Karen & Michelle's "love, joy, and happiness" blue celebration of love

December 12 | offbeatbride  
Photos by: Amanda Summerlin
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Photos by Amanda Summerlin

The Offbeat Bride: Karen, Education

Her offbeat partner: Michelle, Animal Health

Date and location of wedding: Unitarian Universalist Church of Greensboro, Greensboro, NC — April 12, 2014

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We had Lebanese food catered in from out-of-town. People kept asking why Lebanese food since neither of us are Lebanese, and we just said we liked it. Michelle was in charge of getting my bouquet, so it was presented to me as a surprise at the first look. It was really special! We had been wearing commitment rings for a year and a half. During the ring exchange we took off the "old" ones and replaced them with the new ones.

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A choir was the processional because we didn't have attendants, and they did a bang-up job. At the end of the ceremony, the choir led everyone in singing a song together while everyone waved their flags. Instead of a rehearsal dinner, we had a taco bar open house the night before for our Wedding Team and out-of-town family and friends. It was great because then everyone got to know each other before the wedding.

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The night of our wedding we and all our out-of-towners went bowling in our beautiful wedding attire. We had a blast. The morning after, we joined our out-of-town family members for a great southern breakfast at a local restaurant since most of them live in California. They really enjoyed it and we got some more time with our family.

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Tell us about the ceremony:
The ceremony opened with this candle lighting reading:

We will light three candles: The first to honor all the brave souls who risked both their livelihoods and their lives so that we are able to be here today ready in spirit and in practice to declare this marriage equal to all other marriages. The second for Michelle's aunt Paula one of so many precious souls who have already passed on, yet who are now here present. This candle is for the wise and caring ones, who have been important in the lives of both Michelle and Karen. Their light still shines. This second candle is for all the souls, who for various reasons are unable to be here in body, yet whose spirits make love possible. The third candle I light for all those present today who gave of their time and energy, who performed all that was and will be necessary to make this ceremony not just happen, but be a lovely and joyous occasion. May the light of courage and caring flow freely in and among us, and through us to all whom we encounter this day and every day in the service of love.

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We used this script for a sand ceremony:

Will you cause each other pain?
If you can say YES, then pour a little of your own sand into the jar of possibilities, of who you will be forever together.
Will you share each other's pain and seek to erase it?
If you can say YES, then pour a little of your own sand into the jar of possibilities, of who you will be forever together.
Will you share each other's laughter?
If you can say YES, then pour a little of your own sand into the jar of possibilities, of who you will be forever together.
Will you look for the brightness in life and the positive in each other?
If you can say YES, then pour a little of your own sand into the jar of possibilities, of who you will be forever together.
Will you burden each other?
If you can say YES, then pour a little of your own sand into the jar of possibilities, of who you will be forever together.
Will you share the burdens of each so that your spirits may grow in this union?
If you can say YES, then pour a little of your own sand into the jar of possibilities, of who you will be forever together.
Will you share each other's dreams?
If you can say YES, then pour a little of your own sand into the jar of possibilities, of who you will be forever together.
Will you dream together to create new realities and hopes?
If you can say YES, then pour a little of your own sand into the jar of possibilities, of who you will be forever together.
Will you cause each other anger?
If you can say YES, then pour a little of your own sand into the jar of possibilities, of who you will be forever together.
Will you take the heat of anger and use it to temper the strength of this union?
If you can say YES, then pour a little of your own sand into the jar of possibilities, of who you will be forever together.
Will you honor each other?
If you can say YES, then pour a little of your own sand into the jar of possibilities, of who you will be forever together.
Will you seek to never give cause to break that honor?
If you can say YES, then pour a little of your own sand into the jar of possibilities, of who you will be forever together.

It is not the sand from your two individual containers now poured into one, that will hold your lives together, but rather it is your promises…to be who you already are and will be, and to create together who you will become because of each other. These individual grains of sand now in the jar of possibilities are like you unique, yet poured together now, they would be impossible to separate and put back like they were before.

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We used two readings, "How Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog" by Taylor Mali and "Union" by Robert Fulghum, with a slight edit at the end.

