The Offbeat Bride: Heather, hypnotherapist and actor
Her offbeat partner: Robert (Bobby), gunsmith
Date and location of wedding: Dunafon Castle, Idledale, CO, — May 24, 2014
Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Bobby and I are geeks: Dungeon & Dragons, Battlestar Galactica, Elder Scrolls, Doctor Who, Zombies, Comic-Cons, cosplay… you name it, we're probably into it. So when it came to our wedding, it wasn't a question of “What should we do?” but “How do we narrow this down?” We decided on a Lord of the Rings meets Game of Thrones theme because we discovered we could get married in an actual castle right here in the Colorado mountains. Suddenly, we had visions of armor, swords, dragons, and elves.
We decided to ask all our guests to come in costume, so we wanted to give them as broad a range as possible. The bride's side bore the sigil of the Phoenix, and her colors were crimson, copper, and ivory. The groom's side bore the sigil of the Dragon, and his colors were green, silver, and black. The girls wove phoenix feathers into their gowns and hair and the men wore dragon pendants. My bouquet was designed to look like fire pouring from my hands and the groom's armor was dragon green.
And speaking of armor, the groom's armor was custom-made (it took over a year to complete) and was accessorized with all his favorite alchemy bottles, wand, thief's tools, and copper flagon. Each of the groomsmen wore unique armor that represented a very specific character. The groom was the hero (of course), his best man the mercenary, my brother the paladin, and his third groomsman was the bard (a bard who later truly lived up to his name by surprise-serenading us with a flute at the reception).
My dress was custom-made to reflect a combination Celtic/Medieval/Elven style that included gossamer draping sleeves and long, heavy layers of ivory with copper embroidery. I also accessorized with a silver and copper circlet, pearled elf ears, and a necklace designed after Galadriel's ring. Though by far, my favorite accessory was my white doeskin boots with antler buttons that I'd had made to my feet at the Renaissance Faire the summer before. My bridesmaids' outfits were also made in a fantasy/medieval style of crimson and ivory, accessorized by copper circlets, and they carried lanterns instead of bouquets.
The food was in three stations. We had “The Hand's Feast Station,” which included traditional turkey legs and less traditional “Orc Pot Pies.” We had “The Lothlorien Land Station,” which included fish and Lembas Bread. And we had “The Shire's Harvest Station,” which was entirely vegetarian and vegan.
Later that evening, we awarded a prize for the best costume. The prize was an authentic “Dragonglass” Dagger and six “Dragonglass” Arrowheads (both actually made of obsidian), authentic replicas from the Game of Thrones Series that came with a certificate of authenticity. Our winners were a couple who had dressed as Pan and a Dryad, with full on ram's horns, giant wings, and glow-in-the-dark facepaint. Seriously, their costumes were incredible (and involved Pan wearing heel-less high heels crafted to look like hooves all night)!
The cake had four layers with a bottom layer of dragon scales and the top two reflecting the embroidery in my dress. We had a middle layer as The One Ring, with our house motto on it “A Light in the Darkness.”
But the most incredible feat our cake artist accomplished was the 3D dragon wrapped around the layers and a 3D phoenix lifting into flight off the top. We cut it using a sword which also had our motto engraved upon it.
Our guests wrote their names on blessing stones, which we used instead of a guestbook. They could also write advice on pieces of parchment, which were then locked away in a treasure chest at the end of the night, along with dozens of other souvenirs and a bottle of wine of the same brand and vintage we'd had on our first date, to be opened at our one-year anniversary.
We were sent off through a tunnel of blow-up swords that we'd found at a party store, to the tune of “He's a Pirate” from the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack, and spent our first night as a married couple in a room fashioned after a tree house.
Tell us about the ceremony:
Bobby and I combined several elements into our ceremony to reflect our Pagan beliefs as well as our personalities. Our sword-armed ushers helped seat guests and asked willing guests who were armed with their own swords to sit on the inner aisle. They informed said guests that they would be asked to participate in making a sword “tunnel” for the recessional. Programs sealed with wax seals, green with a dragon and gold with a phoenix, were handed out so guests would understand what was going on.
“Nerevare Rising” from Morrowind played as the officiant, Greg, dressed as a wizard, approached the altar and the remaining guests were seated.
Greg signaled the DJ, who then played “Dragonborn” from Skyrim.
The groomsmen brought candles and an empty hourglass. The best man entered with two vials of colored sand on his belt. He placed those two vials in front of the first of four pedestals. The DJ then played “Into the West” from the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. My mom, Jocelyn, entered with her partner, Mac. Jocelyn carried the handfasting box. She placed the box on a third pedestal. She then opened the box, removed the handfast rope, and draped it lengthwise across the table. The bridesmaids then entered carrying lanterns, wind chimes, a goblet of water, and a unity candle for the other pedestals.
