Virginia & Darren's Transformers and Medieval merriment wedding

Homemade Transformers Wedding Cake

The offbeat bride: Virginia, Museum Volunteer Organiser and University Project Administrator
Her offbeat partner: Darren, University Graduate Administrator

Location & date of wedding: St Hilda's Church and Thirteen Thirty One Restaurant and Bar in York, England — January 23, 2010

What made our wedding offbeat: I am from Oregon and Darren is British. We wanted our wedding to be inclusive, low-budget, and express our passions for all things medieval and Transformers. We merged British and American traditions in order to create a day which was meaningful to us and our families. We celebrated our marriage with a church service which had American traditions like the unity candle, and the English signing of the registry. Afterwards we had a cake reception in the church with medieval story-telling, followed by dinner and drinks at Thirteen Thirty-One.

We paid for the wedding ourselves, and had less than £1000 to spend. If we could not do something for free or very little cost, we asked ourselves if we really needed it to get married. I enjoyed making things for the wedding, like remodeling my grandmother's wedding dress from 1949 and quilting the ring pillow. My bridesmaids and I made everything from the invitations, orders of service, bouquets and cupcakes together. The Transformers theme crept up anywhere we could sneak it in.

Bumblebee STDs!

We were engaged for less than six months and were fortunate that so many friends and family were able to travel at short notice to celebrate with us. Our 100 guests traveled from Norway, Belgium, Ireland, Wales, Germany, France, Wales, OR, CA, NYC and all over the UK. We were overwhelmed by the support and generosity shown by our friends and families, and couldn't imagine a better way to begin our married life together.

Tell us about your ceremony: Our friend who is a storyteller composed a poem during the ceremony about our wedding, which really summed up the ceremony. In the poem he references singing "Amazing Grace," my tears during the vows, those who traveled far to be there, and the unity candle ceremony. Here's the poem:
Witness and celebrate
Amid grace and fellowship
from moment of entrance
Our hearts all,
We soared,
To see them smile
Grace has led them home
In God
In love
In joyful tears
Shall be forever entwined
Worlds traversed
To witness: bless
For yes, we see their love
In the giving of a ring
and kiss
Fully kindled
as glows the candle
The light within,
We witness
Love: the eternal; here
"Darren and Virginia"

Our biggest challenge: From the beginning of our engagement, we had to deal with serious immigration issues which determined the timing of our wedding. We wanted to get married in the summer of 2010 in the church we live next door to, which is a magnificent example of 19th century Arts and Crafts architecture, as well as the home of my local congregation. However, my visa situation dictated that we'd have to get married in the winter, which gave us five months to plan, but caused a huge problem.

The medieval storyteller/poem writer

The huge problem: the beautiful 19th century church has no heating system and is not used during the winter because of the extreme cold. Since Darren's grandmother is 91 years old, it was out of the question to hold the ceremony in the freezing church. Our vicar suggested that we marry in the sister church, St Hilda's, a small modern church down the road. This ended up being a brilliant solution. Getting married in St Hilda's not only meant heat (yay!) but also facilities to serve drinks and cake in the church after the ceremony. It also had a space upstairs for me and the bridesmaids to get ready. I'll always wish we could have been married in the summer in St Lawrence's, but for a winter wedding, St Hilda's was perfect.

My favorite moment: Saying our vows was a very powerful experience for both of us. I cried during the whole reciting of the vows, and Darren was choked up too. We had gone through so much bureaucracy just to be given permission to marry in the Church of England, that we did not take for granted that we were be able to freely say our vows to each other.
First dance
My funniest moment: Darren had perfectly planned a digital playlist to fit the mood of the party as it progressed. The tone of the musical cheesefest was set with "Forever Young" by Alphaville as our first dance. This was followed by "The Touch" from the Transformers Soundtrack. During the night I told my bridesmaid Alina that "Dance Magic" from the Labyrinth soundtrack would be on at some point. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, "Dance Magic" started! We looked at each other, squealed, and the whole dance floor erupted with cheers and crazy dancing ensued. Talk about a psychic connection with my spouse!

My advice for offbeat brides: Don't be afraid to do things yourself, or to ask friends who are not professionals, to do things for your big day. The initial fear of cutting into my vintage dress was greatly outweighed by the satisfaction of knowing I had remodeled the dress with my own needle and thread. I made it clear to friends who were helping that what mattered most to us was that they were doing the music or photography, not that it was done in a certain way.

That said, folks can't read your mind, and still need to know how their task fits into the big picture. I relied heavily on my Maids of Merriment to run the day smoothly. When I gave each a "Day of To Do list" I was worried that this would seem bridezilla-y but they all appreciated knowing everything that was happening. No one let us down, and the results were a million times better than anything we could have wished for, without relying on any vendors.

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? The most important lesson I learned was to never underestimate the love and support of our friends and family. My family got passports and flew across the world to be at my wedding to a man they had only met only once, exactly one month before the wedding. My sister went above and beyond the call of duty as a Maid of Honor by overcoming difficult obstacles to get my nephew's passport, then keeping me sane, and getting everything ready the week before the wedding. A friend in my church community opened up her home so my friends traveling from long distances could have a welcoming (and free) place to stay. Darren's family also supported us by accepting all of my controversial ideas like taking photographs together before the ceremony and having six bridesmaids. We are blessed to have such a supportive community in which to start our marriage. After receiving so much generous love and support, I want to extend the same to others in our family and community.

The bride's Transformers decoupage shoes

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. I was lucky enough to be a guest at this wedding and it was SO great! Virginia and Darren make a great reminder that what makes a wedding special is love – not just of the bride and groom for each other, but also the love of friends and family. Also, the playlist was one of the best I've ever heard at a wedding! 🙂

    Also – man, now I'm cracking up at the reception photos. You don't often see a lot of those on OBB. You can tell we had a good time!

    1 agrees
  2. Wow, just the deposit on our venue is over £1000 and I thought we'd be doing well to keep the whole wedding under £10,000. I'm very, very impressed with what you managed to pull off on such a tight budget!

    It all looks wonderful, and those cupcakes look yummy!

    1 agrees
  3. I love love love everything about this wedding. I am planning on a less than $2000 CAD wedding with a vintage gown as well. Its all about the family and the love, not the "things". Very inspiring!

  4. I love your gown! I'd have guessed it was vintage, just from the style, but the fact that it was your grandmother's makes it all the more special.

  5. As an American girl planning her wedding to an Englishman, I love reading about others in the same situation! It's too bad you couldn't have the church you wanted, but I imagine airfare to England was much cheaper in January. We can only do our wedding in the summer, but lots of family members can't afford to come because of the sky-high airfare. Disappointing!

    Your dress is gorgeous! My cousin was lucky enough to wear our grandmother's wedding dress at her wedding, but I'm far too tall for that!

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