How can you include [enter geeky reference here] without ostracizing your guests?

Guest post by laterose
us blue eyes jc

About a year ago, I attended a friend's wedding. It was a perfect May day, the flowers were just so, and the bride herself was stunning. Even still, my fiancé and I got into his car at the end of the night, and spent the whole ride home wondering why the wedding had felt so… not them. It was as if we had walked into anyone's wedding, and aside from some very sweet vows, it felt like we were celebrating a watered-down version of the geeky, gamer couple that I knew and loved so much.

Since my fiancé proposed, this one experience has given us a mantra: that is not how we want our wedding to feel. We have decided to get married on the stage of an old theater (since we both majored in theater in college), followed by a reception at a planetarium, where we can dance under the stars as we celebrate our love of sci-fi and fantasy with little touches like a TARDIS and a Firefly suspended above the giant moon-bar in the lobby. We want to pull colors from Tom Baker's famous scarf, and name each table after one of the geeky things we love to do together. We want to dance to Weird Al and Jonathan Coulton, and quote every geeky thing we can think of. Needless to say, we've been really excited about it!

Enter an awkward conversation two weeks ago…

I was gushing about my ideas to my sister (one of my bridesmaids) over a birthday dinner when one of my mother's friends jumps in and asks if I am ready to have some of my guests not understand the references I'm making.

“It's not necessary,” I smile. “If even a few people get them, I'll be happy.”

She responded, “So, you want to invite people to your wedding, and then make them feel left out because they don't understand the reference you're making?”

I am thrown. I want to make this wedding about us, and these are the things that brought us together. The idea of a glossary has been discussed, but how could you make something that wasn't clunky? And it's not like I can give people homework in the invitation! (“Go and watch at least one season on Doctor Who, all of Firefly, and read the following Shakespearean sonnets before attending.”)

Basically, can we [enter geeky reference here] without ostracizing our guests?

Comments on How can you include [enter geeky reference here] without ostracizing your guests?

  1. Unfortunately, I feel like this is actually a somewhat different issue in disguise: why would you have to invite people who don’t know you well to your wedding? If people know you well enough, they’ll get the references, if only because you’ve probably been quoting things to them or have made them watch an episode or have at least talked about it. And even if they don’t get all your references, they will know the wedding is YOU. But your random aunt who you only see at Christmas and who judges your weird clothes without trying to understand you at all (not that I have relatives like that or anything)… she will probably not get your references and be a little put out that she doesn’t “get” your wedding. But really she’s there to celebrate being part of your family, not really to celebrate you, since she probably doesn’t know the real you all that well anyway. And if she doesn’t understand your references and gets judgey about it, then too bad for her for missing out on the awesome. And if she doesn’t understand the references but you’re open about it and provide some context and she’s open to learning a little more about you, then I think that’s a good outcome all around.

    • Absolutely right! While I don’t necessarily agree that you HAVE to invite only people that know you really well to your wedding (we have a few obscure guests that we want to invite because we like them and they’re cool, there’s no rule saying all of your guests have to be BFFs), I do agree that you should go ahead and just do it. It’ll make you happy, it will promote conversation and interaction between guests, and if you really want to make sure people understand what stuff is, put explanations on the backs of your menu cards or ceremony programs, or even turn it into a game. Don’t worry about it, as long as the food and entertainment are awesome, your guests are going to have a good time.

    • Ehhhhhhhhhh…. I have to disagree. Most of my friends aren’t into the same ‘geeky’ things I am, but I still love them dearly. They know the ‘real’ me because those geeky things aren’t an intrinsic part of my nature.

      Not understanding something is not being judge-y. AT ALL. A lot of folks want others to accept them, without accepting that they might be simply misunderstood.

      That being said, I wouldn’t worry too much about people not ‘getting’ every little reference. They are there to celebrate your union. If something is a really niche thing, you might want to offer a short explanation about it.

      • Preach.

        I have lots of friends from lots of different points in my life. Not all of them are into the same things because I have lots of different hobbies and interests. It’s impossible for all of my loved ones to be into everything I’m into. It would actually be super weird.

        Couple that with the fact that my fiance is geeky in mostly different ways than I am and yeah… there is literally not one person other than the two of us who would “get” everything we want to include.

