let it go. We navigated the issues of a non-church wedding, secular readings and music and ended up with a meaningful ceremony brought together by meaningful people in our lives.

in the Locust Grove Garden

IMG_4374My favorite moment: The most meaningful moment came the moment we woke up (in the hotel room that we shared — O! The Horror!) and I found myself with a raging migraine. My now-husband got me a glass of water, found the Tiger Balm, made coffee and scavenged some crackers so I could take my medication with something in my stomach. It meant a lot to me to know that, even incapacitated at the start of a hectic day, he'd be there for me first, and worry about other things later. I would do no less for him.

IMG_3846

jewelryresizeWhen I went to get my hair done, the migraine was just barely subsiding. Our attendants really stepped up, getting table cards in place, making sure that lunch, strawberries, chocolate and champagne appeared in the suite, and one went with me to help me write my vows on a nice piece of paper, which I had forgotten to do. The stylist started crying as I read them to the bridesmaid for transcription. I nearly started crying, and my headache chose that moment to subside.

I love my dad very much, but for the longest time leading up to the wedding I felt trepidation about him walking me down the aisle. Not because of him, but because of what that tradition represents.

aisleresizeOn the day of the wedding, I just let it go. I made a conscious decision to re-appropriate that tradition to "my father is walking with me down the aisle, he is not escorting me. Walking with me on my wedding day is a great honor and I have chosen to give it to the wonderful father who helped raise me." It worked; it also helped that he didn't "give me away." In the end, I'd say that that was one of the most meaningful moments of my wedding day.

And, of course, the very long kiss that we shared at the end while people applauded. I will never forget that.

IMG_3670

IMG_4177My funniest moment: Before the ceremony, guests were assembled as we were returning from photos. Everyone saw me before walking down the aisle. Someone called out "we're not supposed to see you before the ceremony!" I stuck my tongue out and blew a raspberry to everyone's great delight.

Our ring bearer, my three-year-old cousin, didn't want to give up the ring box (an inexpensive carved wooden box given to me by my Grandma Grace when I was a child), even in exchange for some chocolates. I was already halfway down the aisle before the Supreme Pirate managed to get the box out of his hands without him whimpering.

As I finished my vows I didn't know where to put the paper that my bridesninja had helped me write. Confused, I just handed it to Brendan to put in his pocket. Everyone laughed, because it was so us. "Here…hold this!" But in a sweet way.

And finally, I nearly toppled Brendan when we kissed, an event captured on film that we have a framed photo of now!

ceremony

IMG_4395Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? We got married the day that Hurricane Earl was supposed to hit New York. We were expecting, at best, cloudy skies and wind, and at worst, no guests to show up and our venue to be flooded! Fortunately, despite raining the day before, we woke up to a warm, sunny, slightly windy day.

Our officiant was out of town the week before, but having just flown in from Taiwan, we didn't know that! We called him every other day and heard nothing until the day before the wedding. Pretty terrifying!

IMG_4385Up until two days before we were brainstorming action plans: calling my mom's friend who is ordained and hoping that she was free, ordaining a friend online, having a friend "act" as an officiant, letting guests know the issue and going to the courthouse on the next weekday.

We didn't sweat it, though, as this really was a "party to celebrate a marriage." Sure, we were legally wed on that day, but in our hearts we'd been married for quite some time. We'd end up married eventually, and it wouldn't be a big deal.

Fortunately, Howard came back from his trip, called us and we did breathe a sigh of relief.

by the Hudson River

My advice for offbeat brides: Choose your announcements: for example, when my grandmother asked "If I wear beige, will that be too similar to your dress color?" I smiled and said "No…it's fine," because it just wasn't a good time to announce that I was wearing fuchsia.

IMG_3928While engaged, make sure to sit down and do a thorough, clear, open and communicative assessment of your relationship and its foundations. This can be done with or without a counselor. (We didn't have one. They don't exist in Taiwan.) Whatever issues you may have now, they're only going to get worse later — they're not going away just because you've got a ring. Make sure you are confident that you see eye-to-eye on life values and goals, that you are both truthful, respectful, emotionally mature and have great chemistry; chemistry when it comes to daily "boring" stuff together as well as chemistry while doin' the hoingy-boingy dance. Fix any issues now, and start your marriage with a healthy foundation, because the marriage and the partnership that entails is really what this is about.

And don't be afraid to wear a shit-eating grin the whole time. Looks great in pictures!

in the garden

table cardCare to share a few vendor/shopping links?

