Jill & Zach's cozy and chilly winter wedding

Texas wedding with Wai-Ching dress
Photos by Elissa R Photography

The Offbeat Bride: Jill, Social Worker (and Tribesmaid)

Her offbeat partner: Zach, Barista

Date and location of wedding: Zach's dad's backyard, Buffalo Gap, Texas — January 13, 2013

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Our wedding was a small-ish, outdoor, budget affair. We saved a lot of money by DIYing some typically high-dollar aspects of the wedding. Our venue was Zach's dad's house. Zach's mom made our cake. My sister and I made all the decorations and wedding favors. A mutual friend officiated. Our only major expenses were my Wai-ChingThey ♥ OBB; we ♥ them dress, Zach's Indochino suit, and the amazing photography by Elissa R PhotographyThey ♥ OBB; we ♥ them.

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We didn't rely heavily on traditions, though we didn't consciously avoid them. The planning process was very organic and involved us asking ourselves at every turn, "Without worrying what people expect, what do we want?" I had no desire to wear an all-white dress, and had in fact been coveting a Wai-Ching dress for the past 10 years! I looked around at other alternative dress options, but kept coming back to Wai-Ching.

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We talked about serving dinner at our reception, but in the end, feeding people a fancy meal just wasn't high on the priority list, so we kept it simple with an afternoon cake and hot chocolate/coffee/spiced tea reception. The guest list was small and mostly from a conservative Christian background, so no alcohol or dancing was involved. While no one would call our wedding the party of the century, it had a sweet and simple vibe that we enjoyed.

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Tell us about the ceremony:
Our ceremony was religious. We are both practicing Christians and met at a Bible study, so it made sense for us to include our faith in our wedding. However, our minister kept things very short, focusing more on both beginning and ending the ceremony in prayer.

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About a week before the wedding, we met with our minister to discuss specific wording. Our minister was incredibly accommodating of our desire to change up some of the traditional elements that didn't speak to us. Most of the changes made were in an effort to make the typically gendered elements a little more gender-neutral. For example, instead of only having a bridal processional, we included a groom's processional as well. Zach walked up to his own song, escorted by both his mom and dad. I was also escorted by both of my parents, and instead of having my father "give me away," both sets of parents gave their blessing on our union.

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When it was time for the kiss, we took a cue from the lovely Offbeat Bride Tribe members who suggested the wording, "May your first act as a married couple be one of love. You may now seal your vows with a kiss." And when the minister pronounced us, he presented us to the crowd as "Jill and Zach" rather than Mr. & Mrs.

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Our biggest challenge:
The guest list was difficult for a variety of reasons. When we chose to have the venue as someone's home, we knew we'd be limited in who we could invite. Because Zach has a large family and I grew up in a church with close to 2000 members, picking who we would include was not easy. We spent a lot of time talking to individual family members and friends and explaining to them that while we wished we could include everyone, it just wasn't going to be possible. Most people were very understanding. There were a few tense moments with people who felt we were slighting important individuals. It wasn't fun, and we did end up inviting some people we hadn't intended and having to leave off some people we wished we could have included.

Our final guest list was about 120, 20 more than we felt we could comfortably accommodate. However, we knew some of those guests were from out-of-town and probably wouldn't be able to make the trip, so we took the gamble. The day of the wedding, we were prepared for the worst. Hardly anyone had officially RSVPed, so we had no clue how many to expect. But due to the cold weather and travel requirements, we ended up with a perfect headcount of right around 80 individuals. It could have easily gone the other way and ended up being an explosion of people. If we'd had a crowded reception and a standing-room-only ceremony, it would have been stressful, but doable. In the end, having an absolute maximum cap was key to maintaining sanity. 120 might have been more than we wanted to ask, but it was much, much better than the original 400+ guest list we could have ended up with had we not stood our ground on keeping things smaller.

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My favorite moment:
We wrote our own vows, which was absolutely the best decision we made. Neither one of us had any clue what the other's vows said, yet somehow we ended up with parts that were strikingly similar. Both were sprinkled with inside jokes to each other. The sweetest part: I speak French, so Zach actually said part of his vows in French to me.

Our unity ceremony was the building of a LEGO heart. We had to take time to plan out how the pieces would go together and who would do what sections. On the day of the wedding, it was 34 degrees outside and our fingers were all but numb. Fitting the blocks together proved to be a bit more complicated than in our initial practice sessions, which were held indoors. It was definitely an exercise in partnership. We kept the heart and plan to frame it in our home.

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I (with some help from Zach and my family) folded 799 paper cranes as part of the decorations. On the day of our wedding, we had known each other exactly 799 days, hence the significance of that number. Jill also made the wedding favors: ceramic mugs with some of our favorite quotes about love hand-written on them.

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My funniest moment:
My dog Roxie was our doggie ring bearer. She was escorted down the aisle by our four-year-old niece. We'd gotten a lot of warnings from people that we shouldn't expect anything involving a small child and a dog to go smoothly, but, as we told everyone, we weren't looking for perfection. Any mishaps would add to the fun of the day.

Well, the music started, and they began to walk. Roxie took about three steps and decided she needed to relieve herself right there! Our niece took it as much in stride as one could expect from a four-year-old. She straddled the puddle, taking large steps to get over Roxie's mess. Then, as the two of them got closer to the audience, Roxie saw a baby in the crowd and decided to go say hello. Our niece was running behind her, trying to hold on to the leash. Roxie went up to the baby's parent and put her paws on the seat, trying to get a look. Thankfully my sister/maid of honor intervened and took the leash before Roxie decided to hop into someone's lap. The audience was laughing, and it was a fun moment that relieved some of the tension right before the processional.

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
This may sound cheesy, but we learned that our marriage was a good decision. Throughout the planning process and even on the day of the wedding, we were being bombarded with questions and issues. Every single time things got frustrating or overwhelming, we leaned on each other for support and encouragement. For both of us it was a major confirmation that we were doing the right thing by getting married. This does NOT mean we didn't fight any during our wedding preparations. But overall, we were much more of an asset for each other than a hindrance.

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  1. "Without worrying what people expect, what do we want?" This really speaks to me right now, and is something me and my fiance are going to have to keep in mind. It's nearly impossible to please everyone, and you have to do what's best for you and your sweetie. You and Zach are awesome! And Roxie is so darling!!! Your white & green wedding dress is stunning!!! Is that a rainbow chip wedding cake?! I LOVE it! And I love everything about this wedding. Congrats to you two, you're absolutely beautiful!!!

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  2. Beautiful! And love the simplicity of cake and hot beverages. Sounds like my type of gathering.

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  3. From one Francophone to another: Félicitations!

    Your wedding (especially the ceremony) looks to have been a sweet, simple and meaningful one.

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  4. I love that your wedding was Christian but at the same time very modern and unique. It looks like a very special, warm and laid-back gathering. Beautiful! Congratulations to you 🙂

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  5. Those mugs!!! I love them! I think we are totally going to DIY (sharpie + oven method) them for our wedding next week, even though it's not winter or anything.

  6. Great wedding, the place looks really peaceful. That's what I want for my wedding. lol

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