Cait & Matt's nerdy art deco and TARDIS blue wedding

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Photos by Stephanie Kaloi Photography

The Offbeat Bride: Cait, fiction book editor for Bear and Black Dog Editing

Her offbeat partner: Matt, tech support

Date and location of wedding: The Adrianna Hill Grand Ballroom, Portland OR — June 15, 2014

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Matt and I are both atheists and feminists, and we wanted the whole wedding process to reflect that. We had a secular celebrant from the Center for Inquiry instead of a priest or judge, and because we still wanted a shared family name, we both added a second last name upon marriage instead of one partner taking the other's. We're also both quite nerdy, so we tossed around some nerdy themes early on and couldn't decide! So our wedding ended up having hints of all our nerdy obsessions (Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who, Buffy, Firefly, and more).

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We painted IKEA lanterns TARDIS blue for our centerpieces and gave each table a symbol or logo instead of a number (like Harry Potter's glasses or the Battlestar Galactica crest). We skipped flowers completely. All the wedding party walked empty-handed and Matt and his Hand of the Groom had pocket squares instead of boutonnieres. Our card box was a Companion Cube made by the groom, and for our guestbook, we had everyone snap photos with a mini-Polaroid and tape them to cards where they could write personal messages.

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We nixed a lot of the more formal or traditional elements, some ideologically and some logistically: receiving line, bouquet toss, father/daughter dance, etc. We entered separately and met at the end of the aisle to walk up together. Immediately after our ceremony we had a half-hour cocktail meet-and-greet, then we kicked off our reception with a First Duet instead of a First Dance. Matt and I are both singers who met in our college choir. We sang "The Song That Goes Like This" from the musical Spamalot.

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We had a couple of games throughout the evening, including ceremony bingo (more on that later) and the shoe game (always hilarious). My favorite was our Hunger Games: an Apples to Apples tournament to decide which table got to go to the buffet first! We did just one round where each table had to offer up a noun card that they thought we would pick to match the adjective card Matt and I pulled, which was "stimulating." Our parents' table ended up winning with "mustaches," which we obviously had to pick — we swear it wasn't rigged!

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We DIYed a couple of things. Matt and I designed and printed the save-the-dates, invitations, and the programs; we put together our own photo booth using my old iPhone; Matt's dad made a "Portland or Portlandia" game (where guests had to guess whether a quote or picture was from the satirical show or something we'd actually overheard/seen in Portland). Most impressively, we had creme brulee for our dessert that was made by one of Matt's groomswomen and it was AMAZING. Matt's mom is a talented seamstress who made his vest and bowtie, as well as bowties for the Hand of the Groom and Matt's father. She also made her own dress, and came up with the fantastic side bustles on my dress, which allowed me to Charleston during the reception.

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Our music selections were pretty particular, given our musical backgrounds, and Domenica (our DJ) was absolutely down for it. Our parents walked in to Modest Mussorgsky's "Promenade" from Pictures at an Exhibition, and the wedding party walked to part of "Jupiter" from the Planets suite by Gustav Holst. At the reception, we had mix of electro-swing music and things like "The Time Warp" and "Gangam Style." We also did parent dedications instead of dances: "Bohemian Rhapsody" for my mom, "Sugar Magnolia" for my dad (an eternal Deadhead), "I'm Just a Singer (in a Rock n' Roll Band)" for Matt's dad and "Come Sail Away" for his mom. Our last song of the night was "Nobody But Me" by Lou Rawls, which is, in my opinion, one of the most perfect songs in existence.

We left that night through a sparkler salute, which was the only way to go since my bridesladies and I have engaged in reckless behavior with sparklers since high school.

