April & Zack's handfasting ceremony and murder mystery luncheon

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The offbeat bride: April, Medical Secretary (and OBT Member)

Her offbeat partner: Zack, Student and At home Dad

Location & date of wedding: Shakespeare's Castle Restaurant in Ellwood City, PA — October 8, 2008

What made our wedding offbeat: We planned our wedding with two things in mind: We had to pay for most of it ourselves and we needed a ceremony that fit us. In order to have a wedding that fit us we had a handfasting with wording that included the four elements and a German bridal cup. We used a Celtic knot seal on all our invites and programs. Lastly, most of our guests don't dance, so we needed something to entertain us that wasn't dancing or small talk… enter the Murder Mystery game (best idea ever)!

We did a few things in order to stay under budget. First we limited the number of people to twenty-four. We rented the room for lunch, thus not having to pay a room rental fee. I ordered a bridesmaid's' dress for $230. Zack wore clothes that he already had. I used the centerpieces that Shakespeare's provided. My mother in law made our cake (the absolute BEST in the world!!) I served Sparkling Cider instead of Champagne. I wore jewelry that I already owned. I used my iPod for music. I made our invitations, programs, etc. myself.

I made mystery programs for everyone. Eleven people were characters and the rest were the audience. I bought things like cat ears for 'Pussy-n-boots' and coconuts for 'Sir Prancealot'. I kept the murderer a mystery to everyone, even myself!

Having the game gave everyone something to talk about. "Did you steal Queen E's knitting needles?" It was witty, fun and something everyone wanted to do again. I would recommend for any small party.

Tell us about your ceremony: Here is how we combined our four elements reading with our german bridal cup and ring exchange:
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In many cultures it is believed that the human soul
shares characteristics with all things divine.
It is this belief which assigned virtues to the four cardinal directions;
East, South, West and North.

It is according to this belief that we align ourselves with these elements.
Each of these blessings from the four cardinal directions emphasizes
those things which will help you build a happy and successful union.

Blessed be this union with the gifts of the East and the element of Air,
for openness and breath, communication of the heart,
and purity of the mind and body. (Couple lights incense.) By lavender and meadowsweet, by lily and lilac, may the four winds blow sweet upon this day.

Blessed be this union with the gifts of the South and the element of Fire,
for energy, passion, and creativity. (Light unity candle.) From the fire within you generate light, which you will share with one another in even the darkest of times.

Blessed be this union with the gifts of the West and the element of water,
for your capacity to feel emotion. (Pour water into German Bridal Cup and have bride and groom drink.) This water represents your commitment to always be honest with each other and your vow to keep your hearts open in sorrow as well as joy.
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Blessed be this union with the gifts of the North and the element of earth, that provides sustenance, fertility, and security. (Exchange rings.) These rings were made from the metal of the earth and represent the foundation of your relationship and, like a constant star, will always guide you home.

Our biggest challenge: Our biggest challenge was our $4000 budget. We saved alot of money by serving lunch instead of dinner, and only having twenty-four people.

My favorite moment: Listening to my Dad's impromptu toast was one of the most meaningful parts. We hadn't told him before hand and asked him, literally, two minutes before he gave it.

My funniest moment: When we were leaving, the photographer stopped us in front of the entrance way with this beautiful painted ceiling and asked Zack to pick me up for a picture. So, he did and threw me over his shoulder! I told her she would need to be specific.

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I was really nervous about hosting the murder mystery. I'm a rather introverted person and to get up and not only explain the game, but to have to mingle and host each round was nerve racking. It turned out the be the best thing I did! Everyone was able to relax and have something to talk about that wasn't the weather.

Of course, having silly props, like a toy fish on a stick, small wooden sword, cat ears, a blue feather pin, or those crazy coconuts, gave all of us adults something to play with!

After we got the pictures back, we found one of our boys, one sitting on the other's back like riding a horse and holding those coconuts!!

Boys having fun with the props!

My advice for offbeat brides: Think about what you would really want to do if you were just hanging out with all the people you invited, instead of being at a wedding together.

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

  • Officiant: Pastor Mark
  • Photographer: Tracy Brien
  • Flowers: Giant Eagle- the night before!
  • Those beautiful long bell sleeves and dress: Once Upon a Bride in Zelienople, PA.
  • Circlet: Etsy. I made the chain net myself and attached it.

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. Thank you so much for this! My almost-husband and I are creating our own ceremony with respect to the four/five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and the fifth being aether/intangible/love. We've created a bit of a personal ceremony for ourselves but have struggled with what to actually say while performing the ritual. This has helped us tremendously. Thank you so very much for sharing!

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  2. The murder mystery game sounds super fun! Can you explain in more detail how it works?

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    • I purchased a Castle murder myster from host-party.com (http://www.host-party.com/viewsynopsis.asp?mysteryid=431). Then I printed it out on parchment paper and tried to only read a few parts, so even I didn't know the answer.

      The website has alot of info. The game was split into 5 rounds (with the 5th being the 'revealing'). Each round started with each charater reading their script. Then, each character had a secret to 'conceal' (which they couldn't admit to unless directly asked) and a secret (about another character) to reveal. We started the game before lunch and spread it out about 3 hours.

      I won't tell you how did it in case someone else wants to use that game. There are several different themes of games too!

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  3. The Cake! The Dress! The Rings! The Pumpkins! The Shoes! Oh I just LOVE this wedding sooo much!

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  4. Can I just say that your smile in the pictures………you're practically beaming. 🙂 Beautiful.

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  5. Murder mystery parties are the best! We did one for my bachelorette party, and it was just the thing to get rid of stress and have a good time. I imagine it did the same at your lovely wedding. Nifty idea!

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  6. What a cool wedding! I love the inclusion of the four elements.

    Also, OMG, I did not know there was a place called Shakespeare's Castle in PA. Unfortunately it's all the way across the state from me (I live in Philly), but I will still make it my mission to visit there someday.

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  7. Congratulations!
    Every little detail looks great I love how much you love your murder mystery game.

    Have your boys seen "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" yet? That's just what I thought of when I saw the picture of them and the coconuts.

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