The Offbeat Bride: Catie, Kindergarten Teacher (and Offbeat Bride Tribe member)
Her offbeat partner: Mikhail, Musician
Date and location of wedding: The Seymour Marine Discovery Center, Santa Cruz, California — March 22, 2015
Our offbeat wedding at a glance:
Our theme was the ocean and sea life. Mikhail proposed to me on the pier at Coney Island with a pearl ring and a box covered in seashells. He always calls me his mermaid, so when trying to find a venue we really wanted it to be near the water. He had a dream of being married on the cliff-side. I went to Santa Cruz every summer growing up, and when we found the Discovery Center we were blown away by the gorgeous cliffs, the view of the ocean down below, the strange and slightly morbid detail of having whale skeletons all around the site (include the world's largest complete blue whale skeleton), and the fact that there was a touch tank and sea creatures to view in the reception area!
The money from booking our venue also went to Marine Conservation. It couldn't have been more perfect. Everything we made or did really followed the theme. We wanted to make sure our wedding was as inclusive to our friends and family as possible, so we made sure it was allergy-friendly, non-alcoholic, wheelchair-accessible, vegan, and fragrance-free.
Tell us about the ceremony:
We had a bubble fairy girl instead of a flower girl. I walked myself down the aisle, to The Ramones' cover of “Baby, I Love You.”
My close friend from college was our officiant. He and I wrote the ceremony together and got rid of anything and everything that did not resonate with Mikhail and I. We had two readings: one from one of my favorite novels, Doctor Zhivago, and one from one of Mikhail's favorite comic books, East of West.
I didn't expect to be so nervous, but my stomach was doing flips throughout the whole thing. We were both so nervous during the entire ceremony, I barely noticed anything but him the entire time. And when it came time to put on our rings, Mikhail gave me the wrong hand! Neither of us even noticed until afterward.
Tell us about your reception:
We both love cephalopods, so my mother and I worked together to needle-felt red and blue octopuses/octopodes to hold the table numbers. We did everything DIY, from hand-me-down lace tablecloths, to childhood paintings that were cut up to make signs.
On the walls we had tin-tapped starfish made by my mother's dear friend, as well as my nana's silk train from her wedding gown and ribbons from my mother's veil, etc. ended up in our ribbon garlands. The weekend before the wedding we hand-squeezed two gallons of orange juice using my parents' oranges so that we could mix it with sparkling water! Our wedding favors were two different flavors of sea salt using herbs from my parents' garden (we mixed salt from the pacific ocean and the atlantic, to reflect our bi-coastal love story — Mikhail is from Maryland and I am from California, we met on the East coast and now live on the West).
It was a very laid-back reception. The groom's brother was our emcee, and he was so good at it! He also gave a speech, as did my Dude of Honor, and my father sang a song that he had written for me as a child (that had never actually been finished or played in front of anyone before). Our first dance was to “Coney Island Baby” by Tom Waits since Mikhail proposed at Coney Island. We danced in the exhibit hall under two giant hanging whales. Mikhail sang along the entire time and told me later he never wanted it to end — whereas I felt very nervous and self-conscious and couldn't believe how long the song lasted.
What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
Mikhail's best friend/best man was hospitalized just a week before, and as a result he and his partner were unable to be there for our wedding. All the other things (forgetting the rings, giving the pet-sitter the wrong keys, not bringing our shoes, etc.) felt very small in comparison. The best man was released from the hospital just before our wedding, and it was a bittersweet moment when we heard. In the end, Mikhail's brother Tim stepped in and worked very hard to take on the best man role in his absence.
This feels representative of how our whole day went: everyone stepped in and stepped up to make it run smoothly. I think at a certain point we stopped focusing on all those little details and put our trust in ourselves, our friends, and our family to do what needed to get done. And I learned a lot about advocating for myself. When you're a bride, it's easy for everyone else to think they know what is best…but the most rewarding parts of the planning process and the day of were the parts that we didn't compromise on. The parts we were able to create and really make our own in spite of expectations.