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Tell us about the ceremony:
Like I mentioned before, we're atheists, so it was really important to us to have a ceremony that was meaningful without god, especially since my father is very religious — I wanted the ceremony to be so smooth and perfect he almost didn't notice that there weren't any religious messages. Our celebrant, Bill, was wonderful to work with and totally open to us writing a complete ceremony from scratch. And he got really excited at our idea to include quotes from our favorite books, movies, and TV shows peppered throughout the ceremony. I knew he would be: we contacted him because his CFI bio had the word "elevensies" in it — obviously a Lord of the Rings fan. We ended up having a ceremony bingo in the program for people to mark off the quotes they recognized. Two people got bingo! We were so proud.

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A lot of the quotes have been used in ceremonies by Offbeat Brides before: stuff like the "mawwiage" speech from The Princess Bride and the bit about needing a hand to hold from Doctor Who. Matt and I read individual short vows before the call-and-response that were our favorite quotes, and mine included, "I would rather share one lifetime with you than face all the ages of this world alone" from Lord of the Rings. We both had readings of quotes from Isaac Asimov. But my absolute favorite was our rewriting of the typical call-and-response (the "Will you take this [person] to be etc. etc."):

Matt: Moon of my life (Cait: my sun and stars:) (1) I would not wish any companion in the world but you. (2) Every atom of your flesh is as dear to me as my own; in pain and sickness it would still be dear. (3) If by my life or death I can protect you, I will. (4) For this night, and all the nights to come. (5)

This is entirely made up of quotes from Game of Thrones (1 and 5), The Tempest (2), Jane Eyre (3), and Lord of the Rings (4). We ended, of course, with a resounding "SO SAY WE ALL" after the pronouncement and walked out to "I've Got the World on a String."

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Our biggest challenge:

I think it was the legal logistics, particularly with our name addition. The name thing was one of the first things we talked about after we got engaged and it took seven months or so before we came up with a solution that worked for us. I have a rather awesome last name and one that I've been using to build a brand in publishing for the past year, and Matt also discovered, during a brief idea of us both changing our last names to something totally new, that he couldn't imagine being anything but his family name. (It really gave him new perspective on the whole discussion of name changing that women have been having in the last few decades.)

We finally settled on both of us adding a second (non-hyphenated) last name (like Ruth Bader Ginsberg!), and we chose an old family name to revive. In Oregon at least, you can change your name via the marriage license only if you're choosing one of the names already there. In order to make our name addition scheme work, at least one of us had to change our name legally BEFORE applying for the license because we also had to have picture ID with a name that matched the one on the license, which meant it had to be done in time to get a new driver's license or similar. A pain, right? It was tedious and expensive, but it was totally, totally worth it.

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My favorite moment:
Cait: For me, it was having my parents and siblings fly out for the wedding. Matt and I moved to Oregon from Pennsylvania a year before the wedding. All my family were still on the East Coast, and let's just say we've never had a lot of spending money, so it really meant a lot that they were all able to make it. The same goes for everyone who attended, really, but it really wouldn't have been as wonderful for me if all my parents hadn't been there.

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I also enjoyed my bridesladies showing their friendship by staging a reading of "Irene Iddesleigh," better known as one of the worst books ever written, before the ceremony.

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Matt: Friends and family going behind our backs… to make sure everything was amazing! I still tear up when I tell people about how my sister planned, plotted, and crowd-funded our honeymoon to Scotland, how an important family friend from my childhood helped in a pinch to complete the DIY dessert, and how various small-thing mishaps and complications were absorbed and handled by the wedding party and our families to save our sanity.

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My funniest moment:
Cait: I think the funniest unplanned moment (because we had a lot of funny things on the program) was Matt's and my impromptu performance of "Oh Darlin'" by the Beatles. Matt and I were milling about near the stage waiting for something to get set up. "Oh Darlin'" came on so we of course started singing, and then everyone was watching us.

Matt: Second to Cait's answer, I think our First Duet was a real, and really funny, success.

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
Cait: I learned to let go and ask for help. I feel like that's such a common lesson but it's completely true. Because we'd just moved to Portland a year ago and all our wedding party was elsewhere I was prepared to handle pretty much everything between the two of us, but the closer things got the more overwhelmed I felt. Luckily Matt's parents live in Portland and his sister lives in Seattle, so they were really able to chip in, especially in the run-up to the wedding, which helped me feel a little less insane.

