Erin & Mark's retro, book-inspired, freethinking wedding

Erin & Mark's Toronto Wedding
Photos by Erin Clayton Photography

The Offbeat Bride: Erin, PhD Candidate/Grad Student (and Offbeat Bride member)

Her offbeat partner: Mark, PhD Candidate/Grad Student

Date and location of wedding: Gladstone Hotel, Toronto Canada — July 7, 2013

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We had our wedding on a Sunday with an early ceremony (10:30 a.m.) and a leisurely sit-down reception lunch that went until 4:00. After that we moved the party into our hotel suite. It was the perfect way to relax and make sure we spent as much time with our guests as possible. It was also substantially less expensive hosting a daytime reception than an evening one.

Erin & Mark's Toronto Wedding

The look and theme of the wedding which ended up being something like, "retro, books, and, by extension, orange things made of paper," which slowly evolved over the course of planning. Mark and I are both historians, so an older building with great bones and history was really important to us. We loved that the Gladstone had such a great blend of old and funky, with original wainscoting, original pieces of wallpaper framed as art, rooms designed by artists and designers, a gorgeous art gallery, and a bright funky ballroom. The hotel also had an original hand-operated elevator making it funky and accessible.

Erin & Mark's Toronto Wedding

We also didn't want space that we had to decorate to make interesting — we really wanted to find a place that had its own character. It was also great that all our guests could stay in the venue. It made our lives much simpler. In the end, the hotel became another part of our wedding party. Keeping with our own style, we kept the clothes pretty vintage-inspired, my dress is a '50s reproduction and the Best Lady and Made of Awesome decided on two different, vintage-inspired styles.

Erin & Mark's Toronto Wedding

Erin & Mark's Toronto Wedding

Erin & Mark's Toronto Wedding

Our house is full of all kinds of books from historical biographies, to monographs, to pulpy crime novels (his) and fantasy novels (mine). I decided to try making book rose centerpieces after seeing a tutorial here on Offbeat Bride. They were made out of a truly tragically bad fantasy novel that someone had left in our apartment building laundry room. I liked that they were vintage-looking and fun without taking over the table.

Erin & Mark's Toronto Wedding

The cake was inspired by a book-shaped birthday cake I has seen in a local bakery window, so I took a picture and showed it to Mark. He loved the idea and we came in to inquire what one would cost. For our 75-person wedding, we were quoted no less than $1000. This was not happening. However, we had told his mom about the cake we envisioned and she happened to be in a cake shoppe called Coffee and Cakes in her village an hour east of Toronto. In the shoppe, she saw photos of cakes that were spectacular. She asked around and the baker was totally excited to do our cake, and did it for half the price of the places in the city!

Erin & Mark's Toronto Wedding

Mark and I are real lovers of Toronto and really wanted our guests to see the city. We picked a bunch of Toronto Landmarks: CN Tower, University of Toronto, a streetcar, and neighbourhoods like Chinatown and Kensington Market and took photos of them. In Photoshop, I used a B/W filter to turn them into black and white/halftone dots images and then used them as the "book jacket" images. There were about 25 different images/places used for the programs and we also took the vows and put them in a book cover as well. The jackets were printed on a professional laser printer and I printed out the inside of the books on our home laser printer and then assembled them with the help of my Made of Awesome using binding twine.

Erin & Mark's Toronto Wedding

The wording of the program was inspired by the programs featured here, and were also pretty cheeky. They included everyone's names, all our friendors and vendors, and an FAQ that explained the ceremony, the readings, and a few references to Hitchhiker's Guide and Monty Python. They also included a crossword puzzle and word search.

Erin & Mark's Toronto Wedding

Erin & Mark's Toronto Wedding

Erin & Mark's Toronto Wedding

Tell us about the ceremony:
Our vows were taken from the subject of Mark's dissertation, the 19th Century Freethinking publisher D.M. Bennett, and a book of Freethinking (aka non-religious) Hymns and Ceremonies that he had collected and published. The vows we chose had been adapted by Bennett from the Quakers and sounded pretty modern even though they were written in the 1890s:

Will you promise, in the presence of these witnesses, to be to you a kind, faithful, and true husband, to protect and cherish Erin in sickness, as well as in health; In adversity as well as in prosperity: to bear and forbear with her imperfections: and never to seek your own pleasure at the expense of hers?

And do you both promise to love each other now, and you trust that the qualities and virtues on which that love is based will always continue, as now, to excite and complete you both?

