Allison & Sage's Buddhist gothic gluten-free wedding

Updated Mar 15 2021
kissing at the altar
Photo by Joy McCambridge

The Offbeat Bride: Allison, internal medicine resident

Her offbeat partner: Sage, owner

Date and location of wedding: Tre Bella Mesa, Arizona — June 3, 2012

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: It was important to us that we incorporated traditional Taiwanese practices into our wedding, as well as gothic victorian and modern touches. We had a table set up for red envelopes that traditionally contain money for the bride and groom. We created a special drink (an absinthe grand marnier cocktail) we called a double happiness, and served Tsing Tao at the bar. Our invitations were done in a sleepy-hollow font and put inside traditional red envelopes. We commissioned cupcakes inspired by almond cookie and Taiwanese pineapple flavors. We used a lot of red and gold since those are traditional wedding colors. We sent our guests home with happy golden Buddha photo holders in order to increase their happiness and prosperity.

Whiskey cane
Photo by Joy McCambridge

Sage is a Hindu and I have a more agnostic/Taoist flavor but a Buddhist ceremony seemed to fit both of our spiritual paths. We got engaged in March and married in June — three months later! I was finishing medical school, and we were also moving to Oregon for my residency. The fact that we accomplished all of that and had a beautiful wedding without having a nervous breakdown is a miracle. We packed our ReloCube for moving on May 30th, I graduated on June 1st and we got married on June 3rd!

Ceremony site
Photo by Joy McCambridge
Memory candle
Photo by Damon Wilson

Tell us about the ceremony: We had a traditional Zen Buddhist wedding ceremony. I wore a traditional Japanese wedding kimono called a uchikake.
We walked in like you would for a catholic ceremony (wedding party including groom, then my father walked me down the aisle). One of my bridesmaids carried a candle down the aisle and placed it in a front row chair in the seat my mother would have sat in. She passed away from lung cancer the year before.

presenting to parents
Photo by Damon Wilson
Ceremony buddha1
Photo by Damon Wilson
Photo by Damon Wilson

Sage presented a rose to my father, I presented a rose to his parents signifying the unity and commitment to family. We walked up to the altar together (nobody "gave me away"). We lit some incense and bowed to Buddha. Our priest came in, lit some incense for Buddha, and bowed three times. Then we said our vows. After the vows we passed sake between us three times using the tea set that I purchased in Taiwan last time I was there to visit family. Then we kissed and walked back down the aisle to "Absolution" by Gary Numan.

Double Happiness
Photo by Joy McCambridge

Our biggest challenge: Planning everything in 90 days, packing our entire house into a ReloCube, and completing 1,000 cranes in 90 days while in medical school. I do not recommend this to anyone, haha. We had decided to get married in June before we had to leave the state since my dad would be visiting from Taiwan for my graduation, and I didn't know when he would be able to come back for a wedding. My mother had passed away the year before, so we felt it was important to have as many family and friends at our wedding as possible. I'm still not exactly sure how we pulled it all off, but we would have never succeeded without the help of our friends and family.

1000 crane tree
Photo by Damon Wilson

I folded about 600 cranes personally in about 2.5 months, I would fold them on weekends, evenings, any extra time I had during that period was committed to folding cranes. When it got down to the wire, I had 10 people over to my house, we had a barbecue and some drinks, and we folded and strung cranes for 12 hours until they were all done.

Photo by Damon Wilson

When we were down to the last dozen, my friend started playing funny songs on his iphone — Eye Of The Tiger, Don't Stop Believin', and We Are The Champions. It was so much fun. My friends are the best. I absolutely was 100% determined to finish all thousand cranes. I gave the wish to my father at the wedding in my thank you speech. I am so grateful I was able to do that, he has done so much for me over the years. He stood up and took a bow and everyone gave him a round of applause.