Matt: I consider myself rather laid-back an in control, so I expected my matter-of-fact, confident feelings about the upcoming wedding to stay calm the whole way through. I learned that in the height of anticipation of the start of the ceremony, it becomes really easy to flip out about something small. I had a groomzilla moment. Oops.

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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:

Update: Since their wedding, Cait has come out as trans. His name is Cal now. And he and Matt are still together.

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  1. That dress is divine and your husband's mustache is pretty spectacular. Congratulations!

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  2. I love this! So stylish. I love the smoothness of the integration of all the different elements and that you've explained everything in so much detail, it really brought it all to life on the page. Congratulations, and I hope you enjoyed your honeymoon over here in Bagpipeland!

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    • Thank you! Being a book editor means I'm pretty neurotic about cohesion, haha. And we very much enjoyed our tour of the Highlands, although we probably could have spent the whole time in Edinburgh and been just as happy.

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  3. I would love to know more about the logistics of your additional last name! Do you have to give up your middle name when filling out legal forms?

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    • Nope, we haven't had any issues with that so far! Both our driver's licenses have all four names on them, and most of the forms we've had to fill out just ask for middle initial anyway. My biggest decision is usually just when to introduce myself with the full three names and when to just use "Cochrane".

      Every office we worked with was really accommodating, and nobody gave us a "wtf are you doing" look. Our families were the ones who were confused, but even there we didn't get a whole lot of opposition. We still get "Mr. & Mrs. Hisname" mail sometimes, but eh.

      We were just remarking yesterday, though, how our generation doesn't really use surnames when talking about people, you know? So we don't even get to hear our friends address us as the Cochranes or what have you. Probably won't happen unless we have kids, haha.

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      • I would love to know a few more specifics on how the name thing has worked for you guys, if you don't mind sharing them. Are you both First Middle Last New-Last, since you mentioned being the Cochranes?

        My fiance and I are trying to figure out what to do with ours (he currently has a hyphenated last name from his parents, which he may move into being a single last name before we get married, we haven't checked the specifics on the laws for Seattle yet, but just had friends go through the rigamarole in Portland with picking from their grid of names). I don't have an attachment to passing on my name, but it feels like me and I don't want to leave behind my current name, however I do want to share a name with any children we may have and it is important to my fiance to pass on his family name as he is an only child and his family name is important to him. We have talked about giving any children in the family a hyphenated last name, but neither of us has a short last name and it feels cumbersome to me (and from what I hear can cause problems, not fit into the allowable spaces, et cetera).

        Do you fill out both last names in the last name slot on forms? So that you are First M. Last Last?

        Hope that you don't mind all the questions, but with a unique (for the US) first name already and having a father who uses a one word name (that really plays havoc with online forms and required fields) I know how much hassle having a name that confuses people or one that doesn't fit the slots on a form well can be.

        Congratulations on your wedding and as a fellow Portlander (dating a Seattle-ite), I love seeing people doing awesome and personal weddings here.

        Thanks!

        • I don't mind at all! All your questions are exactly the thought process Matt and I went through when trying to decide what to do.

          We are both legally First Middle Last New-Last, without any hyphens between names. When I sign and fill out forms, I do it as Cait Spivey Cochrane and he does it the same way. Right now, the only time I just use 'Cochrane' is when I write our return address on envelopes, but that's because it's for both of us and that's the name we share.

          When we have kids, we plan to give them only Cochrane as a surname. We saw this arrangement as the only way to keep our family names but still share a name with our kids that wouldn't cause logistical problems for them in the future. We did face a lot of arguments in the passing-the-name-on vein, but honestly, record-keeping is so much better these days that I'm not worried about descendants not being able to trace their line back to us, barring an apocalypse of some kind.

          I hope I've answered your questions, but if not, feel free to keep asking, haha.

