Elaine & Mu's book-themed tea party backyard wedding

Updated Oct 12 2015
 
Photos by: Tom Chown

We've got our noses stuck in the book of love with this week's theme: bookish weddings! Turn the page — I mean, scroll down — for literature-loving fun.

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Photos by Tom Chown

The Offbeat Bride: Elaine, graduate student

Her offbeat partner: Mu, engineer

Date and location of wedding: Mu's parents' backyard in Santa Rosa, CA — May 18, 2013

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: As soon as we got engaged, we knew we wanted to have a small(ish) wedding in Mu's parents' backyard. I never had a specific "dream wedding," but I really wanted to have a tea party, and I knew that I wanted a purple dress and a book-themed cake.

Also, Mu is a Buddhist atheist and I'm Jewish, so we wanted to incorporate Jewish elements, since they're important to me, but not have too much religion for our mostly-secular friends and family. We ended up doing all that and more, with much help from family and friends.

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My mother-in-law, who often hosts parties in her backyard, took care of the decorating along with a friend of hers, and it turned out amazing! Our wedding colors were purple and cream, so she got tons of purple and lilac flowers in pots, as well as small flower arrangements for each table.

To stick with the books and tea theme, she found old books and teapots at thrift stores and created charming centerpieces. She also decorated the yard with purple ribbons, banners, and multi-colored parasols. As part of our theme, we also had teacup favors (we collected the teacups from thrift stores all year!) and instead of a guest book, we asked people to give us book reccomendations in a "Book Lust" journal.

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My mom, who's a proper Jewish mother, took on the food. We didn't want to do a sit-down meal, so we had a cocktail hour with Russian food (my family is Russian) before the ceremony, and a tea party with tea sandwiches and quiche for after the ceremony. We didn't hire caterers to be at the event, so instead, my mother-in-law's friends put on "uniforms" (black slacks and white shirts) and acted as staff, for which I was incredibly grateful.

Our cake was two books (Lord of the Rings, of which we're both huge fans, and "A Boy, a Girl, and Two Cats: A Silly Love Story," which is a made-up title that describes our lives).

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Instead of a wedding party, we had chuppah holders — my two best friends from high school, Mu's brother, and a close friend of his. My best friend, Cindy, made my dress (corset and all!) and also made my bouquet out of pink and purple tulips. Mu wore a kilt! He had cufflinks with maps on them, and I had a bracelet and earrings with the Mad Hatter, from Alice in Wonderland.

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Tell us about the ceremony:
My two nieces were props mistress (to handle the rings and wine glasses during the ceremony) and music mistress (to hit play for our music during the ceremony). Our wedding party walked in to "Ride of the Rohirrim" from the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, we boogied in to "Take On Me," and everyone left to "Good Life" by One Republic. We didn't want to have one of us waiting at the altar for the other, so we walked in at the same time from opposite sides.

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We had already gotten legally married, so we had some leeway in our ceremony. We still wanted it to be somewhat traditional, though. We had two co-officiants: Irena, to do the "Jewish bits," and Bret for the rest of it. My husband quilted the chuppah from different fabrics that had some sort of meaning to us (one we had gotten while traveling in India, for example, and another that represented our love of cats).

Instead of vows, we read from I Love You Because… by Sandy Gingras, with Bret reading the introduction. He also used a picture of us skydiving as a prop to illustrate how well-matched we are in our mutual weirdness!

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My sister and Mu's cousin each did a reading, "Love" by Roy Croft and Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres, respectively. We picked those because we felt them to be moving and wonderful descriptions of love, while not too stereotypical in their portrayal of marriage.

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Mu didn't want to break a wine glass, so instead, we drew a wine glass on a balloon and he popped it. Also, in order to cue our non-Jewish guests that it was time to yell "Mazel Tov," which is my favorite part of a Jewish wedding, we had my younger niece hold up a sign. Everyone was amused, and yelled obediently. Oh, and instead of a ring pillow, we had a fake book with a dragon on it to hold our rings, which had the Elven word for "love" engraved on them. We also had a beautiful Ketubah, also made by my best friend Cindy. It was the door from the entrance to the Mines of Moria, from Lord of the Rings, and had a San Francisco skyline on the bottom to show our love for the city.

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My favorite moment: I loved the entire ceremony! Our co-officiants were friends of ours who didn't actually know each other, but got along really well and, along with input from us, put together a short but very moving and entertaining ceremony. We also got to have about 10 minutes of private time, known as Yichud, right after our ceremony. We had written notes to each other before the wedding, so we exchanged them at that point.

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My funniest moment: My best friends gave the best toasts! Nikki talked about how we used to be obsessed with the movie Strictly Ballroom and our favorite bit was when Fran, the main character, declares to her dance partner-to-be, "I want to dance with you!" Nikki hypothesized that due to the Australian accents, I had misinterpreted the quote to say, "I want to dance with Mu!" and that's how I ended up with my husband. My other friend, Cindy, quoted things that seemed very deep to us in high school, but were pretty silly and hilarious upon reflection.

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

  1. I'm so excited to see all of these pictures! I have loved, loved, loved your dress ever since I saw it on Cindy's blog as she was making it. Imagine my surprise when it popped up on here today 🙂

  2. What a lovely modern ketubah. That's one of the few things I'm searching for an 'alt-' version of, since future spouse's father is Jewish and we wanted to incorporate a few cultural pieces. I also remember looking at the gorgeous ones some friends parents had on display in their houses when I was growing up. Also props to a fellow purple wearer!

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