When we got to the altar, my father handed Greg his sheathed sword. Greg addressed Robert regarding the importance of the sword:
This part of the ceremony is based on a very old Irish tradition. The father of the bride passes a sword on to the groom, signaling the passing of protection of the bride from her father to her husband.
Greg then explained the Unity Ceremony of the Four Elements, which invokes each of the four elements and asking them to provide their unique strengths to unite the couple. We used the colored sand, wind chimes, goblet of water, and the unity candle. It was concluded with a handfasting, which represented the binding of our two spirits.
When Greg asked if the rings were present, Robert had both rings on a chain around his neck. He reached up, grabbed the rings, and pulled, breaking the chain, and handed them to Greg.
When the bagpipes began, the two ushers down front stood, drew their swords and created the entrance to the sword tunnel. This signaled the rest of the guests to stand and, for those on the aisle, to draw their swords and form a tunnel as well.
Our biggest challenge:
At our chosen venue, the rule was we had exactly three hours to set up and one hour to break down. Nothing could be brought in beforehand and nothing could be left behind overnight, no exceptions. This, naturally, created some major limitations.
But the biggest challenge on the day-of was one that many an outdoor weddings have faced. We had beautiful weather right up until about halfway through the ceremony, then the skies opened up and it poured down rain on us. Since Colorado is notorious for its wild spring weather, we'd planned for it as best we could. Then, the rest was just luck. Thankfully, it didn't start to rain until after the majority of the couple and family photos had been taken (we did them before the ceremony).
My favorite moment:
While I had managed to get through my vows without crying, it was only because it started to rain and I was terrified if I didn't get through them quickly that the parchment they were written on would dissolve. But then, when Bobby had gotten only a couple of sentences into his vows, he choked up. He gave an exasperated sigh and said “Goddamn it, why didn't YOU cry?” The audience erupted in laughter, myself included. And for the record, I did cry, because as he finished his vows, I'd never seen him be so vulnerable and beautiful all at once.
Second, we awarded my dad the Crown of Aragorn at the reception to honor him. My father is a very conservative, quiet, traditional man. And despite the fact it was the exact opposite of everything he would have done, he financially and emotionally supported this crazy over-the-top production of a wedding and even agreed (after much persuading) to wear a costume. The best moment was after I'd given a speech about how amazing he was and had handed him the crown, as he turned to return to his seat, Bobby spontaneously called out “Long live the king!” The entire audience echoed “Long live the king!” And my hates-to-be-in-the-spotlight dad, held up the crown for everyone to see, and was cheered all the way back to his chair.
Third, we had two surprise performances. One, my maid of honor, instead of giving a traditional speech at dinner, gave an incredible performance of Kalil Gibran's “The Prophet,” which is about love and marriage. Two, Bobby's groomsman and our good friend, Phyl, had decided to take his role as the “bard” very seriously. He'd spent days rehearsing in secret before the wedding, and at the reception, brought out his flute (which neither of us even knew he played) and sang and played a beautiful and moving rendition of “Far Over the Misty Mountains.” Not only does he have one of the loveliest baritones I've ever heard, he rewrote the lyrics to bless our wedding specifically. Both received well-deserved standing ovations. These gifts meant more to us than any gift. We were genuinely amazed and honored.
What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
People might surprise you. We expected about half of our 115 guests to show up in costume. All but two of them did. Some people I was sure would attend didn't, and people I was positive wouldn't attend flew across the country and were thrilled to be there. We had a near last-minute reconciliation, and our vendors went so far above and beyond, you'd have thought this was the only wedding they had to worry about. It made me realize that this is true in life as well as in the microcosm of a wedding.
It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that determines your experience. Did negative things happen to us? Sure. Was a lot of stuff out of our control? Absolutely. But what we discovered was that it was only a bad experience if we decided to feel bad about it. We started making a conscious effort to do one of three things when faced with adversity: put a positive spin on it, find a way around it, or just to say “F*ck it, what's next?” Just love your partner, love being alive, love the fact you're planning a wedding instead of doing your taxes. And when the bad stuff happens, just call it an Irish Blessing and keep going.
Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?
- Photography: The Willinghams, with additional photography by guests
- Boots: Windwalker Footwear
- Bridesmaid Dresses: Camelot Costumes
- Cake: Intricate Icings Cake Design
- Caterers: Relish Catering
- Circlets: Elnara's Medieval Bridal Fashions
- Coordinator: Calluna Events
- Dress Designer: Maggie Evans Designs
- DJ: A Great Time DJs
- Elf Ears: Made By Kozee
- Florist: The Perfect Petal
- Hair: The Side Door Salon
- Invitations: Scroll Wedding Invitations
- Linens: Wildflower Linen
- Makeup: Alchemy Mineral Blends
- Registry: Honeyfund
- Rentals: Event Rents
- Venue: Dunafon Castle
- Videographers: KHodge Films