The two of us with finger dragonThe offbeat bride: Ariel, computer security engineer (and OBT member “Ariel (but not that one)“)

Her offbeat partner: Andrew, computer game programmer

Location & date of wedding: MIT Chapel and Faculty Club, Cambridge, MA. — October 3, 2009

What made our wedding offbeat: We started with a riot of medieval-inspired color: sapphire blue silk dress, purple-and-black-velvet groom, attendants in their choice of dupioni silk color and outfit style. (We ended up with pairs purely by coincidence.)

We built our custom ceremony around what we felt was most important in marriage, with our eight vows reflected in handfasting cords and the ingredients in a shared cup of ceremonial hot chocolate. The ceremony was gender-neutral and religion-free, but captured the sacred and important feeling we wanted. Dragons have been a symbol of our relationship from the beginning, so our attendants carried stuffed dragons from our collection. (The guys wore finger puppets.)

The grooms attendants and their dragons.
The groom's attendants and their dragons.

Our brunch reception featured a Lego sculpture and handmade chocolate lego favors in seven delicious flavors. Instead of a guest book, we asked our guests to sign as witnesses a gold-leafed calligraphy wedding certificate with our dragons and vows; we wanted something Ketubah-like on our wall with all of our guests' names on it for the future.

Of course, the centerpiece of our offbeat reception was probably our first dance; we skipped the ballroom and went for a choreographed duel with German longswords. To start the marriage on the right foot, it was a draw — the bride disarmed the groom and took his sword, and he grappled her for a final dip and kiss. Foam swords brought by a guest continued the fun, with a string of cheerful melees continuing beside the dancing through the rest of the reception. It was joyful, fun, us!

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Our biggest challenge: Time management and overenthusiasm. I'd signed up for far more craft projects (handmade invitations! chocolate legos! gold-leafed calligraphy! custom sword sheaths!) than was remotely feasible, and then had a string of perfectly-timed rainstorms wreck three weekends' worth of chocolate-making in a row.

Chocolate Lego favors!

Because Andy is a lego fanatic and I'm a mad chocolatier, colored chocolate lego favors had been on the must-have list for years before we got engaged. Two weeks before the wedding, with only three batches done, a cold in the house, and without the calligraphy started, I was against a wall and miserable because it looked like my One Must-Have Project wouldn't happen. My oh-so-patient groom suggested alternate favors, my skilled graphic designer aunt adapted our dragons for us, and we ordered last-minute mugs, because even if favors weren't necessary I'd have felt like a complete failure giving the guests nothing after all the lego hype.

The bride walking down the aisle with both parents.
The bride walking down the aisle with both parents.

And after all that, with the stress and responsibility off of my back I ended up being relaxed and super-productive and finishing the legos after all; plus the mugs ended up being the perfect size for putting candy bags in, and we've had people ask for more.

I guess my lesson is that sometimes having a backup plan can enhance the original plan and help it move ahead! (We did end up having to skip the customized sword sheaths, but shockingly enough managed everything else. Yay!)

My favorite moment: There were so many, it's hard to choose!

The end of the sword fight.
The end of the sword fight.
  • Walking in on the morning of and discovering that our attendants, far from being embarrassed about carrying stuffed animals down the aisle, had made accessories for their dragons.
  • Listening to two of my attendants lead the guests in a song, “Call down a blessing”, that I'd let our officiant talk us into because I didn't have a reason not to, and realizing that it was a more perfect moment than anything I could have imagined.
  • Drinking the spicy-sweet marriage hot chocolate with my new spouse.
  • Being unable to resist dancing down the aisle and beyond, because hey, we were married and there was good music playing! (Baba Yetu, the Civ IV opening theme. Listen to it sometime.)
  • Successfully getting through the swordfight we'd choreographed at the last minute with only one hiccup, and realizing from the applause that people really did love it, and us, and we'd done well. (And that they weren't just humoring us, which was a constant worry throughout our planning.)
  • Looking around at all of our attendants and realizing that for all our worries about custom outfits and mismatched colors, everyone looked more splendid and happy than we ever could have hoped for.
  • Walking out of the reception at the end of the day and saying “Wow. It really couldn't have gone any better.”

Ceremony view

My offbeat advice: Talk to your attendants about your crazy plans before you force anything on them, but don't spend too much time stressing about their humoring you — they might be, but if they're offbeat types themselves, there's a good chance they're enjoying the heck out of it too.