Photo by Damon Wilson

My favorite moment: Our vows were incorporated from a few different Buddhist ceremonies that we found online, and stressed the importance of working together as friends to make the world a better place, and sharing the love we have with all beings on this planet. We also incorporated the idea of Buddhist impermanence into our vows, reminding ourselves that nothing lasts forever.

first dance
Photo by Joy McCambridge

Our first dance was to Eden's "The darkness in me." When we first started dating, he wanted to introduce me to a musical project he'd loved for many years called Eden. He told me about the band and I laughed and told him I had been listening to them for years as well. We took dance lessons for two months before our wedding so that we could waltz for our first dance.

Cutting the cake
Photo by Damon Wilson
cake cut 1
Photo by Damon Wilson

My funniest moment: Sage and I couldn't figure out how to cut the cake. Angela (our dessert buffet creator) had to help us figure it out.

Dessert Buffet
Photo by Damon Wilson

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? We have many friends that are vegan, Sage is gluten-free, and some friends that won't eat red meat, some will only eat meat, etc. We wanted to come up with food options that everyone could enjoy, and this was a bit challenging. We found Angela Saban at a wedding expo and she makes exquisite gluten-free baked goods. She also created some great blackberry cabernet and apple compotes that the vegans enjoyed for dessert. Our lady of cupcakes created a custom Traditional Taiwanese Pineapple Cake-inspired cupcake, and an almond cookie cupcake that were divine.

Reception hall
Photo by Damon Wilson

For dinner we served a vegan ratatouille made with alternating layers of marinara and vegetables and a separate chicken piccata dish that the meat-eaters could add to the vegetarian dish if they wanted to. We also had salad and breadsticks on the side. This meant that everyone had something to eat! This made us happy.

Groom's gift
Photo by Damon Wilson

My advice for Offbeat Brides:

  • Don't let people tell you that you have to stick to 2-3 colors, or that certain colors don't match. Our color scheme was black, white, red, gold, and silver and I loved it.
  • Take dance lessons! You can get a special at a dance studio if you're a first timer, and it was the one night of the week that we set aside from everything else to spend time with each other doing something fun.
  • Get a videographer! I really enjoy watching the video my friend took of our first dance, and our ceremony. I wish I had hired a videographer in retrospect. I love hearing my friends all laugh, that's not something that comes across in photos.

getting ready

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

  1. OMG that kimono, must have, totally want, and kind of "Taiwanese" even though it's Japanese, given the Japanese colonial influence on Taiwan.

    I want to point out that Tsing Tao beer is Chinese, not Taiwanese, and to incorporate a more Taiwanese element Taiwan Beer would have been a more appropriate cultural nod (especially as many Taiwanese want to disassociate themselves from China and do not think themselves Chinese)…but I am not sure Taiwan Beer is readily available outside Taiwan…so I suppose it doesn't really matter. They taste about the same anyway. (I like Taiwan Bee bottled 18-day draft or ??, but that may just be because I favor Taiwan).

    But I know I'm being too nitpicky, so I'm sorry. As a 6-year Taiwan expat who leans in favor of Taiwanese identity, I can't help but notice these things.

    So, wow. Such a beautiful wedding. Love the double happiness cocktail, the Taiwanese decorative touches, the pineapple cake cupcakes (try Sunny Hills pineapple cakes when you visit Taiwan, they're the best by far and locally very "famous" in the way that food items are "famous" in Taiwan). Congratulations, ?????

  2. Hi Allison: You are a gorgeous couple. I love your wedding kimono robe. Do you mind if I ask which shop on etsy you bought it from?? Also, are you Amerasian?? My sons are half Vietnamese and half Caucasian American Me). Best Wishes!!!

  3. Congrats on both a gorgeous, unique wedding & finishing med school! I love everything, especially your kimono!

  4. Hi Allison,
    wow, i loved this – your wedding was gorgeous and seemed so true to you both and still very attentive to your family and friends. Congratulations! I was wondering, where did you find/buy the happy buddha photo holders?? LOVED those and would like to find something similar….

  5. Totally got tearful at the part where the bridesmaid placed a candle where your mother would have been. Sounds like a wonderful day.

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