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. I’mma be the voice of caution here.

    I do sometimes have concerns when weddings start to feel like a series of inside jokes and opaque pop culture references. I totally get it, but it can feel codified to the point where even loved ones who WANT to get it can’t find a way in. My concerns about pop culture references are kind of the same as my concerns about acronyms. For me personally, my focus is on language and experiences that bring people together and feel inclusive. That’s one of my big values. Codified culture can feel exclusionary, and sure it’s about inviting folks who “get it” and get you… but it’s also about sharing who you are with the people who love you — even if they don’t watch the same TV shows as you do. It’s part of why we try to do so many cultural context links on the Offbeat Empire.

    In many ways, I see that up-to-the-second pop culture references have replaced traditional religious references in many Offbeat Bride weddings. I think that’s great… but I do hope we can find ways to continue having weddings that connect and include* our loved ones.

    *Obviously eloping is a different situation.

    • Reading this article, and the comments I kept thinking these questions:

      1) is it a wedding, or ComiCon?
      2) are we celebrating the love and uniting of people, or the love people have for [insert geeky thing here] (or possibly BOTH?)

      I loved when my husband told me “I would have to read British literature for YEARS to even come close to having that connection with you that your girlfriend has. And frankly, I love you, but I’m not that interested in British literature, so you two can share that private [geeky] connection.” What hit home for me about that was that sometimes I share certain deep and powerful things with people and it’s hard for others to find an entrance point into that. If I can include something that’s surfacy, like a table decoration with an explanation, or a reading that people understand has immense meaning even if they don’t personally connect, then fine. But sometimes…sometimes it’s okay to just have those private deep geekery things with my beloved that doesn’t have to be announced via napkin color schemes, ya know?

  2. As someone who just had a huge geeky wedding (The HP one featured on here) my experiences were really positive. Most of the parents or grandparents didn’t understand anything about Harry Potter but they still enjoyed the wedding. We got a letter from my husband’s 93 year old great-aunt who said it was the best wedding she had ever been to, even though she didn’t know anything about Harry Potter. In fact, after she asked her 6 year old great granddaughter to help her learn about it! You could be creating fans without realizing it, which is kind of cool.

    I think that you need to trust your friends and family. They are there for you. The wedding is about the love you and your fiance share. At the end of the day if they aren’t there to be happy for you then why are you wasting money and time on them?

  3. I don’t think your guests need to get every reference you make. They simply don’t care about the story behind your color scheme as much as you do. That said, what if you turned the tables on your hater and made the references into a big scavenger hunt? Not only would that eliminate the (probably unlikely) possibility of ostracizing your guests, but it would actually get everyone interacting with each other more.

  4. This was something my fiancé and I really struggled with. Both of us are nerdy in our own ways. (I’m in love with games like Portal and obsessed vintage cameras/photographs and he’s a stereotypical British boy in love with Dr. Who, Red Dwarf & Warhammer) In planning our wedding, we realized that we didn’t want to beat our guests over the head with our nerdiness, we just wanted a subtle homage to the things we loved. Our cake topper is a lego couple running into a little Tardis. I handmade all the centerpieces to include cameras and books from my vintage collection. The groom’s cake is a sheet cake shaped like a Tardis with “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” written on it and, lastly, my wedding shoes are custom painted blue sued shoes with black toes and the words “Police Box” written on them. It is personal without being overwhelming.

    I can understand both sides of the “don’t invite people that wouldn’t like your wedding” argument… But, realistically, that’s not ever possible. Not every member of our family gets the nerdy side of each of us. That’s doesn’t mean we don’t love them and want them to see us get married. There will ALWAYS be someone with something to say about your wedding. If it really bothers you, tone it down… If you don’t care what people think, then why are you complaining?

    Weddings are impossible and frustrating and chaotic and AMAZING. You are (hopefully) marrying the person you have waited your whole life to meet… Just be happy. It’s going to be nuts, it’s going to feel like it all went too fast and it is all going to be 100% worth it.

    If YOU are both happy with your wedding theme/plans/details… Than GOOD. Everyone else is there to celebrate with you.

  5. You know how when you were little, you enjoyed watching cartoons and later you get older when watching those same cartoons you enjoyed, you got things on a much different level because you understood all of the references? I say your wedding will be kindof like that. All of the guests are going to enjoy your wedding just because it is about getting to see the two of you joined in happy matrimony. Those who get all of the references will enjoy it on a different level, but it doesn’t mean they will enjoy it more or less than anyone else. If you want, have an announcer come out prior to the nuptials to let everyone know that there will be references to obscure things that are meaningful to the two of you, so if something seems a bit odd or quirky, that is probably why, so sit down and enjoy the show! 🙂

  6. My feeling is that if you are into a lot of geeky stuff, your friends and family probably already know that you’re a little offbeat, and will not be surprised or left out. Just make sure you’re not overburdening yourself trying to squeeze every single geeky thing into your wedding. I think there was a post here about that. It’s ok to have a ‘traditional’ something or another if that is what you really like better.