Remember that if your offbeat choices are sufficiently beautiful, even the conservative family folks may be persuaded in the end. (I can't count the number of people who said, “Now I see why you didn't want to wear white! Wow!”)

Don't let yourself be convinced that a little lightheartness detracts from the sincerity of a wedding — you really can achieve a sacred perfect moment surrounded by stuffed animals, if you and your audience all know that's what you're there for.

Prioritize your DIY projects; chances are you *will* run out of time, and know in advance which things you'll be heartbroken without and which can be left undone and forgotten. (Do the first ones first if you can.)

Have a backup plan for anything that needs to be done or delivered in the final month; whether or not you need it, it will save you a huge amount of stress, and sometimes those backup plans can dovetail with the original and end up even better than you'd hoped for.

And on a totally unrelated note, tribal tattoo designs are a *great* way to get a unifying iconography for a wedding: they can be printed, stamped, calligraphed, put on jewelry… B&W line drawings go everywhere.

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?:

  • Bride's dress: Custom work by the genius Harper at Seams
  • Groom's outfit and attendant outfits: Custom designs by the brilliant Allison of Aetas Designs
  • Our wedding “tribal tattoo” dragon designs, used for everything we could put them on including our rings: The unbelievably skilled WildSpiritWolf
  • Our engagement and wedding rings: The wonderful folks at Bostonian Jewelers, particularly Alexandria Matossian (and her amazing CAD programs!)
  • Bride's shoes, perfect for a day of dancing: Medieval Moccasins
  • Groom's boots: Renboots.com
  • Bride's other jewelry: custom work by Shirley Woodcock-Kolb; no URL, but we found her at the Sterling Renfaire.
  • Photographer: Dana Giuliana

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Comments on Ariel & Andrew’s dragons & Lego-filled, sword-fighting wedding

  1. Would it be too much if I walked down the aisle to Baba Yetu… in the MIT chapel as well? A fellow alum here, and I've got to say I love your wedding. *squee* I am seriously considering using Baba Yetu, it's one of the few songs that a) sounds vaguely processional-ish and b) really means something to me and my FH. We probably won't actually end up in the chapel though (it's gorgeous, but too many relatives, not sure if they'd all fit!) Anyways, congrats on your wedding and marriage! 🙂

  2. WOW! What a gorgeous dress…I wore red and when I told my Maid of Honor that it wasn't white, she surely thought it would have been blue! That'll be for the vow renewal! 🙂 Your wedding sounds like it was a lot of fun. My husband would have loved the lego favors. Very different unique.

  3. Marianne: That’s totally awesome. To us it’s “the local homey place”, so it’s always surreal for us to remember that it’s famous.

    Clare: Thank you! We agree entirely.

    Nicole: I would *totally* not mind! A good idea deserves to be used more than once. Thanks for the kind words. 😉 Good luck fitting everyone! (And a word of warning: Their capacity is listed as 150, but they only have 130 or so standard chairs.) Good luck with your own planning, and enjoy the heck out of embracing your own geekdom. Definitely pick the things that mean something to you: that, more than anything else, is what made our wedding work.

  4. Aww this look awsome, love the outfits and the dragons my partner and i love dragons- and i love the whole medieval theme feel all excited seeing this lol as we are planning a folky celtic,medieval woodlandy handfasting. Many congrats to you both : D

  5. Wow, your wedding was amazing! Beautiful dress, especially the color. I love that you chose something that was completely the two of you and made your wedding day extra special!

    I have always loved the MIT chapel and actually wanted to get married there, myself. (I'm getting married soon and am still looking for a ceremony spot! *stress*)
    Was it easy to book your ceremony there? And if you don't mind my asking, was it very expensive? I love the building, but don't have the high price tag kind of money to pay for it! Thank you!

  6. Kendra: Sorry about the delay! I believe it cost us $450 to use the chapel. Not cheap, but worth it for us, and cheaper than some of the alternatives we saw. The one criteria I’d note is that they do require that weddings have “religious” ceremonies; if you’re not having a classic religious service, you may need to talk to the chaplain. That said, the Institute Chaplain is *very* friendly, and handled our “Ack, we are agnostic and would be uncomfortable with an actively religious wedding but really want to be in a sacred space” issues with complete aplomb; the short form is, if you want the space because it’s beautiful and sacred, you’re probably good.

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