It's getting colder here in the Northern Hemisphere, so this week we're celebrating woodsy, outdoor weddings while we can. Get ready for majestic mountains, placid lakes, and gorgeous forests for days.

Shawn and Jessica's first dance

The Offbeat Bride: Jessica, Software Applications Developer (and Offbeat Bride member)

Her offbeat partner: Shawn, Entomology Ph.D. Student

Date and location of wedding: Rockin Y Ranch, Austin, TX — April 19, 2014

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Our wedding started off as an un-themed “all-the-things-we-like” wedding, which included a mixture of entomology, nerdy fandoms (video games, Harry Potter, anime, renaissance, etc.) with a little Austin hill country influence thrown in.

Shawn and Jessica's First Look in the Party Barn

Paper music-sheet bridal bouquet and groom's boutonniere

Wedding Party

We rented an Austin ranch house, the Rockin Y Ranch, for three nights to host all of our events (bachelor, bachelorette, rehearsal, and wedding) and also got to stay with our wedding party since it sleeps 16 people. We love Austin, so we included popular local fare, such as Torchy's Tacos for dinner and Bananarchy frozen bananas for the cocktail hour, and included a selection of tasty Texas beers and wine (Messina Hof, Real Ale, Shiner, St Arnold, etc.).

Insects and moths centerpiece

Butterfly letting during the ceremony

My husband is an entomologist, so we had a butterfly letting during the ceremony and included Luna Moths that he caught locally. Another of his hobbies is rearing dart frogs, so he also set up a terrarium of Yellow-banded poison dart frogs, Dendrobates leucomelas, for the guests to see.

Butterfly on Jessica's wrist

Mario video game wedding table centerpiece

Super Metroid Wedding Table Centerpiece

Final Fantasy Wedding Table Centerpiece

I was inspired by the geeky terrarium centerpieces posted on Offbeat Bride, so we decided to make our own of landscapes and scenes from all of our favorite fandoms, anime, and video games — one for each reception table. The centerpieces included: Mario in the Desert World, a quidditch match from Harry Potter, a scene from the indie game FEZ, EVA-01 fighting the Angel Sachiel from the anime Evangelion, Lucca repairing Robo from the video game Chrono Trigger, Samus from the video game Super Metroid, the beach scene with Marle and Link from the video game The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, a battle scene from the video game Final Fantasy IV, a Pokemon battle, and a the forest full of Kodama from the anime Princess Mononoke.

FEZ indie game wedding table centerpiece

Portal companion cube cardbox on the Welcome Table

One of the most ambitious projects was creating a Portal Companion Cube card box made entirely of perler beads, which totaled approximately 23,000 perlers. Our best man and I worked together to create a TARDIS photo booth out of PVC pipe, cloth, and an Android tablet.

Paper crane arch

We included mint and white paper cranes throughout the ceremony and reception, and decorated our arch with hundreds of strung paper cranes. I wanted a focal point for the reception, so got a giant paper lantern and decorated that with swirls of paper cranes as well, and decorated the tables, favors, aisle markers, etc. all with paper cranes of varying sizes. I believe we must have folded somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 paper cranes.

Our favorite games are indie games, so we wove several indie games into the theme. Our wedding cake was themed for the Playstation indie game Journey, and we included music from the game in our ceremony because the game is so emotional and has a beautiful soundtrack. The cake was also a delicious cinnamon-sugar “churro” cake complete with vegan buttercream. In addition to including the indie game FEZ in our centerpieces, when FEZ released on Steam, we gifted copies to each of our groomsmen as attendant gifts.

Handfasting cords and H2G2

Jessica and her father in the bridal processional

Tell us about the ceremony:
Music is very important to us, so we had a string and piano ensemble, Fountainhead Ensemble, at our ceremony to play the processionals, ceremony cues, and recessional. They were amazing and agreed to all of our ludicrous demands and enjoyed the challenge of playing some offbeat selections that are our favorites. While people were seating, they played the Game of Thrones theme, a Pokemon medley, the “Overture” from the videogame Katamari Damacy, “Katamari on the Rocks,” and “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka. The wedding party walked out to the Final Fantasy Prelude, and the bridal processional was to “Apotheosis” from the indie video game Journey.

Bridal party during the ceremony

Handfasting during the ceremony

Our officiant was a friend of ours from school and did a wonderful job leading the ceremony. He opened with the story of Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan's epic love affair. We were too nervous to write our own vows, so instead we decided to exchange readings between us. I read “Scientific Romance” by Tim Pratt, and Shawn read a selection from The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. After that, we released butterflies en masse during our butterfly letting, while the ensemble played “Yearnings of the Wind” from video game Chrono Trigger. During the recessional, we skipped down the aisle to “Both of You, Dance Like You Want To Win!” from the anime Evangelion.

Shawn and Jessica in the recessional

Mr & Mrs Sweetheart Reception Table

The TARDIS Photobooth

Our biggest challenge:
On the day-of we had some last-minute issues with the photo booth and the music. The Android app we were using in the TARDIS photo booth wouldn't connect to our Dropbox account. It turned out okay, since the files saved to the Android tablet and I just messaged all of my guests afterwards with their pictures. Our music list was in Shawn's phone and the phone dropped on the floor the night before the wedding, which destroyed much of the songs on the SD card. We didn't discover this problem until three hours before the ceremony. My bridesmaids' husbands stepped up to take care of the task and were able to basically recreate the playlists from scratch. It was amazing that they pulled it off.

