The Offbeat Bride: Meredith, Communications
Her offbeat partner: Ainsley, facilities
Date and location of wedding: Gardener Ranch, Carmel Valley Village, CA — September 1, 2013
Our offbeat wedding at a glance: When searching for a wedding venue, we wanted to find something that felt kind of like summer camp, with just enough nature, but not so rustic that it wouldn't be a comfortable place for everyone for the weekend. We also wanted as many people as possible to be able to stay on site to get that camp feeling. We found an incredible venue that was just re-opening after a huge renovation and lucked out to get Labor Day weekend even though we were planning this whole thing just a few months in advance. We are a queer couple and the groom is trans, so our community is filled with folks of many genders, body sizes, and identities. We also were very intentional about making the space as accessible and celebratory to everyone as we could. (For example, we gave some tips around pronouns and bathrooms and such in our welcome booklet).
Our guests were asked to take a detailed survey about their needs, and then we did our best to make the weekend as filled with love and intention as possible. For example, each person had customized snacks available in their houses. On the night everyone arrived we had a karaoke party and campfire. The next day was a day filled with relaxing and getting to know new people. We had a nostalgia-themed lunch, tons of pool time, played Bocci, and people took walks and had adventures. That night after the rehearsal, we had dinner and pub-style trivia about the couple. In between rounds of trivia, our guests toasted us with song, speech, and performance.
The day of the wedding was a sunny, perfect day. I got ready with some of my friends in the fabulous bridal camp while Ains and his best men prepped in our cabin. Ains had hand-picked each of our wedding party's outfits to create a perfect blend of the color palette while still allowing each person to feel and look their best.
Our mothers helped with all the decor. Bonnie hand-made gingham napkins and runners, while Leslie and Yuki made all the table signs and the calligraphy on the straw flags which served as name cards. Ains and I made the maps and booklets for the weekend.
Tell us about the ceremony:
It was important to me that we walk together into the ceremony site, rather than one person being brought into the other. So we each walked with our wedding party around the circle of guests meeting at a small bridge. Then folks crossed the bridge in couples with us being the last.
With Meredith being Jewish, and Ains raised in Christian Science, we wanted a ceremony that honored both of those traditions but also spoke to our joint relationship to spirituality and community. We used the chuppah that my mom and her partner had their civil union ceremony under. In our program, we explained the meaning of the chuppah.
Our friend Al officiated with other people stepping up to speak. We picked four pillars for our relationship: Spirituality, Joy, Community, and Social Justice, and had people speak to each.
We wrote our own vows following the model of, “I love you because,” I Choose you because,” and “I promise you.” And though we hadn't talked about our own vows at all, found that many of ours mirrored one another's. During the piece on community, our friend Krista asked everyone to stand and hold hands in a circle around us, which was beautiful. We also included the Jewish breaking of the glass at the end.
Our biggest challenge:
At first, it was reconciling that we wanted to have a smaller, intimate wedding, with the fact that we have a huge community and could have easily had a 200-person guest list. To keep to that small size, we really decided to have a family wedding, with the people in our lives who, whether by blood or by choice, are our family.
Secondly, we wanted it to have a bit of sparkle and chic-ness, but also wanted it to be accessible to everyone we invited. So we had a good amount of DIY elements to the weekend so that everyone pitched in at one moment or another to help the weekend go smoothly.
My favorite moment:
Because our event lasted a full weekend, our dream was really that all the people we call family would get to meet one another and our community would deepen as a result. That happened many times over. Throughout the weekend, I'd glance around to see a dear friend from college bonding with my oldest friend, or my brother talking deeply with Ains and my pals.
As we joined our family in the ceremony site, our friend Al welcomed everyone, and paid tribute to the land and the people indigenous to the land as well as people who are no longer with us. A gust of wind came through, rippling the chuppah. Our family was circled around us and it truly felt like the spirits of all those we loved had ridden in on the wind.
During the dance party, at one moment the whole party began to circle around Ains and me. As the music played and the lights twinkled I saw a million smiles and hearts of love circling around us and we felt truly celebrated and held.
My funniest moment:
Though we are performers, we wanted to pretend as if we didn't have a first dance planned and then surprised everyone with a choreographed number to a medley of songs. The look on folks' faces was priceless.
Also funny was when our niece Evelyn tore up the dance floor in a pink party dress while wearing a Yoda mask from the photo booth.
After the official dance party ended, about half the guests all jumped in the pool.
What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
I felt a lot of angst, as a queer couple who believes deeply in social justice, about how to not feel guilt or strangeness around the whole industry of marriage and expectations of others. In terms of traditions or expectations based on the “norm” for weddings and marriage, I found that there are ways to make a ceremony or a party or any event meaningful based on the meaning you and your partner put into it.
Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?
- Photography: Katherine Levin Sheehan
- Amazing caterer: Grapes of Wrath
- Flowers: Fleur du Soleil delivered the stems and did our corsages and my bouquet. They also built and decorated the chuppah.
- Photo booth and candids photographer: a dear old friend, Jen G. of Forward Films
- DJ: Nick Mitchell
- Venue: Gardener Ranch is an incredible venue and Dana and Bridget are amazing hosts!
- Dress and alterations: Janeane's Bridal
Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!