Photos by Melissa Shaw Photography

Offbeat partner: Jacinda & Tanner

Date and location of wedding: Elope 253 in Tacoma, WA — 11/29/2020

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We definitely did not have a “theme.” Despite both being very nerdy people who love anime, comics, and video games — we just wanted something small, that we could broadcast internationally (similar to our love for streaming online). I also knew I wanted dark blue and blush incorporated into everything.

 

Tell us about the ceremony:
For some background — I come from a blended family. My Dad, my brother’s father, and my mom’s second husband (who is African American/Black), raised me as his own since the age of 5. There were no second thoughts when my partner disclosed him having two children from a prior marriage to me, and when we met, everything settled naturally. Family is truly whoever you want it to be — I believe this whole-heartedly.

My husband and I are pretty anxious people outside of the internet, so the dread of having to invite droves of relatives and friends after having both been married before was definitely strong even before the pandemic. My neurodivergence encompasses an anxiety disorder, memory disorder, ADHD, and a compulsive disorder that can induce stress if hyperfocusing and unable to complete tasks if not “perfect” to me.

With the potential of being overwhelmed, the venue we utilized (Elope 253) made it fluid and easy for us to submit our requirements/songs online — which was preferable because we both have phone anxiety. I think the most stressful thing was for Tanner and me to agree on the intro/outro songs that were cheerful/fitting and important to us within the deadline given, The ceremony required such minimal preparation and was well within the confines of the COVID gathering guidelines at the time in Washington it made everything feel seamless and safe. It also made it so that we weren’t leaving out any family (like having his parents at the ceremony but not mine — his parents were outside in the car on the Zoom with everyone else!).

As a blended family, my bonus daughters (who I met at 3 and 7, who are now 6 and 10) would constantly ask when Tanner and I were getting married. It honestly pained them that we weren’t married!

There wasn’t a crazy proposal or anything. After two years of dating, we finally said, “Let’s make this family official.” We split the cost of our rings, and just started planning a small ceremony amid the chaos of 2020. Ironically, our wedding date (the 29th of November) is not only our dating anniversary but is my Dad’s Birthday.

We have a very small circle, and every person involved in our physical wedding was a vaccinated healthcare worker at the time and had been quarantined for 14 days prior to our wedding, as well as taken a COVID test 3 days prior to gathering (per WA sate). We needed two witnesses over the age of 18 — and not to hurt any family’s feelings, we decided on our two closest friends to observe our ceremony.

I made everyone’s corsages, boutonnieres, and bouquets from discount flowers from the craft store. I made custom wine tumbler glasses for everyone, including my husband’s best friend — a beer pint with the World of Warcraft ‘Horde’ symbol, his gamertag, with a saying in High Valerian underneath (nerdy, we know). I got my best friend a bracelet that said “thanks for helping me tie the knot”. My dress was custom but cost less than $200 from an online retailer! I also printed and decorated our wedding invitations with my Cricut — enough to send to everyone to let them know we would be having a virtual ceremony, where we were registered, and how to hop on the Zoom call.

I was grateful for having proactive family members who I gave the ability to work within my constraints so I did not end up being overstimulated by the process. At most, I was able to contribute creatively with the floral pieces and glasses/favors at my own pace, as well as picking out what our witnesses and we wore. Giving up control was hard, but it benefitted us in the end and became a surprise to see how the setup for the reception ended up perfectly fitting for us and was above and beyond what we could have completed ourselves.

The kicker is — our ceremony was a complete secret from our girls! We thought it would be more special for them to have it be a surprise to keep the “magic” of the occasion.

We had the girls sleepover at the grandparents’ house the night before, under the guise of a sleepover with their aunt and uncle from out of town who were “visiting for Thanksgiving” (when in reality they were there for our elopement, too!). Our plan was for the wedding party and parents to take pictures at the Tacoma Chinese Reconciliation Park — a lovely garden and complex that we had taken the girls to earlier in the year and they learned about the history and need to reflect upon the past, as well as celebrate cultural diversity and general humanity. It was just 10 minutes from our small wedding venue.

Well, things didn’t end up that way. The girls were so suspicious of having to put on the “really nice” dresses and have their hair done for a “fancy brunch” that they were late to the park for pre-ceremony pictures with my mom and brother. So, we had no choice but to meet them at the venue to be on time. Also, during the picture-taking, my husband bumped my DIY hot-glued crown and a facet fell off. We broke off a similar one on the other side to make it “even” but my brother caught the shot of my husband trying to put it back on (fail).

Apparently when I came out of our rollerskate of a car, one of the girls said, “Wow Cinda looks so pretty, like she’s going to a wedding.” It wasn’t until we were holding hands going into the building that it dawned on them — Cinda and Daddy were getting married!

Our whole ceremony was recorded via a Zoom Call. Everything from the coordinator/officiant telling us how to walk etc., and the myriad of our relatives and friends chatting before the ceremony. We had five pages of people from Coast to Coast and around the world — Australia, Germany, the Philippines!

I walked in to Death Cab for Cutie’s “I’ll Follow You Into the Dark.” The officiant, Rochelle Bergstrom, the founder of Elope 253 — was thorough in ensuring our ceremony was preferable to us and non-religious.

My husband said his vows first. They were — really off the cuff and from his heart. So much so, that when he paused when he started crying, we all thought he was done and continued the ceremony with my own vows! Since we hadn’t rehearsed and it was an elopement, my husband told me later he wasn’t done with saying what he planned to, but knew that he didn’t need to for me to know how he felt. I agreed.