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This is the script from our ring exchange:

Karen and Michelle exchanged rings in 2012. At the time, they did not know where they would end up living. They did not know how the jobs they had then would affect their future. All they knew, was that they were committed to being together, so they wore rings to signify that. The ones they will be exchanging today are different, yet complimentary. They are for today. Now the 'not knowing' becomes the 'stepping out' into the universe anyway. These new rings mean that they are committed no matter what the obstacles are that they may need to overcome.

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Our biggest challenge:
The biggest challenge was planning and organizing the 200-person wedding mostly by ourselves. We overcame it by enlisting the help of a couple who became our Wedding Team Captains and created a Wedding Team. They were all assigned various tasks and without whom our wedding logistically could not have happened. Our church does not have a separate fellowship hall so we had to get everyone out of the sanctuary after the ceremony, get the food out of the kitchen, and then let people back into the sanctuary and have space to dance. Our Wedding Team members were incredible project managers with a good dose of non-anxious presence thrown in for good measure. Our vision could not have come true without their assistance.

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My favorite moment:
The most meaningful moments were walking into the sanctuary and seeing so many family and friends ready to affirm our love, the lighting of the candles that honored family and friends who have passed on, joyous singing, surprising Michelle with the vows I said to her (we both said the same vows then I had something I wanted to say to her in front of everyone), exchanging our wedding rings, and being pronounced married.

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My funniest moment:
The funniest moment of the wedding was when our friend Diana read "How Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog" by Taylor Mali. The day before we practiced her reading it and it was fine. But at the ceremony itself she asked for audience participation. She had people nodding their heads from side to side and up and down. She read it like it was a piece of theater. She had us all laughing hysterically! We had no idea she was going to do that. The unexpected was really great.

Have you been married before and if so, what did you do differently?
I have been married before. Although it was also a marriage to a woman, it was more traditional. I wore a white dress, we had a more traditional wedding cake, etc. This time I am older and wanted it to have more fun. I am grateful for another chance at a beautiful relationship and love.

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
We tried to keep the details to a minimum and yet sometimes they still took center stage. I learned that the most important thing was our family and friends supported us no matter what, in their own ways. Also, everyone is the way they always are. They do not become different people just because you need them to. Love them anyway. Our theme was "Love Joy Happiness." We based our decisions off of this theme: does it bring us love, joy, and happiness? If not, it's gone. If yes, it's in — and it doesn't need an explanation. We wore blue because we like it, end of story.

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We also learned that dreams do come true. We married in April 2014 when marriage equality was not recognized in our state due to a constitutional amendment. It was really important to us to get married in our state even if it wasn't legally recognized. We didn't want to go somewhere else and not be able to have our friends and family there. We didn't know when we would be able to go to another state and get married; we were in limbo. Then the inconceivable happened: on October 10, the amendment was overturned! We were one of the first to be married that night and a few friends were our surprise witnesses. A local Congregational United Church of Christ minister was there and she married us. This was significant because a lawsuit from the UCC was responsible for overturning amendment one. That night was the complete opposite of our wedding in April: it was completely spontaneous and I hadn't a clue what the minister was going to say. It was absolutely perfect.

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

They ♥ OBB; we ♥ themThis post features Offbeat Vendors! Check out their vendor listing to see how they cater to Offbeat Brides:

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    • Thank you so much! The rings in the picture above are the rings we wore from 2012 until our wedding ceremony. The opal ring we got from a local jeweler, Custom Jewelers. The celtic knot one I got off a seller on Etsy. I don't remember who it was, it was too long ago. The blue rings we have now (I can't see if they're in the "wedding porn" slide show because my flash player isn't working) we got from Amazon.

      1 agrees
  1. Love that shade of blue! Is that the Miss Mia dress in dupioni? I'm considering that dress for my wedding!

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    • Yes, that is a Miss Mia dress in dupioni. Miss Brache was absolutely wonderful to work with. At one point during the process we realized that she and I had a different understanding of the color of the dress so she sent me samples. Turns out I said one color but I meant the color above. So she started over. AMAZING! She has a policy of wanting the women who wear her dresses to be happy so she made it in the color I wanted. I definitely learned that there are many variations on blue – I wanted a really bright blue.