  • Dress: I designed my own dress from fabric I sourced myself and a vintage obi I bought in Tokyo years ago. I had it made locally in Taiwan, so I can't provide any links to that — sorry.
  • Photography: Keira Lemonis
  • Food: Bridge Creek Catering
  • Venue: Locust Grove is a gorgeous, courteous, and non-pretentious venue. It is expensive, but all proceeds go to the preservation of Samuel F.B. Morse's historic home so you're doing a good deed if you have your wedding there.

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

Get your daily dose of Offbeat AWESOME

  1. "…the hoingy-boingy dance…"

    I have GOT to remember that!

    Absolutely BEAUTIFUL wedding. Your dress is GORGEOUS!

    3 agree
    • Hahaha I was coming here to say exactly that! I nearly cried with laughter (at my desk at work, no less *hides*) when I read that.

      1 agrees
  2. I love love love what you said about your father walking you down the aisle ๐Ÿ™‚ Things like that are only 'traditional' if you view them the way everyone else says you're 'supposed' too. Gorgeous dress too!

    2 agree
    • Yeah, I wouldn't say I identify with any subcultures (or I semi-identify with several but don't entirely fit into any) but I also never really felt like I could self-identify with Offbeat Lite…which is all cool. Not everyone needs a group or label so I'll happily take "simply offbeat" ๐Ÿ™‚

      4 agree
  3. A beautiful wedding and a thoughtful, mature bride with sage advice! Best of both worlds! Thanks OBB!

    3 agree
  4. I loved reading the whole write up of your wedding, Channa! I found the moment of waking up with a migraine and your husband really touching. He sounds like an awesome guy.

    You looked really beautiful (I especially liked your hair!) and all the bits and pieces of your decor really came together!

    Best wishes for the rest of your life together!

    -Sarah Joy

    1 agrees
  5. Wow. Just… wow. The whole thing is Wow.

    "It meant a lot to me to know that, even incapacitated at the start of a hectic day, he'd be there for me first, and worry about other things later. I would do no less for him." <—and that's about when this OBB made me cry. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Seriously beautiful all around, and great, great, great advice at the end. Mazel tov, and best weishes!

    1 agrees
  6. Yay Channa ๐Ÿ™‚ I love your porn and the story of your wedding is excellent. Best wishes for long and happy lives shared together for you and your partner. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Shii

    1 agrees
  7. So beautiful! Everything turned out completely wonderful! One of my favorite weddings ever!

    1 agrees
  8. Gorgeous!! Your wedding sounds absolutely lovely and I love the pictures. Our reception was at LG as well, so this is bringing back some happy memories. ๐Ÿ™‚

    And I love what you wrote about your dad walking you down the aisle! I felt the same way. I didn't care where the tradition came from-it was just really important to me, and to my dad, for him to be able to walk with me.

  9. Channa! So gorgeous; I know you've been told on your teasers, but it's so exciting to see the profile. Your wedding looked amazing and you're such an awesome tribe member. Thanks for sharing and much love and happy thoughts in your marriage.

    1 agrees
  10. Truly lovely write up from a truly lovely OBB. Thanks for sharing your day with us!

    1 agrees
  11. Aww, thanks guys! I'm traveling now for Chinese New Year so it was really nice to finally get wireless working in our hotel room and to come and see all the lovely comments.

  12. I really, really appreciate your comments about your dad walking with you up the aisle. My father has his heart set on that and I've been dancing around the issue. This really helps me, so thank you.

    2 agree
    • Thanks! I was sure to say it because I remember the article on OBB about finding alternative roles to honor people if the traditional ones bother you, so as to appease people at the root desire that prompts the original request. Well, that was clearly not going to work in my situation bc no other "compromise" roles would fill that desire. They all fell about as flat as a game show consolation prize. So, hey, it prompted me to re-assess and re-define the original role which was a good exercise in a) being flexible without being a pushover and b) choosing my hill to die on.

    • Me, too. Thankyou. In my case it is my brother, I'm not entirely comfortable with the idea yet, but I really want him to have an important role and everything else feels like a consolation prize or worse, like hard work.

  13. I remember reading Chanamasala's planning posts while I was planning mine. She always seemed so sensible and wise! It's great to see her beautiful wedding featured here. Congrats!

  14. Congratulations!
    I love every little detail.
    Been waiting ages for your profile, and it already inspired a post on my tribe profile.

    1 agrees
  15. your dress is crazy beautiful. the train is just genius. so much detail and color! everything is great, but that dress. wow.

    1 agrees
  16. Everything is so beautiful, the colours – that deep fuschia in the green garden – AMAZING! You both look gorgeous, and happy, which is the most important thing really.

    Well done on crafting a day that was true to you both, and not letting the celebration get in the way of the thing you were celebrating.

    1 agrees

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.