I read my vows from my phone (tacky? oh well!). They incorporated an homage to two of my favorite quotes from the Persian poet Hafez/Hafiz.

They went as follows:

Tanner, every hardship and scar from craving love we’ve faced has led us to this moment where we can stand together in our resilience. I can tell you that I did not know love or true joy until meeting you.  I did not know what a strong partnership was, or healthy communication, or felt truly at home. Now, home is whenever I’m with you. I promise in this life and the next, to always find you. I will always support your endeavors, encourage your creativity, and nurture your humor and passions. I can honestly say that what I want in this life is nothing more than to show you when you are alone or in darkness, the brilliant light of your own being. The great thing about us, is though we are two very different people, we come together perfectly and would not see this life through with anyone else. So today, I can say I am so grateful that the universe has brought us together. I love you 5 ever, and 6 always.

(The end is an inside joke — that forever isn’t long enough).

Rochelle was wonderful at directing the ceremony and having the girls come up to Tanner’s side. My witness had held my rings and two special bracelets I had gotten made — that said the girls’ names, the date of our wedding, and “The day we became a blended family. We love you.”

 

My vows to them were as follows:

I, Cinda, take you Maicee and Maya, to be my stepdaughters. I wasn’t there when you took your first steps or your first teeth came in, but I promise I will try my hardest not to miss anything else. I am not here to replace anyone and I won’t try to. I am here to love you and Dad the best ways I can. I promise to teach, guide, and respect you for the rest of our days.  I promise to always listen to you and support you. I will tell the truth and be fair. I promise to make time for you. I promise to always treat you and Daddy with the love and respect you deserve. Thank you so much for sharing your Daddy with me. With these bracelets, I hope you’ll accept me as your bonus mom, and today we can begin the rest of our lives as a family. I love you.

It’s way tougher to clasp bracelets on little ones than it is to slip a ring on a finger during a ceremony, I’ll tell you that!

After my vows, the girls gave me pinky swears and hugs. We all stood together in front of the Zoom call to get our cheers and well wishes.

Our outro / recessional song was the Newfound Glory’s Cover of “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer. We took pictures with the girls and my in-laws right after, and the photos came out beautifully thanks to Melissa Shaw Photography.

Tell us about the reception:
We live in Washington state, so right before the holiday shut down of 2020, we thought we would be able to rent a small room for our less than 10 people to have dinner. The state went into a full shutdown in early November, and my mother-in-law took it upon herself to rent an event tent for her backyard. (Funnily enough because of the backup of tents due to COVID restrictions/guidelines, we had to have the tent delivered before Thanksgiving. We ended up having a small Thanksgiving Dinner in my in-law’s backyard prior to the wedding! Since the children didn’t know about the ceremony, they just thought eating outdoors in a tent was a cool, fun, and safe way to celebrate Thanksgiving!)

After the ceremony, my mom and brother hadn’t stayed for the pictures and had pulled over on the side of the highway to watch us tie the knot from my brother’s phone. My mom’s commitment to catering our reception was unreal, and she made it to my in-laws house before any of us and started frying lumpia and stir-frying pancit.

All of us — my best friend, her partner, my husband’s best friend, my sister-in-law and brother-in-law, and my brother and the girls waded through the kitchen to steal bites of my mom’s food as we waited for the event to be set up.

My husband doesn’t like cakes — too soft of a texture — so we ordered a giant cookie cake from our local Mrs. Fields! Our last name is Class so we had a small theme of “Wed with Class” for the date that I put on invitations and my mom had printed on masks as favors for the guests on the place settings (that we put in little cellophane take-out boxes)

I got my favorite Korean fruitcake from our local Hmart’s Bakery — ‘SEOUL BAKERY’ in Federal Way, WA. I love how it’s naturally sweetened from the fruits and the whipped cream is light and not so sugary.

My MIL and SIL decorated the reception tent with their own purchases and creative elements also from several craft stores and plants from hardware stores.

My husband is from SoCal — so he wanted a taco bar that my in-law’s sponsored. I’m from Florida and my mom is Filipino — she flew with 12 pounds of kobe ground beef, and flank steak from South Florida because she refused to be subjected to the prices of the Pacific Northwest. My mom made it her mission to fill up at LEAST 5 heating trays with Pancit (Filipino noodle dish)  and Lumpia (Filipino Eggrolls).

We played music as we ate, and opened gifts. My MIL cried as she opened the bracelet box I had given her near-instantly, so my SIL had to read what was inside the cover. My husband’s best friend winged his dinner speech but nailed it and we both cried. My family is very international, so it was special that my mom gave me laminated papers and greetings that had money taped on it (money giving at special occasions is very Filipino, and to have such a gesture from around the world was really important to me). We all had our small pieces of dessert — including my mom’s Ube (Filipino purple yam) cake, and said our goodbyes. It was a quiet, early night that fit our agenda perfectly as it was a Sunday and the girls would be picked up to go to their other home the next day.

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
It’s okay to do things last minute — like your vows, or even your ceremony! The most important thing is that you are sharing your love for one another and for the family you’re becoming.

It was super important for the girls to be incorporated into our ceremony and for me to commit myself to them as much as I was joining with my husband. I also combined a lot of vows for the girls because I was nervous to not overstep or over assume their comfortability. My hesitation went away after seeing how excited they were and happy they were to proclaim that we were married!

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