Both Shawn and I are atheists, and although I found it easy to create a non-religious ceremony, we were unable to secure any premarital counseling in the nearby area even though we looked around a lot. Twogether in Texas makes it so that if you take a free premarital education class, you would be able to waive your marriage license fee. We wanted to participate in this, but we couldn't find any non-religious vendors that were actually available, and even the religious ones we thought we would be okay with were also no longer giving the class. So that was unfortunate.

Journey indie game wedding cake and chess groom's cake

My favorite moment:
Our exchange of readings (what we did instead of vows) was probably the thing I think back on the most and it still gives me the sniffles.

We also had a low-key after-party in the ranch's party barn. It was really meaningful for me to play games, chat with friends, and wind down from the hectic frenzy that was the wedding. Most of my friends live so far away and it was wonderful just to be with them again in a casual, comfy way.

Pre-wedding nerf war

My funniest moment:
When we asked everyone to pick out their weapon of choice for the “Wedding Party Nerf War,” our flower girl picked the ridiculously large shotgun which resulted in some amazing pictures. We had also joked with her at the rehearsal that she should dump all of the flowers all at once when she gets to the end of the aisle and, during the ceremony, she did! I didn't get to see it live, but I got to see the video of it afterwards and it's just awesome.

The TARDIS Guestbook

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
I learned that you can never plan too much for a wedding. In the two months preceding the wedding, we packed each “table box” complete with the table setup, a layout diagram of the area with the table highlighted, and a photograph with the mockup of the table. It was essential to the final setup, since it was very easy for everybody to pitch in and set up the decorations. Going through the effort of measuring, re-measuring, meeting every other week through Google Hangout, getting together all of our vendor's schedules and wedding party schedules, making lodging assignments — it took a lot of time, and I felt like I could have started even earlier with even better results.

I think the second most important lesson was that any project, even a wedding project, is subject to the project management triangle (scope, time, and cost) and one of those corners on the triangle has to give. Our schedule was running out and we didn't want to decrease our scope, so our costs went up significantly, but that's something we noticed and anticipated for.

Frozen banana exchange ceremonial kiss

Shawn getting ready for the TARDIS photobooth

Everybody doing the Time Warp

Time Warp: "Really drives you insa-a-a-ne"

Dancing at the reception

Bubbly exit from the reception

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding inspo!

jewelry: Wexford Jewelers
dresses: Gallery Serpentine

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Comments on Jessica & Shawn’s nerdy Texas hill country wedding

  1. Jessica was so much fun to work with! I did her bouquet and the groom’s boutonniere and I am thrilled to see them featured here! The wedding looks like it was a blast.

  2. Love all the Texas!! And that Aggie ring bling with the butterfly?! Awesome. Beautiful wedding!

  3. Creating table boxes complete with mock ups was genius and should help soothe the savage beast in me that refuses to delegate. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this amazing idea that will no doubt spare me hours of prep time the day of the wedding and will give all those who want to help a way of participating.

  4. I want to use all the all-caps to talk about those Journey cake toppers. I’m in love. And I also feel like that game has so much to say about trust and communication and teamwork and connection and it’s so appropriate for kicking off a marriage.

    • I felt the same way about the game — first game to ever bring tears to my eyes. We felt like it was saying that the worth of a Journey is about who you make it with, and that’s why we wanted make sure it was highlighted at the wedding.

  5. Yay hooray for another TAMSters’ wedding! Jekka and Shawn, your wedding looks absolutely fantastic!! It’s heart-warming, well-thought, and wonderful.

    Congratulations and many happy thoughts from a old Mac Rat (oh old terminology) and also OBB!

  6. Did you have to do anything special to get the ranch owners to let you have the wedding? I’ve been talking to vacation-property owners, too, and they all politely tell me to pound sand.

    • Rockin Y Ranch is a venue for events and weddings as well. So I doubt there was anything special done. Im sure she booked it as youd do with any venue. I live in texas as well and we have tons of venues like this when you can stay and camp or what not and have a wedding. its pretty cool.

    • There was an extra event fee which included chairs, tables, linens, silverware and dishes for 40. I think it depends on the vacation property you’re looking at. When I was looking around on Homeaway, VRBO, and the like I was searching things like “Austin event” or “Austin wedding” which seemed to do good job of filtering out the ones that wouldn’t work.

  7. I came back to peruse your lovely wedding, and noticed the pictures are no longer visible. Is this something that can be remedied? I’d love to see them again.

  8. Oh man, your wedding is all kinds of amazing! I love the PhoTARDIS booth and, while I’m not able to see the photos for some reason, the centerpieces sound fantastic! While the hubby to be is religious and I was raised Catholic, I noticed that about the Twogether in Texas courses. I stayed away from the providers that listed themselves as “faith based” and went with a licensed counselor. Lo and behold, she’s a Christian counselor. I was hoping for tools rather than religion, but hey, as a future mental health counselor, DFW will have a secular format as soon as I am able to practice and can get it approved. Thanks for sharing your delightfully geeky wedding and best wishes for a bright future!

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