Thank you to the bride, Dani, for sharing this heart wrenching love story and the lessons we can all learn from it. This post is dedicated to Ben.
Offbeat partner: Dani
Offbeat partner: Ben
Date and location of wedding: Friend’s cabin near Seattle, WA — March 11, 2017
Our offbeat wedding at a glance:
General theme/gist: We planned our wedding in two weeks and needed it to be intimate, authentic, loving, and real. We were on a tight timeline and a tight budget (more on that in a minute).
Due to circumstances beyond our control, our wedding plans changed in a major way. Ben and I had been together for 5½ years when he was unexpectedly diagnosed with stage IV melanoma in the fall of 2016. Ben’s illness put a lot of things in perspective for both of us and we got engaged a month after his diagnosis. We had originally been planning to get married in August 2017, but Ben’s care team cautioned us that he might not be feeling well by that point (they ended up being right about that).
During one particularly emotional day at the hospital in late February 2017, we decided that since the only things that were actually necessary for a wedding were a marriage license, officiant, the two of us, and a few witnesses, there really wasn’t any sense in waiting until August; we went to the courthouse following his treatment that day and got a marriage license. We initially planned to have a courthouse wedding, but we remembered that a friend of ours has officiated weddings in the past and might be willing to officiate our wedding, too. Lucky for us he agreed, and after speaking with him and a few other essential guests, we picked a date two weeks out and got to work planning our wedding.
Tell us about the ceremony:
We had a simple, non-religious ceremony on the beach. Our friends graciously offered their family cabin near Seattle, WA (in Quilcene, WA if you want to get specific) for the occasion and we had the entire beach to ourselves. Ben and I wrote our own vows and kept the ceremony short and sweet. We didn’t have any additional readings or music, but the sound of the Puget Sound provided a great (albeit LOUD) backdrop! Our weather was rainy, sunny, cloudy, and everything in between — at one point we even had rainbows and bald eagles.
Tell us about your reception:
Our ceremony was at 2:30pm, followed by group photos, dinner, cake, and a bonfire and games on the beach. We were limited to about 40 guests at our wedding due to the size of the cabin, but we were able to have about 15 people stay the night with us. Our decor and favors were minimal, but a friend made some great temporary tattoos of us and our pets and we had some family photos in the mix.
We crowdsourced a lot of our wedding and our friends all came together to help us provide a fantastic potluck burrito bar for dinner (complete with fried potatoes and secret sauce from the restaurant where we had our first date (Casa Que Pasa in Bellingham, WA). A friend baked an unbelievable multi-layer chocolate and peanut butter cake.
Once it got dark we had a bonfire on the beach and played several rounds of glow-in-the-dark bocce ball. It felt like a lot of our gatherings; the overall vibe was community, family, friends, love, and treasuring our time together. In the morning we had brunch, cleaned the cabin, took a walk on the beach, and headed home.
What was your most important lesson learned?
My husband died seven months after our wedding. The most important lesson I learned from our wedding is that when it really comes down to it, your marriage is more important than your wedding. I know from experience that it’s easy to get caught up in the little details; I cried at least three times during the planning process, and each time it was something pretty trivial in the grand scheme of things (but at the time it sure felt like the end of the world!).
What I want to share with other Offbeat Bride readers is that if you are lucky enough to have found someone that you want to spend the rest of your life with, the rest of details don’t really matter. It’s fun and also unbelievably stressful to plan a wedding, and I don’t mean to trivialize that. What I am trying to say is that none of us really know how long “the rest of your life” is going to be; for me and Ben, it was seven months. The best seven months of my life. And if we’d waited until we had more money, better weather, a larger venue, etc. it wouldn’t really have changed anything, because what was most important to us was taking this step to deepen our relationship, and we were able to accomplish that on an extremely tight budget and timeline. Cancer took so much from Ben and I, but it didn’t take our wedding or honeymoon from us, and I want others in a similar situation to know that it doesn’t have to take their dreams from them either.
Photographer: Lara Schneider (On a practical note, I would say that if you’re going to splurge on anything, splurge on a photographer. Ben and I loved our photos, and they are a great comfort to me now that he’s gone.) • Dress: ModCloth • Hair and Makeup: Kendall at Vine Hair Studio • Flowers: Rachel at Plantuary • Temporary Tattoos: Northwest Nina