  7. Honestly, I think my best advice is: Know your audience, and if you don’t know, err on the side of being inclusive/unobtrusive. I think that one of the pitfalls of the rise of the offbeat wedding is that it’s starting to feel “wrong” when a wedding isn’t infused *enough* with a couple’s personality. Basically, I kind of feel for your friends.

    Certain things (decorations) are a little less exclusive, especially if it feels more like an easter egg that people can pick up on. But I know I’d feel left out if there were things said during the ceremony that other people (besides the couple) thought were funny and I didn’t get it.

    Remember that your guests are all here to celebrate your marriage. We want to feel like you care about each of us, personally, enough to invite us to share your day with us. Having references we don’t get can negate those feelings, especially when other guests obviously get the joke.

    Finally, you don’t have to infuse everything with “IT’S US!!” My partner and I struggled a lot with this. We started off with making our own logo (the heart in the logo was a heart container from Skyward Sword) that we were going to use for everything, all of the tables were going to be named after our favorite shows, movies, games, and books, we were going to have Zelda references sprinkled everywhere and ask people to find them, etc. etc. And then we realized … the wedding can still be representative of our personalities without referencing anything in particular. So yeah, our stationery is still very “us,” but it’s not referencing anything in particular. Our vows will still be funny and meaningful and 100% us without talking about Doctor Who, Zelda, or Star Trek. And our guests will still be excited for us, and our wedding will still be only a wedding that we could have thrown.

  8. We’re having a literary themed wedding where each table is themed for a different one of our favourite books/authors/series… and some of my fiance’s favourite authors are a little obscure for some people (Robert E Howard, HP Lovecraft etc). We are not expecting all of our family (who aren’t necessarily BIG readers) to get all of the references… but what we’ve done is added several used copies of the books to each table so anyone who is at a table for an author they’ve never read can actually take the book home as a favour and introduce themselves to it. So we’re actually using our wedding to recommend and share things we love with our family and friends… is there a way you could do this with the things that you’re including in your wedding?

  9. We did a lot of personalized things at our wedding, and we knew not everyone would understand them. Our solution was to have two programs. You know when you go to a Broadway show, you get the regular Playbill and then you can always buy the $35 souvenir program with full color-photos, a look backstage and a glimpse at the original costume designs? We used Blurb to create a “souvenir” program.

    So everyone got a fan-shaped program to refer to during the ceremony (and fan themselves with; it was hot) AND a “souvenir” program. The program explained all the subtle ways we were memorializing my husband’s brother throughout the day, with rosemary and tiny photo charms and butterflies (a symbol for the NY Organ Donor Network; my BIL lives on in the gift of organ donation and my in-laws were spokespeople for a while)… We didn’t do a memorial candle or anything blatant that would upset my in-laws, but we included lots of photos of my husband and his brother in the souvenir program with a little explanation so people could see he was there in spirit.

    It wasn’t all sad. We had a layout that explained that my husband’s wedding ring was made from a dinosaur fossil he dug out of the Morrison foundation in Utah himself and contained a shot of the original fossil. My ring was made out diamonds from my grandmother’s necklace, so there was a photo of her holding me as a toddler and wearing the necklace.

    The ceremony combined my husband’s Jewish background with my Italian-Catholic upbringing and the best of our shared pagan beliefs in the ceremony, so we wrote a little explanation as to why we were drinking kosher Italian wine out of an earthen wedding vase made by a Navajo friend, which supplemented a reading a friend did comparing the seven Hebrew weddings blessings to the Navajo believe in the seven directions (north, south, east, west, above, below, within). We did a short explanation on what a handfasting was. We did a coin toss to see who would say their vows first; this gave my sister’s husband a role in the ceremony. We used an Australian coin for the toss since we were honeymooning Down Under. Also, my husband is from Queens, and “heads” on the Australian coin is the queen, so we included photos of the handfasting cord and a shot of the coin.

    People loved it. Or at least, they said they did. I’m sure someone thought it was tacky, but as Ariel says, “It’s all tacky!” Here is a wedding guest perusing it during cocktail hour:

    Here is my mother in law pointing to a photo of all of my husband’s cousins as little kids that appeared in the program, gently teasing one of the people pictured about her 80s haircut (that she no longer has)

  10. We had a geek wedding a couple of weeks ago, it was geektastic (we wanted all the geekdoms so we tied them all together with Dr. Who), we asked folks to wear costumes Many people did and there were some that were absolutely spectacular! I really aught to share the write up in my journal as It could be a long time before it goes up here (if ever, ya know their choice). There were also folks old enough to be our grandparents who didn’t understand a thing and grinned like crazy through the whole thing! My ex-boss was there and even came to the reception. Don’t know if she “got” any of it but was entertained anyway. I’m pretty sure my Aunt was discombobulated at the reception, but seemed to enjoy herself anyway. I wouldn’t worry about it. even if they don’t “get” it they will have fun because everyone is having fun around them!

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