        Personally, we’re taking some of the “less known to our 250 person guestlist” things and including them in more private ways. The groom & groomsmen will wear bouts with d20s tied to the stems– my dad & bridesman will have unadorned flowers. We’ll have signature drinks that are all too familiar to my hard partying friends and a couple card tables with games his RPG player friends love. A small figurine of my man’s favorite cartoon character will be peeking out of the bottom of the cake. It’s totally doable without making anyone totally confused.

    • I feel like there might be some friends or family whom you (theoretical you) care about and who care about you in return that simply don’t share all your interests. I’d hate to be disinvited because I haven’t seen very much classic Doctor Who! That said, I doubt references to it would kill my enjoyment of my friends’ happiness, but I think there can be special and important people who simply won’t get what you’re going for, and there are better ways to handle it than cutting them out.

    • Ah, sorry, I didn’t mean to say simply don’t invite people. I meant to bring up the fact that too often a couple is pushed into inviting people they may not even know, simply because their parents or society or someone says they need to, and these can often be the people who will care least about being open to new experiences and supporting the newly married couple, and who might care most about what is considered “proper” or “odd”. At the end of my comment, however, hopefully I emphasized that, regardless of the people you invite, if they are open and support you, they will enjoy themselves. If they are/do not, they may not enjoy themselves, but that is their problem and not yours. Basically, “the people in mind don’t matter, and the people that matter don’t mind”. 🙂

    • I agree, though there are people I want to attend my wedding that don’t know just how much a nerd we are. I still want them there because they really do care for my fiancé and I. If they don’t get the references that’s fine, it’s our wedding not theirs. A wedding should express the bride and groom. Our wedding will very much say who we are, and our closets friends will instantly know that when they attend. We won’t be inviting those family members and friends who really don’t care to see us any other day during the year. This truly will be a smaller gathering of the people who supported us and trusted our love from the start. And it will be geektasticly nerdy and amazing lol

    • I’m planning a geeky wedding and I know some of my references won’t be obvious to everyone so my thinking is, I’ll include it if I love it, but in a beautiful way so that those who don’t get the reference, will still appreciate the aesthetic. So my Abuela has no idea what a golden snitch is but she will still feel that the golden balls holding the table numbers are elegant and beautiful. That way it looks like a put together, beautiful wedding, and not a kids party and still is truly us in all aspects.

  2. I would echo the sentiment above about choosing your guests carefully, and I would offer a halfway compromise to consider. I just attended a wedding where the wedding tables were all named for specific things that had a lot of meaning for the couple: restaurant of the first date, one of their cats, tidbits from Dr. Who, etc. Every table had a sign with the name and a brief explanation of what the name was and why it was significant.

    I could also see a glossary making sense, and it would be really great if you offered some follow-up resources for your guests. They might not know about Firefly NOW, but after seeing your wedding and how the show is important to you both, guests might want to look into it themselves! How great of a present is that, to introduce people you know and care about to a thing which is (a) rock-awesome and (b) really important to you? Then there are more Brown Coats, which is never a bad thing either ….

  3. We’ve been having this conversation as well because our wedding basically sounds like yours. All of the tables are themed according to geeky things we love together. The music is from Harry Potter and Indiana Jones and Portal and Paul & Storm. The programs will be Hitchiker’s Guide themed (thanks OBB!), etc.

    My attitude is like yours – SOME people will get the references, and they will enjoy them. To try and avoid ostracizing the rest of the people, I just try to view it from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know what it is. To someone who’s never heard it, the instrumental Portal song will just sound like a nice song. The programs will just say DON’T PANIC on it as a silly joke. The table they are sitting at will have the title of the TV show or book theme on their place card, so they can look it up on their phone if they really want to.

    Your guests won’t feel left out since they WILL understand the quote-on-quote “normal” things you do – there are the two of you, you get married, you are happy. Maybe they get food and dancing out of it. That’s enough. If you did want to do some explaining, you could use the ceremony programs (if you want to do those) as a place to do that. But I don’t think it’s really necessary. Your guests are there to revel in your happiness, not to understand your theme(s)!

    • THIS THIS THIS. As someone planning my own geeky shindig I KNOW some family won’t get it, but I don’t care. It’s who we are, and that is what I want (FH says it’s basically up to me, but I run everything by him even if I get a shrug)

      Do what feels right to you, it’s your day, not there’s.