I promise to regard you as my equal in every respect, never to claim anything from you, and to seek from you only that which your love and a sense of duty induces you to freely give.

With this declaration on my part, will you accept me as your mate and life-partner?

Yes, I accept your offer, and will be your wedded mate and life-companion: and I promise to do and be to you all that you have promised to do and to be to me.

Take this ring as a symbol of my love for you. With all that I am I honour you. I promise to accept you for who you are, my best friend, the one I live for, and the one I love with all my heart, this day and forever.

Erin & Mark's Toronto Wedding

Erin & Mark's Toronto Wedding

Erin & Mark's Toronto Wedding

We also used Goodridge Vs. Department of Health as our reading to affirm our support for civil and gay marriage and to honour all the relationships of our close friends and family.

Erin & Mark's Toronto Wedding

Our biggest challenge:
By far, it was dealing with the death of a family member during wedding planning. My brother passed away unexpectedly in October, just after we got engaged. Dealing with that was incredibly challenging. I had also lost my mother seven years ago, so the compound grief of missing both my mother and brother and the challenges of dealing with absent family was really tough.

I had gotten a memorial tattoo on my back for my mother and grandmother that featured cherry blossoms and a butterfly a few years ago, so I added a hummingbird for my brother. My dress was strapless, so they were there to witness the event with me. I also spoke about my brother and mother in my speech and it was the one time I did choke up during the day.

Erin & Mark's Toronto Wedding

My favorite moment:
The two women we asked to stand up for us made the wedding really special. I spent a couple of days away just before the wedding at a stunning B&B with my Made of Awesome. She was indispensable in all the last-minute running around, searching for paper moustaches, finding a card box, and assembling the programmes.

Another moment was the night before where we rehearsed our vows, (which were a little wordy in spots) with Mark's Best Lady standing in as our officiant. We ended up being "married" by her three times that evening and it was a really special moment for us. We felt like we were already married and the next day would just be fun! We were both utterly relaxed the whole day and that really allowed us to take our time and enjoy every second with each other.

Erin & Mark's Toronto Wedding

Erin & Mark's Toronto Wedding

The speeches were another highlight for us. We kept the speeches to the wedding party and they were hilarious, poignant, and fun. Several important family members of mine couldn't be there and sent letters for my Made of Awesome to read which were really great. The Best Lady's speech, which she had been fretting over for some time was brilliant. Being banned from repeating any incriminating stories, she instead read a word association exercise including a long list of schools attended, places visited, and people known that was pitch perfect. Tt gave just enough information for those who knew the full story and a hint to those who didn't.

Erin & Mark's Toronto Wedding

One last moment in particular came as the after party was going at full tilt in our suite. Mark and I sat together alone on a couch in the hallway outside our rooms listening to the party and allowed the whole day to soak in.

Other meaningful moments came from our social justice leanings. As weddings can often be sites of familial discord and judgement, we were very careful to be married in a space that shared our values. We chose have our wedding in a queer-friendly hotel, the gallery that the ceremony was in was featuring an art show honouring the Toronto Pride Community, and our officiant was also involved in social justice in Toronto. We really wanted to make sure that our wedding was a safe space for all our friends and family.

Erin & Mark's Toronto Wedding

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
To let go once it starts, and trust the friends and family who you've asked to help. By relinquishing control, you get all the time to enjoy the amazing party that you've put together. Also, join the Offbeat Bride Tribe. So much of my inspiration, support, and help came from the Tribe!

Erin & Mark's Toronto Wedding

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. Wow, this is absolutely wonderful in every way — aesthetically beautiful, but also such a beautiful combination of intellect, emotion, and fun. Congratulations to you both!

    5 agree
  2. Thanks for sharing you wedding. I loved the color selection but the 'Yah' flags at the reception stole me heart 🙂

    4 agree
  3. Did you use Puzzlemaker.com for your program puzzles, or did you make them yourself? I used that site a decade ago for a program for my brother and his bride (the questions were all them-related – ie, "how many sisters does Joe have?"), but I haven't checked it out since.

    • We used an app called Wedding Booth – cheap, lockable so guests can't turn it on or off, printable, and the guests can email the photos to themselves. It was great!

      1 agrees
  4. Looks pretty amazing. Keep up the good work with these different kind of weddings!

    3 agree
  5. Love everything about your wedding! Every detail, especially the roses made of book pages, venue and what an amazing gorgeous dress! After seeing this dress, I went searching for it to find it's been discontinued. Congrats!!

    1 agrees

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