The Offbeat Bride: Jeannette, belly dancer, violinist, and daytime accountant

Her Offbeat Partner: Cliff, software engineer

Location and date of wedding: Ceremony: Arizona State, Reception: Jeannette's parents' back yard — September 13, 2008

What made our wedding offbeat: We always knew we wanted a very small wedding. We decided to skip a bunch of the usual built-in drama and leave out bridesmaids, groomsmen, ringbearers, piles of doves, etc.

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Rock-paper-scissors for the vows.

My best friend Heidi, who acted as officiant, interviewed Cliff and me separately and then wrote the ceremony, and Cliff and I each wrote our own vows. We each entered the ceremony escorted by both parents. We passed the rings around the circle of our closest friends and family in a ringwarming ceremony. We rock-paper-scissored to see who would speak their vows first, smooched, and finally Heidi announced to our gathering that we had “leveled up,” as a friend played triumphant Final Fantasy music from his iPhone. You know what I'm talking about. ๐Ÿ™‚

Then it was off to the reception, after a quick stop at Starbucks, where they wrote “just married” on our cups.

Oh, and I had NO IDEA what was waiting for us at the reception. That's right — our reception was a total surprise! Early on it became clear that my mother cared way more about details like cake, decorations, etc. than I did, so I asked her to go to town and surprise me with whatever she wanted. I'm so happy I trusted her with it, she did an amazing job!

Pretty backyard. Notice the dark red linens!

The whole backyard was done up in lights, lights, lights — Christmas lights, tiki torches, stargazers floating in glowing vases, underwater LEDs suspended in the pool like stars! The cake she designed was absolutely beautiful. We all nommed on BBQ and played pool and Rock Band. I couldn't have asked for a more wonderful reception. It sure was a pleasant experience after reading so many stories about “momzillas”!

Side note: Originally I wanted a green dress. I was unable to find the green dress of my dreams despite weeks of searching. Then, I tried on a red dress that I never would have looked twice at before reading Offbeat Bride: Taffeta-Free Alternatives for Independent Brides and offbeatbride.com, and it was the one! Will you forgive the fact that it actually was taffeta? ๐Ÿ˜‰

[Editor's note from Ariel: So, funny story. My publisher is releasing a second edition of my book in 2010, and I specifically asked that the title be changed to Offbeat Bride: Creative Alternatives for Independent Brides … because I swear, I've never had anything against taffeta! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ]

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This picture makes my heart happy.

Our biggest challenge: Our biggest challenge was trying to plan a wedding in a different state in a small time (four months). Hooray for the internet! It was a little frustrating not to be able to visit places and vendors, meet my photographer beforehand, etc., but with a very good local support network (aforementioned mom and best friend), we managed to pull it all off swimmingly.

My favorite moment: My favorite moment was my tough-as-nails dad's toast. He said, “Jeannette, when you were little, you gave me the greatest compliment. You said, ‘when I grow up I want to marry someone who will make me as happy as you and Mom are.' Well …” (and here, in front of everyone, including all the macho bar buddies he'd invited, he choked back sudden tears.) “…You did!”

I still smile and tear up a little just thinking about it.

My advice for other offbeat brides:

  • It is probably not going to be simple. I was convinced my wedding was going to be simple because it was very small and I didn't really care about a lot of the details. Nu-uh. Be prepared for even trivial things to be bigger headaches than you expect, ease up the choke-hold, and go with the flow — your event WILL turn out beautiful despite everything, and you will enjoy it way more if you decide not to stress out.
  • Learn when to treat yourself and when to bargain hunt. Get cheaper flowers and a nicer hotel room.
  • Let your partner in — odds are he or she can be a huge help if you allow it!
  • Have FUN!

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?:

  • The dress came from Blossoms.
  • The BBQ was from Honeybears in Phoenix — YUM!
  • Unfortunately my mom doesn't have a website. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!:

Comments on Jeannette & Cliff’s small, anti-conventional wedding with a surprise reception

  1. I'm definitely keeping the stargazers in wine glasses thing in mind for my wedding. They look beautiful!

    I love how you let your own reception be a surprise. That's a great idea and takes a lot of the stress out of planning things. Let somebody else deal with it. lol

  2. Serendipity! We were searching “gamer weddings” when we stumbled onto this one. We, too, are having a surprise reception. Our parents, especially the mothers, were both VERY unhappy when we told them we wanted to elope in the woods – just us, the officiant, a waterfall, and lots of buzzy bees and wildflowers. It was hard to explain that we wanted that moment to be just us, private, sacred, and that no – it isn’t because we don’t love them and want to deprive them of those silly and impersonal (for us) traditions. When the conversation turned to reception, we admitted to not really caring about the details (and frankly, not having the money for them). It was at this point that a lightbulb went on. We told our parents that they had complete control over the reception – whatever they wanted, we’d enjoy and appreciate. They immediately went from very unhappy to ecstatic. I guess all they wanted was a bit of control, and now we can give them some part of the day without sacrificing what’s important to us.

    So, it should be interesting…whether it’s a gorgeous, oh-my-god-this-is-perfect intimate gathering or a cringeworthy why-is-there-a-six-foot-tall-inflatable-teddy-bear-in-the-backyard event or something in between, we know we’ve had our moment together, exchanging vows and keeping that special moment sacred and the rest? Well, either way, there will be much smiling and laughing! ๐Ÿ™‚

    So, in conclusion: hooray gamer wedding with surprise reception!

  3. I love your photos! Looks like you guys had a blast! I’ve been trying to find a shorter version of the Final Fantasy theme song to walk down the aisle to, but everything’s 3+ minutes. Was the song too long and cut you off? Either way, props to your Mom and you for pulling off a gorgeous wedding!!! <3

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