      She also made Michelle's vest from measurements we took from an IKEA safety vest. We hunted all over town looking for the right vest for measurements turned out that the safety vest fit Michelle best. We told her the measurements and she made it up, it's not even something that she normally sells.

      I highly recommend Miss Brache. You will not regret it.

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  2. I love your dress!! it's very similar to what I have pictured for myself for our wedding. Did you get it made special or did you find it off the rack? And YAY YAY YAY for marriage equality coming to NC!! I felt the same way (about wanting to wait to be able to get married in my own state), but this time around it seems like it's here to stay in CA, so we are taking it slow. I would have married her in 2008 when the window was open for those few months, but I didn't know her yet! đŸ˜€

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    • My dress, bolero, and Michelle's vest were all made by Miss Brache, the link is above. We never met her in person. It's kind of a terrifying thing to get custom made clothes by someone you've never met but it worked for us. I just couldn't see myself going traditional wedding dress shopping. It just felt wrong to me. I wanted clothes that I knew made me happy and that I could twirl in. I also wanted a dress we could wear again (and we already have). Miss Brache was wonderful to work with. I highly recommend her!

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  3. Of course, I have to give a shout out to our wedding vendors who made our dreams come true.

    Neomonde's: a Lebanese restaurant in Raleigh, NC has absolutely amazing food. They deliver but not all the way to us. We enlisted the help of friends and family in the area who really came through. The food was a huge hit. We knew there were cheaper alternatives but we wanted food that would make us happy to eat and to share. So we went with Neomonde's. Their food makes us happy!

    e.m. papers designed our invitation, program, and poster in the picture above. This design was also on our glosite. We decided to do the glosite after having the design picked out. I was thrilled that we could bring everything together.

    Glo was awesome to work with on our wedding website. She helped us think through several issues and were incredibly helpful when we had questions. If you're having a large wedding, I highly recommend Glo because of the database features. It was truly a lifesaver when we needed to get data together.

    Miss Brache, as I mentioned in comments above, was fabulous and amazing to work with. I recommend her highly if you're looking for fun clothes that will make you happy. She answered questions quickly and was accommodating when we realized that we were miscommunicating. We got a lot of compliments on our attire. It was absolutely the right decision.

    And of course I have to give a HUGE shout out to our photographer, Amanda Summerlin. We met her the morning of our wedding and she was amazing. We had two Skype conversations and exchanged a few emails. Some of our friends were shocked we went with a photographer we had never met but we knew it was the right decision for us. She was a blast to work with, she is truly a ninja – I have no idea how she got some of the shots she did -, and the pics are out of this world amazing. She was funny and irreverent but also serious and extremely professional. I am a HUGE Amanda Summerlin fan and would recommend her to anyone, anywhere.

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  4. Love the whole vibe of this wedding! Beautiful colours and I love that dress.

    Suggestion to OBB – when the couple is 2 women I have a hard time figuring out who is doing the writing in the article, like whose funniest moment is it? I've experienced this in other posts, it would be nice to state names and caption them in the photos as well.

    1 agrees
    • You can always tell who's writing the post based on whose name is first:

      The Offbeat Bride: Karen, Education
      Her offbeat partner: Michelle, Animal Health

      That said, sometimes even WE don't know who's who in photos — if they're not captioned when they're submitted, and there are no hints, we don't like to assume.

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  5. " People kept asking why Lebanese food since neither of us are Lebanese, and we just said we liked it"

    If you decided to do Chicken Parm, no one would ask 'Why Italian?" LOL….

    LOVE that blue. Dress and vest are just stunning!

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    • Good point about the food! It was also interesting to serve food from this particular restaurant because it was an hour away. We had friends and family in the area who delivered it for us. We had no idea how much actual space the containers would take up in their vehicles and I worried about how this was going to work out but it worked. It was so cool that our photographer got a pic of the food being brought into the church!

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