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  4. can we get a little more info on ceremony bingo? were they blank cards that folks filled in the quote/reference? i'm trying to think of how this would work, and whether people would cheat….

    • It was more like a mash-up of a crossword and bingo. We filled a bingo card (five rows and columns) with clues like "End of the Night's Watch Oath" (which was For this night, and all the nights to come) and "'Amen' on Galactica" ('so say we all'). We didn't have enough to fill the card, so we included free spaces like, "This free space is five-by-five" and "This free space is a big damn hero". For some of the more obscure quotes, like The Tempest, we included the source, the guests just had to recognize or guess the quote.

      I'd add a picture here if I could but I don't think I can. If you want to email (caitspivey [at] gmail [dot] com) me, I'd be happy to send a pic!

  5. I absolutely loved the wedding. Knowing Matt from work, I got to see pictures as soon as he came back, but reading this was really awesome. There are bits of detail that I didn't know the reasoning behind and I think the whole thing was freaking amazing!

    Can I just gush about how I love the traditions that you broke in the most beautiful ways? Your wedding is the best I've personally seen/read about in a very long time.

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  6. Gorgeous wedding! Your dress is actually and literally the most beautiful wedding dress I have ever seen. Spectacular! Also, my husband and I both took each other's last names and you are the first couple in 3 years that I have come across, so yay for that. Neither one of us regret the decision and it has offered us maximum flexibility with optimal unity. I hope more people do this in the coming years, because it really is an awesome option!

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    • Thank you so much! We made a point of explaining our name reasoning in our program in the hope of at least inspiring more innovation when it comes to name-taking–I agree that it's absolutely worth it to find an arrangement that works for you. πŸ™‚

    • Hi Kacie,
      Can you elaborate on how you each took each other's last names? We are mulling our options and I currently don't have much attachment to my very common last name and really like my fiance's German last name. However, the hassle with changing a name when I'm ten years in to a career (and the many other feminist issues around the topic) lead me to not wanting to change my name. But if it were easier, we'd love to add on our own last name (like Cait and Matt did, love it!) or each take each others' last name as a 2nd middle name. But again, the paperwork sound horrific (especially since my fiance is a dual citizen German still so would have to do it in two countries). So I'll probably take the lazy girl way and keep it as it is. But then there's the issue with the kids name. Ugh πŸ™‚

  7. Absolutely everything about this wedding is beautiful, and the two of you look so happy, but oh my goodness, is that an art nouveau/Doctor Who tattoo of Rose Tyler/Bad Wolf???

  8. Like so many others here, your dress is giving me feels. It's stunning times infinity.

    And your headband looks like it was made in an Elvish design from the LotR films. Gorgeous! Just amazing.

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    • Ahhhh thank you. And yes, my headband IS an Elvish design! It's inspired by Elrond's from the Council in Fellowship. I loved the angles and how they fit so nicely into the art nouveau aesthetic. Totally meant to be.

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  9. This wedding looks like so much fun. Love all the references to LoTR and Doctor Who. And what a lovely couple. Congrats

  10. Oh, this is just spectacular!!! The bride's dress is ah-MAY-zing, and I adore all the nerdy references.

  11. I love love love the last name decision – FH and I are doing the exact same thing, reviving an old family name and tacking it on to the end of both our names, and I was feeling a little nervous about being the only one I knew who has done this. So reassuring to see someone else has been through the same process! (another reason to love OBB) We'll do the same thing I think – one of us legally changing our names a few months before and then after the wedding, the other person will be able to switch over relatively painlessly.

    Also, to echo other commentors – wicked dress! I love art deco so much.

  12. holy wow i love so many things about this wedding, and you two are so gorgeous! i adore your solution for the name change – i'm hella attached to my last name and have always said i'll never change it, but your solution is something i'd consider if in desperate need of a compromise πŸ˜‰

    also, absolutely adore your title for the Best Man! i think my brother will much prefer "Hand of the Bride," and really, as my younger brother, that's really just calling a duck a duck anyway.

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