  4. What if you look at it like any other intercultural wedding? I went to my friend’s wedding over the weekend. Her husband is Indian, so they incorporated a bunch of Indian traditions into their wedding ceremony and reception. They included a brief explanation of what was happening (and more importantly the names of the traditions so I can look them up) in the program. I didn’t feel left out because I didn’t understand all of the references, I saw it as an opportunity to get to know her husband’s family and culture better. I think as long as you make an effort to explain (a glossary would be great and cute!, table name cards with a more detailed explanation of the significance would make for a great conversation starter!), you shouldn’t feel like you need to water down your plans. Best of luck with the rest of your planning!

    • I recently attended a full Catholic mass ceremony and sat with the groom’s family — all of whom were Buddhist and had no idea what was going on. If there had been programs (or even missals in the pews), it might have been easier for them to follow, but most of them just ended up sitting politely and looking at their hands for 50 minutes.

      The thing about geeks is that we WANT people to join in our passions. What if you have a little memo in your program that says something along the lines of “Don’t know what we’re talking about? Just ask! We’re all friends here!” That way your geeky guests get to talk about their passions, and maybe your non-geeky (or not-as-knowledgeable) guests don’t feel left out. It could be a great ice breaker.

  5. There are plenty of people in our lives that don’t understand the geeky things we love and that was totally fine with them at our wedding. They thought the final fantasy music was beautiful, and didn’t get a chance to feel left out by not knowing the portal song since they were too busy watching us cut the cake. That zelda reference may have slipped right by them at the cookie favor table, but everyone still cleared out those cookies!
    Be authentic to yourselves and people that know and love you will appreciate and see it whether they “get” it or not. (Also, I really loved sneaking a Buffy reference into my vows and only having 2-3 people even recognize it lol)

  6. I get where that well-meaning lady is coming from, but I disagree with her. There may be things that wedding guests have a right to expect; “getting the references” isn’t one of them. You are inviting them to your party. They are accepting. Give them food if you’ve promised it, a place to sit, and a celebration of love to cheer on. Everything else is icing, and they can take it (yay! new interests!) or leave it (“enh, not for me. look, cake!”).

    It would be good of you to provide some context (maybe a few “wondering what the big ship overhead is? check out our wedsite/ask an attendant/google Firefly!”-esque notes on the cake table). Perhaps use your programs or table signs to highlight why the references you’ve chosen are important to you. But it sounds like your references are fairly passive: you’re not forcing your guests to participate in complex geeky rituals they don’t understand. You’re decorating and communicating with reference to things they might not be familiar with.

    Provide context in whatever way feels right, especially if it encourages conversation — I’m picturing your wedding team wearing “Ask Me Anything” pins — but don’t feel bad for decorating your party the way you want.

  7. It’s certainly understandable to want to include people from various times and aspects of your life, which means they don’t all know you equally “well,” or at least not in the same way. At the end of the day, your wedding is about you and your love sharing your union with family and friends. It is extremely important that the ceremony feel very “you.” Things like a theater ceremony and planetarium reception are things everyone can enjoy (both sound really awesome!). Do you have a wedding website for your ceremony, accommodations, etc? That could be a good place to give a little bit of background on symbolism or themes (e.g., Tom Baker scarf colors) that some people might not pick up on otherwise. Additionally (or alternatively) you could ask someone to introduce and explain why something specific is happening during the ceremony or reception. It’s a great way to give everyone a little background, and it’s an opportunity for even more people contribute to the festivities. Good luck!

  8. What if you included a page in your program with tiny explanations of the items in your wedding? “See a blue police box, this is from one of our favorite shows Dr. Who!” Etc. That way people can still enjoy the references while understanding why they make you both who you are. 🙂

  9. While your sister has a point, from what you described, it seems that little touches you want to add which I think are nice. For my wedding I plan on putting little reference everywhere and having a photo scavenger hunt that my guest can participate in if they so wish. They people who get the reference will enjoy them, and they people who don’t will like that you stayed true to you. I personal think your wedding sounds fantastic and got goose bumps when I read about dancing under the stars! I hope you a great wedding and wonderful life together!

  10. I hadn’t thought about the problem from that viewpoint… I appreciate your mother’s friend pointing it out. Perhaps it would be appropriate to not only explain what your wonderful geeky references mean, but also what they mean *to you,* especially in the context of your relationship. Your guests might not care that “This spaceship is from Firefly”… but I bet even the most sf-averse loved one would find it sweet that “We first fell in love while watching a marathon of the TV show Firefly. This spaceship is from that show.”

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